August 3, 2005
It all starts with one length of yarn.
That’s according to knitter Cathie Ruggeri, who said it with reverence. Her husband may be flummoxed by how a good knitter can turn a skein of yarn into a sparkling scarf, or a fashionable furry vest, but Ruggeri and knitters like her are mastering the craft one class at a time.
Sometimes the patterns are confounding, you start knitting with the wrong end of the yarn, or your fingers get as knotted as the stitches, but the ends justify the maddening moments.
At a Saturday class at the Craft Market, 2750 S. Carson St., Ruggeri and Evelyn Arana learned how to transform one string of yarn into a “sampler.” The sampler they worked on was a more complicated scalloped pattern that could be used to edge a sweater or scarf.
“Knit one, yarn over, knit two, knit three together, knit two, yarn over and knit one,” instructed teacher Sue Kitts in a sing-song voice.
Kitts knits for pleasure and profit. She is a master-knitter-in-training and has taught informally and formally for more than 30 years. Her spectacles slipped down her nose as she inspected Arana’s sampler. Both the women were ecstatic when Arana, 62, properly completed a row.
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Little triumphs in the knitting klatch mean the difference between a costly mistake that must be undone or a beautifully completed gift for a family member.
Kitts taught Arana a long-tail cast-on, a starting knit that is popular for its ease and efficiency. Although Arana has been knitting for years, she’d been using a more difficult cast-on.
“Boy, it is a lot faster,” she mused.
“That goes to show you, no matter how long you knit, there’s always something you can learn,” Ruggeri said.
She quickly accomplished her task with circular needles, which are attached by a plastic cord.
Ruggeri uses them for everything, not just for creating the circular projects (such as socks) they are intended for. This is one of the interesting aspects about knitting: Different knitters use varied methods to reach their result.
After the sampler, the class moved on to a delicate Snow Falling on Cedars bookmark done in sparkling white yarn or croquet thread.
Kitts, 51, learned the craft from her grandmother, whom she proudly describes as a woman who could eye any creation, knit its duplicate, but couldn’t read a pattern.
But it isn’t just grandmothers knitting. Teens are getting into the trend of making their own scarves and ski caps.
“It’s ‘in’ now – the scarves,” the teacher said. “Everyone wants to be able to knit a scarf. And there’s something about creating something with your own hands.”
And the price isn’t bad either. During the winter season a nice scarf can cost more than $30. In the summer, a frayed chiffon scarf from The Gap costs $24.50.
“I bought one of those scarves and looked at it and thought, ‘I could do this myself,'” said Ruggeri. “And this year I’ve knitted four scarves and three sweaters. I’m now doing my first pair of socks.”
Three skeins of “Tickle” hairy yarn cost $10. And two of those are enough for a scarf, Kitts said. An average pair of 9 inch knitting needles costs $7.30 at the Craft Market.
Whether or not it’s the season for knit socks or heavy scarves, the three women often find themselves at the local yarn store, and there’s only three in the area. An independent yarn shop just opened in Minden.
“My husband feels it’s an addiction,” Ruggeri said.
“I’m here every Saturday,” Arana said.
The yarn store
Wayne and Cherita Dujardin opened their company on April 15 and it sells one main product: Yarn.
“We contacted The National NeedleArts Association and it had a publication on opening a craft store,” Wayne Dujardin said. “We read that. It’s very discouraging because there’s not a lot of money in this business. The whole first chapter is why you shouldn’t open a craft store. This is the sort of thing you do if you can manage a business well. Craft stores tend to fail, even with passion.”
The couple wrote a business plan and then tried to run the numbers. That was a roadblock. No suppliers would talk to them unless they already had a store.
“We had no idea what the margin even was,” Dujardin said. “I found a sales rep that would give me the basic information. So, I spend an entire week on it. My wife was knitting a blue afghan and I worked on the business plan. I typed while the rain poured down when we were on vacation in Whistler, British Columbia.”
Dujardin said they put every cent, line of credit and loan into their dream. Inventory in most craft stores are $100 per square foot, depending on size. They invested about $70,000 to start up and another $200,000 in inventory.
They found a suite at 1687 Highway 395 in Minden and the Pioneer Yarn Company was born.
But the story goes deeper than that. The two decided to open a store because knitting was their therapy while Dujardin was in the hospital recovering from a kidney transplant and a virus that attacked him after the surgery.
A hospital stay that was supposed to be for a week or two lasted 50 days. It was during this stay that Cherita picked up the hobby again and taught her husband. She finished a scarf before they left the hospital.
He couldn’t work in construction as a low-voltage contractor anymore because of his suppressed immune system, but they could run a business together.
“I have a passion for business and business structure,” he said. “This was something that we could make a living at and do together. And if my health ever deteriorated again she couldn’t go into the construction field, but this is something she could take on without me.”
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
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