Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Guest Blogger Zina Bennion visits Heindselman's Knit & Gift

photo from stitchdiva.com

Resolutions Really Do Come True

On January first, 2005 I did a very typical thing. I made a resolution. Singular. Just one. I exercised restraint. After a lifetime of overzealous New Year’s resolution making, I’d determined that just one per year would likely ensure 100% completion. And so, for the year of 2005, I decided that learning to knit was my one precious goal- the wishbone pulled from the previous year that just might break in my favor. I had long dreamt of being able to sit in a cozy chair each evening and with almost imperceptible movements of my hands and the gentle click of wooden needles create some lovely and useful shroud. I had had several failed attempts at learning- once on a dizzying bus ride through Italy (I was too distracted by olive groves and Carnival on the beach), once via the clumsy instructions of a library book (with which I quickly lost patience), and once under the tutelage of my art school friend who knitted chunky hot pink yarn with large sticks of rebar for needles (too abstract). Nevertheless, I set out one cold January morning to the local yarn store, the shadow of my failed knitting dreams tangling round my ankles.

I had passed Heindselman’s Yarn and Needlework shop many times, peering in, wishing I had some legitimate skill that would grant me access to its cheery interior and untold wealth of lovely yarns. Clinging to my singular resolution I walked in, and shyly approached one of the several kindly employees and asked if perchance she knew where I could learn to knit. I expected a class sign up- where I would likely pay, go, and maybe master just a basic stitch after several weeks of feeling continually behind. But she smiled brightly and told me that if I purchased some needles and yarn she would teach me right then and there. I was shocked and delighted, the resolution gods were smiling down on me. And so for the cost of a simple pair of wooden needles and a skein of cheap cotton yarn, I was treated with a two-hour private tutorial with the kindest, most patient teacher ever. She gave me an easy dishcloth pattern that emphasized knitting and purling, taught me how to do both, and gave me lots of useful insights and tips as my awkward fingers fumbled around the chartreuse yarn that slowly gained form and shape. I went home armed with the beginning of a knitting love affair, and overwhelmed by the highest quality customer service I’d ever encountered. Since then I’ve taken numerous questions, tangled messes, and un-started projects to the skilled staff and have always received expert help and have found lovely, high quality and unique yarns that aren’t available anywhere else in the county, and perhaps state.

Add to the irresistible charm of the staff and stock the fact that Heindselman’s is THE oldest yarn shop in America!!! It was founded in 1904 by current proprietor Ted Schofield’s grandparents; George and Dee Heindselman. George, originally from Illinois, had studied optometry and watch making and opened the shop as an optical, watch making/repair, and jewelry store. Soon thereafter Dee added yarn and needlework, and then musical instruments and sheet music became a part of the inventory as well. The store had several different downtown locations over the years, and by the time it reached it’s current location (176 W & Center) the merchandise had settled on supplies for knitting, and various needlework projects, as well as a handful of toys and knick knacks, which according to Ted, are there mainly to be given away- a tradition his grandfather started and he keeps.

Maybe it’s that giving attitude that makes Heindselman’s such a happy place. Once when buying some wool for a scarf, Ted told me I should wash and block dry it when I finished. He then proceeded to give me the gentle detergent I would need, free of charge. Or maybe it’s that the word Heindselman in German is the name for the very same magical forest elves that helped the poor cobbler finish all his shoes when he had gone to bed (if you look closely there are more than a few of these elves hidden around the shop). Or maybe it’s that you can tell Ted and his dedicated staff wouldn’t trade their jobs for the world and do them because they love them. Ted’s coming to the store illustrates this point better than any.

Ted had Master’s in bio-medical engineering and was at the start of a successful career in San Francisco where he helped design the first artificial heart valves. But he realized that he didn’t want to raise his family in such an urban environment, and that he didn’t want to have his career in a field that was so motivated and steered by money. So, in 1979, he and his wife (who is one of 31 nationally certified knitting instructors), came back to Provo and Ted bought into the family business that he had worked in since his childhood.

Ted has continued to run this wonderful business with heart and integrity. Offering the finest service, excellent classes (they have courses in all kinds of knitting, spinning, crocheting, tatting, rug making, lace making, etc.), generosity, and the best merchandise around. Where else can you come and buy silk yarn made by women in India out of Sari scraps as part of the 10,000 villages project? Soon Ted tells me they’ll be getting beads and other materials sent by his daughter who just began working in the Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa.

I love this store and will continue to choose it any day over online shopping or box stores that I have to drive to (I can walk or ride my bike easily to Heindselman’s) and where I know I won’t get the same care and attention. So if you knit, crochet, tat, spin, embroider, or have ever wanted to do any of those things, or if you really like Beanie Babies, or if you just really like nice people, visit Heidselman’s and you will not be disappointed. Resolutions do come true.

Zina Bennion and Ted Schofield at the knitting demo table.


K said...

I've been doing business with these guys since 1970 when I was a soph at BYU and had finally figured out the town. But I didn't know half of what you've told me in this post. Cool. Glad you did it. I've sat at that table, staring in consternation at the mess I'd made of a turned Christmas stocking heel, waiting for Elizabeth to get me out of trouble - and I've bought Beanie Babies there for my own now grown babies, and I still drool every time I go into the back and run my widdle eyes across that feast of natural and gorgeous yarns. Hurray for quality and personal service and integrity!! may that shop live forever!! (by the way - you've been linked to once at least. And maybe I'll add one, too)

mindy said...

What a wonderful review! I'm actually going to Heindselman's for my first time tomorrow on a quest for yarn. I'm excited!

Matthew said...

Just stumbled across your post, Zina. I've loved this shop for years. :)

Didn't know a lot of the trivia about it, but they've always been an favorite place to visit. I love the smell of the wool yarn.