In thinking of entrepreneurs, we usually envision individuals who take on the risk of establishing a business because they have a product or service, which they believe potential customers want, knowing if they are correct it will lead to personal financial gain.
The ladies who established The Lamb’s Loom felt the same way, though the personal gain they sought had nothing to do with money.
For 14 years, these ladies met in coffee shops. Here, they would sip coffee, chat and crochet items they could donate to someone who would be touched by their gifts. They called themselves KnitWits, a shortened version of Knitting a Witness for Christ. One of the entrepreneurial women, Ann Gamblin, pondered if they could develop some kind of shop to grow their mission.
“Then we came to realize we would do it for God,” Gamblin said, “and it all came together.”
Another founder of The Lamb’s Loom, Jeanie Rowell, often helped Jacque Hull, owner of Jac-Lin’s Florist & Art Gallery, when she had technology troubles. One day in May 2014, Rowell went to help Hull. As they stood in the shop, then on Pecan Boulevard in McAllen, Hull said, “I have two empty rooms.”
As Hull tells the story, Rowell did not speak a word but a funny expression crossed her face.
“You get back with me on this,” Hull told her.
Rowell talked to Gamblin and they filed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit application and received it in just three months. They planned to file under the name “KnitWit,” but it was taken. Sitting in a coffee shop, the ladies began to scribble down other possible names.
Rowell wrote “The Lamb’s Loom” just as Gamblin pulled out a drawing she had made. It showed three lambs, a string of wool from each one rising up and wrapping around a knitter’s loom. They had no doubt it was divine intervention.
“We know whose shop this is,” Gamblin said. “We just show up.”
Prayers & Inspiration Grow A Business
The Lamb’s Loom, now an official nonprofit, moved into Jac-Lin’s. The ladies bought yarn in a multitude of colors and weights, crochet hooks, knitting needles and looms for knitting. Along with a variety of other items, these were things they knew their fellow KnitWits and customers would welcome.
They would use all profits from sales toward operating costs for the shop and shipping costs to send their handmade items around the world. The Lamb’s Loom added a Donation Chest. Here, donated hats, shawls, blankets and other items could be placed. They also set up a Sit-n-Knit Room.
“We have open Sit-n-Knit here because we are about community,” Rowell said.
She and Gamblin still laugh as they recall that they called themselves KnitWits and opened a yarn shop, even though none of them, at the time, knew how to knit.
It did not take long for The Lamb’s Loom to start inching out into Jac-Lin’s space. The ladies then knew they had to look for a larger place. On March 1, 2018, they moved into their current location at 1102 Tamarack in McAllen. They moved everything in two-and-a-half days, praying over the building first.
“It’s God’s place,” Gamblin said. “We are here to do His will.’’
Now they had space for even more merchandise, as well as for their Baa Baa Boutique, where customers can buy handmade leather goods by Abel Mukete, ceramic mugs made by Jason Bready, elephant-grass baskets handwoven in Ghana, ceramic knitting bowls created by Isaac Cardona, and jewelry and embroidered items made by his wife Katia. Customers will also find handmade mittens, prayer shawls, hats and more.
Making Adjustments & Helping Customers
With the order for businesses to shut down last March due to the pandemic, the ladies went home for three or four days before deciding they had to find another way. Their entrepreneurial spirits kicked in once again.
“There was a button shortage,” Rowell said, “and we have a boatload of them,” so they put out the word and began offering to ship them or for curbside pick-up. Gamblin designed hand puppets and created kits with everything needed to make them. Now they offer Happy Place Time, an online Sit-n-Knit group, every Wednesday from 10-11:30 a.m.
Those who gather for these meetings show each other what they are making, share ideas and just enjoy spending time together. They share devotional time every Friday via Zoom. They also offer their crochet, knitting and loom-knitting lessons one-on-one now and have set up an outdoor Sit-n-Knit area, by appointment.
Rowell mentioned a Winter Texan who came in to shop recently. She told them she had come in before when she was going through a difficult time in her life. The “lamb” who helped her that day sensed it, prayed for her and then gave her a prayer shawl.
“About the time when we’re tired,” Rowell said, “God will have someone come in and give us a story like that to remind us.”
Rowell remembers hearing the word “entrepreneur” for the first time as a seventh grader.
“I thought that word was so cool that I decided I wanted to be one.” She laughs at the idea that anyone would consider her and the other ladies at The Lamb’s Loom entrepreneurs. Oh, but they are.