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Ashton knits up a new business

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The Black Purl, a knitting and yarn shop, has just opened at 129 Front Street and will be offering classes to those who want to learn how to knit.

The store, which features a cosy decor including a stuffed armchair and wooden coffee table, creates the comfortable ambience that is synomous with knitting and domesticity. Shelves hang from the walls stuffed with yarns of all kinds — and it is clear that much of the emphasis here is on natural materials, such as alpaca, wools and blends of silk and cotton.

Store owner Irena Ashton has been avid knitter since her childhood in the Czech Republic. Motivated by the limited variety of knitting supplies on the Island she decided to import her own selection which she sold at local markets. Now, she has a shop from which to sell those wools and yarns.

“Knitting has come back,” she said.

“There are two main reasons people knit,” she explained. “One, to make things — you can go to most stores and buy a nice sweater relatively cheaply, but it is different if someone has made it for you. And two, the younger generation are knitting because they find it relaxing. It is a bit addictive! Knitting does have a meditative quality.

“We get so distracted these days — I’ve heard it said knitting is three percent talent and 97 percent not getting distracted by electronics! Plus, it is a hobby which isn’t very expensive.

“People are turning to things that are simpler,” she said. “Gardening, wood working — and knitting. A lot of younger folks do yoga, they grow their own vegetables, and they knit!

“It really is fun — and it really does bring people together. It’s a community, knitters like to know other knitters, and also to create a community where people can sit and knit and talk.”

Mrs Ashton hopes to further promote enthusiasm for knitting and crocheting in the community. Because knitters enjoy knitting in groups, The Black Purl is planning to offer regular sessions beginning next month, and also provide the chance for people to learn to knit. “Knitting is popular with younger people and children, and starting in September 2013, I’ll be offering classes for children as well.” In addition, Mrs Ashton is going to have a health-check day on Saturdays. A nurse by profession, she wants people to be able to get their blood pressure checked while they’re browsing.

While many domestic skills had seemingly gone by the wayside she said many people did learn to knit from their mothers, as she did, or their aunts or grandmothers. However, there are many people who did not. “Today people learn to knit from the internet — they go on U Tube — it has been revived by technology!” she said.

And with the modern convenience of the internet just a click away, knitting enthusiasts often do order their wools and notions online. “I look at it this way — I have tried to price things so that if you were to bring it in, it would be about the same.

“And you can come here to my shop and touch it and see it. Once you touch something, you know what you’re getting.”

Notions, including knitting needles and croquet hooks, come in bamboo at The Black Purl. “Natural materials — because they feel so much nicer,” said Mrs Ashton. She is hoping to start stocking cedar knitting needles to give a local flavour to the shop, and for visiting knitters, who like to purchase knitting-related goods that are unique to the area they are in when on vacation.

The wools range from $5.50 for an acrylic skein to $24 for the more luxurious blends. A ball of alpaca wool, for example, may cost $19.

“I also have some consignment items — knitting bags and things like that. I have a friend who is a seamstress, so it’s some of her things.”

The Black Purl is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10:30-5pm and Saturday from 2-4pm.

Useful website: www.theblackpurl.net.

What a yarn: The Black Purl owner Irena Ashton opens her new knitting and yarn shop on Front Street east. Photo by Akil Simmons
‘A relaxing hobby’: Irena Ashton in her new Front Street knitting and yarn shop, The Black Purl. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published May 20, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 19, 2013 at 3:21 pm)

Ashton knits up a new business

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