Karen Rideout’s charming shop has everything you’d expect from a community yarn store. The shelves are lined with hundreds of skeins of yarn in rainbow hues and varied textures. In one corner, you’ll find cute Binkwaffle dumpling bags and needle rolls. In another, a display of shawl pins and buttons. If you are looking for knitting needles, there are bamboo varieties and metal varieties and even circular varieties, in addition to a range of crochet hooks. There are patterns, kits, and instructional books and magazines. You’ll find everything you need to craft that special scarf or blanket or sweater or sock.
But the Bluefield Yarn Company offers so much more. It’s a special gathering place—a place where people come together not only to knit and crochet, but to unwind, connect, and build friendships. And as any knitter knows, knitting is cheaper than therapy.
“I opened my shop in 2012. It was the right time in my life to do so. I am married to a career Army officer; his career took our family around the world on an amazing adventure and we moved every few years to a new state or country,” Rideout says. “My children were grown and on their own and we were looking for a place to put down roots and stay awhile. After living in Bluefield for a year, we really felt we were settled and I knew it was time to open my yarn shop.”
“My family is originally from the midwest and I grew up in a small town in Illinois. I have loved the textile arts all my life and learned how to crochet, sew and needle point as a child,” Rideout says. “I actually learned to knit as an adult and refined my skills in the car, bleachers and school hallways as I waited to pick up my children from their various activities or watch them participate in their sports.”
“Knitting and crocheting are important for my creativity and sense of accomplishment. These two arts are also calming and often help me focus on a larger task at hand,” she says. “I love seeing the stitches, the patterns, the colors and textures of the yarns come to life and each time become something new and beautiful.”
As online shopping options are gobbling up the retail industry, Bluefield Yarn Company isn’t feeling threatened. “At the shop, you can collaborate. If you make a mistake, you can learn how to fix it. You can’t get that online. Knitters and crocheters like to interact with the yarn,” says Rideout.
This collaboration ties back to our Appalachian roots. “The fiber arts have always been an integral part of Appalachia,” she says. “Crochet and knitting, as well as other textile arts, were part of daily life, especially for the necessities of clothing and warmth. They were also used as part of a person’s education and had practical application to daily life.”
You can see that interaction as soon as someone steps into the shop. The first thing everyone does after walking in the door is to stop and take it all in—the vibrant colors and patterns. Then they walk around the shop, feeling the skeins, smelling them, and unwinding them to feel the fibers.
The Bluefield Yarn Company is a unique shop that compliments the other restaurants, antique stores, clothing stores and gift shops in downtown Bluefield to create a real hometown visitor experience. Rideout and her shop have knitted themselves into the fabric of Bluefield.
“I just love Bluefield,” she says. “I love the mountains, the seasons, and especially the people. Everybody is very giving and always trying to make things better for others. It is a beautiful, beautiful place to live.” And now, it is a beautiful place to shop.
This post was last updated on January 16, 2020