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Knitters can find wool in shops around the state.
Photo: Court Leve (Linda Kelley at Deluxe Yarns, Etc. in Reno)
There is something comforting, even reassuring, about the smooth slick of a knitting needle and the feel of wool as you wrap it around polished wood. Time slows, muscles relax. As the soothing rhythm of knit, purl, and every combination thereof has fueled a renaissance of knitting across the country, Nevada has come into its own as a knitter’s destination.
Shrug off a wintry Great Basin afternoon and walk into Jimmy Beans Wool in southwest Reno to finger some Rowan or Blue Sky Alpaca. Explore natural fibers at Deluxe Yarns, Etc., housed in a vintage ’50s ranch-style house in the eclectic Vassar Street shopping district. Or, if you’re along for the ride across one of Nevada’s lonely highways, stop by Pioneer Yarn Company in Minden to pick up a project that will complement the dramatic landscape.
In Las Vegas, Gail Knits and Wooly Wonders anchor different parts of the city, both about 10 minutes west and east of the Strip, respectively. And if you are curious about who is knitting what in Nevada’s great beyond, enter the phrase “knitting in the Great Basin” in your Internet search box to see artful close-ups of Elizabeth Zimmerman-inspired sweaters, socks, and felted clogs, along with insights about living in eastern Nevada from a blogger who used to knit in White Pine County and is planning a move to Reno.
Back To Basics
People are going back to more traditional knitting projects, says Jeanne Giles, an employee at Jimmy Beans Wool. “People want to make family heirloom-type items, baby stuff, Christmas stockings, things they can pass down,” Giles says.
Owner Gail Rhodes of Gail Knits in Las Vegas is seeing the same trend. “Nice wools are big. Exotics like bamboo are big,” Rhodes adds. “Eyelash and glitz are not as big.” Felting is popular, and everyone agrees that socks are still going strong, especially when knitted on circular needles. The poncho craze is over, except for kids. Shawls are good, as are felted bags. “They’re real easy and you don’t have to worry about fit,” Rhodes says.
Complex sweater projects knitted on smaller needles—sizes seven through nine—with lighter yarns, such as worsted and sport weight, are making a comeback , says Joyce Bivona, owner of Wooly Wonders in Las Vegas. “The serious knitters are coming out—the people who want to take their brand-new skill and really test it,” she says. “The creative knitter is starting to really blossom.”
Cherita Dujardin, co-owner of Pioneer Yarn Company, along with her husband, Wayne, is seeing a resurgence in lace knitting. “The more involved stitches, that’s where the fun is,” Dujardin says. “The funky stuff is winding down: the scarf craze, the huge needles.”
Traveling knitters are a big part of Nevada’s yarn scene.
“Once you’re a knitter, no matter where you go, the first thing you do is locate the yarn shop,” notes Florrie Kersey, owner of Deluxe Yarns, Etc. Hotel concierges routinely call for directions. People in town for conventions stop by. And even though the Internet yarn business is booming, online shoppers still want to see the actual store.
“We get tons of out-of-town people who have used our Web site before,” says Laura Zander, co-owner of Jimmy Beans Wool. The Reno storefront recently doubled in size to keep up with her online orders.
Wayne Dujardin laughs at the number of RVers who whip into his parking lot like it’s the last stop before the Forty-Mile Desert. “We had a lady come in,” he says. “Her husband was idling the RV out back. She said, ‘We’re about to drive the Loneliest Highway in America—he’s driving, and I’m knitting.’ She bought three projects.”
Still, the best reason to knit may lie in the ritual itself. “It’s creative, it’s productive, it allows you to mentally recharge,” says Joyce Bivona. “Plus, it’s social. You can talk while you do it.” Or not.
Davis Souza likes to knit. He also crochets. The 18-year-old freestyle skier makes hats, beanies, and headbands and has even sold a few for lunch money. Davis isn’t embarrassed at all by his hobby. Why should he be? All the cool kids are doing it.
“I used to knit in class,” says Davis, who recently graduated from Truckee High School. “I wouldn’t get much grief. It’s pretty accepted.”
Among Tahoe’s up-and-coming skiers and snowboarders, it’s hip to knit. Teenagers—both male and female—have embraced knitting as a way to kill time while traveling to events, express their individuality, and save money.
Davis and his sister, Katie, 15, were introduced to knitting four years ago on a road trip to Park City, Utah, with four fellow members of a local freestyle ski team. Their mother, Judy, who owns Loopy, a knitting store at The Village at Northstar, was working on a hat. By the time they reached Utah, she had all six kids knitting.
On another road trip to Park City in February for the all-female Queens Cup, Katie and three other girls made matching hats. Most of the time, however, the teens aren’t knitting team hats but their own, independent creations.
“You don’t have to follow the crowd, you can do whatever you want,” says Katie, a sophomore at North Tahoe High School. Nonetheless, there are trends among the knitting skiers. Fluorescent colors are popular, along with floppy hats with ear flaps, pom-poms, and bills.
Of the 30 boys on the Alpine Meadows Freestyle Team, Katie says that almost all of them knit. While they may not be doing it to impress the girls—Davis said he started knitting because he got tired of spending money on hats—it may be an unintended side-effect.
“A lot of the girls think it’s cool that boys knit,” said Brittney White, 17, a freestyle team member who started the hobby in fourth grade. “The fact that they have the patience to learn is really cool.”—By Melissa Siig
Jimmy Beans Wool
5000 Smithridge Dr., #A11 (in the Smithridge Shopping Center), Reno
Best-selling yarn: Lorna’s Laces sock yarn
Popular projects: Socks, lace shawls
What’s fun: Anything by Lantern Moon (baskets, bags, needles)
Deluxe Yarns, Etc.
138 Vassar St., Reno
Best-selling yarn: Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn
Popular project: Socks, either on double-pointed needles or the Magic Loop circular
What’s fun: The Knit ’n Rip group, which meets twice a month
Pioneer Yarn Company
1687 N. U.S. 395, Suite 3 (near the junction of S.R. 88), Minden
Best-selling yarn: Anything by Noro; Touch Me by Muench
Popular project: Socks, using two circulars
What’s fun: “Open Knits, Open Late” every other Friday night
3421 E. Tropicana, Suite H (at Pecos), Las Vegas
Best-selling yarn: Alpacas, Noro
Popular projects: Classic patterns, socks
What’s fun: Learning to spin
8450 W. Sahara, #112 (in the Lakes Pacific Business Center), Las Vegas
Best-selling yarn: TOFUtsies sock yarn
Popular project: Socks, using the Magic Loop circular needle
What’s fun: Fall ‘07 Vogue Knitting (Silver Anniversary issue)
5001 Northstar Dr., Suite 5113 (The Village at Northstar), Truckee, CA
Best-selling yarn: Misti Alpaca
Popular projects: Hats and more hats
What’s fun: Creative ski and snowboard beanies
WORTH A CLICK
Read the chronicles of an obsessed knitter in the heart of the Great Basin at knittinginthegreatbasin.blogspot.com.