It seems knitting emerges every few years as the “it” hobby, the favorite downtime-filler of fashion models and Hollywood actors. It further earns call-outs in national media, such as The New York Times’ September piece spotlighting those who knit when attending baseball games.
With every nod to knitting’s “return,” Elise Goldschlag, the veteran owner of Flying Fingers Yarn Shop, just chuckles.
After all, she knows better.
“It never really went away,” she says. “Whenever people come in and say, ‘Knitting is coming back,’ I say, ‘Where’d it go?’”
And Goldschlag should know, as she has presided over Flying Fingers since 2003, first in Irvington and then in a boldly colorful corner space on Tarrytown’s Main Street for the past 13 years.
But for Goldschlag — and she says many others— it’s simply a portable hobby that’s become a part of life.
“I’ve been knitting since I was 5 years old,” she says. “I always knit.”
And, she adds, with a hearty laugh, it has served her well over the years.
“I have seven children and knitting was what kept me from killing them.”
In truth, she says, she would knit during their school events, following the music or sport from seat or stand as she worked.
“I was not the kind of woman to do nothing,” she says of her multitasking.
Goldschlag would eventually begin to design, create and then sell sweaters. The next step was to open a shop with a dedicated focus.
“I realized this was not a shop to play in. This was a business,” she says.
Goldschlag, who was then living in Irvington, says she not only began selling yarn and knitting tools but also began offering classes, usually to groups of less than 10 students.
“We’ve always done classes, but we also don’t want big classes.”
When WAG stops by on a recent morning, a handful of women are meandering in, casually taking seats around a table in the back half of the cozy shop.
“That’s our classroom,” Goldschlag points out to the group that will soon be working on their own projects.
It seems more like a gathering of friends than a formal class, though a teacher is on hand.
For a long time, students and shoppers arrived in a most eye-catching way, the Yarn Bus, but the famed, though aging, decorated van is out of commission. Goldschlag says she is still deciding the fate of the distinctive vehicle and its Manhattan-to-Tarrytown runs but is “leaning toward fixing it up. Hopefully by the spring, we’ll be back.”
THE LEARNING CURVE
Goldschlag encourages solo projects as well as lessons, whether one is attempting a scarf, socks, hat, sweater, shawl or blanket.
Usually, she says, “You start with scarves. They’re long and repetitive.”
At Flying Fingers, where classes are offered from early morning into the evening, teaching is laid-back, with creativity and community encouraged.
As Goldschlag says, “We’re not the yarn police and we, in fact, have banned the yarn police from this store.”
She wants to share what knitting brings to her.
“Product isn’t as important as process to me,” she says. “You don’t knit to save money. You don’t knit to make clothes. This is 2019.”
It’s creative, relaxing and filled with lessons itself — including the importance of not giving up.
“I tell people all the time, it’s just practice.”
Frustration is natural but not necessary. Even if you have tried (and failed) before, Goldschlag encourages a fresh attempt.
“You don’t have to give away the first thing,” she says. “We are not perfect.”
Knitting can even encourage some traits to develop.
“If people don’t have patience, they’ll have a hard time.”
The result, she says, is worth it: “It is Zen but you gotta get there.”
Yarn, of course, is integral to the process — and Goldschlag has a definite point of view.
“We have primarily natural fibers,” Goldschlag says. Customers, who often crochet as well as knit, have access to yarns in wool, alpaca, mohair, cotton, silk, soy (“I love making tofu scarves,” she says with another laugh), bamboo and sometimes cashmere. Goldschlag doesn’t like acrylic.
Goldschlag has her sources, from Montana to Uruguay, culled over the years — and while she offers countless color options, she’s not a fashion follower.
“I don’t really pay attention to the trends,” she says. “One of my daughters is a stylist at H&M so she tells me what’s in.”
STITCHING A LIFE
Despite her love of knitting, patrons won’t see Goldschlag working on her own projects in the shop.
“My knitting is my hobby. Nobody practices their hobby at work,” the Ossining resident says. Her creations have run the gamut, highlighted by an intricate huppa, a ceremonial canopy, that she created for her youngest son’s wedding.
It’s hard to miss Flying Fingers, now a Main Street mainstay nestled in the building that houses the Tarrytown Music Hall. Its colorful sheep mascot is perched out front, adjacent to the vibrant storefront enlivened by creative and often playful windows — the handiwork of one of Goldschlag’s sons, who works in design at the New York Botanical Garden.
“People come in. They think we’re a kids’ store, and they’re really bummed,” she says with another laugh.
But, many do stay — and become part of the Flying Fingers family, where, Goldschlag says it’s all about “beautiful yarn, simple design.”
As with many who find great rewards in knitting, Goldschlag admits to being “a little addicted.”
But, she quickly adds, “As far as addictions go, it’s not bad.”
Flying Fingers Yarn Shop is at 15 Main St. in Tarrytown. For more, visit flyingfingers.com.