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. altmansneedlearts.com) 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 (www.ravelry.com/groups/altmans- 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.longislandyarncrawl.com). 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. altmansneedlearts.com Facebook: Altman's Needlearts