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A Visit to Stars Hollow Yarns
Deep in the heart of the Litchfield Hills region of Connecticut, a land of rolling farmlands and tiny side roads, of bed and breakfasts and mom ‘n pop general stores, is the tiny town of Washington Depot. This “blink and you miss it” little community found itself the hubbub of activity in the early 2000’s when producer Amy Sherman-Palladino revealed that it was the inspiration for her hit series Gilmore Girls. And here in picturesque northwestern Connecticut, nestled alongside the main road, is local yarn store Stars Hollow Yarns, named after the fictional town Sherman-Palladino dreamed up when she stayed at the local Mayflower Inn.
The cast of Pardon My Stash was lucky enough to be welcomed in, on a beautiful spring afternoon, to Stars Hollow Yarns. We’ve visited Stars Hollow many times over the years, and have come to love its quirky design, the oh-so-helpful staff, and the myriad and beautiful yarns and notions sold there. Stars Hollow Yarns is the brainchild of its founder, Lisa Clark, who was gracious enough to tell us a little about her fiber arts journey, and how Stars Hollow came to be.
“Nobody in my family knit or crocheted,” she told us. “My mom sewed, so I sewed next to her – I had the little black Singer sewing machine that had nothing but a straight stitch! And I always loved being creative.” But she didn’t begin knitting until she was in college, performing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Summer Stock in Chatham, New York.
“During rehearsals, the girls had nothing to do. The guys are 90% of the show, but we would have to be there for call,” she says. “One of the other actresses knew how to knit, and one rehearsal she brought a bunch of yarn in and began to teach us all. I kept it up, but at some point – I don’t remember if I lost my knitting needles or got distracted or what, but I gave up knitting for a while.” Shortly after she moved to Connecticut, a friend who had done Summer Stock as a costume designer rekindled Lisa’s love of knitting, and brought her to Rhinebeck, to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival.
“I had wanted to own my own business for so many years,” she told us. “When I finally started narrowing it down to being a yarn store, I wanted it to have the feel of Rhinebeck, in a way. Not everybody can get to Rhinebeck — a LOT of people can’t get to Rhinebeck, and at this time, the small indie festivals that are held the same weekend didn’t exist yet. I thought, ‘maybe there’s a way we could bring in the stuff that most stores don’t have, and figure out a way to make good yarns affordable’.”
From the minute you step through the door, Stars Hollow presents the warm, welcoming atmosphere so familiar to quaint New England towns. The antique architecture mixed with modern glass and chrome gives it a whimsical, vintage feel, and offsets the beautiful colorways and expertly-made sample pieces on display. Here at Stars Hollow, yarn squishing isn’t just allowed — it’s expected. And when the staff ask you what you’re planning on working on, they aren’t just being polite; they’re invested.
“The thing I’ve learned over the years is that, if you start someone with good quality yarn — it doesn’t have to be expensive, but good quality yarn — they’re more likely to stick with it. They’ll enjoy it more,” says Lisa. She and her staff encourage everyone who comes in to think about the project they have in mind, and then the yarn. With so many of us crafters purchasing yarn with no clear intentions in mind for it, only to watch it languish on the shelf, this can be a rather refreshing approach. And the Stars Hollow staff is ready and willing to help.
“You distill it down to: what are you really looking for?” Lisa explains. “Do you want super soft yarn? Something that’s going to last a long time? Yarn that is gift quality? You think about its purpose, and then you think about the yarn options.”
Selecting a yarn at Stars Hollow Yarns is a monumental task in and of itself, because while they carry some LYS staples like Malabrigo and Sweet Georgia Yarns, Stars Hollow prides itself on carrying mainly local, organic, and indie products — smaller chains like the ones Lisa saw carried at New York Sheep and Wool all those years ago. Organically processed yarns such as Garthenor Organic, based out of Wales, and Stitched by Jessalu, an indie project bag designer, are two vendors Lisa is particularly proud to feature.
“At first I wanted to be flexible, and that everyone who walked through the door would get anything they wanted,” she says. “And then I kind of realized, I am not that shop. I have to specialize, and if somebody comes in and this isn’t what they’re looking for, that’s okay! I can show them or tell them about other places that will suit their needs, and that doesn’t mean that they’re never going to come back here… In other areas, yarn shops are very competitive. You can’t go into one and say that you’ve been to another. I’m a firm believer in ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. If one of us goes under, then we’re not able to keep going. If one succeeds, we all succeed.”
Central to the message of this quaint local yarn store is the idea of giving back to the community and to the planet. Stars Hollow is a certified member of 1% for the Planet, which provides 1% of all profits going to environmental partners that fight for social and environmental justice. The store’s business model is based in sustainability and inclusiveness, from offering yarns created by members of the BIPOC and LGBQT+ communities, to using sustainable packaging and offering eco-friendly coffee. Their website features a “Walking the Walk” page, describing their mission of inclusivity and sustainability, and offering a list of their partner companies, complete with links to their mission pages. “Our goal is to have everything be intentional, and mindful,” Lisa explains.
There is a peacefulness and welcoming atmosphere to Stars Hollow Yarns that is unique among yarn stores. On the second floor loft, one whole corner is sectioned off with vintage toys, a cradle, a hopscotch mat, and baby dolls and stuffies. Mindful of her own days as a young mother trying to buy yarn with little ones in tow, Lisa — along with the rest of her staff — welcomes with open arms parents who need to bring their young children. There’s a definite air of knowledge that children who feel welcome in craft stores will one day hopefully feel confident and welcomed enough to pick up the craft themselves. And this, at its heart, is what makes Stars Hollow special. Every person that walks in the door feels welcomed and wanted. “The people,” Lisa says, when asked what her favorite part of her yarn adventure has been. “The people I meet.”
Stars Hollow Yarns has opened up a whole little crafty world in this quiet corner of Northwestern Connecticut, where empathy is key, sustainability reigns, and forming lasting relationships with the fiber arts is the goal. The hardest part of going? Deciding what crafty souvenirs of your visit you’ll be taking with you. If you are traveling through Connecticut and looking for beautiful affordable yarns and a feel-good mission we can all get behind, Stars Hollow Yarns is not to be missed.
After a temporary closure this past summer, Stars Hollow Yarns is planning to hold a “grand re-opening” on Saturday, October 14.