Wednesday, September 30, 2009
When I used to live in Brooklyn, I often went to what was then called Knitting Hands, but is now Knit-A-Way (398 Atlantic Avenue. Brooklyn, NY 11217PH: (718)-797-3305 FX: (718)-797-3431, www.knitaway.com). The store, located in the "Antique Mile" on Atlantic Avenue (before Atlantic Ave and Flatbush Ave cross each other), is easy to get to by subway. The A/C/G trains are two blocks away (at Hoyt/Shermerhorn), and the Pacific Avenue stop (where the B/D/F/N/R/2/3/4/5 converge) is a five minute walk away. On this stretch, Atlantic Avenue is a fantastic mix of Middle Eastern delicacies, Middle Eastern clothing, antique furniture, custom made furniture, oriental rugs, kosher meat, fashion stores, children's boutiques, natural and organic creams, little cafes, and... yarn. I highly recommend getting out at Pacific and walking over to Knit-A-Way. You can load up on Turkish delight and merguez sausage, browse for a wedding dress, buy things for your children, and then go yarn shopping :-).
Seeta, the owner of Knit-A-Way, took over the store from the previous owner (she used to work here). When she bought the store, Seeta was first thinking of moving everything to New Jersey, but was soon begged by her regular customers to stay put. Five years later, she is still happy about this decision. The only complication for her has been her health. "About 6 months after I took over the store," she said, "I found out that I am alergic to wool." How ironic! "I had so much invested in the store already that I had to make it work." She is now stacking all the cottons in the front, and the wools in the back. On days when she has to stock her wools, friends come to help her. "I can't take the allergy medicines," she said. "They make me drowsy, so sometimes I have to step out of the store and breathe in deeply. Then I feel better!"
The store is large, and has a wide selection of affordable as well as some high-end yarns ("I take my cues from my cutomers. Cashmere is not requested very often, but if someone asks for something and I can get it, I will."). It has an extensive selection of knitting and crocheting needles and a good-size selection of books. After taking pictures, I asked Seeta my 7 questions:
Me: When did you open your store?
Seeta: I opened Knit-A-Way in July of 2004. Knitting Hands had been here since April 2001. I used to work at Knitting Hands, and took over the store from the previous owner.
Me: So I guess I don't have to ask how you chose this location.
Seeta: Actually, I was planning to move the store to Montclair, NJ, but upon inquiring I found out that there were four knitting stores there already. I thought of going to Jersey City, but customers were begging me to stay. Crime was rising in Jersey City at the time, so I stayed put. It was a good decision. Two of the Montclair stores have closed since then. I'm still open.
Me: Who is your staff?
Seeta: I am the only one. On weekends 3 helpers, who are my friends, come and volunteer. They help me stock the wool, and stay to knit themselves. I also have one instructor.
Me: How do you choose your yarns?
Seeta: Fiber content, gauge, how clearly the labels are marked (what's the fiber content, and especially are there clear washing instructions?), texture, and--of course--pricing. I carry Barocco Pure Prima, Thaki Yarns, Cascade, Karabella, Classic Elite, Wisdom, Brown Sheep, Misti Alpaca, Noro, Plymouth, Red Heart, Bernat, Peyton, Debbie Bliss, Lionbrand (not the LB collection), and more...
Me: Who makes your store samples?
Seeta: My daughter, my weekend helper friends, and sometimes the fiber companies. Samples from my instructor are for our classes.
Me: What got you into yarns?
Seeta: Working for Knitting Hands.
Me: Do you think people are knitting more or less since the recession?
Seeta: People are knitting more.
Another informal service Seeta offers to customers is to appraise their knitting skills. If you want to make money with your designs (like selling them on Etsy), Seeta will talk you through all the different options, as well as adamantly insist that you charge enough for your time and work. A while back, she found a knitting magazine that suggested a way to measure your fabric, time, and design skills to help determine how much you can really charge for your efforts. Seeta and I agreed that many people sell their things on Etsy for way too little, not taking into account the time, effort, and actual material cost. I feel very irritated when I see a scarf being offered for $20, knowing that the yarn itself cost about that much (if not more). It is hard for other knitters to compete with that kind of dumping price, but it also makes no real money for the original designer. It was nice to meet someone who feels as passionately about this subject as I do, but I was getting very hungry, so I packed my things and went to the cafe down the street for a coffee and a scone. :-) Thus nourished, I headed back to Manhattan...