EAST VILLAGE — This weekend, between 2,000 and 3,000 knitting enthusiasts will move from yarn shop to yarn shop for the NYC Yarn Crawl, kicking off the knitting season that comes with the city's colder months.
The proprietor of Downtown Yarns, the only yarn shop in the Lower East Side or East Village, hopes the annual event will bring some attention to small, local businesses and away from online merchants such as Amazon, where many modern knitters buy their threads.
"It's a tough business," said Rita Bobry, who has run the shop at 45 Avenue A for 16 years and lived above the storefront for four decades. "There aren't a lot of knitters."
"I was shocked — people will come in here, look at [the yarn] and then buy it online, because they don't want to carry it home," she continued. "But what can you do?"
But Bobry, who oversees the storefront with her big, furry mutt Zach, says she also has loyal customers who have purchased their materials at her little shop throughout its nearly two decades in the neighborhood.
And with the help of events such as this weekend's Yarn Crawl — aimed in part at drumming up support for local businesses — hopefully more crafty New Yorkers will be encouraged to visit their neighborhoods' old-school stores, said Bobry.
"I think there are more people who understand if you don't buy from someone, you won't have an opportunity to buy from them down the line," she said.
Participants in the Yarn Crawl, running Sept. 23-25, will hit 10 yarn shops spanning two boroughs — including Lower Manhattan stores Purl Soho at 459 Broome St. and Seaport Yarn at 181 Broadway — gathering yarn-related items for a crawl-spanning scavenger hunt and drawing for door prizes.
In addition to pulling in a considerable haul of yarn buyers for the first time in months, said Bobry, the event is a great way to meet new people who share a love of knitting and to kick off the knitting season.
"It’s a good day for us," said Bobry. "It kind of kicks off the season for us, which is good, because knitting is very seasonal. We had a horrible summer, because it’s hot and people don’t tend to knit and stay home as much in the summer, so it’s a good kickoff."
As for Downtown Yarns' furry sidekick Zach, a nap-loving Chow-German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix who can often be found lounging beneath the shop's colorful stacks, he may choose to sit out the crawl's busier days.
"He is a people person — it's the crowds he may not like so much," explained Bobry, stating Zach would probably be around the first day of the crawl before retreating to her upstairs apartment. "They can be overwhelming."
For more information about the crawl, or to download the map of local yarn shops on your phone, check out the NYC Yarn Crawl website here.