Even experienced knitters need to tink (unknit one stitch at a time) and frog (rip out several rows) to get to and correct their mistakes.
Until very recently, I generally gave up and lived with my mistakes, started over, or threw myself on the mercy of a more skilled knitter, such as Susan Odessa, who owns Knit Happens, on Providence’s East Side.
After discovering a complicated problem on my nearly finished sweater, I remembered seeing Odessa’s February email announcing the opening of Knit Happens. I was delighted, and relieved, to connect with Odessa, who painlessly got me back on track.
Odessa, whose maternal grandmother, Lil Chorney, taught her how to knit, is a warm, reassuring and highly competent presence at Knit Happens, which is replete with samples of handmade baby clothes and stuffed animals she’s knit; carefully curated collections of gorgeous yarns and knitting supplies for sale; and comfortable seating for drop-in knitting sessions and private lessons.
I talked with Odessa to learn more about the inspiration behind Knit Happens, and her tips for knitters. As we talked, a woman from Scotland, who is an experienced knitter, and her daughter-in-law, a novice knitter, came in to buy yarn and exchange knitting stories. Their conversation with Odessa about which yarns to purchase and what to make – slouchy socks, a shrug, something else? – showed how seamlessly knitting can bring people together.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Odessa saw a surge of people wanting to knit and crochet. Even in the pandemic’s earliest days, in March 2020, a story in Forbes magazine, “Knitting Has Become the Cool Activity During the Coronavirus Crisis,” reported: “Since the coronavirus hit, global sales for We Are Knitters, a beloved brand [which Knit Happens sells] known for its bagged kits and vibrant community, have been increasing more than 75% weekly.”
While Odessa is the only knitter in her family, Knit Happens is a family affair: her husband of 40 years, Ed, offers financial support and strategic sales acumen; daughter Brooke Spence provides marketing advice; and son Ben offers business advice.
The following Q&A, from a recent interview, has been lightly edited for clarity.
How did Knit Happens evolve from your e-commerce presence into a shop?
There’s nothing like touching and seeing first-hand the yarns you want to buy; you can’t do that online. But even more, I wanted to replicate the sense of community among knitters who had knit at Wayland Yarn in Pawtucket. Groups of women would gather together for help, inspiration and advice. I met women I would never have otherwise known, and many of them have become dear friends.
You’ve been a serious knitter for more than a quarter-century. Can you share some of your best knitting tips?
Yes, these are some hard-earned valuable lessons I’ve learned:
Read the entire pattern before choosing a project. If it’s too complicated or involves learning too many new stitches, you’re not likely to complete the project. Even experienced chefs read a new recipe before they begin cooking!
When you buy multiple skeins of the same yarn for a project, make sure all the skeins have the identical weight and dye lot number. That’s something I learned the hard way!
Invest in good-quality yarn; if you’re going to make something for yourself or for a special gift, don’t use yarn that won’t hold up well.
You want your finished product – whether it’s a scarf, a blanket or a coat – to look that way. The careful attention to detail – neatly made buttonholes, even seams and neat edges – makes your knitted project look handmade, not homemade.
Recognize your skills and preferences. (Odessa admits to having been a “remedial student” when she made a crocheted jacket, and she hires someone to seam together the pieces of her more elaborate sweaters and coats.)
There’s help to be had at Knit Happens, from other knitters, and from YouTube videos, which have instructions on all knitting challenges.
Knitting is my happy place; it can be yours, too.
NANCY KIRSCH is a freelance writer. She was the editor of The Jewish Voice from 2009-2014. Contact her at email@example.com.