While it’s the oldest retail shop on the Square in downtown Lawrenceville, Yarn Garden is much more than just a seller of high-end knitting materials. To those who’ve gathered at the shop week in and week out, it’s become more like a sisterhood where they socialize and work on projects simultaneously.
After fifteen years of running the shop, the owner Carol Sigrist plans to retire, trusting she has accomplished what she set out to achieve.
Reflecting on her mission over the years, Carol said, “It’s never changed. I always just wanted to keep people happy knitting yarn.”
Her clients will attest to her success in that regard. Explaining the attraction, Jennifer Little, a new customer residing in Snellville said, “Yarn Garden offers material, informational and emotional support to anyone who wants to create with yarn.”
Many call the fifteen-year-old business a destination place — customers will commute to the shop from Cumming and even further. They come for advice and help with projects that have gone awry. And they come to be part of the knitting community that has grown organically over years of regular convention.
Carol didn’t choose the shop – in a way, it chose her. Back in the early 2000s, she helped her daughter establish the business, and somewhere in the shuffle, Carol ended up owning and running Yarn Garden with the help of a few trusted employees. And it’s been an agreeable situation for everyone involved.
Through the shop, Carol revitalizes the hands-on customer service she appreciated in her hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. As a young woman, she studied Home Economics at Marshall College, now Marshall University. After enrolling in the knit class, she headed straight for the local department store where she knew she could get everything she needed, including basic training to get started with the craft.
“In those days, you could go to your local department store, and they would show you the basics. There are only two stitches in knitting, the purl stitch and the knit stitch, and the department store clerk showed me how to do both.”
Now, Carol is a master of the art.
“There are such things as master knitters, but I never paid the fee to get my certification. I was busy doing other things,” said Carol who has been a member to local knitting guilds off and on over the years, but she finds something more personal about the small groups that meet at Yarn Garden every Tuesday and Thursday.
“This is my psychiatrist,” said Jody Berg, a resident of Oregon, who discovered the shop while staying in Gwinnett with her daughter. Over the past ten years, Berg has returned to Gwinnett each winter to stay with her daughter and attend Carol’s Tuesday lunch group.
Sitting around her table, the women work on their respective projects, and as Carol jokes, “come up with solutions to the world’s problems.”
As they ordered lunch one afternoon in early April, the Tuesday group chatted as they usually do. All the while, there was one unspoken question. What are they going to do now that Carol is retiring?
For Jody, it’s a challenging question to answer. “I’ve already lost three yarn shops back in Oregon. I cried when those closed — it’s like losing your friends.”
While her clients will miss her, Carol anticipates her retirement with mixed emotions. At 81 years of age, she looks forward to spending time with family and just relaxing at home.
While they will still be able to purchase yarn, Carol’s customers believe there is nothing quite like Yarn Garden in the area.
“These days you can buy yarn anywhere online or in Michael’s or JoAnn’s, but most of the time it’s all acrylic, generic stuff,” said Jennifer Little, a Snellville resident.
“There is nobody to help you do anything. I like to see the color and I like to feel what it feels like before I buy it,” Jody agreed.
Yarn Garden’s stock comes from all over the globe. The shop offers an assortment of materials including silk, alpaca, wool, bamboo, cotton, angora, and mohair. And, Chloe Combs, a Yarn Garden employee of three years, hand-dyes many of the colors and stitches ornate designs. Select garments are for sale, and most of the stock is discounted for a retirement sale across the entire store.
On the question of what to do next, Chloe, a photography major said, “I’ll just hang with Carol and hope to find a day job.”
The circle has grown close over the years. Sharon Murphy of Duluth has been a client for fifteen years and notes that Carol knows something about everyone who comes here, no matter how long they’ve been coming.
“She knows about our kids, our parents. Something personal about everyone. And some of my closest friends I made here,” Sharon said.
In a way, the group has become a sorority — a busy club where anyone is welcome to come work. And as they collaborate on projects, they swap stories, joke and share each other’s hardships.
“It’s like a life support group here. We hear about the graduations, the college graduations, the grandbabies,” Jody said.
While all good things must come to an end, this is not a goodbye for Carol, her clients and Yarn Garden’s loyal employees — Geli, Gloria, her granddaughter Amanda and, last but not least, Marsha, who drives from August each Monday to work Monday and Tuesday at the shop. They have every intention of staying in touch.
“There’s [also] a possibility that a new shop will open nearby in Lawrenceville,” Carol said. “But I’m not at liberty to give the details just yet.”