Kathy and Roger Johansen did a great deal of peddling before they opened up their first brick and mortar yarn shop located in Lakewood. They were not only peddling the art of knitting, with its traditions and nostalgia, but peddling their antique circular sock knitting machine at different crafting events, and pedaling their bicycles too, hence, the Sock Peddlers was born.
In 2017, the longstanding Yorkshire Yarns in Colonial Plaza, one of the oldest commercial buildings in Lakewood, closed. The Johansens, who had officially started their business in 2016, had briefly set up a storefront in the nearby Clover Park Shops. They were thrilled to move to the new location and continue the custom of being the local go-to yarn store so many had come to rely on for the past ten years.
The couple is extremely passionate about their craft. “You never get bored with knitting, because it starts with the fibers and the colors, and then, you have ideas, and the possibilities are endless,” says Kathy. They also feel that it instills a strong sense of community, and connection with others. “It’s about getting together with friends, and people you’ve never met before, and you have something in common, or you share something with them,” she adds. “I think it’s really neat to be able to pass down that tradition from one person to another.”
Kathy, a grade-school teacher for the past 20 years, has been knitting for roughly the same amount of time, while Roger, a retired banker, got his start, “because we needed an extra pair of hands,” according to Kathy. The duo, who can never seem to get enough of what they love to do, began to focus on knitting with children about seven years ago in her classroom.
In addition, they taught knitting at the Steilacoom Historical Museum’s Kid’s Club with a great group of volunteer helpers. “Roger learned by doing,” she adds, “While we taught the kids, Roger learned too. He got the tutorial many, many times.”
The amount of knitting that is done in the classroom varies each year, based on students and the things that need to be learned and accomplished. However, the skill of knitting helps children in a variety of ways including, reading, following directions, planning, organization, and fine motor skills. “It helps with math, counting, and creative thinking,” says Kathy. “The repetition is something kids need a lot of.” It’s also about teaching the history and traditions behind it, as well as how good it feels to make something with your own hands.
Around the same time that they started teaching knitting at school and the museum, they found their first 100-year-old Legare antique circular sock knitting machine. Roger purchased it as an anniversary gift. “It’s very nostalgic,” he says. “You’re sitting behind this machine and you’re knitting on something that somebody else might have used to help with the war effort, or in their homes as a means to earn income.”
Although it usually takes a couple of hours to knit a pair of socks on the machine, they can actually be used to knit other items, such as hats, mittens, and scarves. Some antique manuals show how people made sweaters most efficiently with different fabrics using a more back and forth pattern, rather than a circular motion. The Johansens have since added four red Speedster replicas, two Bumblebees, and an Erlbacher replica circular sock knitting machine to their collection.
The Sock Peddlers is a magical place with an endless array of different weights and types of yarns, as well as unlimited possibilities. The colorful shop offers every kind of yarn a heart could desire, including fingering yarns (used on the sock machines), double knitted yarns, worsted yarns, Erin yarns, bulky yarns — you name it. There are also a variety of tools and accessories to go along with any project, from knitting and crochet needles, to pattern books, and everything in between.
Maybe you’ve never learned to knit but would like to. Classes are available for every skill level and interest by their team of experts, from beginning knitting and crocheting to skills like learning to cast on and bind off. There are also a variety of project classes such as knitting a headband, yarn dyeing, sweater tutorials, or even knitting socks on one of the circular sock machines.
Join them on a yarn crawl, like the PNW Yarn Crawl, a twice-yearly event, which unfortunately had to cancel its spring crawl this year due to COVID-19, but has announced fall crawl dates for October 8to 11.
Recently, the Johansens took on a different kind of project combining many of their favorite things; The Sock Peddlers, knitting, and spending time with their grandchildren. They are in the process of self-publishing a children’s story called, Sock Peddler Surprises, inspired by one of their grandsons. The story, illustrated by artist and employee, Katie Howard, chronicles an adventure that begins right in the shop with the Johansens and their grandson and continues on a fishing excursion. Look for more information about the book soon on their website.
Although the shop closed briefly due to the pandemic, it is back open for business with hopes of restarting classes again soon. “Our customers mean everything to us,” says Kathy. “They’re really more like friends. We’ve learned so much from each one of them. It’s very special when you can make something for yourself or someone else. It’s empowering to help people do that, and that’s what we love to do.”
Find The Sock Peddlers at 6122 Motor Ave. S.W. in Lakewood or reach them at 253-267-0148.