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KNITTING GRITTY

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Upon observing their intimate and relaxed interactions one might assume that Dinna Diaz, Mitzi Good, Kimberly Provenzano and Sara Carder are childhood friends. They are not. They aren’t even distant family members or co-workers or members at the same gym. They all, however, have one thing in common - they love to knit.

"It’s addictive," said Provenzano. "It’s like shoes, I need to have it in my life."

These four women, and several others, have been spending weekday evenings at The Yarn Tree in Williamsburg, since the store opened in August 2001. Yarn Tree owner Linda LaBelle could not imagine her shop without them.

"This group has been with me for so long that they have gone through all of the classes," said LaBelle. "They don’t even need me. They’re just nice enough to let me sit here."

Sitting is hardly what LaBelle does. Whether ordering fibers from farms around the globe, spinning or dyeing yarns, or admiring pictures of the lambs whose fibers adorn her store’s walls, LaBelle stays busy. She also felts, weaves, knits and crochets. And most importantly, she teaches.

In Boerum Hill, another knitting class takes place at Knit Away, formerly known as Knitting Hands, at 398 Atlantic Ave. This one, however, is a bit more straight-laced.

Cubbies line the walls in every fabric and color shade possible. Four women, including the store’s owner, Seeta Heeralal, receive guided assistance from one of the store’s instructors Linda Kass-Mahler in the back of the store. At Knit Away, there is hardly any chatter, only the regular sounds of knitting: needles clicking together, frustrated sighs or helpful suggestions.

Unlike other instructors, Kass-Mahler prefers to throw her students right into a mix of threads and projects.

"I don’t encourage scarves because then it makes them fearful to do the next step or project," said Kass-Mahler, as she traveled around the table to assist her students individually. "Learning to knit is just repetition."

More of a classroom environment, the women use their time at Knit Away to bounce ideas off one another or get support.

Laura Brodsky recently moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights and took up knitting. At present, she is working on an intricate, and sometimes difficult, cardigan with lace detail. Brodsky and Kass-Mahler sat frustrated over the cardigan’s pattern on more than one occasion.

"Knitting is just one more thing about Brooklyn that I love," said Brodsky. "It gives it a homey, comfy feeling."

Meanwhile, back at the Yarn Tree, pictures on cell phones are passed around and funny husband stories are swapped. This particular evening’s attendees seem as though they are barely concentrating on their projects, yet somehow wind up with masterpieces. Diaz carefully finishes the edges of a blanket that the others created for Provenzano’s new baby.

Like childhood friends, they plan baby showers and birthday parties. They knit gifts for each other’s family members. They even travel together. They will head to the Hamptons in August for the Fiber Tour and to upstate Duchess County, in October, for the Sheep and Wool Festival. Good helped Diaz paint her apartment when she moved and also threw a baby shower for Provenzano last winter.

For many of the knitters in Brooklyn, these weekly meetings are sacred; the only time they have to relax amid hectic work and family schedules.

"Even when we don’t have class, I come in," said Diaz.

"Yeah," agreed Good. "I always pop in throughout the week."



The Yarn Tree, at 347 Bedford Ave. at South Fourth Street in Williamsburg, is open Monday through Thursday, from 5:30 pm to 10 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 8 pm. (Look for extended hours in the fall.) Priced by sessions, classes range from $60-$350. Yarn: $5.25-$100 per skein. MasterCard and Visa are accepted. For more information, call (718) 384-8030 or visit www.theyarntree.com.

Knit Away, at 398 Atlantic Ave. between Bond and Hoyt streets in Boerum Hill, is open daily. Knitting circle sessions: $20 for a single session and $99 for six consecutive sessions. Classes range in price from $65-$120. Yarn: $1.80-$65 per skein. MasterCard and Visa are accepted. For more information, call (718) 797-3305.

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Reasonable discourse

dtnova1@aol.com from Sheepshead bay, Bklyn says:
I know how to knit/Pearl and cast off and increase. I have finished some projects with the aid of some direction. Thats what I am seeking, meetings with other knitters that can guide me if I need help. The problem I have is that I can not follow the pattern books. Is there such meetings or do you think I need lessons?

Sincerely;

Diane/dtnova1@aol.com
April 10, 2008, 11:46 am

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