A Visit to Rhinebeck, Birthplace of The Knitter’s Tote
Last Tuesday I gassed up the Mom Bomb and headed up the Hudson Valley to Beacon, New York. I shouted out the window for MDK editor-at-large and Field Guide creative director Melanie Falick to jump in the car, and off we went to Rhinebeck. It was as close to a Smokey and the Bandit caper as you are going to get while traveling with a couple of ladies who enjoy the Fiber Arts. We were excited to be spending a beautiful late-summer day away from our screens.
Our goals were ambitions, but achievable.
The Room Where It Happens
Here’s Julia, seated at her Sailrite, a portable sewing machine designed for making and repairing sails on a ship. (It can sew through 10 layers of heavy canvas, according to the Sailrite literature. It goes through thick felt like butter.)
A feature of the Sailrite is that if the power goes out, it operates with a hand crank. Julia says she has never had to use the crank, but it gave me a secure feeling.
The Little Wonder is for installing rivets through leather. It’s a really cool-looking tool, but the rivets on The Knitter’s Tote will all be installed by hand by Julia, using a hammer.
There is something about the rivet placement on The Knitter’s Tote that requires hand-hammering. We do not question Julia on such matters. We just think the Little Wonder is pretty wonderful.
There is a lot of industrial felt in Julia’s workshop. One of Julia’s hobbies is figuring out what to do with the oddly shaped bits of felt that are generated in the bag-making process, so as not to waste it. Last year she made little Christmas trees out of cone-shaped bits.
Julia’s love affair with industrial felt began when she worked for a milliner. One of her jobs was to block “hat bodies” made of wool felt. She didn’t particularly enjoy blocking hat bodies, but she liked the material, and she started using felt scraps to sew bags. Her search for the perfect material ended when she found industrial felt, sold by the bolt.
Julia has industrial felt stair treads. She also has industrial felt curtains that would make Design Within Reach go weak in the knees.
The overseer of operations is Ella, a purebred Industrial Felthound. (Or possibly goldendoodle.) Nothing gets by Ella (without a gentle greeting).
We had a great time seeing the source of The Knitter’s Tote and all the other beautiful bags Julia designs and makes. At one point, Melanie started styling things, and it was time to take our leave before Julia’s studio turned into a lush coffee table book proposal (working title: Living with Industrial Felt).
As we headed out of town after lunch, we passed the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. The place looked empty and expectant, and somehow smaller than it is on the third weekend of October every year. Hold on, fairgrounds! The knitters will be there soon!