Monday, March 30, 2009
Gotta Knit (14 East 34th Street; 5th Floor (between 5th Avenue & Madison Avenue) New York City, NY 10016 (212) 989-3030 http://www.gottaknit.net/) has a very soothing atmosphere. I made my appointment for Wednesday and canceled 3 hours after I was supposed to be there (I had forgotten a half-day at my daughter’s school). I must have sounded a bit frantic (can’t-keep-track-of-anything-anymore-panicked-that-I’ll forget-something-so-sorry-that-I-didn’t-call-earlier-voice), because Laura (one of the owners) said very calmly, “It’s fine. Come anytime. We are here.”
So I went Friday morning, and met Goldie, the other owner, who was just as warm and friendly, and just as relaxed. It turns out that both Goldie and Laura used to work in the medical profession. Laura was a podiatrist, Goldie a nurse who specialized in reconstructive-jaw-surgery-recovery (it has a really fancy name, which I jumbled down on a piece of paper and can’t read now). Anyway, their prior professions made sense given their soothing demeanors.
When I entered the store, Goldie was just teaching a short haired blond woman to knit. The student seemed to be picking up rather quickly. She was sitting in front of a pile of very soft orange alpaca. Goldie explained that recently there have been more customers who have either lost their jobs or quit them. "People come in to relax in between stations in their life. Knitting makes them feel better." We sat down at the table, which was actually two tables put together: a teardrop shaped one and a rectangle one. It looked beautiful and anchored the room nicely.
I told Goldie that I had visited the store over the summer to pick up some yarn for a short vacation. She had occupied my very antsy then-three-year-old with a fascinating tool called a pom pom maker. “I have to bring one home,” I said. “My daughter will be thrilled!”
"It's here," Goldie said and brought it to the table.
Me: When did you open the store?
Goldie: Laura was one of two opening partners eleven years ago. The store opened on Sixth Avenue between 12th and 13th, and moved up here last year. I joined the team as a part time employee about 10 years ago and became a partner seven years ago. I was a private nurse, but when the services I provided were folded into the ICUs, I no longer had clients. I asked to work at Gotta Knit because it was flexible (I have three children) and because I loved the atmosphere here. It’s very upbeat and positive.
Me: How did you chose this location?
Goldie: We found it online. We were in the village and wanted to try a different location after ten years. We were in an old building in a second floor walkup. Many times I had to run downstairs to a waiting taxi to show people yarns from the store. Here, we have an elevator. The elderly and people in wheelchairs can come in so easily. It’s much better. We get a lot of tourists here, too. We are surrounded by hotels and very close to Madison Square Garden.
Me: Who is your staff?
Goldie: Laura and I each get 2 days off, but one of us is here every day. We are open seven days a week, but we will close on Sundays in May, June, July, and August.
Me: What do you look for when you buy yarn?
Goldie: Quality. It has to wear well. We are very finicky. If I can comb it with my fingers and fibers come off, then it’s no good. Softness, workability, color--certain yarns have certain purposes. Sock yarn should be machine washable. We carry a lot or Artyarns. Their sequin yarn is one of our biggest sellers. It’s almost a problem that it sells out so fast. We can’t keep it in the selves (she smiled). One of our clients sends it to her relatives in India. And we carry our own line of yarns. We work with a mill, which dyes and spins our wool and cotton yarns. (The store also carries a number of mixed fibers and some synthetic blends).
Me: What kinds of classes do you offer?
Goldie: Shirley Padden Bernstein comes in every few months. There has hardly been a Vogue Knitting magazine without one of her designs in it. She’s on the cover very often. Nicky Epstein has taught here, and Iris Shrier, the owner of Artyarns, teaches here as well.
We also teach socks on 2 circulars, Laura teaches how to design your own design, I teach the circle jacket that you saw in the front (picture at the end of this post). We specialize in helping you with your designs. We believe you should go from the fiber to the pattern, not the other way around. We encourage people to chose their yarn first, then we will look for a pattern together to fit the yarn, or we will design one for them.
Me: What yarn is your sweater made of?
Goldie: I made it out of Symphony by Prism. We have a Prism trunk show once a year.
Me: It’s very pretty.
Goldie: We also teach corporate classes, and we host birthday parties for kids and adults. We teach kids from seven on up, but we teach mostly private, not group classes. We also worked on “A Tale of Two Cities” on Broadway. We did all the knitting for it and taught the stars how to look like they were really knitting on stage. It was really fun to be backstage and be part of all that excitement! And we are writing a Fox TV blog about how businesses are doing in this economic climate. If you register on our website we will send you information about everything that comes up.
Me: What got you into yarns?
Goldie: We both have a passion for knitting. Laura got into it in podiatry school. I started at 12. The mother of a friend taught me.
Me: How do you think the economy has affected knitting?
Goldie: It’s hard to say. This is the beginning of the slow season so it is hard to tell if things are slowing down a little because of the season or because of the economy. In general more people come in who are not working. Some people come because they were laid off, like the woman I was teaching when you came in. They try to do something productive with their time so they feel better about their situation.
Goldie walked through the store and showed me all the samples, including one made for Artyarns, which Laura designed with their newest yarn, “Splash”.
Then my friend Kristin walked in to pick me up. She has just started knitting and was very impressed with the place, especially the sequined Artyarn (which can make you seriously addicted!) and the sheared beaver gloves and hat that were displayed along with the circle jacket that Goldie teaches. The gloves were so soft we could not stop touching them!
I checked to make sure I had the pom pom maker before Kristin and I headed out. Sadly, the pom pom maker was all I could afford at the end of the month, so I had to leave the Artyarn behind this time. But Anna was totally thrilled. We spent the weekend making lots of pom poms :-).