by Susan Gosine
To create a thing of beauty, especially by your own hands is a joy to behold forever. A knitted gift is one that is truly spun from loving hands, one stitch at a time. Come Christmas, many unsuspecting relatives will receive warm gifts, spun from yarn especially chosen for such wooly wonders at Knit-A-Way of Brooklyn Incorporated.
Seeta Heeralal stacks yarn at Knit-A-Way.
One can go wild on wool in this quirky little shop of knitting delights. Customers spend hours browsing through the myriad mounds of colourful yarns nesting neatly in tiny cubicles, identified by brand. Many knitting nerds were born here, too, in the weekly classes conducted at this nifty niche run by Trinidadian immigrant, Seeta Heeralal.
Located at 398 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, in an upscale area commonly referred to as “Little Manhattan,” Knit-A-Way is not only known for its extensive collection of knitting material but for a variety of crochet supplies as well.
Seeta started working at the shop, originally named, Knitting Hands, shortly after it opened in April, 2001, as a data entry clerk. Three years later, she discovered she had an allergy to wool. Prior to that she did not have close contact with the wool as her duties did not require her to handle the stocks.
Seeta and Kelly with customers.
And when in July, 2004, the owner of the shop afforded her the opportunity to take control of the business, she grasped it. At that time she was conducting a feasibility study in Mont Claire, New Jersey, to open a knitting shop of her own. There were four such shops there. She turned her attention to Jersey City, but the crime rate deterred her. Meanwhile, customers at Brooklyn urged her to continue the business there since it was already established and had a burgeoning clientele. So she took their advice, stacked the wool to the back of the store, since she is mostly at the front, at the cash register, and begun a historical journey into the business of knitting.
Four months after she took control of the store the allergy kicked in. Now she was controlling the stocks; stacking, pricing and cataloging. That’s how she discovered she was allergic to wool. That did not deter her. She had developed an affinity for the craft. And had started knitting, too. However, she only knits clothes for her daughter, Kelly Maharaj.
To solve the problem, she stacked the wool products to the back of the store and took her position at the front, cashing. Her efforts to stay as far away from the wool as she could manage are sometimes admirable.
On occasions when customers need assistance with said wool, Seeta, puts allergy aside and provide the service they require. Later, she would cough her head off, but for the moment, the customer would leave content with service and purchase.
Stacks of colourful yarn.
Seeta had left a life of turmoil and migrated to New York in 1989, with 12-year-old Kelly. They lived at a friend’s home in Long Island, until they could manage to live financially on their own. Mother and daughter worked tirelessly to build a future for themselves. There were rough times, horrible times, too, and there were great sacrifices, but that didn’t matter, because they were together and they were determined to build a life unlike the one they had left behind. Their goal was the same. A good life. They leaned on each and carried each other through distressing time. And then one day, their lives began to brighten.
Today, near five years later, Seeta is president of Knit-A-Way. Under her management the little shop that’s making big inroads in the community has undergone a refreshing renaissance. And it is among the first in a proliferation of businesses in the area. Security cameras have been installed to ensure customers’ safety. And the shop is featured in the annual Zagat Survey.
All through this upgrading of life, she has never forgotten the one that has truly seen them through the trying times, God. She keeps him nearby. Stationed at the side of the cash register are murtis of Lord Ganesh and Lord Shiva and portraits of the Goddess Lakshmi. She pays salutation to the deities before beginning her work day. Offering fresh flowers and lighting incense. Above, on the notice board, are photographs of Kelly and her husband, Rajindra. They too, have earned her blessings. And above the shop’s entrance, is a golden OM. The little shop is blessed, too.
Not wanting to be missed by shoppers, its vibrant exterior can be seen long before one happens upon it. A beautiful shade of purple against dark grey and a sign with gold coloured letters invites knitters and curiosity shoppers to step indoors and experience a lavish serving of gourmet knitting.
Knitting supplies in a row.
Four seasons of knitting can be bought right here, in this crafty nook, where yarn browsing is an art concocted by shoppers comparing, questioning, querying and tweaking the threads to experience the texture. Many sit at the table and ponder their next project, peruse the collection of knitting and crocheting books and magazines in the shop, or seek advice from Seeta.
And if the walls and balls of yarns could talk, they would tell of the day famed actress Uma Thurman of Kill Bill fame and Batman’s Poison Ivy, stepped casually through the door and began yarn browsing. After a long while she cashed an armful of Noro yarn, signed Seeta’s customer comment book with these memorable words, “Uma Thurman shopped here. Lovely store, very friendly,” and left. All the while, Seeta had no idea who she was, until she spoke with Kelly, and was advised to get an autograph. That was on the 3/12/2007, she said.
“This is a viable business. The volume of knitters has increased. This is the peak season, the cold months,” Seeta explained. “Shoppers come throughout the year, but it is really a seasonal trade with some.” She has witnessed a renewed interest in knitting and crocheting. “Long ago it was considered an old lady’s craft. But today, it is being taught in schools and there are many community knitting groups. This is a good sign, because knitting helps to keep young people occupied.”
While it is an expensive hobby, especially with the cost of yarn; acrylic ranging from $2.99 to authentic wool as high as $65 a ball, she believes it’s cheaper and safer for people to knit their own clothes. “You can select the quality of yarn you want; most times shoppers don’t know the quality of yarn they get when they buy ready made sweaters and scarves. Many of these are made in China, and some of them cause the skin to itch.
“Knitting is being adopted as a mainstream hobby and a lot of young people including some male are picking it up. A lot of male knitters come into the store to buy yarn for the clothes they are knitting. And they are excellent knitters. They have produced some outstanding creations.”
Main stocks are based on customer needs. The shop carries many brands of yarn, along with notions and accessories. It stocks Kollage yarn made from 100 percent corn, 100 percent bamboo, 50 percent milk. Among the more popular are Misty Alpaca, Berroco, Karabella, Lion Brand, Caron, Red Heart, Cascade Yarn and Brown Sheep. Also available are Cashmere and Cashmere blends. In stock are New Knitter, Skacel, Clover needles, Susan Bates, Bryspun, Inox, Single and double points and circulars. And there is a 50 percent off on certain items at the shop.
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Generally, knitting is addictive and can be therapeutic. It helps to relieve stress and is a relaxing exercise. “Some people started the hobby to get rid of stress caused by the fast paced life they lead, some like wearing their own creations since it expresses their individuality, and a great majority of them knit for fun,” she said.
Knitting and crochet classes are conducted every day. However, Knitting Circles are conducted on Mondays by Zabeth Weiner and on Wednesdays and Sundays by Tatyana Mirer. For registration call Knit-A-Way at 718-797-3305 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.