Small Businesses We Love: Tolt Yarn and Wool

ANNA DIANICH is founder and owner of Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, Washington. This small-town shop offers yarn, other fibers, and knitting designs from what Anna calls “thoughtfully-sourced” enterprises. Tolt Yarn also boasts a prodigious social media presence with over 35,000 Instagram followers, and draws enthusiastic knitters from around the world.

 

Anna Dianich in Her Yarn Shop, Tolt Yarn and Wool

 

Judy's Knitting on the Build Site of Mike Reynold's Treehouse

A couple members of the Nelson Treehouse family frequent Tolt Yarn; Judy Nelson, Pete’s wife, can often be spotted knitting with Tolt yarn on treehouse build sites from Texas to Norway.  Judy has been a patron of Tolt from its inception. In her words, “ I love the feel and atmosphere of the shop; it’s beautiful, the people are so welcoming, and the selection is thoughtful.” Elaine, our Office Operations Manager, also patronizes Tolt, and has recently started knitting her first hat at one of Tolt’s popular classes.

Treehouses and knitting are complimentary in many ways; treehouse builders and knitters alike share a passion for craft and working with their hands. Both treehouses and knitting hark back to something different, perhaps something more pure. In the way that treehouses evoke childhood, knitting evokes an era when things were made with thought and care, not consumed and discarded. By sourcing yarn produced by small-scale farmers, dyers, and spinners, Tolt manifests an idealized version of a pre-industrial time. It links buyer with producer, and stands in contrast to the standardized, mechanized, and globalized modern means of garment production. In this way, Tolt boldly claims that it is still possible to know exactly where one’s clothes came from, and, more importantly, to feel proud about it.

The act of knitting itself resists the modern proclivity for overstimulation; it demands patience, consistency, and long-term commitment to a singular task. Knitters accept delayed gratification, as projects can often take weeks or months. They learn to find pleasure in the process of creation, rather than solely in the product of their labor.

We at NT&S value small businesses here in our local community in the Snoqualmie Valley, and admire Tolt Yarn. We’re inspired by Anna’s ability to bring people together to collaborate, laugh, and find joy in making. Anna graciously sat down with us to discuss her passion for thoughtfully-sourced yarn, the knitting community, and the story behind Tolt Yarn. Read on for the full story...

Anna was born and raised in Hawaii, and moved to Seattle to study portrait and fashion photography at The Art Institute. It was there that she met her husband, Greg, who now works as a carpenter/contractor (he built many of the shelves and display cases in Tolt, and remodeled the brick and mortar before it opened). The couple began their family in Redmond, Washington before moving to Carnation. The agricultural town resonated with Anna, as she had long dreamed of owning a small flock of sheep, chickens, horses, and goats. Anna now delights her many Instagram followers with the occasional post of her family’s sheep and lambs.

Photo courtesy of Anna's Instagram account, @toltyarnandwool

After staying home for twelve years with her four children, Anna was ready to reenter the workforce. Anna had begun knitting in her early 20s, and had long-harbored a passion for the craft and its intimate community. Like many dedicated knitters, Anna dreamed of owning her own yarn shop and creating a place where makers could gather to laugh, craft, and offer support. At long last, Anna worked up the courage to speak her dream aloud to her husband, who met her hesitation with ardent encouragement. Greg found the building where Tolt now resides, and began renovations shortly thereafter. In November, 2013 Tolt opened to a line that wove outside the door!

 
 

The popularity of the small-town yarn shop has grown ever since, in part due to Anna and Greg’s social media prowess. One of Anna’s daughters originally established the account to help document the renovation of the shop; Anna and Greg now harness their dual backgrounds in photography to capture the warmth, simplicity, and rustic beauty of Tolt’s products and the surrounding Snoqualmie Valley. Anna also credits her "wonderful, fun, collaborative" staff for growing Tolt and making it feel like home. Work is play for Anna and her crew; in Anna's words, "coming to work is like coming to social hour!"

PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNA'S INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT, @TOLTYARNANDWOOL

PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNA'S INSTAGRAM account, @TOLTYARNANDWOOL

From Tolt’s inception, Anna has been dedicated to connecting knitters with the stories behind their yarn (you can read many of these in Tolt Yarn and Wool's book, Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool).  When Anna began knitting, she was disappointed to discover that the yarn options available to her were mostly made outside of the country and were constituted solely of synthetic fibers. Anna believes that synthetic, mass-produced fibers should be a slice of a diverse menu of fiber options that includes natural fibers and yarn made in the US.

 

Poster by FRINGE SUPPLY CO. on the wall at Tolt Yarn

 

Like the larger garment industry, the vast majority of yarn production had moved offshore by the end of the 20th century. Anna was curious about the remaining community of American wool farmers, spinners, and dyers. Jeff and Katya Rogers are members of this small but growing community; the couple founded Aspen Hollow Sheep Station in the Snoqualmie Valley to produce 100% grass-fed, organic lamb. Anna met Jeff while driving in the Valley one day, and discovered that Aspen Hollow had no outlet for their vast stores of high-quality fleeces. Together, Anna, Greg, Jeff, and Katya collaborated to transform Aspen Hollow fleece into Snoqualmie Valley Yarn.  With its direct tie from farmer, to spinner, to seller, to knitter, Snoqualmie Valley Yarn is emblematic of the “farm to needle” ethos. As mentioned in Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool, this ethos,

 

...simply means knowing where your yarn came from and who helped it get to you along the way… Feeling connected with the origins of our yarn increases the satisfaction and joy we experience with our projects. With so many incredibly passionate, hard-working, and talented people in this industry sharing their experiences, that process is becoming increasingly transparent, allowing us to better see and feel that connection.

 

From their farm-to-needle products, to their small family farm, Anna and Greg embody a distinctly American way of being that seemed destined for extinction. The couple offers a warm picture of small-town, rural Americana with all its lamb-rearing, Thursday-night-knitting-club, wrapped-in-a-hand-made-sweater goodness. It glows with an enchanting simplicity and fosters a covetable sense of self-reliance, community, authenticity, and belonging. In a world fraught with false Facebook friends, alienation, and anomie, Tolt beckons with its unassuming suggestion that there are still things that are genuinely good.  We can make real things. We can have a rooted sense of place. We can be proud of where our things come from. This is the magic and the meaning of Tolt.

ANna with two of her wonderful team members, Paula and Jenny.

Inside Tolt Yarn

Anna inspires us to connect with our local community, dream bigger, and craft better. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Anna!

We hope you've enjoyed this feature on a small business that inspires us. Let us know in the comments below if you're in love with Tolt Yarn! Stay updated with all our content, from Staff Spotlights to build DIYs by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on social media.

To the trees!