Job and dream knitted together at Ply Yarn on the Square
There’s a feeling of calmness and tranquility when you walk into Ply Yarn on the Square — pretty much what you would expect from a knitting shop.
The walls of Ply Yarn are lined with rainbows of colors. There’s a bright room in the back for knitters to get together and practice their craft. There’s also a rack of accessories, although all you really need to knit is a couple of needles and a ball of yarn.
Owner Cassie Orner took over the store in January, 2018. The little shop is a perfect fit. “When your job and your hobby are the same it’s a dream come true,” says Cassie, who was wearing a tan sweater that she knitted herself.
Cassie has worked at the store since it opened in 2014. When Kathy Utts, the previous owner, put the business up for sale, Cassie jumped at the opportunity.
Taking over Ply Yarn was an easy transition. The shop hosts knitting groups a few times a week where women get together, knit, swap tips and drink coffee. Working at Ply Yarn for four years prior to taking over, Cassie knew her clientele. She says there has never been a man in any of her groups or classes, but she has had male knitters come in and purchase yarn.
You can buy yarn and knitting supplies at Michaels or Hobby Lobby, but Ply Yarn prides itself on two things: natural yarns and personal service.
There are no acrylics or synthetics in Ply Yarn (which gets its name from the number of strands that make up yarn). Instead, the yarn is made from linen, wool, bamboo, cashmere and cotton. Most of the yarn is American made. Some comes from Europe. There is a brand made in Texas that sells out quickly. Many of the dyes are natural as well.
Each of the yarns serve a different purpose. The bamboo and linen are lighter and suitable for sweltering Texas summers. The wool is great in the winter. The cashmere is the most expensive.
Cassie has noticed an upsurge in knitting in the last few years. And these days, knitting isn’t just for grandmas. “More people are trying to get off technology, trying to get off their phones,” Cassie explains. “Knitting is relaxing and you get to enjoy what you make.”
Yarn is sold in loosely coiled skeins. It is then rolled into a ball and ready to use. “If you tried to knit from that skein,” Cassie says, “you’d end up with a big knot.” Ply Yarn has a contraption called a swift and ball winder and will turn the skein into a compact, usable ball of yarn for free.
Cassie is a self-taught knitter. She happened across a markeddown knitting kit when she was
15. She tried it. Liked it. Read every book on knitting she could get her hands on. She still knits at least half an hour a day and more when time permits.
Her daughter Madeleine, who attends Wimberley High, also knits. Cassie’s husband Aaron, who works for USAA, wears hand-knitted hats and gloves.
Cassie stays busy in the store that overlooks Cypress Creek. Between the knitting groups and the classes and the tourist-packed weekends, she doesn’t have much time to knit during the day. She has had customers from Denmark and Ireland, but locals are her mainstay.
“The beauty of knitting is that it’s portable. You can take it everywhere, in a car, on a plane,” says Cassie. “You can knit and watch Netflix. In fact, knitting and Netflix go together great.”
Cassie always carries her knitting bag with her in case there’s a little extra time.
She says anyone can learn how to knit. Some are naturals and pick it up right away, while others might take a little more work. For a veteran knitter, a sweater might take three or four weeks to make and use five skeins of yarn. The price of her all-natural yarns range from $10 to $32.
Cassie has noticed a surge in the popularity of knitting: “I think it went in waves. There is definitely a resurgence in the last 10 years. YouTube makes it easier for people to learn to knit, to learn the basic skills and techniques.”
The shop also carries crochet supplies. Crocheting is similar to knitting but uses a single hook instead of two needles. About 90 percent of Ply Yarn’s customers are knitters. The store carries patterns, bags, magazines and a full line of supplies, including ceramic yarn bowls by local artist Cristi Clyburn.
There are 17 yarn shops between Austin and San Antonio and every year there’s “The Best Little Yarn Crawl in Texas.” Knitters from all over work their way from one shop to another. The Yarn Crawl this year is Oct. 11-20 and Cassie expects 600 people to visit the shop during those 10 days.
What makes Ply Yarn special? “Each shop has its own qualities. I really value customer service. It’s a great hobby and I want to share the knowledge,” says Cassie.