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updated: 2/7/2012 2:37 PM

Elgin Knit Works to open Saturday

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  • Betsy Kuhn has been doing fiber art for a long time, more recently getting into spinning and dyeing her own yarn. She and her husband will open Elgin Knit Works at 17 N. Grove Ave. on Saturday, Feb. 11, with a grand opening planned for later in March.

       Betsy Kuhn has been doing fiber art for a long time, more recently getting into spinning and dyeing her own yarn. She and her husband will open Elgin Knit Works at 17 N. Grove Ave. on Saturday, Feb. 11, with a grand opening planned for later in March.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

Betsy Kuhn is about to become one of those handcrafters whose "pie in the sky" dream comes true.

The Elgin woman said opening her own knitting and yarn store is something she has wanted to do for a long time, but only seriously considered recently.

And then the stars aligned.

Kuhn and her husband Ian plan to open Elgin Knit Works on Saturday, Feb. 11, and ease into their new business venture before throwing a grand opening celebration sometime in March.

Kuhn said the emotions connected to opening the shop are mixed -- like any number of major life commitments.

"The night before you get married or sign a lease on a house -- anything like that," Kuhn said. "You have that element of so excited and kind of petrified."

Kuhn calls herself a spinner, and also knits and sews and has been getting more into dyeing her own fibers in the last year.

Her husband complements her skills with his wood-turning, making her the tools she needs in his workshop. He makes drop spindles -- an older version of the spinning wheel -- that is a handheld tool for spinning yarn.

At Elgin Knit Works, the tools and the materials will be sold side by side with a healthy blend of social crafting time and class sessions two or three days each week. Wednesday nights will be set aside for an open knit night.

Though Kuhn has always made plenty of things for her family over the years, she hasn't made a foray into the business of selling finished products, largely because of the difficulty in finding buyers who appreciate the true value of fiber art.

"With my teaching background, my strengths are really in being able to show people how to do things and give them the skills to make their own," Kuhn said.

Kuhn spent almost a decade teaching home economics until eventually leaving her job to raise her two kids. With her 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter in school now, she looked into going back into education but decided instead to launch her new business.

The store will have retail space as well as dedicated areas for seminars and demonstrations. Yarns of all weights and fibers and at a range of prices will be for sale as well as spinning tools, supplies for needle felting, dyes and hand-turned wooden tools.

Elgin Knit Works, 17 N. Grove Ave., occupies space in a building built in the 1880s. Kuhn said she connected to the antique feel of the space as much as anything else and plans to incorporate decorations to match the style and feel of the building itself.

Though Kuhn got into fiber arts as a child in a family of artists, she did a lot of sewing in her early life, taking fashion programs during college and only later picking up knitting. She said when she had children and the need for a portable hobby, knitting filled time and kept her feeling productive.

A family focus on self-sufficiency encouraged Kuhn to start spinning her own yarn to make into sweaters and more functional products. And the draw of knitting was being able to do it while waiting for the kids to get out of school or finish a piano lesson.

"I take it everywhere I go," Kuhn said. "My hands are never resting."

Elgin Knit Works will be open at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday with closing times depending on that day's events. Visit elginknitworks.com for details as the store gets closer to opening.

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