'A complete loss': $15,000 worth of yarn stolen in San Francisco car break-in
The incident was every knitter's nightmare — and a bizarre crime even by San Francisco car theft standards.
It started last Saturday when Kalliope Famellos, the owner of Anzula Luxury Fibers, noticed a black swath of fabric fluttering in the breeze outside of her rear car window. She was perplexed at first, unsure of where the material was coming from. Approaching her vehicle, she looked down at the pavement below.
Shattered glass was everywhere – and $15,000 worth of yarn was missing from the backseat of her Volkswagen.
"There's no way I can replace it. This is a complete loss," said Famellos, whose laptop, Square reader and kit holding swatches of yarn and color samples for her to show to prospective buyers were also missing. "And the worst part is they stole so much stuff they aren't even going to care about. I expect them to dump my yarn in a ditch."
The night before, she had parked her vehicle on Laguna and Haight streets. Famellos was in town for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, visiting from Fresno where her company is located. In between trips to Golden Gate Park for the festival, she had scheduled meetings with local artisan shops in the area who were interested in distributing her hand-dyed wares.
Just prior to her drive up to San Francisco, Famellos placed more than 500 skeins of yarn into military duffel bags and tossed them in her backseat. She usually travels with "lots of product," she said, and in her 17 years in business, her car had never been broken into.
Even so, she hesitated before departing for Fresno.
"Because I still know it's not smart to leave stuff in your car, I threw a black tablecloth over everything," said Famellos. She suspects the covering flagged the vandal, who then smashed her rear passenger window to find what was concealed underneath.
Everything was stolen, save for a few small, yet valuable, items. Some smaller bags with yarn remained, as did a knitting project Famellos was working on for the family of a friend who had passed away earlier this year. She said her insurance is only covering $250 worth of stolen items, because the policy is focused on covering personal loss rather than business property.
Car theft continues to be rampant in the city. According to The Chronicle's S.F. Car Break-In Tracker, 2,063 vehicle break-ins were reported in September alone – an estimated 68 per day. Most of these were in tourist-heavy areas like the Palace of Fine Arts and Lombard Street, which was why Famellos found it strange that the crime occurred in Hayes Valley.
"It's a nice neighborhood," she said. "My windows are tinted. I thought by using the tablecloth I was being overly protective."
Famellos said she wandered around five to seven blocks in the surrounding area, looking down alleys and peering into bushes. She found nothing.
Feeling acutely vulnerable, she posted about the crime on her company's Facebook and Instagram account.
The response from the knitting community was overwhelmingly supportive – hundreds of crafters reached out to Famellos regarding the incident, especially after Anzula manager Charlie Moore posted about it in the r/knitting subreddit.
"SF, my small business loves you and needs some backup help. We're heartbroken," Moore wrote. "Money is so tight." She added that Anzula's federal taxes are due on Oct. 15, factoring in the fact that the company was planning on selling the stolen yarn in shop visits this week.
Some knitters offered to recreate the existing swatches of hand-dyed fibers, which come in knit, crocheted and woven forms. Others asked where they could purchase existing yarn being sold in stores around San Francisco. Famellos's products are currently sold at six different shops around the Bay Area, including ImagiKnit and Atelier Yarn in San Francisco. They can also be found at Fillery in San Jose, A Yarn Less Raveled in Danville, Avenue Yarn in Albany and Knit House on Main in Tiburon.
For Famellos, restoring the kit is the most important thing. "It's how I make business," she said.
Moving forward, she asks that people keep an eye out for the duffel bags of yarn in thrift shops around the city, as well as online marketplaces on sites like eBay and Facebook. Many commenters on Reddit suspect the yarn is in a dumpster or trash can somewhere – the sad fate of many stolen items in San Francisco.
In the meantime, the community is slowly rebuilding what was lost by sharing swatches and knitting new projects.
"We provide a beautiful palette for people to stitch up their own creations," Famellos said. " One strand of yarn can become so many different things. It's wonderful to be able to create something that is going to be an heirloom piece that people will hopefully pass down for generations."
SFGATE reached out to SFPD for more information, but did not hear back by publication time.
Amanda Bartlett is an SFGate editorial assistant. Email: [email protected]