Philadelphia Is Now Home to a Yarn Vending Machine

Emani Outterbridge with her yarn vending machine in Philadelphia.
Emani Outterbridge with her yarn vending machine in Philadelphia.
Emani Outterbridge

When 24-year-old Emani Outterbridge was stuck at home with a broken foot this past spring, she got to thinking of new ways to bring her self-made designer yarn to DIYers around Philadelphia. What she landed on was the idea of a yarn-dispensing vending machine, which she floated to her followers on social media.

They responded enthusiastically, and after a whirlwind fundraising campaign, Outterbridge ordered three machines, ready to be stocked with rows of brightly colored skeins. Earlier this month, the first one made its society debut at Elements of Grooming, a Philadelphia barber shop owned by a friend of Outterbridge’s. Soon, curious customers flooded the shop, and Outterbridge (who was on a business trip to Miami at the time) received excited updates from the owner. With the first vending machine already a proven success, she’s now looking to place the remaining two at other local businesses before ordering more.

Outterbridge's vivid skeins in the vending machine.Emani Outterbridge

Outterbridge doesn’t just make designer yarn—she also crochets custom items for her fashion line under the name “Emani Milan.” She’s been crocheting since she was 12 years old, and launched her own online business at age 15 after finishing an entrepreneur course in high school. She’s even designed items for Cardi B, whom she credits with elevating her profile. Outterbridge tells Mental Floss that the best part about being a business owner is the freedom to be “completely committed to my own success.”

Part of that success comes from understanding the needs of her fellow crocheters (and knitters), which helped her come up with the innovative vending machines in the first place. “I was thinking … if I had something that’s accessible to me 24 hours, mid-project, if I need to stop and go get some yarn, a vending machine would be ideal,” she explains.

Since the first vending machine is currently housed inside the barber shop—and future ones will likely live indoors, too—Outterbridge is hoping to open her own brick-and-mortar store in order to give people round-the-clock access to yarn. “With the salons and the shops—they close," she says. “But if I had my own store, I can have it open 24/7, so that’s what I’m pushing for.”

A future crocheter checks out the goods.Emani Outterbridge

In the meantime, she’ll continue offering her vibrant yarn skeins and garments through her website. Though you might assume a career crocheter would look forward to making cozy sweaters and scarves for chilly weather, Outterbridge actually prefers the summer months, which allow for more “creative range”—items like swimsuits, coverups, skirts, and rompers.

While you’re waiting for a yarn vending machine to land in your neighborhood, you can follow Outterbridge on Instagram and check out her products here.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

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By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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Why Neatly Carve Your Meat When You Can Shred It Like a Bear With These Handy Meat Shredders?

It's bear-y satisfying.
It's bear-y satisfying.
BBQ Butler/Amazon

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Unlike animal claws, our spindly fingers aren’t particularly well-suited to ripping through large hunks of meat, even those cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection. Though the market has plenty of manual and electric knives to carve or slice it, shredding is a different beast entirely. A couple of forks can work in a pinch, and hand mixers have also proven useful. But the task really calls for a device of its own—something as sharp and resilient as bear paws.

Enter Bear Paws, the six-pronged, handheld shredders that’ll help you produce the most mouthwatering heap of pulled pork, barbecued chicken, or whatever other shredded protein you’re serving for dinner. The devices can handle temperatures as hot as 475°F, so you don’t have to wait for your meat to cool down before you start shredding.

Bear Paws can solve other culinary conundrums, too. When you’re cooking something especially large, it can be difficult to transfer it from pan or grill to platter; you can’t exactly pick up a searing-hot turkey with your hands, and trying to balance it between serving forks or spatulas seems ill-advised. Sticking a Bear Paw in either end does the trick. You can also stick one Bear Paw in the turkey (or watermelon) to keep it steady while you slice it with a knife, much like you’d do with a fork while cutting something smaller on your plate.

And after you’re finished, you can toss your Bear Paws in the dishwasher or wash them by hand—an especially easy task, since there aren’t any hard-to-clean holes, cracks, or hinges.

Bear Paws are available to purchase from The Grommet ($12) or Amazon ($13).