By Ted Schnell • BocaJump | Feb. 4, 2012
If you see a half-dozen women putting hand-knit sweaters on trees in Elgin’s downtown during the lunch hour Sunday, don’t question their sanity — they’re doing so to celebrate the arrival of a new business in the Center City.
Elgin Knit Works, 17 N. Grove Ave., is poised to open Feb. 11 under the proprietorship of Betsy Kuhn and her husband, Ian, who live on the city’s East Side and are excited about all the downtown represents — the history, the architecture, the Fox River.
Downtown Neighborhood Association Executive Director Tonya Hudson on Friday said putting sweaters on some of the area's trees is intended to promote the new shop's opening.
“Everything fell right into place for us,” Betsy said Friday, the same day she picked out the furniture for her new shop.
They plan to offer knitting supplies, as well as to furnish the needs of those who prefer to spin their own wool. Ian, Betsy said, has skills as a woodworker and makes drop spindles, which will be among their offerings.
She will be the most visible at the shop, Betsy explained. Ian already has a career, but he has skills — besides the woodworking — that will help on their website and in point of sales.
But they want the shop to be more than that — they want it to be a hub for the knitting community, Betsy said, and are planning a variety of classes and other activities to accentuate their offerings.
For example, she said, there will be classes for those who skills range from beginner to advanced in knitting, crotchet, needle-felting, lacework, and spinning.
Because knitting can be a social activity, she said, there will be time set aside for open knitting, where folks can gather to work on their projects, to visit with each other and even to share their skills.
“We can sit, knit or crochet and talk with each other,” said Betsy, adding that those sessions will be on Wednesday nights and all day on Sundays.
She also plans a charity knitting time as well, noting School District U-46 often requests hats and mittens for less affluent students in the cold weather months.
Natives of the area, when they moved to Elgin, Betsy said they were excited about everything they learned about the community.
“We fell in love with Elgin — the architecture, the river, its history,” Kuhn said. “There’s the spectacular (Gail Borden Public) Library, The Centre — this just made sense to us when we decided to do a business. …”
Kuhn said she and her husband share in the philosophy of “shop local,” and their love of history and architecture ruled out the idea of a strip mall location. The proximity to the Fox River also was a huge plus.
“It feels like Europe,” she said after describing the renovations to Walton Islands some years back. “It’s so beautiful … like an empty canvas waiting to be filled.”
They had to be downtown.
Their shop will be inside an 1880s building with 13-foot ceilings and brick walls inside that fit well with the vintage feel and atmosphere they hope to create. She said she loves antiques, and hopes to offer include vintage gifts among the shop’s offerings.