Let me introduce Twisted, in Portland, Oregon. Another store where you can actually fondle, sniff, and otherwise get close to our yarns. A real, instead of virtual, Quince experience. We’re so pleased to be there, thanks to Shannon Squire and Emily Williams, who launched their store a little more than six years ago. Please see their interview below.
As I read through their comments, I was reminded of how person-to-person knitting is. I’ve learned much of what I know by trial and error and through books. But I probably wouldn’t be knitting today had it not been for a friend’s mother who, late at night, picked up the phone and helped me figure out how to re-boot my knitting. I was in high school and had just started a sweater. I’d put my work down in the middle of a row and when I picked it up again, I hadn’t a clue which direction I was going in. A two-minute conversation meant a life-time of knitting empowerment. If you find yourself in a similar quandary, you’ll find the help you need at Twisted. You’ll also find:
A cozy place to sit and knit.
Helpful (educational) displays. This one, a demonstration on the vicissitudes of gauge. The sign in the middle reaffirms Gauge Reality:
Every knitter is different.
No one ‘always gets gauge.’
Swatches are your friends!
A lot of Quince yarn!
And here’s what Shannon and Emily have to say about life in a yarn store:
Where did Twisted begin?
We met while working at the Portland VA Medical Center. We were both low women on the totem pole in the Mental Health Department, working administrative positions. We started knitting together at a Friday lunch-time stitch and bitch, and slowly realized our jobs weren’t the best places for us. We started talking about opening a yarn shop, and eventually left our jobs to work full-time on our business plan.
What makes a perfect yarn store?
In our experience, the single most important thing a yarn store can offer is outstanding customer service. Making folks feel at home makes them want to begin all of their projects with you. We have cultivated some of our closest friendships through people we’ve met at Twisted. Having a team of knowledgeable, friendly and helpful employees is one major way to do this.
What are you doing that you’re especially proud of?
One of the most important things to us, beyond customer service, is our special relationships with outstanding people and companies in the industry. Over the years, we have established several exciting Portland-area exclusives, including Quince & Co., Blue Moon Fiber Arts, and Imperial Stock Ranch
What’s the best part of your job?
Spending time with customers. Seriously, once you get to a certain point, there is so much administrative work to do, that you don’t get to spend the one-on-one time with customers that you once did. It’s so inspiring and refreshing to get out there on the floor, help someone find the perfect yarn for their project, and ooh and aah over finished objects. It’s also very dangerous for our personal knitting queues, of course, because our customers have such good taste!
Your least favorite?
Unfortunately, we can’t make everyone happy all the time – no matter how very, very hard we try. Giving a customer bad news about an unavailable product or a fatal flaw in their project is difficult and sad. Seeing someone leave the store unhappy or reading negative feedback online is heartbreaking. At the same time, it helps us grow and improve and for that we’re grateful.
What do you wish people would understand about owning a business, particularly a yarn business?
That we never knit at work! We and all our staff spend our time making sure our customers have the best possible experience with their knitting. We get to relax and knit on our own projects at home. Also, we think most people understand this, but small business ownership is hard. So much of your personality is caught up in your business that when folks are unhappy it really affects the small business owner. Having to disappoint a customer is always difficult.
What’s your personal connection to knitting? How long? Favorite thing to make?
Shannon: My mom taught me to knit many, many moons ago, but it wasn’t until I was working at the VA that I became a Knitter, with a capital “K.” That’s when it became an obsession. I love making accessories most of all, although I did have a sweater phase a few years ago.
Emily: I learned to knit from my beloved grandmother, Marian, who knit constantly. She, just like I am now, was a busybody who could relax better if her hands were occupied. My favorite thing to knit is something/anything new, well-designed, and creative that I haven’t seen before.
Do you still have time to knit?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: We have a pretty vibrant design team at Twisted, and offer clubs, kits, and lots of patterns, so the knitting itself has become a big part of our jobs. I (Shannon) knit almost every single night, generally working on pattern designs, after my littles go to bed.
Do you offer classes? Enjoy helping customers learn the craft?
We do offer classes. Neither of us teach them anymore – we did initially but quickly realized that, although both of us know how very important classes are, the teaching of them is in neither of our wheelhouses. We are fortunate that over the years we have met many amazing teachers who devote lots of time and energy sharing their knowledge with our customers.
How long in business? What have you learned that you didn’t expect to learn?
We are 6 ½ years old. Wow. The better question would be, what HAVEN’T we learned? We’ve learned how to communicate with just about every personality the world has seen; we’ve learned good listening skills; we’ve learned that there is no such thing as being too clear; we’ve learned that organization is king; we’ve learned how to be strong, respectful, but firm bosses to our employees. We’ve learned how not to let everything get to us, and let things go (that’s a hard one, that’s for sure)!
When is knit night?
Tuesday night is Open Crafting Night, and Friday night is knit-along night.
What do your local knitters and crocheters love about your shop?
The community and sense of belonging and friendship they find at Twisted. And the yarn. Oh, man, the yarn!
Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Please continue to support your Local Yarn Shop. Not only are we a great place to fondle yarn, but the sense of community and support you can receive from us is invaluable in this day and age.