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Have You Ever Been on a Yarn Crawl?

By: Christie Beniston

The San Diego Yarn Crawl is an annual event that takes place every September in San Diego, California. The Crawl is a self-guided tour of local yarn shops and alpaca farms, with trunk shows and classes for knitting and crochet. It’s a time to sample new skeins at “yarn tastings” and get free patterns. And for me it was an opportunity to introduce many to the craft of punch needle rug hooking.

One of the unique aspects of punch needle rug hooking is that one can use many different types of yarn in a single piece. Being new to fiber arts in this area, I decided to use the annual yarn crawl as my prompt to become more familiar with the local fiber arts community. My goal was to meet the owner of every yarn shop in the San Diego area, learn about their business, and have them choose a yarn that was meaningful to them. I then combined all of these yarns into one rug, designed specifically with the Yarn Crawl in mind.

I designed the rug with my daughter Isa—we often collaborate, and I love using her drawings in my projects. In this case we knew we wanted to represent the local alpaca ranches, so alpacas became the focus of the design. It was Isa’s idea to have the alpacas wearing striped turtlenecks with each stripe punched with yarn from one of the shops I visited. I finished off the design with a border of yarn crawl-inspired vehicles, including a rumored limousine carrying mimosa-
drinking yarn enthusiasts and the Yarn  Over Truck, a mobile yarn boutique that participates in the crawl each year.

When most people think of San Diego, they visualize the beach, but in fact the county is quite large, with an area of 4,500 square miles—larger than the combined states of Rhode Island and Delaware. Visiting the yarn shops had me travelling from one of the original cottages in Pacific Beach, to San Marcos in the northernmost part of the county, to Chula Vista, a city almost at the border with Mexico. 

One of my first visits to gather yarn was to The Ramona Country Yarn Store, which is located in the more rural eastern part of San Diego county. At one time, Ramona was known as the “Turkey Capital of the World” but is now notable for its rapidly-growing wine grape production. The Ramona Country Yarn Store is a cute store owned by Connie, who chose a sunflower-gold merino wool for us to use in the rug. Sunflowers are known for being “happy” flowers, and this was a perfect fit for Connie! 

My next stop was at Border Leather, which began as a family business buying and selling handmade leather accessories. About twenty years ago Grandmother Emilia, who had been knitting “for a century” as a hobby (her words), decided she wanted to sell yarn at the leather shop. Today it is the largest knitting and crochet shop south of Los Angeles. I met with Emilia’s daughter, Gloria, and I had a difficult time choosing because there were so many options—there are over 60,000 skeins in stock! We finally settled on a worsted weight in a rainbow of bright colors.

I first learned of the yarn crawl from Barbara Davies, one of the lead organizers and owner of A Simpler Time Alpacas & Mill. A Simpler Time is located in the community of Crest, has been twice devastated by wildfires, first by the Laguna Fire in 1970, then again by the Cedar Fire in 2003. The Davies lost their home in the devastating Cedar Fire. They rebuilt with the help from family and friends and now have a beautiful ranch home with barns for their prize-winning alpacas and a full-service mill. I was excited knowing that I would be personally meeting the animals that would donate their coats for my project, and I was delighted to leave with a full range of their soft, natural colors.

San Diego’s newest yarn shop, Apricot Yarn & Supply, is located on the site of the former Naval Training Center along the bay in San Diego. Sara Heckman’s light and airy yarn shop is a wonderful addition to the area. Sara chose a beautiful Knightkraft yarn made in England, which matched the colors in her shop’s logo and was a wonderful yarn to punch. 

When the weekend of the Yarn Crawl arrived, I set up my punch-needle easel and demonstrated punching using the unique yarns I had collected—including yarn made from seaweed fibers and a yarn from Destination Yarns dyed with a special colorway entitled “La Jolla Sunset.” For many “crawlers,” this was their first introduction to punch needle rug hooking, which is not as common on the West Coast, and for some it rekindled memories of the past. One woman was so excited after watching me punch that she went home and came back with wool strips that had been handed down to her from her grandmother—she hadn’t known what to do with them at the time. So, of course, we punched them into the rug! 

What began as a personal challenge to become more immersed in the local fiber arts scene became an engaging opportunity to meet the friendly faces behind the brick-and-mortar shops of San Diego. Along the way I was able to pet alpacas, make new fiber friends, and experience our vibrant San Diego fiber arts community. RHM

Additional Images

  1. San Diego Yarn Crawl Rug, 36" x 22", a combination of various weights of yarn (from sock weight to 4-ply bulky) on linen. Designed by Isa Beniston and punched by Christie
    enniston at various locations along the San Diego Yarn Crawl route, 2019.

  2. San Diego Yarn Crawl Rug, © Isa Benniston, 2019. For a rug approximately 36" x 22", enlarge this pattern 400%. For one-time personal use only.

Christie Benniston is a public artist based in Solana Beach, California. Her commissions include the San Diego Airport, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and the Los Angeles Metro. Always a student of design and craft, Christie received her certification as an Oxford Instructor in 2017, when she opened PUNCH!, a studio offering supplies and creative space for teaching the exciting craft of punch needle rug hooking.


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