Shelf Life Bookstore partners with Yarn on Front

NILES — Knitting needles will join rows of new and used books on Sunday.

Shelf Life Bookstore, 223 N. Fourth St., is partnering with Yarn on Front, a downtown Dowagiac yarn shop, to offer the bookstore’s first-ever Knitting for Beginners class at 1 p.m. Sunday.  For a $12 fee, participants in the course will be provided with knitting needles, yarn and a pattern to make wrist warmers.

The collaboration began after Tammy LaViolette, a volunteer at Shelf Life Bookstore, hosted a crochet class at the community bookstore. The event attracted seven people. The interest piqued among participants for a knitting class to be offered.

Sara Essig, a sales assistant at Yarn on Front, 122 S. Front St., who also volunteers at Shelf Life, linked up with Mary Fron, who also donates her time to the bookstore, to initiate the knitting class and work out the details.

The majority of funds raised from the class will be donated to Shelf Life Bookstore, which supports Niles’ community projects, including the Hunter Ice Festival, the Summer Concert Series and several other programs. Shelf Life is a project of the Niles Downtown Development Authority Main Street program.

A portion of the profits will also be used to pay for the class materials.

Essig, who will help teach the class, got back into knitting about seven years ago when she had a teenager at home.

“I needed something calming, and knitting is a great stress reliever,” Essig said. “Mary Fron was a labor delivery nurse before she retired. She does a lot of charity knitting and donates hats to the hospital.”

Organizers said the class requires no knitting experience. They hope the small group of attendees will each receive the attention they need when working on their projects.

Essig said it is fun to see someone learn how to knit, especially if they never have before.

“It’s just a relaxing thing to do, and you get to hold something beautiful,” she said. “You’ve made something. To see somebody else excited about something or exposed to something they didn’t know about before and really enjoy it is great.”

Essig said offering a class in Niles helps get the word out to local knitters about Yarn on Front. The yarn shop sells yarns, notions, and hosts knitting and crochet classes. The owner, June Nemeth, opened the shop in 2016 as a place for knitters to gather and collaborate with fiber arts.

“The store gets knitters from everywhere,” she said. “A lot of our customers that come from Niles will have no idea the store existed. There used to be a shop downtown in Niles that they would come to, but they didn’t know there was another local shop in the area. They are always really happy when they find us.”

Essig said she and the volunteers at Shelf Life Bookstore would like to host more knitting events in the future.

For now, the Sunday collaboration between books and knitting will be the start.

“I think we’ve gotten a good response,” Essig said. “We are hoping for six to 10 people.”