In a Sugar House bungalow, Blazing Needles serves Salt Lake City’s knitting enthusiasts with charm and a welcoming, sit-and-stay-awhile vibe.
By Ashley Miller, Photos by Adam Finkle
If there’s one trend that has been embraced by high fashion and home décor with equal fervor lately, it’s knitting. Intertwining yarns hooked into pattern-rich loops, rounded knots and serpentine channels create a style equal parts homespun and freshly modern.
The combination proves irresistible to countless design devotees who choose knit-embellished furnishings, accessories and even wall coverings for spaces of all styles. But the design-driven aren’t the only ones charmed by this stitchery.
In Salt Lake City, a diverse and growing group of avid loopers and purlers frequent Blazing Needles—a bungalow-turned-knitting shop—to practice the art form and the celebrate the community it creates.
From the outside, there’s no mistaking the purpose and passion behind Blazing Needle’s business. Rising from the cottage-style gardens, a sculpture designed by Fred Conlon forms an enormous metal ball of yarn accompanied by two needlesthat sway whatever-which-way the wind carries them—creating the illusion of knitting needles at work.
Beyond the art piece, colorfully “yarn-bombed” tree trunks and porch pillars charm passers-by. But it’s what’s inside that causes visitors to become truly hooked to this place. Once past the front door, guests are greeted by a collection of small, light-filled rooms lined with cubbies stocked with colorful yarns so boldly hued they could make a rainbow blush.
From room to room, skeins, balls and hanks of luxurious yarns inspire and entice at every turn. Owner Cynthia Mills opted to keep the bungalow’s segmented floor plan intact rather than opening it up to perform like a typical retail space. “I always wanted people to gather in here, sit together and visit . . . just as if it’s a big family room,” she says of the interior that previously was a doctor’s office.
Not surprisingly, what makes Blazing Needles so engaging and successful has less to do with architecture details, yarn skeins or knitting needles and more to do with the passion Mills has for connecting and welcoming all persons and creating friendships through the art of knitting. “Cynthia cares about everyone,” says Kate Wilson, a pepper-haired grandmother who lives within walking distance of the bungalow. “She knows us all.”
Sitting elbow-to-elbow around a restored, blue-legged farmhouse table that stretches across the length of the great room and acts as the hub of the house, a group of knitters—men and women, young and old—praise the safe haven Blazing Needles has come to be. Among them is Leo Tyler, a buff, thirty-something who defies the stereotype of an avid knitter. “The first time I came in, I left with a hug,” Leo says as his hands busily needle yarn into a soon-to-be afghan with self-striping yarn.
Kate and Leo’s fellow knitters nod in agreement, eager to discuss how accepted they feel in a business that prizes relationships over revenue. “Knitting isn’t what drives me,” says Cynthia. “It’s the community. These really are my family members.”