Retreat with 614 Knit Studio at Mills Park Hotel
By Laura Jones
Photo: Columbus-based 614 Knit Studio brings its colorful wares and mission to Mills Park Hotel, March 17-19
If you think knitting and crocheting are just for grandmothers—think again.
Both pastimes, which fall under the larger category of “stitching,” are increasingly considered unique artistic pursuits, especially by a younger generation of millennials. Columbus-based studio 614 Knit serves this clientele, as well as a wide variety of others. “We wanted the studio to be unisex. We wanted it to be all inclusive,” says co-owner Andrea Panzica. “We’re multi-stitchual,” she laughs. Panzica is planning to bring her love of all things knit, stitch, and crochet to Yellow Springs, March 17-19, at an event she’s calling Spring StitchEscape.
The brainchild of Panzica, who had struggled herself to learn how to knit, 614 Knit started in 2015. Panzica grew up in an artist’s home, immersed in the art world. Her father was both a professional muralist and wallpaper artist. “While other kids were playing outside, I was at home experimenting with all sorts of media like watercolors, charcoals, and pastels,” she says.
Later, Panzica went to school to study fashion design. But she didn’t work in her field until 20 years ago, when she started teaching sewing at JoAnn Fabric.
Then she discovered something new that intrigued her: a practice called “felting,” when a crocheted or knitted piece of wool has been treated to make it shrink down into what she calls a “crazy firm fabric.” “If you imaging washing a Merino sweater and having it come out of the dryer looking like a doll sweater, that’s a fabric you can embellish and felt with.”
Felting led Panzica to knitting, but it took years of unsuccessful attempts trying to learn at home from a library-provided DVD, before she finally took a class and eventually worked at a local store, Knitter’s Mercantile, which closed. Three days later, she opened 614 Knit.
Panzica wanted more than just another yarn store, and from the beginning, 614’s mission was broader than the Mercantile’s. Her vision was a studio that would offer education and classes to people of all abilities, warm fellowship for stitchers, and events such as the upcoming Spring StitchEscape. A key aspect of the Spring StitchEscape event, as well as the weekly offerings of 614 Knit, is the opportunity to sit in a room and knit with others, to “commune among others of your kind,” Panzica says.
“Stitching together is a little like the TV show Cheers,” Panzica explains. “When people walk in, everyone calls out their name. But instead of ‘Norm,’ it’s ‘Jean!’ or ‘Susan!’ Everyone is being creative and acting very lovely and supportive of one another. Not just of their creative endeavors, but also of their lives.”
Knitting and crocheting are avenues for creative exploration, even for those who don’t necessarily think of themselves as artists. Millennials, sometimes described as those in their 20s and 30s, often see the work as both traditional and artisanal. Melanie Purcell, 32, a weekly participant at 614 Knit’s open stitch, originally learned to crochet from her grandmother. But for the past nine years she’s been knitting, and she says it’s increasingly common for others her age, too.
“You can tie it back into the artisanal food and brewery movement going on,” she says. “People are finding their own wool to spin and experimenting with fabrics. They process their own yarn and make their own projects. But even if they don’t spin their own yarn, there is a prevalence of indie dyers out there on Etsy and Instagram.”
Purcell shares her work on social media and carries her knitting with her wherever she goes, taking the time to “get in a couple of rows,” if things slow down at work. “It’s so much more constructive than sitting there and playing with your phone,” she says.
In addition to being a creative outlet, Panzica also believes that stitching is good for meditation and stress release. “It creates time to have on your own. You aren’t thinking. If you are thinking, it’s about your project, and your problems and concerns just kind of float away,” she says.
Plus there’s that communal aspect.
“When you get together with a group of others, it makes you feel you aren’t alone,” she continues. “You get the feeling of touching the yarn, and making something beautiful. Maybe a chemo cap for someone you are thinking of, or a gift for your child, or maybe just something for yourself. And then you spend time with others and it’s very encouraging, supportive, and loving. All walks of life come in and hang out and create together. The vibe is hard to beat.”
For the Spring StitchEscape, offerings include a marketplace with many local artisans and handmade goods, workshops, open stitch, and even something she calls “stitchers’ yoga.”
Panzica chose the Mills Park Hotel in Yellow Springs because her customers wanted to get away from the everyday, and she was looking for a walkable town where people could explore local art and culture.
“It’s a crazy time right now with everything going on in the world,” Panzica observes. “I have people of all persuasions here, but they leave it out the door, and we commune with our hooks and needles. We all really get along. That’s what makes America great.”
614 Knit Studio’s Spring StitchEscape takes place Friday-Sunday, March 17-19 at Mills Park Hotel, 321 Xenia Ave. in Yellow Springs. Weekend tickets are $325, which includes Friday dinner and cash bar; Saturday lunch, dinner, and cash bar; and Sunday brunch. Tickets for the public to enter the marketplace are $5. To register or for more information, please call 614.670.5629 or 614KnitSutdio.com.