Paper Crane Yarns spreads passion for knitting
Published 8:40 am Thursday, April 7, 2022
By MEG HERNDON | Staff Writer
CALERA – Ashley Jeffcoat had only been knitting for two years before she opened Paper Crane Yarns.
Paper Crane Yarns, which originally began as an e-commerce store on Etsy, officially opened its brick-and-mortar storefront on Jan. 29 in Calera. The store’s and brand’s popularity has led to support nationwide.
“It’s been really great,” Jeffcoat said. “Most of our turnout has been people from out of state. This industry, people just kind of follow it wherever it goes, and the focus is really on supporting small businesses and independent artists. So, a lot of people are great about showing up and turning out.”
Paper Crane Yarns sells a variety of hand-dyed yarns, hand-sewed craft bags, craft supplies and more. Jeffcoat dyes the Paper Crane Yarns line herself.
“All the yarn is dyed here, my Paper Crane Yarns line,” she said. “And I also work with some other, usually U.S. based, wool suppliers who I bring in supplementary. But, what I don’t bring in I create. So, I sew all the bags, I knit all the pieces that you see here.”
Jeffcoat taught herself how to crochet a few years before she started knitting. However, she always preferred the finished products from knitting more. So, at the start of the COVID-19 quarantine, she taught herself how to knit.
“There wasn’t really that much to do, so that kind of consumed my life,” Jeffcoat said.
Jeffcoat was exposed to the world of hand-dying when she listened to a crochet podcast that featured a hand-dyer, which sparked her interest in the process. In the summer of 2020, Jeffcoat’s husband surprised her with dyes and wool, and she began dyeing yarn in her kitchen.
In February 2021, Jeffcoat had graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, worked at a grocery store and was nervous about the prospect of grad school. She had always felt led to do something creative, which ultimately manifested into her Etsy store.
“It was kind of slow going, but I got myself out there by doing a YouTube channel,” Jeffcoat said. “I have a YouTube podcast, and that brought exposure to my Etsy, otherwise I don’t know if I would have ever been found.”
She named her Etsy store Paper Crane Yarns, inspired by visual mathematics that she learned while attending a math and science school when she was younger.
“I was really not good at math, but when we started learning visual mathematics, the first thing we did was folding origami, and I fell in love with it,” Jeffcoat said. “So I kind of decorated everything in my life with paper cranes for many years. And then when I learned to knit I realized how similar knitting is to origami, just based on algorithm patterns, and it’s a lot of repetition. I kind of think of it as the same art. So I think it translates well, and I just find it inspiring.”
Eventually Jeffcoat went on to open her storefront under the same name in January 2022, which has drawn in customers from out of state that heard about her store from her YouTube channel.
Jeffcoat said that the community support through her opening has been great.
“I’ve had a really wonderful time working with other local business owners,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s been a very supportive network. It’s not about competition. Everyone asks how business is, and I just love working with all these people.
“In terms of customers, I think I’m still kind of tucked away back here and having a harder time getting myself out there to people who don’t know I’m here, but everybody who has come in has been really great.”
Jeffcoat has also faced some trouble when it comes to getting materials for her yarn due to supply chain issues.
The undyed wool that she buys she sources with animal welfare rights in mind, which makes it harder to find suppliers that meet those demands. A majority of those suppliers are in South America.
“We weren’t able to get imports for a long time, and we’re still seeing the effects of that because the prices of yarn have gone up, and I don’t expect them to go down anytime soon,” Jeffcoat said. “But, I still try to keep my prices as they were pre-price increase from suppliers.”
Despite grappling with those complications, Jeffcoat is optimistic about the future of the store. She said she would like to bring in a larger variety of arts as well as expand her online reach.
Paper Crane Yarns also offers weekly free knit nights every Thursday from 4-6 p.m., which are informal meetings that extend free support, snacks and mingling.
“It’s pretty cool because it transcends age barriers,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s just a really wonderful community that has sort of blossomed here.”
Jeffcoat also offers private lessons and more formal classes, which can be found on her website, Papercraneyarns.com.
Paper Crane Yarns is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at 1040 14th St. in Calera, AL 35040. Jeffcoat’s Etsy store can be found at Etsy.com/shop/PaperCraneYarns, and for her YouTube channel, visit Youtube.com/channel/UCc1X8g2MS7ZMoC7AvcwiWXg.