Some colorful yarn found at What’s Needlin’ Ewe, a yarn shop in Mount Airy, N.C./ All photos by E.A. Seagraves
Mount Airy, N.C. is a destination for many folks, especially those wanting to see the city the fictional town of Mayberry, made famous in “The Andy Griffith Show,” was supposedly modeled after.
One of my favorite places to visit is What’s Needlin’ Ewe, owned by mother and daughter duo, Sharon and Natalie Johnson, natives of Mount Airy.
Sharon Johnson adjusts some yarn in a suitcase she found at a thrift store and had refurbished.
What it is
What’s Needlin’ Ewe is a new yarn shop, celebrating its sixth month anniversary this Sunday. Happy anniversary, Sharon and Natalie!
The walls of the shop are lined with fluffy yarn balls of color and needles. Some of the yarns are so soft, you’d want to fill a bathtub full and climb in.
A couch and a table with chairs make a comfortable place for knitting gab sessions and classes.
On my visit for the interview, several spinners sat in a far corner. Not only does Natalie knit and crochet, she spins and dyes yarn. “I don’t know how to weave, but I want to learn,” she said. The shop recently hosted the Spin Off Fiber Guild of Winston-Salem.
Sharon is a knitter. “I can crochet, but it’s not my cup of tea.” She’s been knitting since a neighbor taught her how when she was 12.
Although Sharon taught Natalie some of the basics, Natalie is mostly self-taught and started dabbling in fiber arts when she was 10.
Natalie Johnson and son, Parker, 11 months, do a little spinning.
The Back Story
“This was on our bucket list,” Sharon said when asked how What’s Needlin’ Ewe got started.
“I knew we had talked about it, but I didn’t think it would be something we’d actually do,” Natalie said. She was 9 months pregnant last March when they decided to open the store.
“I sat down and said, ‘Let’s do it and stop talking about it,'” Sharon said. They researched yarn shops “from here to Colorado” picking out the elements of each shop that they liked.
Knit-N-Purl of Myrtle Beach, S.C., became their inspiration and model. “I said, ‘This is it,'” Sharon recalled when she first walked into the store. “We felt welcome. It was homey. We walked in at 5:55 p.m. and the store closes at 6 p.m. But they said for us to come on in.”
The Johnsons credit the South Carolina business with providing a lot of advice and tips on their business plan. “They’re very open and wonderful people,” Sharon said.
With their own shop, Sharon and Natalie strive to create a welcoming atmosphere where knitters of all levels can feel free to come in, sit and knit.
Sharon admits their customer base is not what they expected. “We thought we’d get people already knitting, but we found more of our audience is people who didn’t know anything.
“Some (people) come in here and don’t know what a knitting needle is, but want to look around,” Sharon said. “They say, ‘It’s so pretty in here.'”
Because of this, the yarn shop’s first advanced knitters classes didn’t draw any participates. So they went back to the drawing board and offered more beginners classes.
Since then, Sharon said they’ve built up a good group of core customers to whom they’ve taught most of their basic skills. Natalie said that core group is 30-40 people.
“We’ve been accused of classes being social time, but that’s not our fault,” Sharon said, laughing.
Plymouth Yarns are some of the products found at What’s Needlin’ Ewe.
What you can find here
Yarns: Fibra Natura, Berroco, Great Adirondack, Brown Sheep Company, Cascade, Plymouth, ArtYarns
Needles: Addi, Crystal Palace, Kollage square needles, Lantern Moon
Classes: beginners, advanced, sit and knit sessions, socks, spinning
From the Blue Ridge Parkway, head south on U.S. 52 from the Milepost 199.5 in Fancy Gap. Follow the signs to downtown Mount Airy. The store is located at 411 N. Main St., next to Leon’s Burger Express.
From the south, travel U.S. 52 North to Mount Airy. Follow the signs to downtown.
From the north, take Interstate 77 south to Mount Airy/N.C. 89. Follow the signs to downtown.
Here’s a map if you need some visual help.
Other places you can them
Natalie also cohosts the Knitting in the Round podcast with Leslie Shelor, owner of Greenberry House, a yarn shop in Meadows of Dan, Va.
Know of any businesses, interesting people or places near the Blue Ridge Mountains and Parkway? If so, post a comment below or send me information for future feature possibilities.