The knitting factor

Veronica Perez

Photo By Larry Dalton

Last fall, Los Angeles transplant Veronica Perez opened her own shop in Oak Park: Urban Knits, at 2648 33rd Street. Although some of the financial support she was relying on fell through, the single mother resolved to follow through on her plans. With hard work and the help of others in the community—carpet, paint and even the sign on the front window were donated—Perez now has a cozy space to offer knitting lessons on weekends. Working as a waitress during the week, Perez plans to keep saving and let her shop evolve. Her ultimate goal is to design her own clothing line (she’s been recycling old clothing and adding her own design elements, and she cites designer Roberto Cavalli’s knit designs as an inspiration), but she’s also hoping to sell knitting supplies and coffee drinks and to foster other creative pursuits, such as painting, poetry and book clubs. To get in touch with Perez, or to donate supplies and materials for her free classes, call (916) 308-8426.

You give free lessons, right?

Free lessons, every Saturday, for kids. For adults, I charge. … It goes back to why I initially came to Oak Park. I just wanted to really be a part of rebuilding the community, and I really wanted to bring something to the table. … They’re here every week, and as long as they keep coming in, and they’re interested, then I’m more than happy to provide the service for them.

Why do you think knitting appeals to kids nowadays?

With my students … well, No. 1, I know they like the stuff I make. You know, they think it’s pretty cool. No. 2, it’s a good way for them to develop their motor skills. And for some reason, when people knit … it’s hard to even have a negative thought or a negative conversation. Your energy’s real positive when you’re doing it. And they say they can stay focused on it. And they like the idea that they can do something and have a finished product at the end. … There’s a special feeling that you get when you’re wearing a scarf that you made yourself. I can’t really describe it, but when I made my first scarf, I wore it until it fell apart, because I felt a bond with it almost. And I think my kids are going through the same thing. When they make something, they’ll keep it and hold onto it, and the next time I see it, you know, it’s almost gone to shreds. You definitely feel connected with wearing your own stuff.

And what do they want to learn to knit?

You know, that’s kind of funny. I do more, like, adult clothing, like halter tops and little hats. And so, when my students came in, I’m thinking they’re gonna want to make Barbie-doll clothes, because I have some of that. Or they’re gonna want to make hats and scarves. And you know, once they got the basics, I said, “OK, what do you guys want to make first? What’s our first project going to be?” “Bikinis!” … My 15-year-old, she’s already made about six different outfits. … You know, I don’t want them to grow up too fast, so now I don’t ask them what they want to make; I tell them what we’re making. Last weekend, we made sandals. This weekend, I’m actually going to introduce a little bit of macramé to them, because it’s actually cool when you mix knitting, crocheting and macramé, because you can have a variety of stitches.

How long do these projects take?

Well, the sandals they can make in a day. Sometimes they take work home. But they’re here from noon, from the time I unlock the door, and they don’t leave until I kick them out at like five o’ clock. They will stay here the whole day and not even—it’s like they lose track of time.

Who taught you to knit?

My grandmother. … Actually, my grandmother taught me how to crochet. I picked knitting up in home economics. … I did it while I was little, and then, when I became an adult, when I was pregnant with my son, I started trying to learn how to crochet again, making things for him.

And do you sell your work? Is there a retail aspect?

Yeah. During the winter, I was making so many hats and scarves. People were coming in because they liked the idea of being able to get whatever color hat they want, whatever pattern they want, and have their scarf matching it. [But] I hate being repetitive. I hate having to make the same thing over and over again. For me, I find true joy in it when I try to outdo what I did the last time. … So, I was making hats and making hats and making hats. And mostly it was guys, because I’m surrounded by barber shops, and they—you know, they like to have it to the side and flipped up and all that. And I thought, “Well I love making halter tops and girly stuff. When am I going to make girly stuff?” But now that summer’s rolling around, the women are coming in, and they want the halter tops and the bikinis and the sandals, so now I’m getting to do what I enjoy.