- The following first appeared in the winter issue of About HER, a regional magazine news insert.
Jackie Crenshaw could see sheep from her bedroom window when she was growing up in Yorkshire, a historic county in Northern England known for its wool milling industry. Her grandparents were shepherds in Scotland and her mother, described by Crenshaw as “a passionate knitter,” tested patterns for yarn companies.
It’s not surprising that Crenshaw started knitting at the age of five and that today she is teaching her grandchildren to knit. She has made all of them lace Shetland shawls. “My grandmother did it. My mother did it for all the kids in my family, and now it’s my turn,” she said about passing the tradition on.
Crenshaw, who has lived in Floyd with her husband Woody for more than two decades, is the co-owner of Woolly Jumper Yarns in downtown Floyd. Adjacent to The Floyd Country Store that the Crenshaws owned and operated for ten years, the yarn shop carries more than 100 different yarns in various weights, colors and fibers, along with a selection of notions and knitting supplies, including books, patterns and more.
Yarn shop co-owner Michele Morris started knitting at the age of nine. Growing up in California, she expressed an interest in learning to knit to her mother. The librarian with an undergraduate degree in art, set her daughter up with a knitting lesson, taught by the daughter of a friend. “And it stuck,” said Morris, who was wearing a red infinity scarf that she knitted.
Morris described how her eldest son recently came home from college with several friends from different parts of the world and how they all stood around her kitchen table learning to knit. She has taught knitting to her younger son’s high school Home Economics class. Both Morris and Crenshaw have taught classes at the yarn shop and have hosted other teachers who have had something specialized to share. In 2011, Merike Saarniit, an internationally known designer and instructor who is known in the knitting world as “the Estonian Knitter,” taught a fingerless mitts knitting class.
One thing that makes Woolly Jumper unique is that, although the shop carries a wide selection of all-purpose yarns, it specializes in natural fiber yarns. Crenshaw, who is also a weaver, pointed to a skein of yellow yarn and noted that it was spun of nettles and wool. She pulled out a skein of “special” wool and a pattern book by Rowan, a world renowned design-led, hand-knit yarn company from her hometown.
The shop also carries locally spun and hand-dyed yarns provided by spinners in the area, as well as organically produced, naturally colored and recycled yarns. “We have a huge selection, and we keep adding to it all the time,” said Morris. Some of the yarns listed on the shop’s webpage include Classic Elite, Cascade, Brown Sheep, Manos del Uruguay, Debbie Bliss, Rowan, Louisa Harding, Madeline Tosh, Berroco and more. Handspun yarn provided by local spinners comes from Floyd, Willis, Meadows of Dan, Bent Mountain, Blacksburg, Salem and Ferrum.
Recently the shop participated in Floyd’s first Festival of Trees, hosted by the Jacksonville Center for the Arts. Local businesses, including Woolly Jumpers, decorated Christmas trees that were displayed at the Jacksonville’s Winterfest Art and Craft festival. The lighted show was well received by the public and proceeds from bids made on favorite trees went to support the art center. Morris’s knitted Celestine Star that topped the yarn shop’s tree was eye catching. Some of the miniature sweaters and crocheted ornaments on the tree were made by Woolly Jumper’s customers.
Customers also play a role in helping to provide creative inspiration for beginner and advanced knitters in the area. Clothing knitted by them, along with pieces done by Crenshaw and Morris, is displayed throughout the store, showing the potential of the colorful yarns, stocked in rows on shelves.
Woolly Jumper is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and recently celebrated its fourth year anniversary. “It’s not that easy to keep a yarn shop open,” Morris acknowledged. Even so, she is encouraged by the store’s dedicated patronage, and by the fact that Woolly Jumper is one of five yarn shops in the area that are thriving. She explained that tourists coming to Floyd for its arts and crafts are happily surprised to discover the yarn shop as a welcomed addition to the Floyd artisan community tradition.
Soon Crenshaw and Morris will be gearing up for an area spring Yarn Crawl, which features yarn shops in Roanoke, Blacksburg and Rocky Mount, as well as the Floyd shop. It’s a fun and busy weekend with door prizes, punch cards and a grand prize worth $500. “It makes for a nice selection for visitors and people who live here. We all carry different things,” Morris said.
Meanwhile, Crenshaw and Morris will continue shop keeping, tending to their families and their other professions. Morris is a public relations and training coordinator for Wall Residences, a local company that provides foster home placements for people with disabilities. Crenshaw and her husband are committed to Floyd’s local agriculture movement and are the founders of Riverstone Organic Farm.
Crenshaw and Morris also host a weekly Knit Night at the shop. On Thursday evenings, area knitters come together to share tips and techniques. They work on their latest project, knitting together in sewing-bee style, which is probably the best opportunity for the shop owners to find the time to do something they both love: knit.
_____For more information go to woollyjumperyarns.com or visit them on Facebook.