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Nice To Knit: Hillsdale's ‘Yarn Diva’ Shares Her Passion

Ann Marie Santarelli in Yarn Diva, her Hillsdale shop.
Ann Marie Santarelli in Yarn Diva, her Hillsdale shop. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
One of the fabulous mannequins at Yarn Diva.
One of the fabulous mannequins at Yarn Diva. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
A knitted rainbow scarf at Yarn Diva.
A knitted rainbow scarf at Yarn Diva. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
The facade of Yarn Diva on Hillsdale Avenue in Hillsdale.
The facade of Yarn Diva on Hillsdale Avenue in Hillsdale. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Ann Marie Santarelli.
Ann Marie Santarelli. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
A customer searches for treasure in the Diva's Den corner of the Yarn Diva in Hillsdale.
A customer searches for treasure in the Diva's Den corner of the Yarn Diva in Hillsdale. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
The Yarn Diva store in Hillsdale sells a vast array of yarn.
The Yarn Diva store in Hillsdale sells a vast array of yarn. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Whimsical knit slippers.
Whimsical knit slippers. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

HILLSDALE, N.J. — Retirement didn’t sit well with Ann Marie Santarelli of Montvale, so she opened a shop that indulges her passion for knitting.

This year the Yarn Diva on Hillsdale Avenue in Hillsdale celebrates its 10th anniversary.

In all that time, Santarelli, a former school aide, has learned a thing or two about her selling her hobby.

“The first year was a little haphazard. I was going on what I liked,” said Santarelli, 70.

“Each year, I get a little bit better. I listen to my customers. If a few people ask for the same thing, it must be something people want.”

Her shop is a color riot of yarns, ranging from inexpensive acrylic right up through cashmere, silk and hand-dyed yarns that can sell for $25 to $35 a hank.

There’s a “Wall of Fabulous” ideas and chic mannequins to die for.

Yarn Diva is a knitter’s paradise — for the modern knitter.

“Years ago, women would make a sweater, take it out and make a bigger size sweater,” Santarelli said.

“You don’t do this to save money anymore.”

Knitting aficionados realize an item won’t be cheaper just because they’re making it, she added.

So why has the hobby come back in such force?

First, it’s portable, Santarelli offered.

“Then you have an end result,” she said. “There’s a feeling of pride when you finish something.”

Lastly, knitting involves soul-soothing repetitive motion.

When a knitter concentrates on a project, Santarelli said, she pushes everything else out of her mind.

“They have actually termed it a new form of yoga for the brain,” she explained.

People who come into Yarn Diva are not the occasional knitters who tend to frequent the big box stores.

They range from engaged beginners to exceptional knitters who make up their own patterns or improvise at will.

They also tend to be “yarn nuts,” Santarelli said.

She helps them all. After all, she was once a beginner, too.

“When I was working at school as an aide, a few of my friends would knit at lunchtime,” Santarelli recalled.

“I had dabbled in it but had no one to use as a reference point. My mom doesn’t do it.”

But her colleagues helped her when she got into trouble.

Now Santarelli is the reference point for so many others attracted to her passion.

The Yarn Diva offers Yarn Knit-Alongs to solve the knitting problems of participants as well as classes in how to make particular items – sweaters or shawls and more.

Don’t let winter blizzard Stella fool you: spring yarns are coming in soon.

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