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Relaxation, camaraderie boost love for knitting

Anyone can hop on the Internet, head to YouTube and teach themselves how to knit.

Then they can head over to Amazon and buy a bunch of yarn and needles.

Then a few months later when they visit to Knit 1 on Jackson Avenue in Oxford for an emergency yarn purchase, instructor Lynn Wells might break the bad news to them they taught themselves how to knit backwards.

Oxford’s knitters have found a gem in Knit 1 and flock to the business for special learning events, trunk shows, specialty yarns and the most popular, their knitting circle.

Oxford’s Jane Dongieux said the social aspect of knitting at the shop since it opened five years ago has boosted her love for the craft.

“It’s such a relaxing — or can be — thing,” the 65-yearold said. “I have lots of close friends in a big group. For us, too, it’s about the fellowship. We have all known each other and met when the shop opened five years ago. We’ve been knitting together for that long.

“Tuesday is the real fun group. We bring the easiest thing that we have to do so we can laugh and cut up. If it’s real serious work we take it home. It’s just good to keep the mind stimulated and keep you physically moving. It’s just a very refreshing hobby to have.”

Patsy Engelhard, owner of Knit 1 and a longtime knitter who loves to show off socks she just made, which are normally reserved for a more advanced knitter, has a deep love for the craft.

“It’s equal parts meditation and community,” she said. “It’s something you do alone to soothe the soul and it’s something you do to elevate spirits. A beginning knitter can make something beautiful — that’s what makes knitting profoundly unique.”

Engelhard emphasized the fact the knitting community teaches and supports one another, which helps foster patience and boost the creative process.

Knitters haven

“Oxford deserves a great yarn shop and that’s what we brought here over five years ago,” Engelhard said. “We’ve evolved a lot based on what the community needs. ‘The Little Yarn Shop’ is an endangered species, as are many small businesses these days. If the yarn shop goes away, the craft goes away because we won’t be there to teach.”

At the shop artisans can pick up tools for the craft and show off their work in a studio. Knitters in Oxford benefit from hanging out in the shop not just from the collective knowledge. People from Mississippi and beyond come visit, talk, help teach and give inspiration by showing off their work.

Wells said one woman who came in to visit recently had knit an impressive 8-foot-long shawl.

“It was very important to her it be shared and shown,” she said. “It deserves to be. It will inspire people.”

Wells said there are two types of knitters out there — the person who is a TV knitter, and one who is all about the creative process, and she said there are health benefits to both.

“It’s not like gardening. You don’t knit to save money,” she said. “It’s the process — it’s good for your well-being.”

Wells was once a walker, enjoying its rhythm and repetition. When arthritis kept her from that hobby, she turned to another form of entertainment and exercise — knitting.

Oxford’s Natasha Bankhead, 35, also was searching for her creative outlet and found it with crocheting and the Knit 1 community.

“It’s something I love to do. I find it very relaxing,” she said. “It brings out my creative side. I’m a scientist by trade, so it brings out something totally different in me.”

Saving money and giving gifts she made personally also became a perk.

“I love making gifts for other people, especially baby gifts since I’m at the age all of my friends are having babies,” Bankhead said. “It’s really special to be able to give something to someone you made yourself.”

Wells said once you master the craft you share it by giving it as a gift or putting it on display for others.

“It’s that sharing that is so important,” she said. “The best person to knit for is another knitter. That person truly, truly understands the love behind every stitch.”

To teach one and all

Residents enjoy several types of classes at the store, including Saturday knit-a-longs where everyone works on the same project, and Wells said it’s an “each one teach one.”

There are also project- based classes with a teacher-guided portion. Another class focuses on techniques, then there is a beginning knitting class. Also, yarn companies sponsor projects where individuals make an item of the company’s choice with its yarn and the best item gets national attention.

One area resident won such a contest recently and Wells and Engelhard want to bring that kind of excitement elsewhere.

“So many areas of Mississippi have lost their art shops,” Wells said. “We are looking at setting up a ‘have yarn, will travel’ concept. It’s a dream of ours. It’s in the process. We are not ready to hit the road yet, but it’s another way to keep our craft going.”

The craft is not lost on the young, either. Sinclair Rishel, 21, a student in Oxford, loves knitting so much she is even doing her college thesis on the history of knitting.

“I started when I was 12 years old when I read a book series about knitters,” she said. “It’s just tactile potential. It is every creative thing that you want to do. Anything you can dream, you can knit. Plus, the fact it’s warm and fuzzy.” Rishel now works at the store and can help with the “curated experience.” “Buying online is buying blind,” Engelhard said. “If you want to see every yarn in the world, you go to a website. If you want tried and true, you go to a yarn shop that provides a curated experience.” For now, Wells will continue to help provide that experience and help turn around those who started their knitting journey backwards with the best advice she could give to knitters.

“You need to be able to touch it,” to learn, she said. “You need someone who knows yarn too. There’s a certain amount of expertise involved. It’s so much better if someone is sitting there with you. We have some extraordinary women here. There are no strangers in this shop. Everybody’s welcome.”

Local knitting events

Melissa Leapman, a renowned knitting teacher, was in town this past week and this weekend to teach four classes. Sept. 19 is the annual fashion show for knitters where they get to show off their work, enjoy a brunch and then have a trunk show.

January is the sixth annual Fiber Arts Festival at the Powerhouse.

Contact Knit 1 at 662-2382829 for information. Unique things at Knit 1

Quince and Company: Knit 1 was recently named a flagship store for the product. It is one of 36 stores in the United States that carries the brand’s 100 percent American-made wool.

Basketweavers from Tennessee have work displayed and for sale like rattan baskets and pine needle baskets.