Creative fibre mecca is hiding in an unlikely place

They say that it’s the brick walls that we slam into that really give us life! Sort of like celebrating every time we hear the word ‘no.’

When Lynn and Robert Skinner decided to close their auto products service business last year, it was the end of a long run of success which was the victim of just-in-time delivery and product inconsistency.

One big ‘no’ for them and their employees.

But behind every ‘no’ is opportunity and this couple is a perfect example of what happens when energy, creativity and commitment meet opportunity. Robert, a mechanical engineer, took off in a CNC direction, building computerized numeric control machines and repairing and servicing others. A man in his element.

For Lynn, closing the business meant freedom to move back into the arts field where she started when she graduated with a degree in fine art ‘a few years ago.’
She draws, she paints, she sculpts. And now she’s offering the artistic community the opportunity to explore unusual fibres with her new store, The Dancing Harlequin Design Studio. Housed in a side unit at 220 Bayview AVE (beside Napoleon, and just south of the Allandale Rec Centre), Lynn’s new studio is tucked away with great parking, street level entrance and lots of colour and movement aboard.

She chose to stay in their former business location because they are honouring their lease and she feels having a south end location is useful for the community. She admits it’s a destination location, for sure. “If I’m looking for something and I want it badly enough, I’ll go to wherever it is.” This lets her test the market without sinking a fortune into a storefront.

She wanted a main floor environment so customers can enter and leave easily. It’s bright, it’s open, and she says she’s tried to make the space look as uncommercial and boutique-y as possible.

And what’s she offering? Middle to high-end designer yarns, for knitting, for design, for texture work. She carries custom pattern designs. She offers materials for serious knitters.

“The knitting market has exploded yarn-wise and material-wise in the past five years,” says Lynn. “There are more man-made fibres, more technology and lots of wonderful, colourful yarns with tactile quality. They make a garment so fabulous that you don’t have to be a seasoned knitter to produce something with a ‘wow’ factor.”

Lynn points out that with some of the new yarns, even a beginner can make an explosive piece on a first attempt. “You can start as a beginner with a scarf that’s absolutely fabulous, right out of the gate bcause of all these yummy yarns. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

As a designer, Lynn has an eye for the less-is-more approach and she applies this to pattern and product selections.

She’s also carrying one-of-a-kind jewellery and is encouraging artisans to come in to see if their products are a good fit for her store.

She’s offering classes–beginner and advanced–on an as-needed basis and every Thursday night (7 to 9 pm) is stitch and bitch night… take along whatever project you’re working on, join with others and create and communicate simultaneously. Good for companionship and production.

An after-school teen group will have the chance to explore unique designs and productions.

The Dancing Harlequin plans to offer weaving, fibre arts, traditional rug hooking. Lynn’s looking for people who are tired of knitting the same old thing and want to branch out, test their timidity and experiment with design and texture.

And all of this, tucked away on Bayview AVE. It’s likely ‘worth the drive’ as they say.

Thanks, Lynn. And thanks, Robert, for showing us all that ‘no’ can mean something new.