Ewe-Baa Street Yarn in Redding
● By Richard DuPertuis
Get Your Fiber
Story and photos by Richard DuPertuis
WANT TO HEAR a good yarn? Or see a good yarn? Perhaps feel one, by trailing some fine strands through your fingers? Long-time Redding resident and knitting fiber expert Lori Orlando can accommodate you. Just drop by her Yuba Street yarn shop, whimsically named Ewe-Baa Street Yarns, where you can feel, see, hear and select from the widest variety of knitting fibers this side of Sacramento.
We’re not just talking about ewe here. Customers will see wall after wall of packaged yarn that comes from sheep, alpacas, llamas, camels and even yaks, according to the shopkeeper. “We carry almost anything you can get fiber from,” says Orlando. “Plants too, like cotton, linen and nettle.”
She brings in fiber from all over the world – from Germany, from Italy, the United Kingdom, Peru, Japan and for the yak yarns, Kyrgyzstan. One of her top-end offerings is a cashmere imported through a special arrangement with a British firm. “We are the only stockist in the United States for it,” she says.
Helping Orlando in the store today is long-time friend and employee Carol Schultz. She steps from behind the counter, where she had been sitting and knitting and joins Orlando at a small table to demonstrate to a visitor how to ball yarn.
Orlando pulls a skein of Shibui yarn – their best seller – from a display and loops it over a square turntable called a swift. She guides a strand to a hand-cranked device called a ball winder. Schultz says before there were devices called swifts, there were devices called husbands. “People would have to put the yarn on their husbands’ hands for hours, like this,” she says, holding up another skein of Shibui.
Orlando adds, “I’m sure this machine was invented by a husband.”
Both women are avid knitters, and both are dressed in knitware they made themselves. On some aisles in the shop, knitted clothing stands on display – not for sale, but as examples of what skilled knitters can do. And for customers who would like to learn how to craft exquisite sweaters for themselves and loved ones, Ewe-Baa Street Yarns offers classes.
Orlando says she first took up knitting decades ago, to fight boredom in Italy while a military wife stationed overseas. She taught herself by reading, and the first results were less than encouraging. “It was awful. I had no concept of gauge,” she recalls. “So the first sweater I knitted for my husband, two of him could have fit in it.”
After returning to the states, she opened a quilt shop in Redding. During the 12 years that shop was in business, Orlando hired Marilyn Stephens, who had knitted since her teens. She taught both Orlando and Schultz the art of needles and yarn, and after the business was threatened by a population explosion of quilt shops in Redding, Stephens suggested a store specializing in yarns.
“I’ve been knitting all my adult life, and after a while you want some good fiber,” she says. “There’s something very soothing about the feel of it going through your hands.”
So Orlando opened a yarn shop like no other – a yarn shop staffed by expert knitters who can talk yarn, feel yarn and instruct others on how to use it. Orlando, Schultz and Stephens teach scheduled knitting sessions in the shop classroom. And Orlando proudly offers Ewe-Baa as a knitting social hub as well, with twice-monthly gatherings labeled with names like “sit and knit.”
Stephens personally finds reward in all stages of knitting – from envisioning a knitted item worn by a loved one, through the relaxing, repetitive needlework, to the final product, which can be quite durable. “These are items that can be handed down. If properly cared for they can last generations,” she says. “I have a great-grandson who’s wearing his father’s sweater.”
How do customers rate Ewe-Baa Street Yarns? Maggie Kimberling, a knitting enthusiast, made it a point to drop in during a trip to town from her home up on Round Mountain. “Compared to a big box store, this is far superior. There’s more yarn types, more colors,” she says. “I love this place. Everything you want in yarn is here.”
She turns away for a moment to oooh and ahh as Orlando shows her a selection from their latest shipment, then declares, “I just want to come to this store and stay.” •
Ewe-Baa Street Yarns
1725 Yuba St., Redding • (530) 246-9276
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10 am-5 pm; Friday-Saturday, 10 am-2 pm; closed Sunday