It started as a tiny stitch of an idea, if you will, but a Chicago-based, online, mail-order knitting club has grown quickly, and now its two owners have opened a brick-and-mortar knitting store in Oak Park.
Oak Park's Fiberista Club, which opened in November at 1107 Westgate, was welcome news for Oak Park knitters, who had gone without a local yarn store since Knot Just Knits closed last year in the same location.
Co-owner J. Hunter Couto said he is still shocked at how successful the business has been. He and partner Joseph Claeyssen — both former ballroom dancing teachers — launched the online knitting club in late 2014, and the success of the operation allowed them both to quit their day jobs within three months.
"We thought it would slowly grow over time, but it sort of exploded, which was great," Couto said. "I'm still pinching myself because we are very blessed."
They decided to open in Oak Park, he said, because of the quaint nature of the village and the strong knitting community.
"We knew there would be people who would come to the store and take classes, and we could build a community," he said.
The shop specializes in hand-dyed fibers from independent sources and unique yarns from across the globe. Their suppliers include: Malabrigo from Uruguay and Peru; Zen Yarn Garden (Canada); Hedgehog Fibers (Ireland); and Blue Sky Alpaca, Shibui, Black Wolf Ranch and Spud & Chloe (United States).
Fiberista Club also offers daily classes for knitting, crotcheting and spinning, where patrons learn to make their own yarn.
The classes are free of charge, he noted, but students must purchase their yarn and supplies at the store. Most classes run 4-6 weeks and supplies cost between $40 and $150 — depending on the size of the project, Couto said.
"Knitting can go one of two ways — chic and proud of it or very crafty," he said. "We focus on modern designs – something you're going to be proud to wear."
He said there has been a revival in knitting the last 10 years and the pool of knitters is getting younger.
"I started when I was 20 and it wasn't odd," he said, adding that "a lot of college and high school kids are picking it up."
That's how Oak Parker Pamela Goodman picked up knitting as a hobby.
Goodman's daughter, who graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City in 2014, got her into knitting a few years ago while interning as a designer with Ralph Lauren.
She said she signed up for her first class in November to learn to knit a poncho.
Goodman took the class with her sister. Although her sister has finished the project, Goodman, who described herself as a perfectionist, said she's still in the home stretch. Once she's finished, Goodman said, she's going to take another class.
"It's just a really nice community," she added. "They are sort of my home away from home."
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