Cheerful, energetic, upbeat Jen Reeves, owner of A Little Knitty at 102 East Main Street in downtown Auburn, sheds positive vibes like a bulb radiates light.
Just watch, as she throws her head back in frequent peals of laughter, eyes squeezed shut with delight, finds pleasure and humor in well, just about everything.
No ambiguity. Reeves is one of those lucky few who in this life has found exactly what she loves to do and is doing it.
And her doings are all about yarn. Not only knitting it, mind you, but also drop spindling, it, weaving it, crocheting it, you name it, all the fiber arts. Reeves has owned the shop in downtown Auburn since 2016, providing along the way a place for a colorful assortment of young and not-so-young fiber enthusiasts to build a community around the cheerful click-clack of the needles.
For these reasons and more, Auburnites have voted Little Knitty one of The Best of Auburn.
See, Reeves knows something society has been slow to learn: all that fun with fiber is not just for old ladies, and not just for women, either.
“I get it all the time, this picture of older people doing this,” Reeves said. “That is actually what people assume. That my clientele is coming from Merrill Gardens and Shag. Yes, I have senior ladies that come from those places. But as for the the age demographic that came here last night for Sit and Stitch, I was one of the oldest in the room, and I’m 44.
“People expect everyone to be 80-years-old in a rocking chair. And those 80-year-olds are knitting. Most of them, if they’ve been knitting all of their lives, have a stash that they’ve acquired, so that they don’t need to buy any more.
“It’s really popular for younger people. Go to festivals and look around; the age demographic is much younger than anybody expects. It’s cool,” Reeves said.
Reeves digs talking about the friendships and connections that have formed in her shop.
“There’s a big community,” Reeves said. “There are people who sit at this table once a week, every single week, and become friends with each other. It’s a second home to some in our community. So, when they get orphaned by a yarn shop closing, they’ve got to find a new home.
“It’s a site for many community events, We have Sit-and-Stitch every Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m., every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. and the last Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. But people can just come back here and knit, and crochet and chat,” Reeves said
Reeves was born in Poulsbo and spent her first 20 years there. Home is where her grandmother, Peggy, taught the then12-year old to cast-on and knit.
“I would knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, and I would bring them back to her to get them off, because I didn’t know how. It was easier for her to do it and hand it back to me. I wasn’t going to say, ‘Please teach me,’ because I had someone to finish my stuff! Eventually, I did teach myself, but I have a lot of ugly stuff for about 10 years,” Reeves said.
Then she was on to Bellingham and Western Washington University to earn her undergraduate degree in psychology. She had planned to earn her master’s degree, too, but then came her husband, Brian, followed by two babies, a he, Nolan, and a she, Piper.
“I like to say I used my degree on my children,’ Reeves said with a laugh.
She actually started her kitting business at home, selling her knit caps and such at shows and festivals.
And home is where Little Knitty got its name.
“I was tossing around names about years ago, and they were bad, bad puns, they were just bad. And I said to my husband, ‘I am being just a little nutty.’ And he said, ‘No, you’re being a little Kitty,’ and I was like, “That’s my name! My husband is so wonderful, he’s so supportive.”
“I like to tease people about the name we also do crochet. Turns out, ‘A Little Crotchety’ would not be a good business name,” Reeves added with a big laugh.
When Piper entered kindergarten in 2016, the there-to-fore stay-at-home mother decided, yeah, probably time to work outside the home.
The business opened officially in a corner of the Liberty Jane Doll shop at 218 East Main in 2016, where Liberty Jane distributed knitting and sewing patterns online, and Reeves designed knitwear for its dolls.
But Reeves, who had moved to Auburn with her family seven years before, had bigger ideas.
“I was designing for Liberty Jane,” she said, “and I really wanted to open a yarn shop, and I noticed that there was no yarn shop near here. There had been one in Puyallup, but it closed. I had just lost my mom, and I was like, life is short, do what you want.
“My questions were: had there been a yarn shop here that didn’t work out? Or has nobody tried? So I researched as much as I could and figured out there hadn’t been a local yarn shop here.”
At first, Reeves thought she just test waters, to see if Auburn, you know, could use a yarn shop, Today, 7-and-a-half years in, she has her answer
“People are hungry for it. There were people who’d been orphaned by the closure of the yarn shop in Puyallup, so I gathered up the orphans,” Reeves said.
She knows many people says knitting and other fiber arts have gone the way of the dinosaurs.
“I get that a lot, a lot, a lot. A lot of people love to poke their heads in and say, ‘My grandma used to crochet.’ Or ‘this brings me so much joy, because my mom was an avid knitter.’ People have a connection to it, but don’t do it,” Reeves said.
“And a lot of people report to me, ‘Oh, I hope it’s an art that doesn’t die.’ And they have no clue what those little Gen Z’ers are doing right now. I lay that on TikTok and COVID. There’s a new generation of kids that are learning to crochet because we have all of this YouTube now, — by the way, that wasn’t there when I was learning, and I would have loved it — and we have TikTok, and we have ways of people seeing how everybody else is doing things, and they can learn at home. Little kids are sponges Yeah, there’s a revival; this is not going out of style. Crochet, especially. It’s so hot with young kids tight now,” Reeves said.
A Little Knitty is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday’s hours are 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. to accommodate, Reeves said, all those working people who couldn’t otherwise make it in time.