Handmade: Ceramic yarn bowls can be difficult to find
Balls of yarn covered with dust bunnies can be an unwanted fuzzy situation for knitters and crocheters when the yarn is left to roll about on the floor, collecting felted debris — yuck! The answer has long been some type of container to hold the yarn in place, releasing it only as needed with a gentle tug.
Throughout the history of knitting and crocheting, such containers have been manufactured using various materials — plastic, metal, wood, bamboo, etc. However, some knitters and crocheters choose to solve the age-old problem by simply using items found around the house — a plastic bag that zips, a teapot, a flower pot, a colander, a mixing bowl, and even someone’s hands.
Since I no longer have carpet flooring, I found myself needing what’s commonly called a “yarn bowl.” The ceramic kind I wanted usually has a narrow J-shaped opening to thread the yarn through. In the meantime, I used a beautiful ceramic bowl I purchased several years ago at an Empty Bowls fundraiser at Pewabic Pottery. It worked fine until my yarn became golf ball size and kept jumping out the bowl. “OK, this isn’t working,” I thought, realizing the reason behind the J-shaped opening.
I went on one of my must-find missions. I wanted one in olive that was large and deep. Luckily, I found one at The Wool & The Floss, 397 Fisher, in Grosse Pointe, but I can’t believe how difficult it is to find ceramic yarn bowls locally! This led me on yet another mission — to find potters in the area who make yarn bowls as part of their product line. Whew — it wasn’t easy!
Husband-and-wife potters Ryan Lack, 37, and Kelly Haehl, 30, of Brighton, had no idea what a yarn bowl was until a knitter requested one about four years ago. “When someone asked for one, we looked them up online and tried to improve upon what was there. The main complaint is that they’re too shallow. We make ours taller and go in a little bit at the top to keep the yarn in there,” explained Haehl, who holds a BSA in ceramics from Michigan State University. She gives her husband credit for producing most of their yarn bowls.
“I’ve made them before, but usually, he’ll throw them and cut out the designs, and I do the glazing.” Lack, a self-taught potter, also puts his initials on the bottom of the bowls.
Haehl, a crocheter, said a good yarn bowl has an inward curve at the top to help hold the yarn, is considerably large, and has a cut-out J-shaped slit that’ isn’t too wide to help contain the yarn.
The couple sells their bowls, under the name Haehl Ceramics, at local art fairs, galleries, and Pewabic Pottery, a design studio at 10125 E. Jefferson in Detroit. They’re priced from “about $25-$30 for the small ones, up to $75 or $80 for the ones that are really large.”
Jesie Stefani, a potter who lives right outside Frankenmuth, graduated from Central Michigan University in 2013 with a degree in art education, specializing in ceramics. “That’s when I opened my studio and purchased my own equipment,” she said. “Very active in ceramics since 2007,” she started making yarn bowls, some with bamboo or willow handles, a few years later.
“After graduation, I got an internship in Orkney, a part of Scotland, and while I was there, I ended up being drawn to fiber art. There’s a lot of history with wool there, and as part of that, I started making yarn bowls, and that’s kind of where the handles came about,” she explained. “The people there like to carry their yarn around with them, and bags don’t keep it very neat. They take their (fiber) work to work and coffee shops, and if they put the yarn in bags, it tends to get messy.”
In 2015, Stefani, 31, began selling her yarn bowls through Heritage Spinning & Weaving, 47 E. Flint, in Lake Orion, under the name Jesie’s Pottery. “When I started making yarn bowls for them, it was more of a request. I tend to make them basically through commission. People tend to be particular about them. I do have standard ones. Normally, I make 10 bowls at a time for Heritage Spinning & Weaving, and they’re gone in about five months.”
In terms of pricing, she said, “A really basic small one, with no handle, starts at $25. The most expensive one I’ve made had a lot of hand-carving with a handle, and it was $75; but, the average price is about $40.”
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Haehl Ceramics at haehlceramics.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Jesie’s Pottery at jesiespottery.com. Email: email@example.com.