Today, dear readers, our LYS interview takes us a bit closer to home in the good ol’ Midwestern U. S.! We are visiting Knitche, which is located in Downers Grove, a suburb just west of Chicago, Illinois.
Let’s check in with Kathy Ticho, owner of Knitche! Here she is (second from the right) with the rest of the staff at Knitche, all poised and ready to help you find your knitting (k)ni(t)che!
Neighbor Jillian: Kathy, thanks so much for being here today! *enthusiastically shakes her hand* I am excited to get started, as we’ve got a lot of fun ground to cover today. I love your shop name, it’s so clever!
Kathy: Thanks! The by-line for our name reads “…find yours in Downers Grove,” which alludes to the word play we intended for our shop name.
Neighbor Jillian: So cute. How long has Knitche been open?
Kathy: Knitche opened in July 2004 on Main Street here in Downers Grove, though last August we got the “7-year Knitche” and moved across the street to our current location, an historic stand-alone building that was originally a saddle and harness shop in 1897. We’ve maintained a few equestrian-themed fixtures, like our carousel horse mascot Black Purlie, in homage to the building’s past.
Neighbor Jillian: That is very cool. *stage whisper* I see Black Purlie is even doing a bit of marketing work, serving as a sturdy hanger for colorful projects! Tell me more about your shop and the types of options I would fine upon entering.
Kathy: Well, we strive to create a “niche” for all fiber enthusiasts, providing an oasis of color, texture, sound, smell, and taste. In addition to being a full-service yarn shop offering instruction in hand knitting, spinning, and crochet, we also have an in-house espresso bar and serve light sweet and savory fare.
Neighbor Jillian: *eyes get wide* Wait. I don’t mean to gloss over all the bits about yarn crafts, but did you just tell me you have an espresso bar inside your shop??
Kathy: I sure did!
Neighbor Jillian: Indeed, there it is! Imagine how speedy I would be with a bit of espresso before starting a project! I’d be done in no time!
Kathy: Haha, yes! Sometimes that little kick of energy is helpful.
Neighbor Jillian: Let’s talk a bit about how you arrived at this point. How did your interest in yarn and yarn crafts develop, and how did your passion for these activities lead you to opening a shop?
Kathy: After my second child arrived, I took a break from my job as an air pollution enforcement officer with the U.S. EPA to spend more time with my son and daughter. I taught myself to knit, thinking it would be the perfect activity to do while waiting in the school pick-up line and at various activities that the kids became involved in. I liked feeling productive and creative while still being able to interact and participate in my childrens’ lives. I frequently met with other moms at a local coffee shop to knit during music and sporting events. It was then that I started to think that perhaps I could create a similar coffee shop atmosphere, but one that catered specifically to the hand knitting enthusiast by merging these symbiotic passions. Although I am the first in my family to become directly involved in fiber arts, my mother is a graphic artist (she designs all the shop’s logos) and probably passed her love of color and design on to me.
Neighbor Jillian: Absolutely! You and your mom seem to have the same loves, they just express themselves in a different way, whether it’s through yarn or graphics.
Kathy: And even before I showed the slightest inclination in this area, my grandmother willed her antique Finnish spinning wheel to me, possibly predicting that I’d head down this path someday. I keep the wheel at the shop on permanent display.
Neighbor Jillian: What a fortuitous gift! Do you have much time for knitting for your own enjoyment these days?
Kathy: Although sometimes I’d love to just be a customer in my own shop rather than do all the myriad tasks necessary to keep a small business running smoothly, I do enjoy helping someone find the perfect project or yarn, witnessing the excitement of a grandparent-to-be picking out a sweet baby sweater, and playing a small role in the warm and lasting relationships forged around the Knitche farmhouse table.
Neighbor Jillian: I bet you play a bigger role in forging those relationships than you realize, as I am sure your shop is an integral part of the crafting community in your area.
Kathy: Definitely. I feel that our store truly functions as a community service center in that we teach new skills, provide social interaction, offer counseling (not really, but it seems that way), and beautify our surroundings, one f.o. at a time!
Neighbor Jillian: Absolutely! How about you? Who was most influential for you along this journey?
Kathy: I’ve met so many helpful people in this business and have swapped and shared ideas with them. I feel that the vast majority of folks involved in the fiber arts want to see everyone succeed and are very generous with their time and advice. In particular, when I was first doing research to open my shop nine years ago, I remember reaching out to Kit and John at Churchmouse Yarns & Teas in Washington, who were incredibly supportive and informative. I have since been asked for similar input by other would-be shop owners and I hope I have been able to “pay it forward.” I had the pleasure of seeing Kit again at a recent yarn trade show and she’s just as kind-hearted and inspirational as ever!
Neighbor Jillian: I have also experienced a feeling of camaraderie with fellow knitters and believe that we do all want each other to succeed and share in this hobby that gives us such joy. We like passing that joy on to others! Let’s talk about the activities that help to forge friendships within your shop! I hear you are doing some neat things with the Seeing Stars Blanket?
Kathy: We carry practically the full line of Spud & Chloë and Blue Sky Alpacas yarns and patterns, but I have to admit that I hadn’t personally worked with the Sweater yarn much until we decided to offer the Seeing Stars Blanket as a class here at Knitche. Now it’s one of my favorite yarns and we carry the full 29-color range. So soft in the hand, the perfect weight, year-round wearability and, oh, the colors!
Kathy: I’ve always loved the crazy, colorful look of a patchwork throw and this blanket has struck the right balance between kitschy and classy. It’s so fun to see everyone’s strategies play out, some opting for a more subdued palette of limited colors in a systematic formation and others, like myself, throwing caution to the wind and letting chance play a starring role. The join-as-you-go hexagons are simple enough for even a beginning level crocheter and the project has broad appeal because you don’t necessarily have to commit to a certain size when you start. Some students have opted to make it a table runner, while others get really motivated and want a full bedspread. My only problem is that now I have this unrealistic urge to redo my bedroom entirely in white so that this blanket would be an amazing focal point!
Neighbor Jillian: Yes! Modular yarn crafting is a lot of fun because you can start out small and then go as big as you want! When you combine that with all the color choices of Spud & Chloë Sweater, it makes for a grand time of experimentation and exploration. I bet some class-goers surprised themselves with how far they took their project! So, we know you own a yarn shop, but do you have a personal collection of yarns, fabrics, textiles, other crafty-type things?
Kathy: I believe my collection is probably my shop itself. I take a lot of care in sourcing yarns, books, patterns, and accessories, often times picking up new lines during my travels abroad. Your question reminds me of an encounter I had several years back with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. A few of us from the shop had gone to see the Yarn Harlot speak at a local bookstore. At the end of her presentation, we all went up to meet her and the discussion turned to stash. As everyone was shamefully admitting the generous size of their personal yarn stash, I piped in, “I really don’t have much of a stash,” to which my friend remarked, “Kathy, you own a yarn shop!” Stephanie astutely noted, “Honey, you are in complete denial!”
Neighbor Jillian: Hehe, that is pretty funny! It is fun when others add a perspective you had never considered before! Let’s close today with a couple fun tidbits. If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?
Kathy: Who has time to read? I’m too busy knitting! But, I suppose I wouldn’t mind being Lucy Honeychurch from E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View. Being lost in Florence without a guidebook sounds very appealing, as long as I have my knitting bag in tow!
Neighbor Jillian: Indeed! As long as we have our knitting, there is no adventure too big for us! And, speaking of adventure, if you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Kathy: I think I’d like to be a superhero of my own making—some sort of octopus-like creature that has eight sets of arms to knit or crochet eight different projects at the same time, coupled with advanced brain power to keep track of all of them and the ability to morph back into a normal two-armed human being at will, so that no one would be the wiser and everyone would be amazed at my output!
Neighbor Jillian: Hehehe, I think a lot of knitters, including Cousin Katie, could relate to the desire to have more arms for more projects!
Neighbor Jillian: Kathy, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to chat with me! It was a lot of fun to interview you and get to know you better, and it’s made even more fun by the fact that we got to meet you at TNNA this year!
This is Neighbor Jillian, signing off on another interactive and delightful interview! Dear readers, even if you don’t live near Knitche, you can keep up with this spunky shop by liking them on Facebook, heading to their website, following them on Twitter, and joining their Ravelry group. (And if you are an octopus, you can keep up with all those places at the same time!)
Pattern: Seeing Stars Blanket
Designer: Lindsay Ingram
Size: Width: 55 (70, 75, 85)
• Length: 56½ (90½, 90½, 90½)
Needle: Size G (4mm) hook, or size needed to obtain gauge
Yarn: Spud & Chloë Sweater
Pattern available at the Spud & Chloë Pattern Store