Had I never gone to Stitch Therapy, it is very possible that The Adventures of Miss Flitt would not exist. When I first began to visit Maxcine’s store, I was not an experienced knitter. I harbored a vague terror of knitting in the round, but I fell in love with the alpaca Baby Twist. It’s soft palette and softer feel called to me. I must knit a hat, I thought, a hat in the round, and so I approached the counter with some trepidation. Maxcine asked me a series of pointed questions: Can you tell the difference between a knit and a purl stitch? Do you know how to decrease? Have you knit in the round before?
I bought the yarn, made the hat, knew so little that I wore it wrong side out, and took it to show Maxcine. “Look at that!” She said. “How beautiful!” I looked down at my work and felt proud. I bought yarn and knitted a second hat for my husband. By then I had figured out that I was wearing my hat the wrong way, so I corrected his. Again I took my hat back to the shop, and again, I was congratulated on my achievement.
What next? I wondered. A sweater? I chose a light blue mohair and went to work on a Karabella shawl-collared pullover pattern I’d fallen in love with. It was a tricky. The first thing I had to do was knit a turned picot edge using a set of needles and one extra, smaller needle to hold the turning stitches. I was stumped, but I knew where to go. Brandi, the official Miss Flitt model and a Stitch Therapy employee, set me on the right track. Her directions were easy to follow, and she was patient with me.
When I finished the pieces, I washed and blocked them, and then it was time to sew everything together. Oh dear! How to sew a sweater together? How to get those tidy seams and clean lines? I went back to the shop, joined a Sunday night knitting circle, and was taught by Tony Limauco, a wonderful designer, and an expert at the mattress stitch.
I could have stopped there, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to design my own sweater, and so I did a watercolor of a girl holding a book and wearing a purple sweater with a tie at the neck. She looked vaguely 60s and vaguely French, so I called her Claudette and wrote a few paragraphs about her sweater collection. She lived on the Left Bank, rode a bicycle, and carried the kind of satchel I remembered seeing in Truffaut’s Small Change.
I brought my watercolors to Stitch Therapy. “Look at this!” Maxcine said. “This is beautiful. Can you do more?” she asked. “Maybe you could do some for the shop.” I felt shy. After all, I hadn’t put pencil to paper in over five years. It was only my desire to design a sweater that prompted the watercolor. I went home and did a drawing specifically for Maxcine. It was a thank you gift, and she uses it as her avatar on Ravelry.
Gradually, it began to dawn on me, as I continued to knit and paint and write, that I might put a book together, and when I told Maxcine about it, again she was enthusiastic. She said we should do an art show and a reading. She’d always wanted to do a reading at the shop, and wouldn’t this be perfect? She never once thought I might not be able to finish the work, or that when I did, it wouldn’t be something she’d want to show.
We launched the first book of The Adventures of Miss Flitt series, “The Strange Case of the Magician’s Cabinet”, in October, 2009, and we launched the second, “Dangerous Ladies and Opium Dens” in May.
Maxcine still asks me pointed questions, but now they are more about business and marketing than knitting. She has been able to answer questions that I would otherwise be clueless about: What’s the difference between a copyright and a trademark? What sort of tax do you place on knitting goods in New York?
I buy most of my yarn at Stitch Therapy because the yarns are lovely, elegant, and classic, and I like to visit the shop, sit at the little round table, and talk to Maxcine about the progress of the next installment in the Miss Flitt series or the yarns she’s thinking about ordering for the new season. There’s always something to admire in the shop—Maxcine’s hat designs are inspiring, and I love to see other customers’ projects. Stitch Therapy is a friendly, comfortable place, and for me it is a uniquely wonderful place, because it is the true home of The Adventures of Miss Flitt.