Monday, April 27, 2009
I went to Annie & Co, Knitting and Needlepoint (1325 Madison Ave--at 93rd street--New York, NY 10128 NEEDLEPOINT: Phone Toll Free 888-806-7200, 212-360-7266 Fax 212-360-0417 KNITTING: Phone Toll Free 877-289-5648, 212-289-2944 Fax 212-289-2941, http://www.annieandco.com/) on the first really nice and warm day last week. I was so happy about the weather that I took my bicycle and rode through Central Park down to Madison Avenue. Riding through Central Park is one of my favorite things to do. The streets were free of cars and the air was so clean, I felt I was drinking it. When I got to Madison Avenue, I was surprised to find myself in front of a lovely brownstone placed between two larger buildings. I had read on yelp.com that Annie’s was very small. Annie’s Needlepoint is on the 2nd floor, Annie’s Knitting on the ground floor. The person who wrote on yelp must have been very confused, because Annie’s fills the entire bottom floor, and it is huge.
I had been playing phone tag with Annie. She had spoken onto my answering machine with a very lovely, welcoming voice, so I was looking forward to meeting her. When I called that day, her staff told me that she was still in and out due to some health issues, but that I should chance it. To my great disappointment, I missed her by accident (while I was downstairs, she was upstairs, and when I went upstairs, she had stepped out for lunch). So I am sorry to say that I didn’t meet her :-(
I was, however, very impressed with the store. The inventory has a broad range. Artyarns mingle with Karabella, Rowan, Misti Alpaca, Malabrigo (lace and silky merino). The entire front of the store is filled with various kinds of Colinette. I saw Brown Sheep, Great Adirondacs, Jade Saphire, and Tilly Tomas, which like some of the Artyarns has little beaded pearls. A wall filled with knitting needles stopped me in my tracks. They looked like a wall installation, perhaps a piece by Beuys…
Since Annie was not in, I sat down with Katy, the manager.
Me: When did you guys open.
Katy: We are very new--we opened in August of 2007. Annie’s Needlepoint has been here for seven years. This floor used to be a handbag store, but it moved to a new location and the owner offered Annie the space. She gladly took it and expanded to yarns.
Me: Who is your staff?
Katy: I am the manager. We have two full time employees: Elizabeth and Guggie. Marlene, Mathew, Marcia, and Claudine are here part time.
Me: How do you guys choose your yarns?
Katy: It’s a team effort. We all talk about what we like. We like to have yarns that appear in pattern books, and it is important that we can reorder easily. We look at fiber content, color, and itchiness. We like to add new things and are starting to carry smaller companies.
Me: What kinds of classes do you teach?
Katy: Mostly beginners knitting and beginners crochet. We did a class on knitted wire jewelry. We mostly do private lessons, though. Anna of Mochi Mochi Land will be teaching knitted toys in May. As people ask we look into scheduling things that are requested.
Me: Who knits your store samples?
Katy: Some are provided by the yarn companies, and some by the employees. Some are also made by customers. Because we are so new, most are from the companies, but not all of them.
Me: Since I can’t ask Annie, what got you into knitting?
Katy: I learned to knit at six. Then I crocheted. I have sewed since I was twelve, and have been doing fiber things longer than I can remember. I used to make costumes for children’s theater. I have been knitting consistently for fifteen years.
Me: Do you feel people are knitting more or less since the recession?
Katy: I feel they are knitting more. People are watching their money, but they are still making things. It seems that people are getting more creative now. There’s a little bit of a difference in how much people are purchasing, but not a huge one. Babies are still being born. People who knit with cashmere might switch to scarves instead of sweaters. Altogether I’d say there are fewer sweaters being made.
We ended the interview, and I tried to find some yarn for the edge of a mitten I have been working on, but I was so overwhelmed by the options that I ended up leaving empty handed, except for the charted Barbara Walker stitch pattern book that I had been looking for for weeks! Afterwards I went upstairs to look at Annie’s Needlepoint. Although I know next to nothing about needlepoint, I was amazed by the images hanging from the wall, and the ribbons (is that what they are called?) looked really beautiful in their shelves.
A large table in the middle looked very inviting. I was imagining women sitting around it knitting and needlepointing together.
The staff upstairs was very welcoming. The only upsetting thing was that I had missed Annie by 5 minutes.
So I swung back onto my bike and picked up a very happy child at school. She loves riding the bike as much as I do.