In the summer of 1983 I decided I was going to take a year off before I went to college. So in the fall I signed up for a small business management course. In this course we had to start a business on paper. Having been a knitter since I was four, of course my business was a wool shop.
I had some experience in this field as I had worked for Lewiscraft for many years and had been freelancing, selling my knitted goods for three years. As I started to source out the information needed for my course, my Mother had jokingly said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to open a wool shop together?”
Seven weeks later, November 18th, 1983, Linda’s Craftique opened its doors. (Needless to say I dropped out of the course but the professor still came around to visit and said that if he could, he would have given me a definite pass).
When we opened I thought I knew everything there was to know about knitting and yarns, being 19 and all, but 30+ years later I realize I have forgotten more than I knew then. Experience, my customers, and trial and error have taught me well.
So my Mother and I plodded along in the crazy world of retail having a lot of fun for 12yrs until she retired. I took the helm and carried on for both of us. She will always be a part of the store. (now in spirit)
Service has always been a high priority for me as it is what separates the independents from the chains. I am a self professed fiber snob and have always tried to carry yarns that are mostly natural. My credo is “It takes the same amount of time to work with good quality as it does to work with poor quality”, and your time deserves quality!
This is from an article in the Toronto Star:
Just so we’re clear: the woman who holds the record as the fastest knitter in North America remains Linda Benne, the owner of Linda’s Craftique, a wool and needle shop North of Orangeville in Mono.
“It’s amazing to watch her,” says Sarah Arblaster of Spinrite, which manufactures knitting yarn in Toronto. Ms. Arblaster officiated when Ms. Benne took the title at the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival in Toronto, in 2004. “She gets into a groove and then: Schlooo! She just goes.”
At that sitting, Ms. Benne knitted 253 stitches in three minutes, knitting 60 stitches on a row with a 5mm needle, one row knit, one row purl.
I met Ms. Benne writing my series Letter from the Water’s Edge. Last Saturday the Post published my piece about another knitter, Wannietta Prescod of Angus, Ont., who represented Canada at a global Knit-Off in Minneapolis on Saturday. Ms. Prescod managed 245 stitches in three minutes, beating out all but the Scottish and Dutch competitors. Even so, Ms. Benne still holds the North American record.
Ms. Benne’s shop, Linda’s Craftique, is a wonderful place where balls of wool in all colours fill shelves on every wall. A wood table in the front is where women sit around and knit. Business is booming.
“Over the past five years, knitting has virtually become a cult,” she tells me, knitting a pink cashmere sock, needles flashing. “It’s beyond my wildest imagination.”
Now she ships yarn — including yarn made from corn fibre, bamboo fibre, milk fibre and seaweed fibre, to customers worldwide. (She doesn’t sell synthetics). A Canpar guy came in and dropped off a box of cashmere sock yarn, from Vancouver. Ms. Benne took out a skein in rich green, blue and orange, fondled it, and attached it to a swift on the table. She pulled the yarn to her ball winder, attached to a back of a chair, and, at lightning speed, transformed it into a perfect ball.
Taught by her mother, Ms. Benne began knitting at age 4.
“I was a closet knitter,” she says. “I didn’t want my friends to know. In high school, I would rush home and knit because I wanted to get my sweater finished.” At age 18, she opened a yarn shop in Mississauga’s Sherwood Forrest, which soon moved to this spot. She’s been here 35+ years. (Now moved to Mono, just north of Orangeville , October 2020)
She has plenty of company, including customers who’ve bought more wool than they can ever knit, which the owner classifies as SABLE: “Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy.”
Lately Ms. Benne suffers from tendonitis. Her doctor says she could cure it if she stops knitting for two months, but she says, “If I did that I’d become an alcoholic.”
Now, she is going to physiotherapy and training herself to compete in October, when she expects to meet Ms. Prescod and the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival smackdown. Won’t want to miss that one!