For Melissa Kelenske, knitting isn’t just a winter pastime. It’s a lifestyle. Her yarn and fiber shop, Wool & Honey, offers artisanal Michigan-made yarn and needles along with specialty products from around the world. Located in Cedar, Melissa is influenced by her surrounding landscape.
“Cedar is in the heart of Leelanau County and we wanted our store and products to be based on the beauty of the area we live in,” Melissa says. “We’re always inspired by Leelanau County.”
With that in mind, Wool & Honey is stocked with natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool. “They’re timeless and based on nature,” Melissa says. “You can’t be a knitter and not realize how connected you are to nature.”
Each skein of yarn has a story. Whether it came from locally raised alpaca in Empire or a British heritage breed in the United Kingdom, Melissa knows each fiber.
“There is a whole movement happening right now similar to farm to table—sheep to shawl or farm to needle,” she says. “It’s really wonderful for people who want to know the story of where their wool, tools, and products come from. It gives you pride and ownership.”
Wool & Honey was the first shop to sell Indian Lake Artisans knitting needles, which are made of walnut, cherry and maple wood along with locally made stitch markers created from Petoskey stones and Leland Blue.
“Knitting makes you feel like you’re a part of something and helps you identify with the community,” Melissa says. “It’s productive, beautiful, and artistic. That’s not trendy. That’s mindful living.”
Photos by Shannon Scott
Melissa bought the business, which used to be Inish Knits, in 2006. She changed the name in 2010 to commemorate its 10 year anniversary and to establish her own vision of a modern and natural store.
“It’s a play on the phrase ‘land of milk and honey’ meaning the best of the best,” she says.
In May 2014, Melissa and her sister and business partner Liz Neddo extended their vision to create the Sleeping Bear Yarn Club. Members receive a monthly package that includes an exclusive hand-dyed colorway based on a Leelanau landmark, a coordinating semi-precious stone stitch marker, and a pattern. Subscriptions are offered for three, six, and 12 months.
“People love it because it’s a monthly reminder of Leelanau County delivered to their doorstep,” Melissa says. “It’s like getting a care package from home.”
About 20 percent of the members are local. The other 80 percent are spread across the nation as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.
“These people I see aren’t just customers. They’re part of my life,” Melissa says. “While you’re knitting, you think about your daughter who you’re making something for or your grandma who taught you to knit. Knitting is all inclusive and emotional. It’s cheesy, I know, but knitting weaves a community tightly together.”
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