3 Kittens Needle Art Yarn Shop, Mendota Heights, Minnesota

3kittens-photo3Today’s featured place is 3 Kittens Needle Art in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Our interview is with owner Laura Rasmussen.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your shop?

3 Kittens Needle Arts is one of the oldest yarn stores in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. We sell yarn, needles, buttons (we’re known for our button wall), patterns/books, needlepoint canvases and threads. In addition, we offer classes in knitting, crochet and needlepoint, and we have finishing services for all three as well. We are located just south of St. Paul within 5 minutes of the airport.

2. How would you describe the atmosphere of the shop?

Our store is friendly and well-organized. We cater to knitter who likes Modern Classics.3kittens-photo2

3. How long have you been in business? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to open a yarn shop?

The store has been around for 35+ years. My business partner, Julie, and I bought the store 5 years ago. Julie worked at the store while it was under the previous ownership. Julie was the needlepoint specialist. I have been knitting since 1983 and have taught classes for both the Minnesota Knitters Guild and another yarn store in the Twin Cities. Julie and I happen to have children the same ages who attended school together, so we’ve known each other for quite awhile. When Julie heard that the previous owner was interested in selling the store, she asked me if I would be interested in buying it with her. Six months later, we owned it!

4. Which yarns do you carry? Traditional yarns? Exotic or unusual yarns? Novelty yarns? Local farm yarns? Eco-friendly yarns?

We try to carry a variety of yarns, although I will say that the majority of our yarns are “traditional”, workhorse yarns. We have organic yarns in each weight category, plus we carry some unusual or exotic fibers – yak, qiviut, camel, bamboo, soy, etc. We have a few novelty yarns, but we are not known for our novelty yarn selection. In addition, we try to carry some small, independent hand-dyed yarns – for instance, Land O’ Lace, Sweet Georgia, Flock Sock – mostly in the lace and sock weights.

5. How large is your inventory?

We have a very extensive inventory, with lots of different choices in each yarn weight. We also maintain a good stock of needles (Addi, Clover, Brittany, Kollage, HiyaHiya, Susan Bates and Lantern Moon). On the needlepoint side, our thread selection is very broad, and we have many, many canvases from a variety of designers.

6. What, if any classes do you offer at your shop?

We offer beginning to advanced classes in knitting. We are lucky to have Janine Kosel, co-author of Norwegian Handknits and Swedish Handknits, as an employee, so she teaches many of our advanced classes. We also have beginning and intermediate classes for crocheters as well as needlepoint lessons from beginning to advanced. In addition, each week we have knitting and needlepoint studios where people can bring their own project in and work on it for a couple of hours with instructor help as needed. Crochet studios meet twice each month.

7. Do you offer any type of social gatherings for knitters and crocheters?

We offer Out to Knit (and Crochet) the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month from 11:30am-1:00pm. And we are currently testing out an evening social knitting on the last Monday of each month from 6-8pm. Space is limited, so interested knitters/crocheters should call the store to reserve their space.

8. What trends do you see in knitting in general, and yarn choices in particular?

The thing I’ve noticed the most this past year is the proliferation of shawlettes a la Stephen West. Generally, these use DK or finer weight yarns – mostly sock weight. I also think that with the world that is now open to all of us through Ravelry, people are really interested in hand-dyed independent yarns.

9. Do you have a favorite yarn? What do you use it for and what makes it special?

My current favorite yarns are Malabrigo Rios and Madelinetosh Tosh Sock. Rios is a worsted weight superwash merino that is kettle dyed in fabulous rich colors. It feels lovely to work with and has enough twist to work really well with cables (to make them stand out). It wears well – not much pilling. Tosh Sock is a perfect shawlette yarn with a nice, tight twist. The colors are fabulous!

10. Do you sell online?

We have our own line of patterns that we sell on-line. Included in our line are the always popular Sam the Ram and Sue the Ewe patterns by Rita O’Connell. We also sell needlepoint canvases and clubs through our e-store.

11. Is there anything else of special interest you would like to share?

I think one of the great things about our store is that we are not only enthusiastic about our crafts, but that we also strive to be a well-run business. Both Julie and I have previous business experience, and we have found many resources that help us broaden our knowledge. The one thing that we try to instill in all of our employees (currently 8, plus Julie and me) is that customer service is the most important aspect of our business. Without customers we would not be in business no matter how wonderful our inventory selection. So we do the best we can to treat every customer with respect and courtesy, to help them find a project that will thrill them, and to make sure they are able to complete that project with a strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Also, I should tell you about our customer loyalty program, the 3K Club, because I think it’s one of the richest ones around. For every dollar a club member spends in our store (except for tax, freight and gift cards), the club member receives a point. When they reach 500 points, we give them a $50 gift card! In addition, almost every month we have a “Perk Pattern” that is either knit or crocheted and is free for club members. We send out a Birthday Bonus Coupon for 15% off during their birthday month. And, 3K Club members get early admittance to some of our sales (especially our Day After Thanksgiving Sample Sale) and classes with national/internation instructors. The cost to join is a $9.95 one-time fee (good for their life). People love it!

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