New Yarn Store, For Ewe Offers Creative Community


Emerald Goldbaum

Lisa Whitfield, OC ’90, will open her yarn store, For Ewe: An Inclusive Fiber Community, in mid-April.

For Ewe: An Inclusive Fiber Community, a new yarn store located at 181 West College Street Suite 23, will open its doors in mid-April — in time for Local Yarn Store Day on April 30. The owner, Lisa Whitfield, OC ’90, is a Conservatory alumna and Oberlin resident. Before the store opens, it will also host a Yarnie Happy Hour from 2–4 p.m. on March 20.

Whitfield has been knitting and crocheting since childhood but only got involved with the fiber community in 2017 after the death of her mother. She used fiber arts as a way to grieve; in the month after her mother died, she completed 52 projects. 

“The knitting started to bring me joy,” Whitfield said. “It started to give me purpose in my grief, and I wanted to share that with other people who wanted or needed to knit, touch yarn, crochet, or something, because it had done so much for me personally. I wanted to give that gift to other people to get them through hard times.” 

As a Black woman, Whitfield was inspired to open the store to include more people of color in the fiber arts community. Whitfield noted fiber artists of color began to speak out about discrimination that they had faced as minorities in white-dominated spaces, often not being treated like serious customers in shops. In 2019, a vocal participant in the discussion spoke at an event that Whitfield’s friend organized. Following the event, Whitfield started to think seriously about opening her own store.

“It was the first time I actually said out loud to anybody other than my husband that I wanted to open a yarn shop and it was really well received,” Whitfield said. “People were like, ‘That’s awesome, you should do that.’ It was the first time I felt supported in the idea.”

After that, she began working for her friend’s yarn store, Around the Table Yarns in Shaker Heights, OH where she picked up the experience needed to run her own store. 

“Pam Berskon and her partner Beth Billings gave me invaluable experience,” Whitfield said. “I watched them do everything. … I’m so grateful to them — they were incredible business mentors.”

Whitfield envisions For Ewe as a space where everyone in the Oberlin community feels welcome. 

“I know that inclusivity means different things to different people,” Whitfield said. “I come from a diverse background, and my family is diverse. I’m a Black woman, I’m married to a white man. I have biracial children, one of whom is gay and the other of whom has autism. I understand a few things about diversity. … I want everyone to be comfortable. I don’t care if you’re old or young. I wanted to have affordable yarn so people who don’t have a lot of money can buy something pretty.”

Sunday’s Yarnie Happy Hour event will be a “yarn tasting,” at which patrons can take small samples of yarn and “taste” them by knitting or crocheting a swatch with all materials provided. There will also be knitting and crocheting kits, knitting needles, crochet hooks, and skeins of yarn for sale. 

Whitfield stressed the importance of trying different materials to find the right fit and sniffing her yarn to make sure she likes it. She expressed hope that both the College and town’s sizable fiber arts communities will find space to intermingle at her store.

“I want students to come,” Whitfield said. “I want them to come here and feel comfortable. Aside from these two rooms [of the main store] I also am renting the room across the hall, where I’m going to put a table, so people can just sit and knit. I’m gonna put some books in there so they can find patterns and read and just chill. If students want to just come and chill for an hour between classes … they can decompress.”

There are a lot of resources on campus for students to knit or crochet together, but few connect student crocheters and townspeople. Lila Sanchez, a first-year College student and crocheter, said that while they mostly crochet on their own, there are many groups on campus that they believe to be welcoming. The opening of For Ewe marks the first yarn store in town since the closing of Smith’s Knitshop, and students are excited to have access to a yarn store that’s closer to campus.

“Over Winter Term, I know [the College] had this stitching group that met like twice a week, and there are some more unofficial ones,” Sanchez said. “I know that Ben Franklin’s and Ginko Gallery are the places to get yarn, but I guess I kind of found that out on my own.”

In town, there is also growing interest surrounding the store’s opening. Eboni Johnson, the outreach and programming librarian at Oberlin College Libraries, as well as a member of City Council, mentioned that the sense of community in knitting mostly stopped during the pandemic. 

“It’s hard … because I like to be with people — I think lots of us like to be with people — but it’s kind of hard to sit and knit and talk to people when you’re six feet away,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t feel as community-ish.” 

As the town prepares for the opening of For Ewe, fiber artists are hoping to see the revitalization of a once thriving artisan community.

Tickets for Yarnie Happy Hour can be found on For Ewe’s website.