Yarn bar: Edmonton booze-fuelled knitting circle expands

For Anna Davidson, there is nothing better than a tall glass of beer with a side of stitch-stitch-purl. And she's not alone.

Crafty project stitches and sips its way to success in Edmonton

The Alberta Yarn Project is a worker’s co-operative which aims to promote crafts, knitting and craft beer. (Alberta Yarn Project )

For Anna Davidson, there is nothing better than a pint of beer with a side of stitch-stitch-purl.

And she's not alone.

Apparently, Edmontonians love to enjoy a cold one along with their crocheting.

She says the Alberta Yarn Project's monthly 'Craft and Draught Nights', where Edmontonians come together to knit and drink and tell a yarn or two, have become wildly popular.

"There is something social about gathering for a beer, so having that social element with crafting is really nice, because sometimes people end up alone in their living rooms knitting and watching Netflix, which is great but it can be lonely," Davidson said during a Wednesday morning interview on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. 

"This creates a place for community."

Their malty endeavour started in the fall of 2014, after a chance meeting between Davidson and co-founder Kalea Turner-Beckman at a local tea shop.

"I met Kelea at a knitting circle which my mom dragged me to, promising me free lunch, and we immediately clicked," said Davidson.

Both discovered a shared obsession with knitting, locally produced yarn and craft beer.

Having only known each other for less than an hour, they decided to start a business.

"So we registered our business, and we got our shared bank account together, and she said this is the most committed relationship I've ever been in." Davidson said with a laugh. 

"So that's how it all started."

The Alberta Yarn Project was born.

Initially the plan was to create a yarn bar — a co-operatively run retail space that would sell local yarn and local beer.

Although business costs have so far made that project impossible, they are taking a glass-half full approach.

A pattern for success 

They've spent the last two years attending craft markets across Alberta. Their pop-up events have been taking off, their membership has grown, and they have found a permanent home.

They now run a yarn shop, at 10149 122 Street in the Oliver neighbourhood.  
After two years of selling their wares at craft markets across the province, the Alberta Yarn Project has found a permanent home in Oliver. (Alberta Yarn Project)
 And when their previous building manager — the Creative Practices Institute — recently moved on, Davidson and Turner-Beckman decided to keep the cooperative space going under a new banner: the Made Local Society.

"We really wanted to stay in this location, we love the house, so we started the society," Davidson said. 

"The Made Local Society will run the house, and the Yarn Project will have a space in the main floor shop where other crafters, makers and artists will all be selling their Edmonton-made items."

Through their new initiative, Davidson says they will not only be running the gift shop, but renting studio space, hosting workshops, and exhibiting local handicrafts inside the quaint heritage home.

They're hosting a grand opening event on July 1st and 2nd. All craft-lovers are welcome.

"We're going to have the shop space in the house open and also some vendor tents set up, so we're going to have a pop-up craft fair on the front lawn as well," Davidson said. 

And although they've shifted focus to less sudsy projects as of late,  Davidson says their dreams of one day owning their own knitting-friendly bar won't easily be unraveled.

"It's not beer and yarn yet."