Andrea Rainey’s hobby store doesn’t quite fit the usual business mold. There’s the welcoming furniture just inside the entrance, hot tea and coffee for the taking in the back, and a make-yourself-at-home atmosphere that permeates the small shop’s multihued interior. While this may sound like a new coffee house, it’s Rainey’s new CDA Yarn and Fiber store, which offers everything from knitting materials to hands-on classes for enthusiasts of all levels.
In the former home of DJ’s Coins and Collectibles behind Alton’s Tires, Yarn and Fiber is lined wall to wall with a wide range of knitting materials. Name a project and Rainey can offer an assortment of yarns and fibers to fit the purpose, including American-made Farmhouse and Brown Sheep brands and standard bundles such as cotton, linen and bamboo. The shop also features several unique fabrics including locally spun and hand-dyed yarns, as well as organic and recycled materials from such manufacturers as Frog Tree and Malabrigo in everything from alpaca wool to hemp to milk protein to reconstituted T-shirts and stainless steel wire.
Rainey, a former Boeing computer programmer who moved to North Idaho in 1998, says of her hobby, “It’s not that hard, it’s relaxing, and it makes waits, like at an airport or a bus stop, much better. And in the end you have something to show for it.” Beyond that, she added, “you can knit with just about anything. It’s really amazing.”
And if knitting brings to mind that pair of unsightly socks from grandma that are hiding in the back of your drawer, Rainey offered that it’s not just a hobby for your grandparents anymore.
“It’s improved a lot since then,” she said. “There’s much more to it than scarves and hats,” offering as examples tea cozies, shawls and even lingerie.
Rainey, who has a master’s degree in software engineering, started knitting about six years ago after seeing a homemade hat she liked on the cover of a magazine. It wasn’t until last fall, several years after taking up knitting, that she decided to open the one-woman operation. “I couldn’t find a job in the area using my skill set. So I decided to make my own job and open my own store, right before the stock market went plop,” she said. “I figured the area could support another store, and I hope that’s true and continues to be true.”
To make her store stand out, the Washington native’s business looks as if it were modeled with the local coffee shops that serve as morning gathering grounds in mind. CDA Yarn and Fiber is meant to be a place where the knitting crowd – numbering in the hundreds in the Coeur d’Alene area alone, according to one customer – could gather over needlework to share projects, tips and tricks and friendly chitchat.
The store even has its regulars – that is beyond the shop’s “resident old lady,” a 14-year-old pug named Marley that’s usually asleep behind the counter – including two social knitting and crocheting groups that meet on Saturday afternoons and Wednesday mornings. Beginner’s classes are held throughout the week.
As for CDA Yarn and Fiber’s product line, the store offers fabric bundles that range from a few dollars to almost $50, and there’s a library of books and patterns for sale. In addition, spinning wheels and weaving equipment can be special ordered.
“She’s really made a nice shop here,” said Judy Lindman, a frequent customer and social group member who was working on a wine bottle cozy on a recent overcast Saturday afternoon. About the knitting group get-togethers, which often pack every seat in the shop, Lindman said, “We get ideas from each other, we all learn from each other, and it’s a great way to meet friends. This is really becoming the best place to knit in town.”
The knitters have their fair share of fun with the hobby, too. For instance, Rainey’s Web site mentions that the shop is centrally located for whatever a customer might need. “There is also a nearby liquor store for when the knitting is going really badly,” it jokingly reads.
And in today’s economically dour times, Lindman said taking up the hobby is a great investment, because there’s even a high-quality return in the end. “Knitting is such an economically inexpensive activity. I knit for less than a dollar an hour,” she said. “And I can take it anywhere.”