Skip to content

Rae Brenne's Yarn Store Proves the Craft's Enduring Appeal

'It's also such a great solo practice because there are the meditative properties of knitting and crocheting and doing something repetitive with your hands and really taking that moment to just relax and be mindful'

“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.       


Knitting is not going away, and Rae Brenne can prove it. 

“This is not a dying art. It is extremely popular and it feels like it just keeps becoming more and more popular all the time. I'm seeing younger and younger people who are coming in here getting involved in this craft. It is being passed on to our younger generations. I've taught many people my age to knit. I've taught many people older than me to knit and I think that will continue.”  

Brenne is the owner and operator of “Stix and Stones” a yarn store in downtown North Bay, which she says is a place for knitters, crocheters, and crafters of all ages.  

“A lot of people are really interested in crocheting right now too. Crocheted stuffies and crocheted animals are popular.  Traditional crafts always get handed down and when there are economic or financial struggles in the world, people turn to what they know, and a lot of the time, they are turning to these handicrafts. You'll see a resurgence of things like knitting and crocheting and sewing and using these tools to prolong some of the things we invest in, like our clothing. That’s getting into more of the whole recycle, upcycle, reuse, clothing kind of concept, but knitting fits in that as well. It's a slow fashion. It's one of the slowest fashions because it takes so long to make it. But when you put time and energy into that, you're going to have what you made for years. Knitting is not dying, it's being done quietly and being done by people who truly enjoy it.” 

Brenne says it takes 60-100 hours to make one sweater and that time and effort are remembered and appreciated when these handmade crafts are given to people. She says that adds to the sometimes-sentimental bond people have with these items. 

“Maybe it's subconscious. Maybe it's some kind of placebo effect but I find that anything that is a hand-me-down from my mom that was made with a natural fibre that has been kept for years and years, I just always think that it smells like her. Those are the things you hold onto as well.” 

Brenne says she was led down the path to opening a yarn store in the first place thanks to her mother who taught Brenne how to knit at 13 years old.  

“We were on a family ski vacation and the reason my mom taught me was because she recently had picked up knitting herself again. She learned when she was a kid and she knitted throughout her teenage years. She studied Fashion Design at Ryerson,” says Brenne. 

“I've always been crafty and so on this vacation my mom taught me how to knit after she had come back from a vacation in Vegas where she visited all the fabric stores, then she tried out the knitting stores and got inspired to start knitting again because at that time yarn had come so far from what it was when she was a teenager. There were so many different colours and textures and fibres and it just made things more interesting.” 

This was 21 years ago says Brenne.  

Brenne says she started learning using plastic needles and eyelash yarn which is not the best material according to Brenne. 

“It was sticky, it was squeaky. It was terrible to learn on, and it's so fuzzy and textured that you can't see anything that you're doing.  But I remember her teaching me and I just found it to be something I enjoyed.” 

Brenne says she started to knit all the time, for herself, friends, and family. 

“I would knit scarves like crazy and give them to friends or teachers at school. My mom would take me to knitting classes with her and knitting retreats. We always did a lot of things like that together.” 

It was on one of these retreats that Brenne met a family who owned a yarn shop in Toronto and they offered to have her work there when she moved from North Bay to Toronto intending to go to fashion design school. 

“I ended up being in goldsmithing jewellery design school,” says Brenne. 

“I was there for three years and I worked at that shop for three years. I worked at another knitting shop that's now closed and got a lot of experience in retail that way. I never really imagined that I would move back to North Bay because I loved being in Toronto but I didn't end up wanting to be a goldsmith and decided to move back to North Bay when I was 20 and open my yarn store.” 

Brenne says opening “Stix and Stones” was done before she had ever knit a sweater  

“But here we are over 14 years later and now I can knit anything under the sun but it took me a long time to actually knit my first sweater after opening my store. It was about four years after I opened before I tackled sweaters, just due to the time commitment, but now I love knitting them,” says Brenne. 

Brenne says one of the goals of her store was to capture the creativity of the community and she hosts a weekly event called “Stitch and Craft Night” held on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in their studio space.  

“I want it to be open for all and we include all crafts, all ages, all genders, it's a very inclusive space. We opened the studio to be that kind of a space where people could bring in whatever inspires them and work on it in our studio space,” she says.  

“Most people do knit, but we do have crocheters and cross-stitchers. You can bring in your project if you're working on something or you want to get help or you want to learn to knit or do any of these crafts,” says Brenne who adds this has fostered a sense of community around this kind of artistry.  

“It's interesting when you meet somebody who knits because you can connect on that level. You find out immediately that you have something in common and it's interesting to watch our classes because you'll find that people connect because they're all here stitching and making something with their hands. It's also such a great solo practice because there are the meditative properties of knitting and crocheting and doing something repetitive with your hands and really taking that moment to just relax and be mindful,” says Brenne.  

Brenne says these events attract people for a variety of reasons.  

“It's people who want to get away from the kids for a minute and be able to make something without people jumping all over them or being asked for something. For them it's having that safe space that you can retreat to for a couple of hours for yourself, and I think, especially as women, we tend to feel guilty about taking time for ourselves and I never really understand that.  I think it's so important to have hobbies and hobbies are what keep us excited about our lives because we can't all be about work all the time. So, to take a few hours or 10 minutes a day and just give yourself a moment to relax and meditate and feel the creation kind of running through you is magical and it's great for your mental health as well.” 

Brenne says while knitting sometimes has the association of being a type of craft only the elderly enjoy, it is far from the truth.  

“I am 34 years old; I've had my store since I was 20. I'm very much into funky fun colours and patterns that will work with your wardrobe that will be modern and an heirloom piece. It's not just grandma's knitting anymore. There is a massive online community for amazing patterns and designers who are young and making very cool things. Finding a pattern that you fall in love with and picking your yarn, picking your colours to go with it, it's a whole process. Then being able to make this thing that you're excited about and have put all this time into planning and creating it, there's so much pride in that as there should be, or being able to gift that to somebody that you know it’s perfect for.” 

Brenne says this is something anyone with any skill set can do. 

“I'm meeting people constantly in my store and outside of my store and when they find out that I'm a knitter or when they find out that I have the store, they usually are really interested and want to know more. They ask, ‘What does a yarn store look like?’ or ‘How would you even make that?’ So many are self-deprecating and they say ‘I could never do that because I'm not patient’ or ‘I don’t have focus’ but I tell them, ‘It’s not like that at all.’

If you can hold a fork and a knife you can do this. And honestly, even if you can't, you can still be creative because we've had people who can't, and we teach them to knit as well. We adopt our teaching style to their abilities. We can teach anybody. I've tried and tested this many times.” 

Brenne says it really comes down to being an activity that goes beyond the result of creating something tangible.  

“I've had people who have had severe brain injuries and this has been a part of their rehab where they've needed to work on their fine motor skills. And knitting was a part of that. For people who struggle with depression or anxiety, this is something that they will pick up and use as a tool to calm themselves down. It is so far beyond just making something.” 

If you have a story idea for “Jobs of the Future” send Matt an email at [email protected]  

Reader Feedback

Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
Read more