Behind the Scenes with Fuzzy Goat Proprietress Cadence!
Settle in, Goat Gang! We have a longform interview here with Cadence all about the biz and the knitting life!
What moved you to open the shop?
I was thinking about my knitting all of the time. I was working [at Florida State University]. I had created this program there and that was perking along, so I would often sneak time away to go look at my Ravelry account. I thought, ‘they’re really not paying me to do this!’ Ha! So there I was in my mid-fifties and I thought to myself, was I just going to stay in this job, doing what was 'satisfying enough?' I felt like I had one more big adventure left in me.
It is scary; quitting your job with benefits, in your mid-fifties, is really kind of foolish and scary, but again, I wondered, what was I going to do in my sixties? What could I do that would be exciting and be adventurous? And this was it.
You were a past academic. What was it like leaving academia for small business ownership? What have you taken with you? Has it been a culture shock?
It was a lot like being in grad school, in that I was working on it all the time. So in that way, academia is a lot like small business, because there’s no real schedule, but you’re just working on it all the time. I had started several programs while at the university [from scratch], so that was similar too.
What I miss is constantly being around younger people who are trying to learn new things, but what more than makes up for that is being around people of a wider range of ages wanting to learn new things. Now, you might not think at first that learning something like a brioche stitch is as life-changing as what you would learn at the university. However, one of the things I figured out early on is the job we do here with women particular (since most of our customers are women) is teaching them there is such a thing as “good enough” and also teaching them it’s okay to ask for help. [That] really did start to feel like a mission and to feel life changing. We don’t live our lives like it’s “good enough” and we don’t raise our children like that, but knitting, it really can just be good enough – and we can always restart.
How did you make your way to GA as a FL girl?
I ended up in Tallahassee because my husband Mike is from North Florida. We met in Gainesville and settled in this region because he was an ag finance major. So having lived in Tallahassee for thirty years, Thomasville (about thirty minutes north of Tally) was the fun place to kind of escape to and to wander. I would play hookie with my best friend and we’d come up here and we had a routine we really liked. There was really no place quite like that in Tallahassee, no wandering place. There were also three or four yarn shops already in Tallahassee and I’m not really competitive by nature. I did not want to open in the same location as shops I frequented as a customer.
Thomasville also has a great Main St. program that really helps you. One of the yarn shops I went to talk to when opening, Fiber Space in Alexandria, said her favorite part was being part of her downtown group and championing other businesses. I really took that to heart and that’s where a lot of satisfaction has come from too.
Because I didn’t live here when I opened the store, I was really conscious of and didn’t want to just feel like someone from “the big city” coming and just taking over. We made sure to hire branding, contractors, designers, and employees who were all local and now we live here!
[Selling our house to move here] wasn’t part of the original plan, but Mike’s job situation changed and we had to adapt to that. And I’m glad it made me do that – I like living downtown and I like living in a really old house and downsizing!
Where did the name Fuzzy Goat come from?
Mike and I would come up here [to Thomasville] to hang out on Saturdays. On the drive up, we’d talk [about opening the store one day] and he’d say, “what will you name it?” and we’d play the game, like this is never really going to happen, you know.
I always said, “I’d call it Fuzzy, ‘cause that’s just funny to me,” and he said “The Fuzzy Sheep?” and I said, “No, they’re all named after sheep.” Then one day we passed a goat farm on the side of the road and they were climbing all over, trying to get out. I said “Fuzzy Goat!” He said, “Yarn doesn’t come from goats,” and I said, “Yes it does – cashmere and mohair!”
And I never waivered on the name!
Favorite thing in the store right now?
I like that you said ‘right now,’ because it does change a lot. The first thing that comes to mind, though, is pretty steady and that’s the big “service” sign. I don’t feel like we’re just selling stuff; we’re serving people. And the sign is so beat up and its rusty too and Southern. And on the back side it looks like someone’s been shooting at it - who knows where that came from? It has a story!
My favorite item to sell in the shop right now? Anything I want to keep for myself! One of these Knitty Gritty Bags will be coming home with me!
Most memorable thing ever overheard in the shop?
This one makes me a little sad because we’re not overhearing much right now…
Well, this wasn’t overheard, but once a customer told me a story after a recent hurricane where the town had lost power. During this power outage, she had told her mother on the phone that she “knits best with nothing on” – her mom of course thought she meant without any clothes on, though she meant without the television or power on!
There’s other things too, like someone finding snakes on their washing machine. There’s very little that’s actually eavesdropping! Most of the interesting things they just tell me directly! Like “having four kids is too many because it doesn't look good for pictures!” Ha!
Good music is a big part of the shop experience. How do you decide what to look for in “good music?”
If someone’s singing along, I have hit the jackpot. I don’t sing along because I sing horribly! I like something that makes you happy but also feels rooted. I like blues that isn’t too depressing. Lately we’ve been playing a lot of Keb’ Mo’!
How’d you start knitting? How old were you?
When Mike and I first got married, we moved to Quitman, GA, this little tiny town. I’m from Miami so it was a huge difference. It didn’t even have a stoplight, but it did have a lot of agriculture, which is what Mike’s major was. So I went over to Valdosta which is half an hour away and I did what I like to do best, which is go to school. Grad school! That still didn’t fill up my time, so I found someone to teach me how to golf and someone to teach me how to knit! Golfing did not stick. I was twenty.
A woman taught me to knit by teaching me to knit a cable sweater because she said it’d teach me everything I needed to know.
I’ve been knitting off and on ever since. I knitted when the kids were little, and I’d knit things for them, but then I picked up a lot when they were teenagers because there’s a lot of waiting around on stuff you’re glad they’re doing but maybe not very interested in – like practice for choral groups, ha!
Best place to start knitting for total beginners?
A straight scarf, where you just knit garter stitches and you just go back and forth. You get the muscle memory that way.
Pick pretty yarn that motivates you otherwise it won’t be fun!
Has your favorite yarn changed over the years and if so, how?
Right now my favorites are fingering with silk in them, but before it was a color-changing yarn that was a little heavier. I fully anticipate it’ll change again.
Do you ever love a pattern and love a yarn, but dislike the finished result? What do you do if so?
Yes, that happens. I try to take stock along the way, so I can stop, undo it, and make a new ball. The yarn’s telling me if it doesn’t want to be that. You can’t force it.
Are you ever stumped by a pattern? Do you ever abandon it?
Yes. When that happens, I look to see if there’s other notes on Ravelry. Sometimes I email the designer and ask them. And sometimes I’ve asked some of the wiser knitters that are our customers. Sometimes I just have to give up. But what I usually do is, I like to look and see how many people have made it beforehand. Sometimes its user error, sometimes its pattern error. It’s a lost less likely to be pattern error if a lot of people have made it.
How do you work on so many projects and stay focused or not get distracted?
What’s wrong with getting distracted? Ha!
If I have “deadline knitting,” like with my recent mother of the bride shawl, I just try not to work on so many projects at a time. When I do knit sweaters, I also tend to be monogamous so I don’t get distracted. Otherwise, I don’t mind having a box of stuff to jump around with. It’s not a race!
Do you always follow a pattern exactly?
No, I don’t always follow the pattern. I usually throw in another color or I might change the length/width. Not the shape, though!
Anything you avoid in your knitting life?
I’m not a fan of the Kitchener stitch, because I’m going to get interrupted or I’m going to get lost.
Do you do anything to organize your knitting?
Ravelry, Ravelry, Ravelry.
And each project gets its own bag.
What is your favorite project you’ve ever finished?
The shawl I wore for my son’s wedding and then Carolina wore it in her wedding – it was an intarsia and faire aisle pattern made of alpaca silk with flowers in the pattern.
I like historical fiction and my favorite is In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.
What difference would you say running a Local Yarn Shop makes to a community?
When we first opened in this run down block, I wasn’t worried. I knew knitters wouldn’t care about the block being run down. They’d care about the store being inviting, but if they had to walk on some cracked sidewalks to get there, then they’d do anything to get some really lovely yarn. Since we’ve opened, the street has been revitalized and there’s been more shops coming because they’ve sent the traffic and the possibilities coming here.
Also, I like to think of more conversation and more civic mindedness happening that might not have happened otherwise, with events like when we hosted Harper students and had community members come in to teach them how to make pompoms.
I like the way that knitters and crocheters, we all have something in common... [making].
At the university, I was around people who thought just like me, but here, I'm not. That was an adjustment but I love that people who I know feel completely different from each other now have yarn dates because they met each other in the store; how can that not be good for society?!
We all have a vulnerability together here – because we have to ask for help with our knitting – but then we let our guard down a bit further and all become curious about why [other knitters] think the way they do. We'd have people (pre- and hopefully again post-covid) who’d come in and hope someone else would come sit with them who was different than them. You can’t just ask random people from the street to come hang out with you – but you can here! Or if you’re introverted and quiet you can come and sit and not say a word and no one will mind!
You bought the building next door? Yay! What happened?
I felt protective about what happens next on this street. I want to rent some of the building to something that drives street traffic and doesn’t just pop up and go away again in six months. Also, we’ve been so fortunate with our Subscription Boxes that when I was starting to have an eye toward resuming classes again, I realized we’ve taken over our previous class space, so we’re going to need to have a place to do subscription boxes [in the back of the new building]. It’s a way to give some love to the block and some support to some other small entrepreneur who wants to get started in the space up front!