Knitting a Community

Lila and Claudine’s Yarn and Gifts co-owner Kirsten Skoglund on knitting, building community and more.

Creating something by hand can be a fulfilling process. Using just a bit of yarn and two needles to create a beautiful gift for yourself or someone you love can be a wonderful experience. This is something sisters Kirsten Skoglund and Polly Hart wanted to give the White Bear Lake area.

Opened in 2009, Lila and Claudine’s has become a White Bear Lake favorite, something neither Skoglund nor Hart ever thought would ever happen. “It was kind of suggested to us. And we both responded immediately that we could never do that,” Skoglund says. “And then, it kind of happened. The seed was planted and the next thing we knew, we were opening a yarn and gift shop.” The shop is named after their maternal grandmother Lila and their paternal grandmother Claudine, who weren’t the best of friends. “Lila was very disappointed because my grandmother thought that my mother was marrying way beneath her when she married my Norwegian, wonderful dad,” Skoglund says. “My grandmother Claudine didn’t think very highly of Lila for thinking that about her only son.” Naming the store after them has brought the two together.

In addition to the large variety of yarn Lila and Claudine’s offers, they also sell gifts. “Sometimes after you’ve been knitting for a while, you want to get up and look around,” Skoglund says. “My sister always wanted to have that kind of environment where you didn’t have to just stay seated, because she has a hard time sitting still.”

Customer Jennifer Frisbie has been visiting Lila and Claudine’s for years and has always found the shop to be a friendly environment with a lot of options. “If you want to make a project, there’s usually plenty of yarn to do the entire thing. Or they’ll order it for you,” Frisbie says. “But often, they have enough in stock in the store, which is not always the case at other places.”

While Lila and Claudine’s is first and foremost a yarn store, it provides a larger sense of community. They offer classes and open knitting, where all are welcome to knit and socialize. They also have classes focusing on specific projects. While learning is a top priority for the classes, Skoglund finds the most important part is the community they create. “We’re giving people a place to be. People meet each other and end up developing some really good friendships,” Skoglund says.

Some people may be intimidated by the thought of knitting, but Skoglund’s advice is to just start with the basics. “I’m not handing them a pattern. I’m not handing them anything complicated. I put a few stitches on the needle and we knit,” Skoglund says. For beginners, she recommends starting with a washcloth because it requires just the basics and gives a good opportunity for practice.

Lila and Claudine’s has become a staple in the White Bear Lake area, and Skoglund and Hart's passion has opened up the door for a lot of people into the world of knitting. “My job is to break apart knitting and make it a little bit easier and to create a community that’s nurturing enough for people to want to come in and hang out and learn more. And therefore, knit more and therefore, have more enjoyment,” Skoglund says.