Sue Jaffee gets excited about yarn. “Look at that! It’s so luscious. These yarns are just so soft and pretty. You’ve just got to touch them.”
Jaffee’s new shop, Knit Nirvana, opened at 7453 W. Madison St. last week. The name comes from Jaffee’s personal inner peace, which she finds while casting and purling.
“That’s what knitting means to me – peace, serenity, meditation. I never travel anywhere without my knitting. I knit on the beach although I know not everyone does.”
After the closing of Chix with Stix last year, Forest Park yarnies were yearning for an outlet for their favorite fibers: alpaca, camel hair, wool, silk and self-striping yarns.
Jaffee has a personal relationship with yarn, ever since she started learning to knit with her grandmother at age 8. “I live and breathe yarn,” she said. “Remember, you’re going to spend more time knitting that sweater than wearing it.”
Jaffee formerly worked at Tangled Web Fibers in Oak Park, which closed in 2005. Forest Parker Katherine Hegg, another Tangled Web alumna, helps out too.
The new shop offers “good quality but not focused on luxury” yarns and patterns from Rowan – a giant in the hand-knitting industry – Berroco, Fiber Company, Classic Elite, and Noro from Japan. Many of the new yarns are now machine washable “because you don’t want to spend a lot of time knitting something for someone and then have them ruin it in the washing machine,” said Jaffee. She also sells lace-making yarn and patterns.
For new-baby knitters she has loaded up on soft, washable fibers that can be made into heirloom blankets, booties and sweaters: cashmere, organic cottons and merino silk.
She also sells “sewing notions that I personally love” and will soon be adding buttons.
“Buttons are the jewelry for your hand-knit garments,” she said.
Offered along with the yarns is “pattern support,” which helps if knitters get stuck on a project. Even though she’s been knitting since childhood, Jaffee said she can identify with beginners.
“I never finished a project until I was 22,” she said. She also has noticed that many knitting supply shops have an air of clubbiness that she’s trying to avoid. “We are trying to be welcoming and friendly. No one is born knowing how to knit. Beginners are welcome.”
To that end, the shop will soon be offering classes such as “Beginning Sock” and “Baby Sweaters” and a Thursday evening Open Knit Night. The shop will also offer children’s classes.
“Not Grandma-y anymore” is how Jaffee describes knitting to her customers, who are both older women and young crafters – not to mention a few men. “They’re secure enough to be coming in and buying knitting supplies,” she noted. Knitters have their own Social Media online world, a site called www.Ravelry.com, where knitters can post patterns, questions, problems and more.
Knitting patterns can be intimidating, as can instructions with notations like “CDD: centered double decrease. sl2 tog, K1.”
“It’s like ancient Greek,” she acknowledged. For the easily frightened, she has one word: “YouTube. It’s hard to learn knitting from a book, but with a video you can keep rewinding it.”
Her children helped with designing the store’s lotus logo and getting the shop ready for business.
“Knitting is something you can do at any stage of life,” said Jaffee. “With so many things, success is intangible. You work so hard raising kids for 25 years and you hope they turn out whereas with knitting, you have something you’ve completed, which is a source of pride.”