DULUTH -- Every Friday night from 5-8 p.m. a group of social knitters and crocheters gather at Rare Purls Yarn Boutique and Knitterie, located in the Knox House in Duluth's Historic District. The group enjoys chatting and sharing craft secrets.
"Groups like this inspire one another. We pick up things from each other," said Carol Fristoe, an employee and avid knitter.
Recently, owner Luke Mather has expanded Rare Purls to include a new Knitting Porch that is outfitted with comfortable couches and seating that is bathed in natural light during the day.
Since the store shares the Knox House with Park Cafe visitors have easy access to snacks and beverages, such as coffee and wine. Laurie Whiteman, who started knitting when she was pregnant, jokes, "It's a friendly group with or without wine (from Park Cafe.)"
For many of the Rare Purls' frequent knitters, they are tied to their hobby for many social reasons. First, many were taught by a significant female in their lives, and therefore, knitting is meaningful for them.
"My mother taught me to knit before she taught me to read. My Barbie needed clothes so she taught me to knit them," said Randie Cowan, wearing an outfit she knitted herself.
Annelies Mow, a popular knitter at Knit Night on Fridays, was taught how to knit by her grandmother when she was a child in Germany. She began knitting again when she lived in Hawaii with her husband in the 1970s.
Mow said learning how to knit was similar to "learning another language" because of all the abbreviations in instructional manuals.
The Rare Purls Yarn Boutique provides knitters with all the supplies they need for a variety of prices. They have two rooms filled with yarn and different yarn creations. One room holds animal fiber yarn (such as wool and alpaca) and the other holds planet fibers (such as cotton, imp, soy, bamboo and silk.) For new knitters there are beginner classes and sessions offered, in addition to the library of knitting books for use and sale.
One of the frequent knitters at Rare Purls is Heidi Barrett, a knitter known to be an experienced artist and designer. She is currently focused on knitting baby clothes because she is expecting. When the knitters gathered together they enjoyed getting to see her ultrasound photo album.
At a time when the economy is hard on many citizens' budgets homemaking skills have resurfaced in pop culture. Sewing skills and knitting abilities are a convenient, practical response for honing a tight budget. Some frugal fashionistas have turned to knitting and creating their own sweaters, especially ponchos, the new knitting trend according to Fristoe.
In general, social knitting groups are also affirming. The hobby can be "very peaceful" and therapeutic, according to Fristoe, whose mother-in-law taught her to knit. The Rare Purls Knit Night regulars will often go to dinner together afterward. The public is always invited to partake in this social stitching opportunity and welcome to explore the store's unique offerings.