The New York Times bestselling sensation that's "Steel Magnolias set in Manhattan" (USA Today)-now in paperback.
Juggling the demands of her yarn shop and single-handedly raising a teenage daughter has made Georgia Walker grateful for her Friday Night Knitting Club. Her friends are happy to escape their lives too, even for just a few hours. But when Georgia's ex suddenly reappears, demanding a role in their daughter's life, her whole world is shattered.
Luckily, Georgia's friends are there, sharing their own tales of intimacy, heartbreak, and miracle making. And when the unthinkable happens, these women will discover that what they've created isn't just a knitting club: it's a sisterhood.
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Kate Jacobs is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Friday Night Knitting Club, Knit Two, Knit the Season, and Comfort Food.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am-8pm.
The hours of Walker and Daughter: Knitters were clearly displayed in multicolored letters on a white sandwich board placed just so at the top of the stair landing. Though Georgia Walker—usually preoccupied with closing out the till and picking up the strays of yarn on the floor—rarely made a move to turn the lock until at least eight fifteen…or later.
Instead, she sat on her stool at the counter, tuning out the traffic noise from New York's busy Broadway below, reflecting on the day's sales or prepping for the beginner’s knitting class she taught every afternoon to the stay-at-homes looking for some seeming stamp of authentic motherliness. She crunched the numbers with a pencil and paper, and sighed. Business was good, but it could always be better. She tugged at her long, chestnut curls. It was a habit from years ago she’d never quite grown out of and by the end of each day her bangs often stood straight up. Once the bookkeeping was in order, she'd smooth out her hair, brush off any bits of eraser from her jeans and soft jersey top, her face a bit pale from concentration and lack of sun, and stand up to her full six feet (thanks to the three-inch heels on her well-worn brown leather cowboy boots).
Slowly she would walk around the shop, running her hands lightly over the piles of yarn that were meticulously sorted by color—from lime to Kelly green, rust to strawberry, cobalt to Wedgwood blue, sunburst to amber, and rows and rows of grays and creams and blacks and whites. The yarn went from exquisitely plush and smooth to itchy and nubbly and all of it was hers. And Dakota's too, of course. Dakota, who at twelve frequently ignored her mother's instructions, loved to cross her dark eyes and savor the fuzzed-out look of the colors all merging, a rainbow blending together.
Dakota was the store mascot, one of its chief color consultants (more sparkles!), and frankly, a pretty damn good knitter already. Georgia noticed how quickly her daughter was making her projects, how particular she was becoming about the tautness of her stitches. More than once she'd been surprised to see her not-so-little-anymore girl approach a waiting customer and say with confidence: "Oh, I can help you with that. Here, we'll take this crochet hook and fix that mistake…" The shop was a work in progress; Dakota was the one thing she knew she'd done exactly right.
And yet when Georgia finally went to turn out the lights of her shop, she would often be met by a potential customer, all furrowed brow and breathless from dashing up the steep stairs to the second-floor shop, the seemingly innocuous "Can I just pop in, for a quick minute?" out of her mouth before Georgia could even insist they were done for the night. She'd open the door a little wider, knowing all too well what it was like to juggle work and kids and still try to sneak in a little something for herself on the side: reading a book, coloring her hair in the bathroom sink, taking a nap. Come in, get what you need, she'd say, putting off the short climb to her sparsely decorated apartment on the floor above. She never let any straggler stay past nine on a school night, though, because she needed to shoo her Dakota from the corner desk where she did her homework. But Georgia would never turn away a potential sale.
She'd never turn away anyone at all.
"You can go home, Anita," Georgia would say over her shoulder to the trusted friend who worked in the shop alongside her. Anita always stayed until closing time, peeking in on Dakota's studies as Georgia wondered about keeping the older woman out too late. But even though she had the opportunity to leave, Anita, who still looked as fresh in her Chanel pantsuit as when she'd come in for her shift at three pm, just smiled and shook her head, her silver bob falling neatly into place.
Then Georgia would step out of the doorframe to let in the straggler, a resigned smile revealing the beginnings of tiny crinkles around her calm, green eyes. Here we go again, her face seemed to say. But she was grateful for every person who walked through the door and took the time to make sure they had what they needed.
"Every sale is also a future sale—if you please the customer." Georgia often bored Dakota with her various theories on business. "Word of mouth is the best advertising."
And her biggest booster was Anita, who sensed when the day had been too long for Georgia and leaped in to assist. "I'd be delighted to help you," Anita often said, coming up to Georgia's side and reaching out to the last-minute shopper, ushering her inside. Anita knew and loved the nubbly textures and patterns as well as Georgia did; both had been introduced to the craft by grandmothers eager to share their secrets. Talking about knitting with the customers at Walker and Daughter was Anita's passion—second only to working with the needles herself.
Anita was captivated with the craft from the moment her Bubbe asked her, as a chubby-cheeked youngster, to hold a skein of thick, warm yarn. She watched her grandmother work the needles quickly, fashioning the hunter-green string into a small, smooth cardigan. With thick buttons for little fingers to grasp. And when that same grandmother presented the finished sweater to Anita…well, a knitter was born. Soon she was placing her hands over that same grandmother's as she learned how it felt to work the wool, then mastered tying her first slipknot and relished the excitement of casting on for the first time. As a young woman, Anita kept up knitting to make herself the angora twinsets her parents couldn't afford, then to cuddle up her babies in thick blankets and booties while her husband worked on building his business. She just kept at it—long after she needed to make clothes for her family, long after her husband's hard work had built a life that was more than comfortable—and then, when she was well into middle age, she threw out the pattern books and began experimenting with patterns and color to create unique designs. A mother of three grown sons and grandmother to seven (handsome and genius) youngsters, Anita was surprised to add up the years and realize that she had been working with yarn for most of her seventy-two years. "Anita is an artist, and knitting is her medium" was what her husband, Stan, always told people who admired the colorful vests he insisted on wearing to the office. Stan. He had been so proud of her, encouraging her to work with Georgia all those years ago; she began going to the shop one day a week to test it out. Anita had had no need for the money and she worried that she seemed silly to work at her age.
"Does it make you happy?" Stan had asked her after her first day, and she admitted that yes, yes, it did, as she rolled into his arms. Then keep at it, he murmured, keep at it.
Over time, young Dakota began to seem like another grandchild—especially precious because Anita could see her whenever she wanted, unlike her own children and grandchildren, who had all moved away to Israel, Zurich, Atlanta. There were cards and phone calls, of course, but it wasn't the same; Anita had long harbored a fear of planes, and all the psychologists and Valium in the world couldn't fix it. Her grandchildren grew so much between each visit that it was like getting to know a new person all over again. And then one day Stan was gone, too. A quick peck as she sat at the breakfast table with toast crumbs still on her lip, a sudden heart attack riding in the elevator to his top-floor office, a phone call telling her to take a cab to Beth Israel right now, then hearing there was nothing more anyone could do. And so it went.
Stan had taken care of the details as always, so she had no reason to worry about the bills. But financial security just wasn't enough. Anita was alone. Really and truly on her own. She cried as she lay in bed, sleeping or with magazines piled all around her. And then, one month after the funeral, she got up, put on her lipstick and pearls, and made her way to see Georgia.
"There are more and more customers each day and you're going to run behind on your projects-for-hire, Georgia," she had said. "You need someone in here full-time and I need to keep busier than to just work one day a week." It was the truth. Dakota was two then, and Georgia had recently expanded from creating projects on commission to selling yarn and notions. She had worked hard to make her business float, had even worked the six-to-twelve shift for Marty in the deli below the apartment building, toasting bagels and pouring to-go cups of coffee. Branching out into sales meant she may soon be able to give up the second job and spend more time with Dakota.
They agreed that Anita would come in for the afternoon shift during the week. When Georgia tried to insist on a dollar figure, Anita was adamant she would only work for yarn.
"When the store is a booming success, then you can pay me," she suggested that day ten years before.
Of course, the shop—with careful planning, slow growth, and a lot of hope—had grown into something of a hit. Over the years, it had even popped up in mentions of local haunts in papers and such; recently an article in New York on mompreneurs had featured Walker and Daughter.
"Sure thing, it might bring your classmates and their moms into the shop," Georgia had said when Dakota wanted to take the story to school. She planned to drop off her little girl at the front entrance as she did every morning, then go home to open up the shop. A quick hug and see you later; the usual. Instead, Dakota surprised her mother as she wheeled around, her winter coat already unzipped and revealing the bright turquoise sweater that accented her warm, café-au-lait skin. It was one of Georgia's creations. Dakota spoke, pointing to the article in triumph, then dashed into the door before the buzzer sounded. Georgia barely remembered the walk home, fumbled with the keys to the shop before her face became wet with heavy tears as she let the years of fear and hard work wash out of her, Dakota's casual "I'm proud of us, Mom" ringing in her ears.
Anita continued to work only for yarn, and when she wanted to start a personal knitting project—she still made vest after vest even though Stan had been gone for a decade—she simply went to the shelf and chose something exquisite. When she wanted a hug, she wrapped her arms around Dakota. And that was that. It was enough.
So Anita always let out a deep breath upon seeing this last-minute customer skate into the store, felt the ball in her stomach begin to unwind. A few more minutes to be needed, a further delay to keep her from going home to the apartment at the San Remo that remained too big and too empty. "Oh, come on in," she'd say over Georgia's mild protests, walking right over to help the client. "Tell me what you need…"
And so the door at Walker and Daughter was open a little bit late and eventually a little bit later than that. Soon enough, at the end of the long workweek, a few regular customers took to popping in with their knitting—sweaters and scarves and cell-phone socks—and asking questions about all the mistakes they'd made while commuting on the subway.
"I just can't get the buttonhole right!"
"Why do I keep dropping stitches?"
"Do you think I can finish it by Christmas?"
Without ever putting up one sign or announcing the creation of a knitting club, these women began regularly appearing in the evenings and, well, loitering. Chatting with each other, talking to Anita, gathering about the large round table in the center of the room, picking up where they had left things the week before. And then, one Friday last fall, it became official. Well, sort of.
Lucie, a striking woman with short, sandy-colored hair, who favored tortoiseshell glasses over her big, blue eyes and colorful, funky outfits, was an occasional shopper at Walker and Daughter. She came in every few months and was always working on the same piece, a thick cable knit sweater--a man's garment. There were a lot of these types who came in to the store, folks whose knitting ambitions were out of line with either their ability or with whatever mysterious comings and goings kept them from sitting down and getting the job done.
But Lucie began appearing more and more often in the early evening, gazing wistfully at the fancier yarns but typically choosing a good-quality wool that was just this side of inexpensive. Some days she sauntered in with a leather attaché and suit jacket slung over her arm as if she'd come from a big meeting. At other times, she looked relaxed in slim-fitting cigarette pants and a messenger bag draped across her body. But without fail she had a single bag of groceries in her hand, the makings of a simple supper, which she carefully placed on the counter as she paid for her yarn. After talking to Lucie on several visits, Anita understood that she was pretty fair with a set of needles but simply couldn't find the time to get going. "You could always knit here," Anita suggested idly, not thinking much of it. And then, one Friday, Lucie simply pulled up a chair at the table and began to do her knitting right then and there. And Dakota, who had been idly milling about and rolling her eyes and making noises about being bored and wanting to go to the movies, sat right down beside her.
"That's pretty," said Dakota, impulsively reaching out to stroke the top of the sparkling gemstone Lucie wore on her right hand.
"Yes, I bought it for myself," said Lucie, with a smile that recalled happy times, but offered no more explanation. Dakota shrugged, then reached out to look at the big, thick sweater Lucie had on round needles.
"I'm pretty good, you know," she said, nodding, putting out a hand to take a look at Lucie's stitches. Lucie laughed, kept clacking away. "I'm sure you are," she said, without looking up.
And then Anita sat down, ostensibly to keep Dakota in check. Other shoppers joined them at the table and suddenly, unexpectedly, it was a group. On a whim, Lucie pulled out the fresh box of bakery cookies she had just picked up at Fairway and had planned to savor over the weekend; instead, she offered them around. The polite no, thank-yous echoed until Dakota declared that she most certainly would enjoy a treat, and then the laughter sliced through the awkwardness and they each took one cookie, and then another. And somehow, between mouthfuls, they began to show one another what they had been working on. Anita talked buttonholes and dropped stitches, and then she offered to put on a fresh pot of coffee in the back. More cookies, more conversation. It became late, too late to really stay on, and the women packed up their bags and made motions to move but lingered, reluctant to leave. It was Dakota who declared she'd bring muffins to the next meeting. Next meeting? I might be busy, the women said. I don't know if I can commit. Let me check my calendar. But the next week, Lucie did show up. Dakota brought her muffins. Georgia even sat down with them. And so the Friday Night Knitting Club emerged.
Six months later, the club was going strong even as the winter drew to a close. Lucie had finished her sweater and started another; Dakota was making a regular mess in the kitchen in their apartment above, experimenting with everything from pinwheel cookies to blondies to decorated cupcakes. "Ever heard of June Cleaver...
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