Hi, I'm Ellen (EllenE) owner of Crazy for Ewe
How did you get started knitting? I learned to knit in 1983 while I was in college. As a kid I always loved crafty things - I used to embroider my jeans and do needlepoint. Knitting intimidated me because I thought it would be really hard to get a good consistent tension. One of my sorority sisters was knitting a gorgeous mohair vest, and decided I would just try. I got some really awful brushed acrylic, some slippery aluminum needles and a Susan Bates "Learn to Knit" pamphlet at Woolworth's. I sat on the couch all day until I had it. My first bit of fabric was this tight, matted little wad of fabric, but I was hooked. Knitting just totally engrossed me - I couldn't get enough of it.
Eventually, I discovered that there were special stores devoted exclusively to fabulous yarn. There was a beautiful store in Charlottesville called Yarns Galore, run by a lovely woman from Australia. She was incredibly generous with her time and patient with me, fostering my love of the craft and really establishing my image of what a perfect yarn shop should be.
What kinds of things do you like to knit? Well, let's see. I originally started knitting sweaters because that's what I like to wear. I love that you can make a sweater fit you just the way you want. Lately, though, I'm into quicker accessories that give you a lot of color impact.
What kinds of knitting techniques do you enjoy? I love stitch patterns that are interesting but not tremendously complicated - easy, intuitive stitch patterns like simple lace that I can do without having to refer to the pattern constantly. I also really like finishing. That's weird, because everyone hates it, but it brings me a lot of satisfaction to do a really tidy seam and create something lovely to wear.
What are your favorite yarns? I like a nice tightly twisted merino like Aurora -8 and Hazel Knits DK Lively, These fibers are wearable all year round and are so bouncy and pleasant to knit. I am also a sucker for single ply wool and silk blends like Manos Silk Blend. I love how intensely silk yarn takes the dye, and the single ply makes it just so buttery and rich to knit.
Who are your favorite designers? It's hard to pick because there are so many talented designers I admire. If I have to pick just two favorites the, first, I love Sally Melville. I love her approach to knitting and to life. She is brilliant and creative, and tremendously humble about her work. Second, I love Chris Bylsma. She is glamorous and fun and very modest about her accomplishments. Both of these women are down to earth and accessible and freely share their themselves and their expertise. Not a designer, so much as in inspiration is Kaffe Fasset. His approach to color and design is just amazing.
Do you carry your yarn in your left hand or your right hand? I carry my yarn in my right hand, and I hold my right needle from underneath.
Tell me about your experiences at Crazy for Ewe? I guess I had always had it in the back of my mind that I'd like to open my own yarn shop one day. I moved back to the East Coast in 1991 to St. Mary's County and I taught knitting through the Parks & Recreation program. It wasn't very well attended, but I really loved working with the women who signed up. Over the next couple of years, interest in knitting seemed to fall off, and yarn shops were closing up all over the nation, it seemed. By 1995 I was busy with a three small children and still working part time, so there was not much time to knit anyway. Fast forward to 2002 when my oldest daughter was nine and my "new baby" was two. Knitting had come back, and I wanted to re-create that wonderful, cozy and welcoming space where I had learned to knit nearly 20 years before. I love the shop mostly because of the people. My team is terrific, and honestly, we have the nicest customers ever. Every day is a pleasant and creative experience, it truly is a dream come true.
What one piece of advice you would give a new knitter? Relax, and have fun. Choose materials you love and knit things that soothe your soul.