September 21, 2018
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How a Maine shop is bringing local yarn and online customers together

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

Helen Sahadi’s yarn store, Heavenly Socks, is a colorful, bustling place on a gray January afternoon, as knitters dart in and out to pick up supplies and share a few cheerful words with the proprietor.

Two years ago, Sahadi decided she wanted her cozy Belfast yarn shop to finally have an online presence. But right away, she realized there was a problem. How could she differentiate Heavenly Socks from the thousands of other online yarn stores? Then she hit on a solution — she would focus on yarn that is made or dyed in Maine.

“I was thinking about the strengths of my shop,” Sahadi said. “And so I decided to start a website that would promote Maine yarns, fibers and products.”

And that’s just what she does through her online business, Fiber of Maine, which aims to provide crafty locavores with yarn, knitting tools such as stitch markers, buttons made of antlers, wood and clay and much more, all with a Maine flair. Starting last year, Sahadi began visiting the farms around the state that raise the sheep and other animals that provide the raw material for yarn and writing about them for a blog on the website.

“It’s so much fun,” she said of the farm visits.

And she also has started a subscription service, where those who take part receive a monthly package with Maine yarn from a different supplier each time and either an original pattern or one from a Maine designer. In each kit, there’s enough yarn to make a small project, such as a hat, a little shawl or mittens, as well as information about the Maine artisans and designer who made the project possible. The yarns can be made of alpaca, angora or wool, and can be handspun or come from Maine’s larger mills.

The subscription service launched at the beginning of 2016, and has had good feedback so far from participants, Sahadi said. It costs $28 each month to take part in the service, a sum which reflects the higher price of Maine yarns as compared to commercial yarns that come from places such as Turkey, China and Peru.

“The only drawback I see with people buying Maine yarn is that the price point is higher,” Sahadi said. “Processing is expensive here. Nobody’s making any money on it.”

Even so, she’s thrilled to have found a way for more people to experience the beauty and diversity of Maine-made and dyed fibers, by making it possible to discover special yarns they likely wouldn’t have discovered on their own.

“I’m doing it because I’m passionate about it,” she said of promoting local fibers. “You know the sheep. You know you’re supporting a local family. And it’s nice yarn, of good quality. When we send it, we try and send information, too. It’s like a CSA [community supported agriculture share], but you’re supporting the Maine fiber industry. I’m having fun with it.”

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