The Yarn Farmer–An old hobby leads to a new career path
Five years ago, Wilton resident Andrea Dener was happily employed as a television production coordinator and an 18-year veteran at a Stamford-based media company. It was a job she loved. Then, in 2014, the job was gone, and like many mid-career professionals who find themselves unexpectedly unemployed, Andrea felt a big void in her life.
For the corporate career woman, the loss was more than just financial. “It was my daily routine,” she says. “And the community I’d enjoyed for years—my work family.” Andrea wasted no time looking for a job, but there weren’t many opportunities that appealed to someone with her level of experience. “It was a bummer,” she remembers.
Andrea says the vacuum created from losing a cherished job can feel overwhelming. Though it was uncomfortable, Andrea chose to “brave” the void, not run from it. “I knew my new community was out there, and eventually we’d find one another,” she says.
During this time of uncertainty, Andrea took comfort in two hobbies she had loved as a child—knitting and crocheting. “My mother taught me how to knit when I was ten,” she says. “And my best friend’s mom—who was also my Girl Scout leader—taught me how to crochet about the same time.”
Somewhere along the way, Andrea lost touch with her passion for needlework. But then, sitting at home feeling idle after the job loss, she instinctually reached for her needles again. “Knitting and crocheting kept me busy, and kept my spirits up, while I considered my options,” she says.
Andrea’s sister-in-law noticed Andrea’s talent and the happiness she exuded when clicking her needles together to create beautiful handicrafts. She encouraged Andrea to consider becoming a knitting and crocheting instructor and told her about a certification program offered through the Craft Yarn Council, a national advocacy organization for the yarn industry.
The Craft Yarn Council’s motto is: “Each one teaches two.” This phrase sums up the teacher’s mission, Andrea says. “One person takes time to teach another person, who then teaches someone else, and so on,” she explains. “Needlework skills used to be passed down within families, one generation to the next. Without teachers, we could lose these age-old crafts.”
Andrea chose the council’s onsite courses in Manhattan. “I preferred a group setting,” Andrea says. “I wanted that sense of community again.” It was a wonderful experience: not only did Andrea become a qualified instructor, she also made many lifelong friends.
Over time, Andrea began to wonder if knitting and crocheting might be more than just soothing activities to see her through a difficult time. Might they be a new calling in life? she asked. Once the thought took root, it began to blossom with possibilities.
Whatever job or career she chose to pursue next in life, Andrea wanted it to be something where she could make a difference in other people’s lives—like her mother and her Girl Scout leader had for her. Needlework is now being recognized for its myriad health benefits—everything from easing stress and depression to sharpening memory to promoting overall mental and physical wellness. “Knitting and crocheting definitely helped me feel better when I was down,” Andrea says. “So, naturally, the idea of sharing it with others was exciting.”
With teacher certification in hand, Andrea began brainstorming ways to turn her passion into a career. Using her marketing skills, she pitched ideas for classes at libraries, after-school programs, and adult education programs. She also promoted her yarn crafting activities as entertainment for birthday parties and community events. Before long, Andrea was teaching people across Fairfield County to knit and crochet everything from blankets to hats to scarves to purses and more. This will be her third year teaching after school at Cider Mill through Wilton’s Continuing Education program.
Many of Andrea’s classes are devoted to creative crafting of yarn pom-poms—small, fluffy balls like you find on a knit hat. “After you make the pom-pom, you then keep going and turn it into a decorative ornament or animal or other cuddly creature,” Andrea says. “Kids really love a pom-pom birthday party.”
In her fall and winter pom-pom classes, students typically focus on making turkeys, reindeer, and snowmen. In her fall knitting and crocheting classes, she finds many of her students want to make gifts for the upcoming holidays, like scarves, hats, and cowls. “People appreciate the care that goes into a gift made by hand,” she says.
When Andrea looks back at her journey from job loss to new career in yarn crafts, she’s amazed at the beautiful twist her life took. Thinking about all the people she’s met and helped—her new community—she says, “I’m more fulfilled than ever before.”