Happy to be part of the new Alterra building on Humboldt Blvd., Caitlin Walsh and Patricia Colloton-Walsh are opening their yarn shop in Riverwest this month. Loop, as their business is called, is here to serve the growing numbers, young and old, who have discovered the delight of working with fiber, whether it be knitting, crocheting, felting or weaving. They are moving here from Bay View, where Walsh set up business at the corner of Delaware and Russell in 2004. At their new Riverwest location, they have twice the space for their wide variety of natural fibers. Alpaca from the Andes, worsted from the British Isles, silks from Asia – they stock a range of yarns from mohair to bamboo, from sparkly to fluffy to homespun. Browsing among the shelves at Loop is a sensory delight of color and texture. “But we’re not just selling yarn,” says Caitlin. “We’re selling a skill. And we want people to be good at it.” So for those who want to do more than browse, Loop offers classes for all levels of knitters. Organized in 2-hour blocks, there is Knitting 101, 102 and 103 for beginners. For more advanced knitters, Loop offers special workshops like the event on November 29 with special guest Debbie Stoller. As a mother and daughter collaboration, Caitlin and Patricia are clear in their vision. Caitlin says they “want to create an environment where people can feel comfortable creating and sharing ideas.” Patricia puts it this way: “We want to get Milwaukee knitting!” They want to introduce the perennial handicraft to a diverse clientele. It’s not just for old ladies. As they see it, knitting is for everyone. Some compare it to yoga in the way that it reduces stress. It’s relaxing, it’s creative, it’s practical, it’s even trendy. Julia Roberts knits; Russell Crowe knits. Some schools are introducing knitting as part of their curriculum because it teaches kids to see patterns, helps manual dexterity and is very calming. Caitlin and Patricia have as many Gen-X customers as Baby Boomers. They are even seeing some knitters who declare that they’re not buying any more imported, possibly toxic, toys for Christmas presents this year. They’re going to make hand-knit gifts for the special children in their lives instead. Caitlin remembers that she was in high school when “fiber fever” first struck her. She started out crocheting hats, then designing her own hats. At first she gave them as gifts but by the time she was in college, she was selling them in places like Boutique Bebe on Downer Avenue. Graduating from Escuela Fratney, then Pius XI High School and the Maryland Institute of Art with a major in fibers, she worked for a time in New York City before returning to Milwaukee. In 2004 she took the plunge and opened her own business in Bay View. After three successful years, she was ready for the larger space at the Alterra building. With Caitlin as business manager and designer, Patricia focusses on teaching. With her long experience teaching abroad and in Milwaukee Public Schools (including work at Fratney, Pierce and O.W. Holmes Elementary Schools in this neighborhood), she is a pro when it comes to putting together a lesson. She remembers how she learned to knit when she was 13 and fell in love with it. “I probably knit 30 sweaters when I was in high school!” Partnering now with her daughter, Patricia is working at something she is passionate about. November will be a month of transition as Caitlin and Patricia and their staff settle into their new space in Riverwest. Their collaboration with Alterra has been a good fit since both businesses are committed to promoting fair trade practices and selling natural, uncontaminated products. So as the temperatures drop and the scarves and mittens come out, Caitlin and Patricia aim to be ready for their new and returning customers. They are open Tuesday-Friday, 10-7, and Saturday-Sunday, 10-5, and they welcome knitters, crocheters, weavers and felters and browsers of all ages.
Check out loopyarnshop.com 414-481-4843 At noon on Thursday, November 29, Loop will host Debbie Stoller, Dutch textile artist and publisher of the best-selling Stitch ‘n’ Bitch series. She is also the creator and editor of BUST, a feminist magazine of popular culture. Debbie will be signing copies of Son of Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, her latest book full of men’s knit and crochet patterns, due out for publication on Nov. 22.