Among the fiber arts, needlepoint, and knitting stores in the Philadelphia area, there is a common theme: community.
Knitting, crochet, … these are all activities that you can do on your own. But they’re better when you can enjoy the camaraderie of crafting with others.
It’s not just the stores, though, it’s also the people behind the stores and the people they serve. They all seem to have an urge to connect with others. Lynn Landes founded Philly Knits, a meet-up group that now has over 2,400 members, in 2014. The group organizes meetings for knitting, crochet, and the fiber arts and invites others to share gatherings happening around town.
On the Philly Knits website, you can find listings of local knitting and crochet groups such as Sisters Interacting Through Stitches, which donates all of their creations, and BusyFingers, a group that creates scarves and hats for local charities.
If you want to learn how to knit, there are members of Philly Knits who will teach you. They’ve gone into schools to teach. They’ve volunteered at rehabilitation programs. And in 2021, they took to “yarn bombing” — a type of street art that uses colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn instead of paint or chalk — at places including Morris Arboretum, the Barnes Foundation, the Gayborhood, and Cianfrani Park. For Philly Knits, it’s all about artistic expression and spreading a love of fiber arts. “I wanted to share this joy with others,” says Landes. “It’s part of human nature to want to do something with your hands.”
The prevalence of pandemic crafting projects only underscore how these types of activities can lift your mood, serve as an escape, keep your mind sharp, encourage creativity, and help form social connections.
Whether you’re already an experienced crafter or you’re looking to try your hand at something new, you’re bound to need some supplies. Here’s a list of some of the best knitting and crafting stores in the Philly area.
Unlike the other shops included in this list, Emani Milan isn’t an actual store. It’s a website with four yarn vending machines in the Philadelphia area. (They’re believed to be the first yarn vending machines in the world.) The concept was conceived by Emani Outterbridge (who goes by Emani Milan), a Black woman, Philadelphia native, crochet designer, entrepreneur, and influencer. She first learned to crochet at age of 12 while in a facility for adolescent girls. At 15, Outterbridge started a crochet fashion line, ManiwearByMani, which has been worn by Cardi B., Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, and Drew Barrymore. Later, she created her own yarn line called Needles Designer Yarn, which offers super-soft eight-ply worsted weight acrylic yarn as well as cotton T-shirt yarn. You can purchase the yarn through her website or at one of the bright pink vending machines in the area. The site also offers crochet classes, patterns, and custom-made items.
📍Cherry Street Pier, 121 N. Columbus Ave., Cherry Hill Mall, 2000 NJ-38, Cherry Hill, Plymouth Meeting Mall, 500 W. Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, Oxford Valley Mall, 2300 E. Lincoln Hwy., Langhorne, 🌐 maniwear.com, 📷 @emani.milan
Echo Valley Fiber
Gwen Coltrin opened Echo Valley Fiber in December 2016. It’s located in a 19th-century post office, where the original countertops and floors give the spot plenty of charm, while the shelving provides a ton of space for yarn. You can explore yarn from around the world along with a selection of accessories, bags, needles, and hooks for knitters and crocheters alike. If you’d like guidance with a project, sign up for a knitting help session through the website. Classes are limited to four guests and are held at the store on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Hidden River Yarns
Lisa Johnson opened her Manayunk knitting shop in 2012 at a time when there wasn’t anything like it in the neighborhood. Johnson’s friends at local yarn distributor Kelbourne Woolens told her that they’d been approached by the Manayunk Development Corporation about opening a yarn store in the neighborhood. They were too busy, but they thought Johnson would be great for it. “They walked me to the edge of the cliff and drop-kicked me over,” Johnson said. Thankfully, the fall was cushioned by squishy yarn. (Which, Johnson says, is the best part of shopping for yarn — squishing it.) Johnson described Hidden River Yarns as “as a knitters’ knitting place,” meaning that you won’t necessarily find anything fancy or unusual, but it’s known for good-quality woolens and natural fibers, and she tries to have domestic yarns, including from the extremely exclusive Quince & Co. brand.
At Hidden River Yarns, customers become friends, and it’s common to find people knitting together in the shop, in addition to the knitting and crocheting classes offered by Johnson. “The worst thing for me to ever hear would be that someone was uncomfortable in my store,” she says.
Laura Singewald and Craig Rosenfeld have been supplying yarns, classes, and tools to Center City (and beyond) for more than 17 years. The bright, modern store has everything you need for knitting and crochet. In addition to yarns from around the world, they have their own line of Loop yarns that they hand-dye right here in Philadelphia. They also carry yarns from Philadelphia fiber businesses such as Dye Is Cast Yarns, Liverpool Yarns, Bogberry Designs, and Kelbourne Woolens. If you’re interested in learning more about the craft, Loop offers a full range of in-person socially distanced classes. When talking about the friendly and knowledgeable staff and the relaxing vibe of the shop, Singewald, like other local yarn shop owners, stressed the importance of community: “Our space brings together an amazingly talented, creative, and supportive community of customers that keep us energized about the craft that we love so much!” Loop also has a storefront in Newtown Square.
📍1914 South St. and 3715 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, 📞 Philadelphia, 215-893-9939 and Newtown Square, 484-427-7059, 🌐 loopyarn.com, 📷 @loopyarn, 🕑 Philadelphia, Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Newtown Square, Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Resource Exchange
The Resource Exchange is run by a team that’s passionate about sustainability and artistic expression. The nonprofit shop, gallery, and workshop sells donated goods to promote creative reuse and recycling of materials (they saved over 48,000 pounds of reusable materials from landfills in 2019). You can find everything from art supplies and fabric to yarn, lumber, theater scenery, and more. Everything is sold at a reduced cost — items are as much as half off regular retail prices. Shop thousands of items in the store or through the website. You can also donate materials.
Russell Palmer and Stephen Jancik opened Rittenhouse Needlepoint just off Rittenhouse Square in 2009. Since then, they moved to their current location near Reading Terminal to get more space for their growing selection of threads and canvases. Rittenhouse Needlepoint is one of the largest needlepoint stores in the country, offering threads and supplies for all embroidery arts including needlepoint, crewelwork, cross-stitch, embroidery, and tatting. You’ll find cotton embroidery floss, merino wool, synthetic sparkles, silk, and a variety of blends. They also keep a variety of needlepoint canvases in stock. The shop has several artists on staff who can hand-paint a canvas just for you. Once you’ve stitched your piece, you will want to show it off: Rittenhouse’s finishing team of sewers and artists can take your canvas and turn it into handbags, eyeglass cases, pillows, acrylic trays, ornaments, and more.
Slip Stitch Avenue
Vera Mekash’s mother taught her to crochet when she was 9 years old. Twenty years later, Mekash taught herself to knit and found her passion. She opened her brick-and-mortar store Slip Stitch Avenue in Bordentown, Burlington County, in October 2019,where the windows are decorated with sweaters, yarns, and cute little crocheted sheep,. In the center of the shop is an oak, claw-foot pedestal table where you’re likely to spot a crocheter considering yarn options, a class in session, a knitter stitching up a sweater, or Mekash chatting with a visitor. The warm, welcoming nature of the shop didn’t happen by chance. From the beginning, Mekash envisioned Slip Stitch Avenue as the Cheers of yarn shops, where guests feel welcome any time they visit. In addition to a large selection of yarn, notions, and accessories, Slip Stitch Avenue offers classes for anyone who wishes to expand their knitting or crocheting skills — whether they’re a newbie or an expert. The shop also hosts fun events like a monthly sit-n-stitch social gathering for yarn crafters.
Slip Stitch Avenue is a proud participating shop in the annual New Jersey Wool Walk, during which “Wool Walkers” purchase a passport that gets them access to special events, discounts, and more at participating shops.
Twist Knitting and Spinning
Twist Knitting and Spinning is located in Bucks County, just across from Peddler’s Village in Lahaska. The shop offers a wide variety of natural and one-of-a-kind hand-dyed yarns and spinning fibers, along with knitting needles, crochet hooks, spinning wheels, and other essentials. Twist offers classes (which are temporarily virtual) in knitting, weaving, and spinning. And if you’d like to support a local crafter, you can browse the shop’s collection of beautiful scarves, cowls, wraps, dish towels, or blankets — all made by by local weavers.
Liz Sytsma refers to her Mount Airy shop as “a community that believes in the magic of fiber craft,” a place that brings together people who share a vision of an imaginative and just world. You’ll find supplies for weaving, crochet, knitting, felting, spinning, dyeing, knotting, stitching, rug hooking, fleece processing, and more. Beyond that, you’ll find a welcoming space and group of people that believe in protecting the well-being of the fiber community, including the people, land, and animals that create the supplies. The shop’s owner and staffers promise in the website’s “Community Commitment” statement to use their responsibility and privilege as business owners to help others. This includes creating a physical space that is accessible and comfortable for all bodies and abilities and carrying size-inclusive patterns. They also created the Little Free Fiber Library in February 2020 — picture Little Free Libraries (those wooden boxes throughout communities where neighbors can exchange books), but with yarn and knitting supplies. Wild Hand also offers Little Free Fiber bundles through the website where you only pay for the shipping.
“At Yarnphoria, every effort is made to create an atmosphere where people’s sense of creativity is stimulated and supported,” says owner Dona Flam of her Washington Square store. “We are not a stuffy shop.” The comfortable vibe starts at the door where you’re likely to be greeted by Flam’s rescue dog, Mabel. Inside the shop, you’ll find a wide array of yarns. The lines that they go the deepest with (in some cases carrying almost every color available) are Urth, Malabrigo, and Misti Alpaca. They also carry independent dyers like Black Trillium Fibers, Three Irish Girls, and Zen Garden. If you’re interested in taking a class, private and semiprivate lessons are offered Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Flam stated, “I love talking yarn and projects with my customers and always look forward to seeing what they have created.”