Once a mobile yarn shop, now a storefront: KnittyGrittyYarnGirl opens in East Lyme
East Lyme ― The Knitty Gritty Yarn Girl, also known as Paulette Meijer, now has a knitty gritty storefront.
Customers of the colorful collection of crocheting components may also encounter the Knitty Gritty Yarn Boy (what her husband, Paul Meijer, calls himself) or the Knitty Gritty Yarn Dog (a Yorkshire Terrier puppy named Minnie-Purl).
Meijer has retired her converted airport shuttle bus, but she hasn't hung up her knitting needles.
She founded KnittyGrittyYarnGirl in 2016 as a mobile yarn shop and on Monday opened a brick-and-mortar location at 170 Flanders Road, which sells yarn and will hold different levels of project-oriented classes.
The shop carries wool, silk, cashmere, linen and mohair yarns, with brands including Noro, Jody Long, Juniper Moon Farm, Artyarns, Mirasol and Malabrigo.
Hanks, skeins and balls of yarn in every color are piled onto shelves and hung from the white walls, with a sitting area in the back. Several people gathered there Thursday as part of a days-long celebration of the shop's grand opening.
That included people coming from Groton, Hamden, and Torrington, who had started following Meijer's Monday night Facebook Live show and gone on knitting retreats with her, and a sales representative for different yarn brands she carries.
And there was Jody Long, who flew in from his home in Istanbul, Turkey early Thursday morning to support the shop. The London native has designed for magazines and knitting mills, and he has a line of yarns.
He said he met Meijer on Facebook, and would join her Monday night events even though it was the middle of the night for him.
Not unwinding in retirement
Meijer, 71, previously worked as a sales trainer, helping real estate agents build their brands.
"This is really more about the customer service than it is about yarn, for me. For the customer it's about yarn," she said.
The inspiration to create a mobile yarn shop was her grandfather, a peddler who sold fresh produce out of an old bus. She was about 8 years old when she learned to crochet from her maternal grandmother and to knit from her paternal grandmother.
She stopped but restarted when she was having children, and then stopped again and restarted when her children were out of the house.
"I walked into work and this woman had knitted this gorgeous yarn. It was different than any yarn I’d seen in my entire life," Meijer said. Growing up, she said the options were cotton or wool, and she was inspired to get back into knitting by the variety of yarn.
Meijer said the KnittyGrittyYarnGirl bus became a traveling store and traveling billboard, one she’d take to fiber festivals in Hartford, Springfield and New York and to home parties.
Paul Meijer said they had just purchased inventory for a fiber festival when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, so the festival was canceled. Paulette's message is "yarn to the people," and that's what she continued bringing, by going online.
They ended up doing 16 live shows online across the four days when the festival was supposed to be. Paul Meijer has a background in marketing ― in the automotive industry ― and said he knows how to push content.
Paulette Meijer said they were "a real husband and wife online," arguing and bantering like George Burns and Gracie Allen. She was the serious one and her husband the joking one.
They ended up doing a show every Monday night called Twisted Stitches.
Meijer said she was eventually "bursting at the seams" with yarn, working out of her basement at home. So she decided to open a store in East Lyme, where she has lived since 2005.
People with store or knitting questions can utilize the chat feature on knittygrittyyarngirl.com or text Meijer at 203-856-6755.
The shop hours are 4:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, with group gatherings from 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays when everyone is welcome. She's also holding a knitting retreat in the Berkshires Nov. 11-13.
Her advice to beginners: "Remember that you’re learning to knit. Adults don't want to learn to do something; adults want to know how to do something." She added that people should give themselves grace, and that "it's just yarn; you can't break it."