“Knitting, puzzles and sourdough,” says Shelley Brander, when asked how people are entertaining themselves during these pandemic times. “Even Michelle Obama reportedly started knitting,” she adds.
Loops, Brander’s yarn store, is feeling the COVID-19 boom.
The south Tulsa storefront is the flagship of the Loops brand, the gateway to its worldwide fiber empire. Among the components: Loopslove, an online store; LoopsClub, a membership group; Knit Stars, online masterclasses from around the world; and now publishing.
Brander’s newest book, “Move the Needle: Yarns from an Unlikely Entrepreneur,” debuts Jan. 12. It’s her way of motivating people to put their passions first.
Knitting was always more than knit-one-purl-two to Brander. She sees it as almost meditative. More broadly, her mission is to knit the world together through a community where it’s safe to be creative and to generate conversations about world topics.
Even as a teenage knitter, Brander thought knitting stores were old fashioned — with yarns that were sub-par, patterns that were far from on-trend, and salespeople who often weren’t service oriented. It became her dream to own a yarn store.
First, however, she worked as a copywriter and owned an advertising agency with her husband, Brent. Then, 15 years ago, she went for the dream. The impossible dream, most said.
“Everyone told me I couldn’t make a living with a yarn store,” she remembers. But she was determined. So determined that, to get her first lease, she knitted a cashmere scarf for the late Utica Square owner Walt Helmerich and delivered it on Christmas Eve. The lease was offered to her the day after New Year’s.
At the store, now at KingsPointe Village, her Loops Troops offer the kind of customer service Brander couldn’t find as a teen. “Yarn should be the best part of your day,” she says.
Brander’s passport gets a workout as she meets knitting experts and sources yarn globally. Her Knit Stars live masterclasses link knitters to knitting designers and can be viewed at any time.
“Like any good service company, it’s about relationships,” she says. “When everyone feels connected, we can change lives and create joy.”
Brander thinks of Loops as a community-based yarn store — in a community that extends far beyond Tulsa. “When you have a weird niche, it brings people together,” she says.