A stitch-by-stitch guide to the knitting craze
that blends fashion, friendship and mitzvot.
Special to the Jewish News
f knitting conjures up visions of little old ladies
making baby booties from balls of pink and blue
yarn, think again.
Today's knitters range from young teenagers to
their ultra-hip grandmothers, and yesterday's pastel-col-
ored booties have given way to a vibrant array of
scarves, vests, dresses — even bikinis — in a variety of
textures and colors your great-grandmother could only
Knitters passionate about their craft describe it as
"portable therapy," enabling them to unleash their cre-
ativity and unwind virtually anywhere,
from waiting rooms to carpool lines. And
many are turning their skills into projects
to warm and cheer the homeless and can-
One of the mavens of the local knit-
ting scene is Rochelle Imber, owner of
"KnitKnitKnit" in the Orchard Mall in
"I was born to be a knitter," said
Imber, who has been knitting since her
grandmother taught her at age 6. "It was
my hobby and my first love."
Imber decided to turn her hobby into
a business when she found that people
were literally buying her handmade
sweaters right off her back. She began
selling her creations to retail stores and
small boutiques all over the country.
At first, she operated her business out
of her home, where she also hosted an
informal knitting group, comprised of
15-20 women who would gather regular-
ly to socialize and avail themselves of
"It was remarkable, they'd come even
in a snowstorm," she said.
Eventually, she opened KnitKnitKnit
in the Orchard Mall, where she has kept
shop for the past 25 years. She describes
her store as full service, offering assistance
with everything from choosing a yarn to
completing a project.
in on just one thing."
Esther Small of West Bloomfield, said, "I tell my
husband it's cheaper than therapy"
Sharon Moss Lebovic of West Bloomfield has been
knitting "since my mom taught me when I was little,"
said Lebovic, wearing one of the more than 60 sweaters
she has made. "I always have a project going; my hands
are never idle."
Another tightly knit group is the "Knit Wits," 10
women who have been meeting weekly in each other's
homes for the last two years. Because some of the
members are cancer survivors, the group decided to put
their talents to work making afghans for cancer
patients at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. They
`Cheaper Than Therapy'
Every Wednesday night, Imber's store is
home to a weekly "knitting circle," where
several women gather to share knitting,
conversation and refreshments. They
come for the relaxation and camaraderie
as much as the knitting.
"There's a spiritual aspect to knitting," said Diane
Katz of Farmington Hills. 'As women, we're always
doing so much in so many arenas. It's a relief to focus
women have forged a strong bond that
goes far beyond knitting.
"We almost go into withdrawal
when we miss a meeting," said Linda Golding of
Farmington Hills. "We've grown to love each other so
much, we held a potluck dinner so our husbands could
According to Stitch '12 Bitch, The Knitters- Handbook
by Debbie Stoller (see adjoining story), there are 38 mil-
lion knitters in the United States — one out of every
three women — with a few men thrown in for good
measure. Four million of these knitters have taken up
the craft within the last few years, and the percentage
of knitters under the age of 45 has doubled since 1966.
Novelty Yarns Popular
According to Imber, today's knitters are
making traditional things like dresses,
swimsuits, taut and t2llit bags,
yarmulkes, chuppot, siddur covers, pil-
lows and purses. They are also using the
newer novelty yarns like fun fur, eyelash
fur, gossamers and metIllics to make
more traditional items such as scarves,
sweaters, hats and afghans.
Linda Fitzerman of Dallas, in town for
a family bat mitzvah, designed and knit-
ted a long gown to wear to the event.
Fitzerman, a former Detroiter, trimmed
the dress with hand-dyed glitter yarn and
used a technique called "short rowing" to
make the bottom flare.
"Every Saturday, she goes to the yarn
store for her 'therapy day,"' said her hus-
band, Todd Fitzerman, who also grew up
Rosa Chessler of Southfield, who has
knitted on and off for many years, took
up the craft again when the fun fur yarns
became popular. She wanted a
scarf to wear with a uniquely
colored coat, so she com-
bined a rust-colored fun
fur with another yarn to
make a scarf that was an
"It was a good incen-
tive for me, said
Chessler. "The yarn really
looks like fur when you
knit it; and it requires very
large needles, so the proj-
ect goes faster. I thought,
Clockwise from top: Rochelle Imber, owner
of KnitKnitKnit, arranges yarn in her store. `If I do this, it might
inspire me to get back
Bonnie Laker Winkler of Franklin created
this fun fur bag, one of many she sells under worked."
Bonnie Laker Winkler
the name Bags by Bonnie.
of Franklin turned her
Scarves made from novelty yams,. such as
hobby into a business
fun fin- and boa.
when she needed an