Business: Believe It Or Not, There Are A Lot Of Adventures In Knitting
By: Susanna Graham-Pye
Shop owner Kathie Hammatt helps one of the Saturday drop-ins with a stitch question. SUSANNA GRAHAM-PYE PHOTOS
EAST HARWICH – An exclamation of "cookies!!" (someone points out the container of chocolate chip cookies) and a burst of laughter answers the query "what brings you here to knit together?" More responses tumble around the table:
"It's the company. Definitely the company."
"And the help, you can get questions answered when you’re reading a pattern. Or, figure out how to fix something you’ve done wrong."
"Ideas, new ideas."
"You can find a good doctor."
"Everything you need to find for life you find with your knitting group."
At Adventures in Knitting, for close to eight decades, people have been sharing yarns, literally and figuratively.
"So much of what happens here is about the sense of community," says Kathie Hammatt, owner of the store. An avid knitter, she was a customer long before taking the leap and buying the business. Today, Hammatt and several others who work with her offer a deep well of knitting and crochet experience. The skill and years of practice under one roof are something that sets the store apart, Hammatt believes. That the store has so many models of patterns for knitters to see and try on also helps those trying to figure out what project they might want to tackle. Each of the sample sweaters, hats, mittens and other pieces are knit by the women who work there.
Adventures in Knitting, approaching 80 years in business, has been a mainstay for Cape crafters. Customers come from as far away as Marstons Mills and Sandwich. Hammatt has a group of men who come to knit from the outer Cape. Scores of Cape Codders have learned to knit here, and many continue to cast on their first stitches under the guidance of those who work here.
"The level of expertise we have here is impressive," Hammatt says.
The shop first opened its doors in Harwich Port, but today is located in East Harwich off Route 137. The not-so-new-anymore location is filled with natural light. A spectacular array of yarns offers a feast of color and texture for the senses. Over the years, Hammatt says knitting trends come and go. Felting, roving, knitting with big yarn and big needles have been and gone, or stuck around.
"Socks are big right now," she notes with a smile, glancing around the room. People work on smaller projects, such as scarves, cowls or hats, she said. "They’re quick to work up," she says. "And you’re left with something hand crafted and beautiful."
On this particular Saturday morning, projects of those working around the table vary. Two people are knitting socks, and the pair strikes up a good natured debate about the best method — two socks on needles side by side to assure they match — or one sock at a time. Sally Neese, who works at the shop, is working on a glorious sweater with striking shades and an intricate pattern.
"I’d never think of putting these colors together," she says, pointing out she’d gotten the yarn and directions in a kit.
This particular group is typical of the many that meet regularly at Adventures in Knitting. Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. are drop in sessions.
"You can bring anything you’re working on and we can help you if you’re having trouble with something," Hammatt says, adding these open classes can draw between 12 to 19 people.
"It can get very crowded," says employee Claire Jourdenais, another of the shop's resident knitters. "Lots of people come just for the friendship, the company."
Area knitters can find a variety of opportunities for community and learning at Adventures in Knitting. In addition to the Saturday's "drop in" sessions, "knit-alongs" are offered. In these classes, those attending all work on the same pattern. Some examples are cowls, socks, mittens and hats. At times, more ambitious projects are tackled. Adventures in Knitting offers over 30 classes a month and welcomes knitters of all skill levels to its gatherings. The schedule is posted on the store's website.
One of the biggest changes the three women have seen over time is the increase in the variety of yarns. The shop carries more than 25 brands of yarns, from old favorites such as Plymouth to yarns from around the world. Hammatt also dyes and sells her own Cape Cod brand, with various shades inspired by the Cape's water-touched light, the seasons of the year and moods each brings.
"I love it," she says of dying yarn. "It's like a little miracle, each time, when you set out with an idea and then you see what happens. I use a lot of gray. Black is the presence of all colors. So, when you’re using gray, these little pops of color show up, unexpectedly. That's what I love most, the unexpected." Hammatt does special orders as well. She points to a bag of yarn waiting for pick-up, a special request from someone who wanted to capture a Rock Harbor Sunset.
Knitting is "meditative," Jourdenais says. "The new yoga," Neese agrees.
Walking into a shop, especially when a group of knitters is working together, anywhere you go around the world, often "you just feel at home," Hammatt says.
"You know you’ve found your tribe," Neese concludes.