By MEG HERNDON | Personal editor
CALERA – Ashley Jeffcoat had only been knitting for two years before she opened Paper Crane Yarns.
Paper Crane Yarns, which was originally an e-commerce store on Etsy, officially opened its physical storefront on January 29 in Calera. The popularity of the store and the brand led to nationwide support.
“It’s been really awesome,” Jeffcoat said. “Most of our attendance has been people from out of state. This industry, people follow it wherever it goes, and the focus is really on supporting small businesses and independent artists. So a lot of people like to show up and introduce themselves.
Paper Crane Yarns sells a variety of hand dyed yarns, hand sewn craft bags, craft supplies and more. Jeffcoat dyes the Paper Crane Yarns line itself.
“All the yarn is dyed here, my Paper Crane Yarns line,” she said. “And I also work with other wool suppliers, usually based in the United States, which I bring in as a complement. But what I don’t bring, I create. So, I sew all the bags, I knit all the pieces you see here.
Jeffcoat taught herself to crochet a few years before she started knitting. However, she always preferred finished knitting products. So, at the start of the COVID-19 quarantine, she taught herself to knit.
“There really wasn’t much to do, so it kind of consumed my life,” Jeffcoat said.
Jeffcoat was exposed to the world of hand dyeing when she listened to a crochet podcast featuring a hand dyer, which sparked her interest in the process. In the summer of 2020, Jeffcoat’s husband surprised her with dyes and yarn, and she started 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 pursuing graduate school. She had always felt driven to do something creative, which eventually showed up in her Etsy shop.
“It was a bit slow, but I got my name out there creating a YouTube channel,” Jeffcoat said. “I have a podcast on YouTube, and it helped get my Etsy known, otherwise I don’t know if I would have ever been found.”
She named her Etsy shop Paper Crane Yarns, inspired by the visual math she learned while attending math and science school when she was younger.
“I really wasn’t good at math, but when we started learning visual math, the first thing we did was fold 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 models, and it’s a lot of repetition. I think it’s the same art. So I think it translates well and I find it inspiring.
Eventually, Jeffcoat opened his storefront under the same name in January 2022, which attracted out-of-state customers who heard about his store on his YouTube channel.
Jeffcoat said the community support when it opened was tremendous.
“I had a really wonderful time working with other local business owners,” Jeffcoat said. “It has been a very supportive network. It’s not about competition. Everyone wonders how business is going, and I love working with all these people.
“In terms of customers, I think I’m still a bit hidden here and having a harder time getting myself known to people who don’t know I’m here, but everyone who’s been here has been really great. ”
Jeffcoat has also encountered problems when it comes to obtaining materials for its yarn due to supply chain issues.
The undyed wool she buys is purchased with animal welfare in mind, making it more difficult to find suppliers who meet these requirements. The majority of these suppliers are in South America.
“We haven’t been able to get imports for a long time, and we’re still seeing the effects of that as yarn prices have gone up, and I don’t expect them to come down any time soon,” Jeffcoat said. . “But, I still try to maintain my prices as they were before the supplier price increase.”
Despite these complications, Jeffcoat is optimistic about the store’s future. She said she would like to bring a wider variety of arts and expand her reach online.
Paper Crane Yarns also offers weekly free knitting nights every Thursday from 4-6pm, which are informal get-togethers that offer free support, snacks and swaps.
“It’s kind of cool because it crosses age barriers,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s just a really wonderful community that kind of flourished here.”
Jeffcoat also offers private lessons and more formal lessons, which can be found on its website, Papercraneyarns.com.
Paper Crane Yarns is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1040 14th St. in Calera, AL 35040. Jeffcoat’s Etsy shop can be found at Etsy.com/shop/PaperCraneYarns, and for his YouTube channel, visit Youtube .com/canal/UCc1X8g2MS7ZMoC7AvcwiWXg.