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ThunderWillow adds yarn nook to art features

ThunderWillow Community Arts owner Donna Ernst and instructor Diane Augustin introduced the Yarn Nook to the store last month. (photos by Rebecca Mariscal)

After five years providing art, coffee and chocolate to the community, ThunderWillow Community Arts has expanded its offerings with a new yarn nook and weekly open knitting groups.

"We have yarn in every nook and cranny we can find," owner Donna Ernst said.

Ernst said the store decided to expand into yarn sales in order to better serve and draw in the community. She said ThunderWillow is now the only specialty store for yarn. The nook offers quality yarn from several independent local spinners and dyers, mostly those based in Wisconsin.

The yarn nook and classes are spearheaded by Diane Augustin, who is one of the many local artists who has been teaching ThunderWillow classes for years.

"I wanted to offer more and more diverse knitting classes and Donna said let's bring in yarn, and I said 'yay,'" Augustin said.

Augustin has been a knitter since a young age, when her grandmother began teaching her the craft.

"I was drawn to it and I just couldn't keep my hands off her knitting," Augustin said. "I've been knitting all my life."

Now as a teacher, Augustin works one-on-one with students when needed, as well as helps lead the open knitting classes the shop hosts throughout the week. The classes and the group are open to people of all skill levels, as are all classes at ThunderWillow.

"We are all about beginners and hobbyists here," Ernst said. "(Augustin) takes it to a more advanced level."

So far the knitting groups have continued to grow, and the shop has seen a large response from the community toward the yarn nook.

"We've got a nice support from the community," Augustin said.

ThunderWillow saw a lot of response in January, as many in the area prepped for the nationwide Women's March.

"We couldn't keep pink here," Ernst said.

Many of the knitters who shop and attend the group classes are working for a cause, Augustin said. They knit prayer shawls, clothes for premature infants and other charity knitting.

"It's a community spirit all the time for knitters and crocheters," Augustin said.

One of the store regulars, Paulette Vadnais, said the group is an awesome experience that lets her learn and connect with other women in the area.

"I learned a lot, primarily from Diane. She was my inspiration," she said. "It's just a lot of sharing and learning. It's just really been a great experience for me."

Ernst and Augustin said the knitting pairs well with the shop's existing work in the arts. The two have found a crossover interest between the crafts.

"Several of the ladies have taken art classes now. And vice versa," Augustin said.

"They're great sisters," Ernst said.

Whether people come for the new knitting options or for the other art mediums, Ernst and Augustin said they want the shop to be a place for people to relax and explore various arts.

"My personal belief is we're all born artists. We forget how to make art," Ernst said. "We want people to come in and try all of those art projects, all those art mediums they've never tried."

Ernst said she wants the community to know everyone is welcome at ThunderWillow, for any form of art. Her favorite people to work with are those who think they can't make art.

"Every time you come in here we want you leaving with a little bit of new learning," she said. "Everybody can."

ThunderWillow Community Arts hosts its open knits from 5-7 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to noon Fridays and from 10 a.m. to noon the last Saturday of the month. The shop is also prepping for its annual Women's Retreat on the last weekend of March.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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