OUR FOUNDER'S STORY
My name is Swaran Dhaliwal and I am the owner of Michigan Fine Yarns. Every person has a history and every business has a story. My life story and my business are born of each other.
I am from the north of India, where I spent my childhood and formative years growing up on a farm. My mother was the matriarch of the farming family. She spent her time raising the children while spinning, weaving, dyeing, and knitting as well. These are special memories I carry from my childhood.
As a young adult, I left the farm to attend 8 years of college focusing on clothing and textiles. With my secondary education behind me and my degree in hand, I struggled to find passion in the areas of my educational focus. The memories of my childhood were strong. Memories of my mom and her creativity were starting to ignite something within.
I spent a number of years focusing on my family and reenacting in my mind, these childhood visions. I had not ever shown interest in my mother’s skills, yet they were like little seeds planted in my memory. My life was full of destiny, yet incomplete.
In 2008, on a whim and not knowing what I would create, I signed a lease on a property in downtown Plymouth, Michigan. I looked around trying to find something in popular American culture that would be of interest. I opened the doors in August 2008 under the name Michigan Custom Boutique. I sold jewelry, handbags, and home decor. My mother was living in Canada and would visit often for an extended stay. She still had an amazing love for knitting. She would sit on a love-seat under the window enjoying the day’s sunshine and knitting while I waited for customers. Oddly, the central focus of our foot traffic into the boutique would be my knitting mother, not my merchandise. People were watching my mother and inquiring about lessons. She did not speak English and I did not knit so we could not accommodate the requests
In March of 2009 I met a business acquaintance named Leslie. Leslie suggested I get my hands on a copy of the book, Vogue Knitting. I didn’t even know what that was but I listened to her. I read that book cover to cover and began to find some common ground between the visions of my youth, my mother on the love-seat, my boutique, and my entrepreneurial desires. That June I registered to attend my first Convention of The National Needle Arts and I made an initial investment of fibers to get started. I knew nothing about weights and differences, or about what might sell. I knew so little but I had a vision and desire to learn it all.
This is where the story of Michigan Fine Yarns begins. I moved all the jewelry from the front of the store and hung the beautiful fibers in its place. In December I secured the business space right next to my own and expanded the store into a larger space. With a building renovation and the tutelage of a knit designer and teacher, my business was going through a metamorphosis and, without me even realizing what was happening, Michigan Fine Yarns was being born. In January 2010, I was learning everything I could about the fiber arts my mother so loved. Mother came for one of her visits that April. Unknowingly, it would be her last. This was the first time we truly had the fiber arts in common. I encouraged her to pick out some yarn. She chose 5 skeins of a variegated fingering yarn and began knitting. My mother died the next month having never completed the project that joined our lives together so beautifully.
My Mother, Our Muse
For a while I floundered, mourning the loss of my dear mom. I hung her picture in my store and looked at it each day. I knew what I needed to do. As if it were an extension of me, I knew I needed to honor her life by providing a community for knitters. In 2014, I purchased the building where I am today, in Livonia. So many of my customers helped me to move my inventory and set up the store. As if my life came full circle, the grand opening on the 5th of September coincided with the day my mother gave birth to me. I began to feel the surge and warmth of the fiber community. I knew I was doing right by my mother and by the community.
The Healing Arts
Today my goal is to provide a community-based LYS where everyone is welcome. Our foundation is built upon the values of inclusivity. It is crucial to us that we cultivate a nourishing environment rooted in compassion, comfort, and creativity. We see the knitter, weaver, crocheter in all. The beginner, the experienced of all backgrounds.
With my team, we are striving to build a business of service and gratitude to honor what knitting meant to my mom. In September 2018, I launched Bibi Yarn, my own line of hand-dyed yarn named after my mother. Marketing and sales are just beginning but this is not the end of the story.
Like every human being, my business is always evolving. Come visit us. Stop a moment in the foyer. The picture of my mother and the project she never finished are both displayed there. They’re a reminder of how knitting and the fiber arts heal the soul and a constant reminder that she is the heart of our business.