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We’ve all seen the pictures of Julia Roberts in those sweaters she knits herself. We know that Kate Moss darns during photo-shoot downtimes. No one needs to tell us that knitting is a hot hobby. What they don’t tell us is that knitting can get really monotonous. Every year, I get the brilliant notion to knit my holiday gifts. I get out the yarn and needles around Thanksgiving, then knit and purl until the whole thing becomes so boring that I throw another half-made something onto the pile and head out to buy mass-produced presents. If only I could wrap up my unfinished mitten with a little note that says, “It’s the thought that counts, right?”
Here’s where the whole knitting-is-hip trend has some benefits. Yarn shops now offer classes and group knitting sessions — “stitch ’n’ bitches” — with wine tastings, poetry readings . . . and men. And some shops, knowing all too well about the many half-finished scarves in the world, offer quick-gift workshops, so at the end of the evening, you’ll actually have completed something more than a thought that doesn’t count.
Here are a few good shops where when you knit, you don’t knit alone.
The shop feels like a cozy old-fashioned library, or a bookstore, the kind that sells rare and out-of-print editions. The huge space is lined with tall shelves filled with a rainbow of colored yarns. There’s a large main table, and inviting chairs dot the room. Owner Mel Clark really loves company, and welcomes knitters to work at her place instead of stitching in solitude. Her place feels like a community, one where customers can get free basic knitting help over the counter, or, for more extensive questions (or if you bought your yarn someplace else), there are many classes to choose. “Knitting is a gift that lasts a lifetime,” Clark says on her Web site. “It’s a hobby that quickly becomes therapy, meditation and a healthy addiction.” Wildfiber, 1453-E 14th St., Santa Monica, (310) 458-2748.
When Suzan Mischer first started knitting, she became frustrated that she couldn’t find a place to listen to music and just hang out with friends while she stitched. Tired of sitting alone in Starbucks, she created Knit Cafe. It’s a bright spot with turquoise walls and all kinds of knitted works decorating the place like folk art. But it’s hip too, and looks more like a trendy boutique than a hobby shop. You can also get a cappuccino while you look around at the many different kinds of yarns, needles and accessories. The shop offers private in-store instruction, beginner classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays, plus more-intensive technique classes throughout the week. Learn how to do complicated maneuvers like cable stitching or knitting with more than one color. If you purchase materials from the Knit Cafe, you get 10 percent off your purchase of yarns for your classes. On Sundays, you can knit with Suzan herself. And for those who know the basics, but just want to finish something, Knit Cafe offers “quickies.” You pay 40 bucks — that includes the cost of materials — and in just two hours, you will have completed a gift. Coming quickies will focus on felted bowls (November 16), cable arm warmers (December 14) or mini–sweater ornaments (December 17). Every Tuesday is All Men’s night — for guys who want to get in on the action and find their inner Rosie Grier. The Knit Cafe, 8441 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 658-5648.
That Yarn Store
This place is more than a knit shop: It’s an art gallery, a literary salon, even a language-immersion center. On Spin a Good Yarn night, patrons read poetry, passages from novels, or just a good joke; Friday Night Fun might mean a movie or live music underscored by the soothing click-click of knitting needles; on Spanish Conversation nights, knitters are invited to habla español. Owners David Orozco and Sarah Todd, along with their brood of eccentric kids (ask them about Borneo), are constantly thinking of new activities to keep knitters from feeling lonesome. Their upcoming Yarn Swap and Thanksgiving Leftovers night (November 24) is a clever way to use up uneaten stuffing and old balls of leftover yarn. There are weekly classes for beginners, a Men’s Only night and — just in time for holiday generosity — a Quick Gifts class (Saturday, December 9). That Yarn Store, 1578 #4 W. Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 256-YARN or http://thatyarnstore.com.
Suss Cousins grew up in Sweden, where she learned to knit from her grandmother. She moved to New York and tended bar, and knit in her spare time. She eventually went on to knit for Bill Cosby (yes, those famous sweaters he wore in the ’80s), for Heavy D, for movies like the live-action Scooby-Doo (she made Thelma’s signature chunky orange sweater), and for popular TV shows like Friends, Gilmore Girls and Will & Grace. She’s produced her own brand of yarn, sells her patterns as well as her sweaters, and opened shops in New York and here in Los Angeles. Cousins has written three books, including Hollywood Knits, where she captures the whole celebrity knitting trend, and her latest, Home Knits, which tells you how to knit throws, pillows and more for every room in the house. At her classes, using her patterns, you will learn to make soft, slinky sweaters, ballet capes or hoodies — the kinds of high-end designer looks young modern metropolitan gals and guys are looking for. Suss, 7350 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 954-9637.