Love of knitting, desire to help results in shop

Business profile All About Yarn

April 19, 2006|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Karen Thiem and Cindy Jones, owners of All About Yarn in Columbia, met in 2002, at a practice for Special Olympics basketball.

The women soon discovered they had a lot in common. Both lived in Columbia, and both had daughters with special needs. And both liked to knit.

"We would sit in a corner and knit and talk," Thiem recalled. "We've both been knitting since we were 10 or 11."

One thing they discussed was what the future held for their daughters.

"We talked about what are we going to do with the girls," Jones said. "Where are they going to work? What are they going to do?"

And that's how All About Yarn began.

Jones, who works full time as coordinator of materials for the Howard County Public Library, would talk about how she wanted to open a craft store someday, maybe on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Eventually, they decided there was no reason to wait.

The shop, which opened in October 2004, was started in large part to provide jobs for Amanda Thiem and Miglena Jones.

"We realized the opportunities for them in the work world were limited based on their special needs," Jones said.

"We hope that when we're ready to retire, they can at least do the day-to-day operation of the store," said Thiem.

"They both knit, and they both like to knit," added Jones. And they're good with customers, the women said.

Amanda Thiem, 18, has intractable epilepsy, meaning that it can't be completely subdued, her mother said. She was the first child in Maryland to receive a Vargus Nerve Stimulator, which allows her to control a seizure when she feels it coming on, but years of seizures and medications have left her brain-damaged, Thiem said.

Miglena Jones, 19, was almost 7 years old when Jones adopted her from an orphanage in Bulgaria. She was malnourished and mistreated, Jones said, and so tiny that the size 4 clothes Jones had sent were too big.

"She made tremendous strides since she's been here," Jones said, "but there is some brain damage." She also is "on the autistic spectrum somewhere," Jones said.

All About Yarn, in the Oakland Center off Route 108 in Columbia, sells hundreds of different yarns, in a vast array of colors and textures. It also sells knitting needles, crochet hooks, pattern books and other items related to knitting and crocheting.

Comfortable couches are arranged toward the front of the store, and a table is set up in the back. Several times a week, knitting and crocheting lessons are taught at those tables.

The owners also give on-the-spot instruction to customers who come in and need a little help or advice with their stitching and purling.

"It's not a threatening environment," Jones said.

Theim also noted that the store collects knitted preemie hats and chemo caps to donate to hospitals that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Anyone can drop off hats at the store, and the owners will send them, she said.

On a recent Saturday, Amanda Thiem and Miglena Jones sat companionably at the table in the back of the store, drawing diagrams of the solar system and trying to put the planets in order.

The teenagers said they work four days a week at the store and love to knit.

"I've knitted since I was in middle school," said Miglena Jones. "It makes you feel relaxed."

Amanda Thiem said she is knitting a sweater that is turquoise, yellow and green. The great thing about knitting, she said, is that you can make something that nobody else has, in your favorite colors.

Customer Jennifer Lackey said she drove from Hampden in Baltimore to visit the store because she "liked the back story" described on All About Yarn's Web site (www.allaboutyarn.com) and because "I'm just a yarn-aholic."

She was wearing a flyaway bell-sleeve cardigan sweater she had knitted from a thick wheat-colored yarn, and she was looking for yarn to create a blanket and sweater as a baby present.

"This is my first time," she said, looking around at all the colors and textures of yarn. "I'll definitely be down a lot."

All About Yarn is at 8970-G, Route 108 in Columbia, 410-992-KNIT (5648).

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