Yarn Shop feature

By Jacob Wheeler
Sun editor

Fingers weave their way through strands of soft thread: casting on, knitting and pearling, decreasing and increasing stitches, ultimately creating tapestries of each sock, mitten or sweater.
There is a story in every piece of clothing at the Yarn Shop, located in the Village Sampler plaza in downtown Glen Arbor. Young women and old women alike browse through Mary Turak’s store, push their husbands off toward the next shop and join the knitting circle — an unofficial club of mostly summer residents who spend their carefree days weaving yarn and sharing yarns with each other.
The round table discussions usually begin when a timid, yet eager visitor realizes the peaceful joy in the knitting circle, and asks one of the members for help getting started. Turak, a former school teacher herself, usually answers the distress call. Her motto is written on a sign hanging on the left wall: “To teach is to love” — a slogan she claims is written on billboards all over the country.
“It’s amazing how many people come in with no intentions of knitting,” Turak said. “But they catch the bug and decide to start a project. Knitting is very therapeutic, you just sit and it gets your mind off your troubles.”
The knitting circles almost become pseudo-support groups as the interwoven threads hold sweaters together like five or six women sitting in a circle, comforting each other with stories from their youth.
“Teaching other women to knit, you find out about their families, their children and where they live,” said Mary Jane, Turak’s righthand woman on any given day. “And the next year they’re up, they come back.”
Debbie Bordinat is one of those women. She says she bought her yarn a year and a half ago, but she didn’t actually learn to knit until she came into the Yarn Shop this summer. Now Bordinat knits at her job — collecting $5 fees at the public boat ramp on the end of Lake Street.
“A woman came into the Yarn Shop to knit once, just after see saw me knitting at the boat ramp,” said Bordinat.
The knitting often seems as contagious as the tails that follow.
Grab a seat next to Mary’s mother-in-law Olga Turak, and one might hear about her immigration to the Pennsylvania coal mines from the hard times in Ukraine, as a two-year old. She says that everybody from Europe was coming over here at that time. Olga has been back to visit Ukraine, but she wasn’t allowed to see the old village where she was born. Apparently, it was so impoverished that some don’t want Americans to take that knowledge home with them.
The elder Turak isn’t knitting anything right now. She’s just sitting in the circle, spinning yarns of a different kind — the kind that make you listen in wonder.
Though the informal knitters club gathers nearly every day in the early afternoon, the Yarn Shop does have some designated discussion sessions. There’s a Book Club which meets here twice a month in the summer and once a month in the winter, at 8:30 on Friday mornings. The turnouts aren’t large: maybe 5-10 people. But they are big enough to have true literary discussions.
“Anybody can show up, they’re very informal,” said Mary Turak. “We don’t tell you to do a report. You don’t even have to have read the book. Just show up.”
The next Book Club meeting is scheduled for ???, and the featured book which will be discussed is “Buster Midnight’s Cafe,” a moving novel about Montana in the 1930’s.
But given the informalities of any gathering at the Yarn Shop, the conversation may shift away from the pages and toward childhood reminiscing, or even current events. For instance, one may learn how Mary’s grandchildren Cassie and Chase fared, running at the Junior Olympics in Norfolk, Virginia recently. Mary claims her youngest grandchild Kiefer can run fast too, but only when he gets into trouble.
Sometimes Mary brings Kiefer to the store and babysits him there. He’s usually the only kid in the store, but one can imagine how this cute little child draws in women of all ages.
Though it usually raises a few eyebrows, a member of the weaker sex also comes into the Yarn Shop every once in a while. Usually the men scurry away to look at t-shirts elsewhere in the Village Sampler, but the contagious fingers-to thread-to story appeal has seduced a few husbands into picking up the needle and thread.
“I almost always get one man-knitter every summer,” Mary said. “Last year there was a couple who’d come and knit together. But I don’t really have a lot of men’s clothing. I only do men’s sweaters to order because men are so picky.”
Turak won’t discriminate by gender, though knitting traditionally appeals to women more than men. What makes her day is anyone who comes in with a good story. And on one particular afternoon a couple of weeks ago, Mary received a visit from Lyndon and Angela Welch.
At first the names meant little to a history buff like her. But Mary soon learned that Lyndon’s father was Joe Welch, the East Coast lawyer hired to defend the American Army during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. Her spine twinged when Lyndon recited his father’s famous words: “Have you no decency sir, have you no decency?”
Mary claims that these words turned the tide of the overboard senator Joe McCarthy and his infamous Red Scare era.
All within the annals of history, but all woven together into one giant tapestry.