Crochet! - - Contents - By Susie Allen

Great yarn stores are sprin­kled through­out the coun­try as lit­tle gems for us to dis­cover and ex­plore. When I travel, I love plan­ning my trip based on the lo­cal yarn shops to dis­cover. Be­fore I leave, I con­duct an ex­ten­sive search via the in­ter­net of the area I am trav­el­ing to. I usu­ally call ahead to con­firm hours and lo­ca­tions es­pe­cially be­cause it is not un­com­mon for my fam­ily to drive out of our way up to 50 miles so that I can check out an­other hid­den gem. Liv­ing on Long Is­land, I love to travel to the pic­turesque East End of the Is­land. On a trip about 3 years ago, I found Altman's Needlearts lo­cated on Love Lane in Mat­ti­tuck, N.Y. It has be­come one of my sta­ple yarn shops that I travel to. I re­cently caught up with shop owner Kate Altman to find out what makes up the heart of Altman's Needlearts.

Q: What is your back­ground in nee­dle arts?

A: I have been sew­ing since I was very small when I lived in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. I made most of my own clothes in high school and went on to study tex­tile de­sign at San Diego State. I spent time weav­ing, em­broi­der­ing, knit­ting, cro­chet­ing and sew­ing un­til I got pre­oc­cu­pied with my col­lege work in fine art. I re­turned back to my nee­dle arts back­ground in 1985 when I started knit­ting and cro­chet again. I found my­self re­ally en­joy­ing the process of mak­ing. Af­ter an­other brief break, while man­ag­ing my ca­reer in in­te­rior de­sign and rais­ing my young daugh­ter, Emma, I re­turned to my love of knit­ting and cro­chet­ing when I started the store over 3 years ago.

Q: What in­spires you about cro­chet? A: Cro­chet al­lows me to en­joy the process of stitch­ing. I re­ally en­joy freeform cro­chet­ing, which al­lows me to be in­spired by the mo­ment. I also en­joy the pat­terns in­her­ent in the stitches and re­peats. The eye- pleas­ing com­bi­na­tions speak to me.

I also en­joy my abil­ity to ex­plore color in my cro­chet. I live for color, and hence I think color, dream color and ex­pe­ri­ence color. The tex­tures of cro­chet jux­ta­posed with the color of the var­i­ous gor­geous yarns make the per­fect cre­ative can­vas. Q: How long have you been here? A: We moved to Love Lane in Mat­ti­tuck, N.Y., ap­prox­i­mately three and a half years ago. The North Fork wel­comed us with open arms and we have built a great com­mu­nity of stitch­ers of all lev­els. We carry a full line of needle­work ac­ces­sories for ev­ery­one from knit­ters to cro­cheters to needle­work­ers to sew­ers.

Q: What brought you to the North Fork?

A: About 30 years ago, I dis­cov­ered the North Fork as the most beau­ti­ful place in the world. For those who have never been, the North Fork is a truly unique place. The scenery is sprin­kled with farms and beaches. There is not a place around that is not in­spir­ing. When I started seek­ing a lo­ca­tion for my busi­ness, I found the per­fect place nes­tled in Mat­ti­tuck on a street called Love Lane.

Q: What about the North Fork in­spires you?

A: The color of the light cap­tures me. It is truly breath­tak­ing. No mat­ter the time of day on the North Fork, the light dances across the land­scapes. Be­cause we are near wa­ter, the sun­sets are amaz­ing. The feel­ing of the en­vi­ron­ment is re­laxed and open, very sim­i­lar to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia where I am orig­i­nally from. This care­free at­mos­phere lends it­self to fos­ter­ing cre­ativ­ity.

Q: Who in­spires your cro­chet? A: Be­cause I love color and love cre­at­ing some­thing out of noth­ing, I was most in­spired by my grand­mother's cro­cheted afghan. She used all of her scraps to make a beau­ti­ful blan­ket out of what seemed like noth­ing. The myr­iad of seem­ingly non- re­lated col­ors came to­gether in that com­pleted afghan in what seemed like a beau­ti­ful piece of fine art. I am sure that at the be­gin­ning of that project she did not fore­see the beauty that re­sulted. Q: When did you learn to cro­chet? A: I learned to cro­chet in sec­ond grade. While my aunt had a hand in teach­ing me, I am pre­dom­i­nantly self­taught. I en­joyed the tac­tile ex­pe­ri­ence so much that, through per­sis­tence and ex­plo­ration, I be­came pro­fi­cient in the foun­da­tional skills.

Q: What is your fa­vorite cro­chet tech­nique?

A: De­spite the many cro­chet tech­niques, I re­ally love the com­bi­na­tions of the ba­sics—the beau­ti­ful in­ter­play of the ba­sics, the rhythm of my hands while mak­ing and let­ting the col­ors do what they do best.

Q: How does your shop cel­e­brate cro­chet?

A: Be­ing that I love cro­chet, I in­vite my cus­tomers to learn, make and ap­pre­ci­ate. We of­fer a va­ri­ety of cro­chet classes at var­i­ous lev­els. We host two open stitch­ing groups, one on Mon­day morn­ing and one on Thurs­day night. We also have many cro­chet works of art dis­played through­out the shop made by our friend Evy Leonard.

Q: Tell us more about Evy Leonard's work?

A: Evy is quite an ex­tra­or­di­nary cro­cheter who is in­spired by color as well. She cre­ates her works of art with gor­geous lace-weight ar­ti­sanal yarn that is of­ten hand-painted. She uses stitch dic­tio­nar­ies that help to bring her mind's eye to life.

Evy's pieces are one of a kind. We are her ex­clu­sive dealer of hand­made works of art. She has an ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­nate sense of color. Peo­ple re­spond to her pieces like they do art. Her blan­kets are like paint­ings you can throw around. Her tech­nique is beau­ti­ful and tidy. She of­ten uses five col­ors per granny square and de­signs them ex­tem­po­ra­ne­ously. She has de­vel­oped her own or­derly sys­tem where she makes all the squares sep­a­rately, blocks them and cro­chets them to­gether. Evy and I go back to when I used to live in Brook­lyn. We con­tinue to be great friends. While she has moved to up­state ( Woodstock, N.Y.) she teaches at our shop three to four times per year. Our cus­tomers love her class so much that some­times they take it over and over. Each time they walk away with a new bit of in­for­ma­tion, in­spired to be­come mak­ers.

Q: How do our read­ers find out more about you?

A: We have a web­site (www. alt­ where we try to in­form, in­spire and in­vite our cus­tomers to join our com­mu­nity of stitch­ers. We have an ac­tive Face­book page where we try to post our week- to- week in­for­ma­tion. You can find it by search­ing for Altman's Needlearts. We also have a bi­monthly news­let­ter high­light­ing our classes and spe­cial events. You can also check us out in our Ravelry group as well (­mans- ravel ry- cir­cle). We in­vite ev­ery­one from near and far to come join our Altman's Cir­cle.

Q: How do you in­vite cus­tomers to be­come a part of your com­mu­nity?

A: We have two weekly stitch­ing ses­sions. One Mon­day morn­ings from 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and an­other Thurs­days nights from 6:30– 8:30 p.m. We wel­come stitch­ers of all lev­els to come join us for great stitch­ing and great com­pany. We also have a monthly group called Altman's Sock Cir­cle that in­vites all to work on sock- re­lated projects. While there is no for­mal in­struc­tion, we are al­ways there to en­cour­age and in­spire. Classes are an­other great way to be­come part of our com­mu­nity. We hold reg­u­lar classes in cro­chet­ing, knit­ting, sew­ing and em­broi­dery. We in­vite all skill lev­els to join us as well as all ages from 7 and up.

Q: What are some spe­cial events you would like our read­ers to know about?

A: Ev­ery year we par­tic­i­pate in the Long Is­land Yarn Crawl, which is held mid­spring and in­volves ap­prox­i­mately 10 to 15 lo­cal yarn shops across Long Is­land (www.long­is­land­yarn­ We par­tic­i­pate in WWKIP ( World Wide Knit in Pub­lic Day) day in June, where we sit out on Love Lane stitch­ing our cur­rent projects.

Q: When our read­ers are plan­ning a trip to your shop, what else in the area do you rec­om­mend they add to their itin­er­ary?

A: We are truly blessed to have a great va­ri­ety of ex­pe­ri­ences to choose from. There are many fan­tas­tic places to en­joy lo­cal cui­sine, es­pe­cially Good Food, Love Lane Kitchen and Lom­bardi's Mar­ket. We are nes­tled in the heart of Long Is­land's Wine Coun­try and rec­om­mend plan­ning a wine tast­ing as part of your tour. Lastly, our farms pro­duce many de­light­ful prod­ucts from fresh pro­duce to jams and jel­lies to the best pies around.

Altman’s Needlearts 195 Love Ln., Mat­ti­tuck, NY 11952 (631) 298-7181 Web: www. alt­ Face­book: Altman's Needlearts

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