I am an unabashedly big fan of Kate Jacobs "Friday Night Knitting Club" (soon to be a movie with Julia!) and there will be a sequel! Yay! Along with you, I'll have to wait until November 25 but until then, check out the teaser from Chapter One!
Seeing a pattern doesn’t mean you know how to put it all together. Take baby steps: don’t focus on the folks whose skills are far beyond your own. When you’re new to something—or you haven’t tried it in a while—it can feel impossibly hard to get it right. Every misstep feels like a reason to quit. You envy everyone else who seems to know what they’re doing. What keeps you going? The belief that one day you’ll also be like that: Elegant. Capable. Confident. Experienced. And you can be. All you need now is enthusiasm. A little bravery. And—always—a sense of humor.
It was after hours at Walker and Daughter: Knitters, and Dakota stood in the center of the
Gifts, smothered in bunny paper or decorated with cartoonish jungle animals, were piled in a mound atop the sturdy wooden table that was the focal point of the knitting store. The wall of yarn had been tidied so not one shelf—from the raspberry reds to the celery greens—was out of hue. Peri had also planned out a series of cringe-inducing guessing games (Guess how much the baby will weigh!
Eat different baby foods and try to determine the flavor! Estimate the size of the mother’s stomach!) that would have caused Dakota’s mother to shake her head. Georgia Walker had never been a fan of silly games.
“It’ll be fun,” said Peri when Dakota protested. “We haven’t had a Friday Night baby since Lucie had Ginger five years ago. Besides, who doesn’t like baby showers? All those tiny little footie pajamas and those cute towels-with-animal-ears. I mean, it just gives you goose bumps. Don’t you love it?”
“Uh, no,” said Dakota. “And double no. My friends and I are a little busy with college.” Her hands rested on the waist of her deep indigo jeans as she watched Peri pretend not to fuss over the job she’d done. The stroller looked like a giant yellow banana. A wrinkled, torn banana. She sighed. Dakota was a striking young woman, with her creamy mocha skin and her mother’s height and long, curly dark hair. But she retained an element of gangliness, gave the impression that she was not quite comfortable with the transformation of her figure. At eighteen, she was still growing into herself.
“Thank God for that,” replied Peri, discreetly trying to peel the tape off the yellow paper so she could redo the edges. Whether it was operating the store or designing the handbags in her side business, she approached everything with precision now. Working with
Sometimes it wasn’t very satisfying to work so hard for something that essentially belonged to someone else. It was hers but not really hers at all.
For one thing, Dakota had seemed less and less interested in the store during the last year or so, grumbling on the Saturdays when she came in to work, typically late and sometimes appearing to simply roll out of bed and throw on whatever clothes she could find. It was quite a change from her early teens, when she seemed to relish her time at the shop. And yet there were brief moments when her world-weary attitude would disappear and Peri could see the whispers of the bright-eyed, wisecracking little kid who loved to bake and could spend hours knitting with her mother in the store’s back office or the apartment they had shared one floor above the yarn shop.
The shop was located on Seventy-seventh and Broadway, just above Marty’s deli, amid boutiques and restaurants in
Of course, now Peri lived in the upstairs apartment that had been
The change to the store had come together after much discussion with Anita and with Dakota, and they’d consulted Dakota’s father, James, too, of course, though mostly for his architectural expertise. But it made financial sense: Peri had turned Dakota’s childhood bedroom in the apartment into an office so there was no need to tally up receipts in the shop anymore. Why waste the store’s valuable real estate? And there had always been the understanding—with
After all, what would happen to the store if Peri left? Anita, who had turned seventy-eight on her last birthday though she still looked just barely old enough to collect Social Security, certainly wouldn’t be about to take over. Though she continued to arrive two days a week to help out and keep busy, as she said, Anita and Marty spent a lot of their time going on quick trips, by train or car, to wonderful country inns in New England and in
And then there was Dakota, who had nearly finished up her first year at NYU. It wasn’t as though she could step in to run the store—or that she even seemed to want to do so anymore.
Not everyone wants to go into the family business.
Peri’s decision to work at the yarn shop, and create her own designs, had not been popular within her own family. Her parents had wanted her to become a lawyer, and she’d dutifully taken her LSAT and earned a place at law school, only to turn it down and leave everyone guessing.
Of course, James had only ever been interested in the store from the standpoint of keeping an eye on
No, over the years the feeling had become more definite that either Peri would keep things going at Walker and Daughter or it would be time to close up the doors to the yarn shop. The desire to keep everything just as it once had been—to freeze time—remained very strong among the group of friends. So even as she advocated change, Peri felt guilty. It was almost overwhelming. Stemming from some natural fantasy they all shared but never discussed: that everything needed to be kept just so for
And if that all had happened, then it also meant that Georgia Walker had fallen ill with late-stage ovarian cancer and died unexpectedly from complications, leaving her group to manage on without her.
For just over five years they’d all kept on just as they’d done—still meeting up for regular get-togethers even though KC never picked up a stick and Darwin’s mistake-ridden sweater for her husband remained the most complex item she’d ever put together—and Peri had left everything mostly the same in the store. Year after year, she resisted her impulse to change the decor, to redesign the lavender bags with the Walker and Daughter logo, to muck out the back office with its faded couch or to update the old wooden table that anchored the room. She kept everything intact and ran the store with the energy and attention to detail Georgia had demonstrated, had turned a profit every quarter—always doing best in winter, of course—and furiously created her line of knitted and felted handbags with every spare moment. She even found the energy to branch out in new lines, new designs.
Until, finally, she’d had enough working on her handbags late at night and never feeling rested. She put down her needles and jammed out an e-mail in the middle of the night. She required a meeting, she’d written, had broached the remodel. It had been an impossible concept, of course, the idea of changing things. And it took a long while for Anita and Dakota to agree. Still, Peri stood firm, and ultimately the wall came down, some new paint went up, and even the always serviceable chairs around the center table were replaced with cushier, newly upholstered versions. The shop was revitalized: still cozy, but fresher and sleeker. As a surprise—and in an attempt to woo Dakota’s emotional approval—Peri had asked Lucie to print an outtake from her documentary about the shop, the first film she had shown in the festival circuit, and had framed a photograph of Dakota and Georgia ringing up sales together, back when Dakota was only twelve and Georgia was robustly healthy. Appropriately, the picture hung behind the register, the
“She would have liked that,” Dakota said, nodding. “But I don’t know about the changes to the store. Maybe we should put the wall back up.”
“I dunno,” said Dakota. “What if I forget what it used to be like? What if it all just fades away? Then what?”
Tonight, for the first time, the entire group would see the updated store in its completed form. It was a pleasantly warm April night, and the Friday Night Knitting Club was getting together for its regular meeting. Whereas once the women had gathered in
But if time had not changed their feelings for one another, it had not spared the natural toll on their bodies and their careers and their love lives and their hair. Much had happened in the preceding five years.
KC Silverman had made law review at
“Finally, I’m invaluable,” she had told the group upon starting the job. “I know every side of the business.”
Her new salary was transformed, with some guidance from Peri, into a fabulous collection of suits. And her hair was longer than the pixie cut she’d had in the old days, shaped into a more lawyerly layered style. She’d experimented—for a millisecond—with letting her hair go its natural gray but she decided she was too young for that much seriousness at fifty-two and opted for a light brown.
“If I had your gorgeous silver,” she told Anita, “it would be a different story.”
Lucie Brennan’s documentary circulating on the festival circuit had led to a gig directing a video for a musician who liked to knit at Walker and Daughter. When the song went to the Top Ten in Billboard, Lucie quickly transitioned from part-time producer for local cable to directing a steady stream of music videos, her little girl Ginger lip-synching by her side in footie pajamas.
At forty-eight, she was busier and more successful than she ever imagined—and her apartment reflected the change. She no longer rented, but had purchased a high and sunny two-bedroom on the
And the tortoiseshell glasses she’d once worn every day had been joined by an array of frames and contacts for her blue eyes. Her hair, if left to its natural sandy brown, was quite . . . salty. So she colored it just a few shades darker than little Ginger’s strawberry blond, aiming for a russet shade.
Darwin Chiu finished her dissertation, published her very first book (on the convergence of craft, the Internet, and the women’s movement) based on her research at Walker and Daughter, and secured a teaching job at Hunter College while her husband, Dan Leung, found a spot at a local ER. They also found a small apartment on the
Peri Gayle, striking with her deep brown eyes, mahogany skin, and meticulous cornrows that fell just past her shoulders, ran the store, of course.
Anita Lowenstein settled into a happy arrangement with her friend Marty, although their decision not to marry came up now and again.
“I’m living my life in reverse,” she told the group. “Now that my mother can’t do a damn thing about it, I’m rebelling against society’s expectations.” She’d been joking, of course. Moving in together was a simpler solution, quite frankly, in terms of estate planning and inheritance, and, as the movie stars say, neither she nor Marty needed a piece of paper to demonstrate their commitment.
“We’ll just call him my partner,” corrected Anita when yet another of her friends tripped over how to describe her relationship. “It seems overreaching to call him my boyfriend at this age.”
They had, however, purchased a new apartment together and moved out of the garden apartment in Marty’s
Catherine Anderson’s little business flourished north of the city in Cold Spring, though many days she continued to take the train, spending some days in the tidy, expensively furnished cottage she’d recently purchased and others in the San Remo apartment that Anita had shared with her late husband, Stan.
It seemed that five years was about right for all that had happened to settle in, and for the urge to try something different to begin to swell.
“Not much of a surprise if the presents are all out there,” exclaimed KC at the entrance to Walker and Daughter as she wheeled in a red wagon filled with stuffed animals perched inside: a monkey, a giraffe, and two fluffy white teddy bears. Peri stopped trying to rewrap Dakota’s gift for a moment to wave hello.
“We should try to hide in the back office and then jump out and surprise her!” said KC, waving back even though she was mere steps away. “What do you say?”
She and Peri were from different generations—KC was twenty-three years older than Peri—but they were, as the volume-impaired and talkative KC explained to anyone who cared and often to those who didn’t, the very epitome of BFFs.
“We help each other get ahead,” KC explained when Dakota asked at one meeting why the two of them spent so much time together when, on the surface, they looked and acted so different from each other. “We gossip, we go to movies, she picks out my clothes, and I give her legal advice for her pocketbook business.” Their shared devotion to career—and KC’s years of experience—also kept up the connection. As proud as she was with her professional reinvention, KC had ultimately traded one workaholic lifestyle for another. Just as she’d put in long days at the office when she was an editor and followed it up with nights reading manuscripts, now she spent her evenings reading contracts on the sofa in the prewar rent-stabilized apartment on the West Side that had been her parents’ home.
But while Peri kept up with a steady crowd of pals from the design courses she’d taken, KC’s relationship with Peri filled a bit of the gap that had been left by Georgia, who had been a young assistant when KC met her. For a woman who would never describe herself as a nurturer, KC made it a practice to look out for others and to mentor them. And she had a deep fondness for Dakota, who seemed exasperated with her latest concept.
“For one thing, no back office anymore,” muttered Dakota, inclining her head toward KC and motioning her to take a look behind her. “So it wouldn’t work.”
“And for two, we have a no-scaring-pregnant-women policy,” added Anita, who was two steps behind KC and coming through the doorway. As she did every day, Anita wore an elegant pantsuit, and a selection of tasteful jewelry. The oldest and wealthiest member of the club, Anita was also—everyone would agree—the kindest and most thoughtful. In her arms Anita carried a giant hydrangea plant in blue; Marty carried a second one in pink. She nodded solemnly.
“The renovations are excellent, my dear,” she said, though Peri suspected her words were meant mainly to bolster Dakota’s uncertainty since Anita had checked on the shop’s progress repeatedly.
“I’m here, I’m here,” came a voice from the stairwell. It was Catherine, sweeping into the room with a bit of self-created fanfare and an armful of professionally wrapped presents in brightly colored paper and a large canvas bag filled with several bottles.
“Hello, darlings,” she said, blowing out enough air kisses that everyone in the room got three each.
“Hello, grumpy,” Catherine said to Dakota, lightly wrapping an arm around her shoulders as they surveyed the room.
“I was afraid I was late,” said Catherine. “Is she here yet?” The store phone rang as Lucie called to say she wasn’t able to get away from work and not to wait. Peri looked at her watch and let out a cry of concern. Quickly, KC pulled out a box of cupcakes from the bottom of the red wagon, and Catherine opened a magnum of chilled champagne without a pop.
“When I think of the Friday Night Knitting Club, I always think of plastic glasses,” said Catherine to Dakota. “It adds a certain je ne sais quoi.” She winked at Dakota, managed to charm a shrug out of her young pal. The two had forged a big sister–little sister bond since Georgia had taken her in years ago and let Catherine bunk on Dakota’s floor during her divorce; many times in the ensuing years since Georgia died, Catherine’s cynicism and over-the-top drama had been the perfect antidote to Dakota’s teenage moodiness. Anita remained Dakota’s source for unconditional love; Catherine was good at keeping secrets and seemed willing to become her partner in crime, if only they could think up a scheme.
“To Walker and Daughter,” said Catherine, taking one sip and then another. “To the
Even though the vague unease about the remodel persisted, Peri could tell it was going to be a happy night. Anybody could see that. The gang was all here, together again; the volume was already deafening as everyone spoke at once, trying to cram a month’s worth of news into a few minutes. She began to relax as she saw Dakota flop into one of the new chairs, throw her jeans-clad leg over the arm, and bum a sip of champagne off Catherine, the two of them glancing to see if Anita had noticed.
Tonight, the Friday Night Knitting Club would have made
Darwin and Dan were having twins.