Two store owners put new spin on old hobby

Knitting: Two women opened a shop in Bel Air to help people discover or rekindle a love for the craft.

October 26, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

THIS ISN'T your grandmother's knitting store, nor even your mother's.

With fibers that range from gold lame to hand-dyed, hand-spun wool from a collective that provides economic opportunity for women, and literature with moms like actor Daryl Hannah on the cover, Ewenique Yarns is bringing what was once thought an old-fashioned hobby to a large group of women who have rediscovered it or are just beginning.

"Our model knitter is professional women between the ages of 35 and 50 who has knit before, but is coming back to it again to relieve stress," said Maggie Jackovitz one of the owners of Ewenique Yarns at 130 N. Bond St. in Bel Air.

Jackovitz and her partner, Marianne Davies, preach knitting as a good stress reliever and a social hobby.

"It's like a form of yoga," said Davies. She also likened the repetitious hand motions to the use of prayer beads in several religions, "except you have something to show for it."

Two 8-foot shelves displaying fibers from wool to ribbon from Italy and China line the walls of the small store, which leaves room for a large wood table that takes up much of the room.

On a recent Wednesday, Jackovitz, 40, and Davies, 42, sat discussing anything from a pearl stitch to the local school system. Two of their knitting instructors (there are six) joined the discussion a little later with their current projects draped on pairs of needles.

The owners often invite shoppers to sit down and browse patterns, share tips and converse at the table. Jackovitz calls knitting a social hobby, and Ewenique Yarns tries to foster a friendly environment.

There is a knitting-needle exchange Thursday nights that Jackovitz says is popular with many of her customers. Classes - more than a dozen ranging from the most basic to advanced patterns - are conducted behind a divider where a coffee maker and jar of biscotti sit.

Debbie DiBiagio, who started knitting again six months ago, says that she is drawn to Ewe- nique Yarns because of the "high-quality products and friendly personnel always willing to give suggestions. Even on a busy day they always make time for you."

DiBiagio was at Ewenique Yarns recently to quickly pick up supplies. After an hour, she was still seated at the table chatting with the owners and holding a scarf that was significantly longer than when she entered the shop.

Although Davies and Jackovitz share a passion, they originally met in a focus group at St. Margaret's Church in Bel Air. Both worked part time while raising children. Davies, who was a math teacher, has a son and a daughter, and Jackovitz, a former pharmaceutical representative, has two sons and a daughter.

It was when Davies was helping Jackovitz's daughter, Allison, with her math homework that the women discovered their mutual interest in knitting.

"We were talking more about knitting every time I dropped Allison off," Jackovitz said.

About 18 months ago, Davies called Jackovitz with the idea to open a shop, and they registered in Harford Community College's business development classes. When they started to do market research, the women found that the stars had aligned in their favor. There was a boon in the fiber and yarn industry, knitting was starting to be in vogue, and Harford County was lacking a knitting and yarn specialty store.

Ewenique Yarns opened Sept. 4, last year, selling fibers from Harford and as far away as Japan.

The homey atmosphere at Ewenique Yarns is not artificial; the store is a family affair. Steve Davies built the shelves that store the yarn. Stephen Jackovitz helped develop the inventory system the store uses.

Davies' son, Ryan, created the store's Web site, www.eweniqueyarns.com, and Jackovitz and Davies use clothing and accessories their children have made as models for their customers.

This ethos extends to interaction with other knitting and yarn shops; a friendly camaraderie rather than a competitive atmosphere exists.

One of Ewenique Yarns' current projects is what Davies calls a mitten tree. The owners are asking customers to knit mittens to donate to a charity organization.

"Everyone has scrap yarn. It doesn't take a lot, but we want everyone to pitch in for people who need them," Davies said.

The design for the mittens is one of the many patterns that range from baby blankets to faux fur hooded sweaters that look more appropriate for a catwalk than a knitting store. Jackovitz said the sweater is one of the many ideas generated as knitting has found its way out of the rocking chair and into fashion magazines.

"Julia Roberts knits, and she's no grandma," said DiBiagio.

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