Guess my Grandma Faye was a hip, trend-setting bubbe. A real lady before her time, she knit sweaters, crocheted blankets and kept closets full of colorful yarn.
This season, Hollywood's hottest names are taking their cue from Jewish grandmothers. Forget power yoga and decaf soy lattes. This year's biggest trend? Knitting. The oh-so-chic and beautiful don't dare leave home this summer without two knitting needles and a skein of yarn. Actresses Debra Messing, Julianne Moore and Jennie Garth are hooked on Bubbe's favorite pastime. Camryn Manheim, Tyne Daly, Caroline Rhea and Tyra Banks all do the knit and purl. Even Sofia Coppola is in on the craze.
And where did these style-setting celebs learn their craft? From knitting guru and Jewish mother of three, Edith Eig.
Eig's La Knitterie Parisienne is a haven for the apprentice and expert alike. Eig, who first learned to knit in her Paris grammar school, will teach anyone to knit. For free. At the Studio City boutique, customers purchase their yarn and needles, but receive knitting lessons at no charge.
"Most beginners think they'll never be able to do it, but they all learn to knit before they leave the table," said Eig, who showed actress-turned-clothes-designer Justine Bateman how to knit her first stitch. (The former "Family Ties" star now has her own knit-clothing line.)
"And if I'm helping someone else, one of my customers will jump in and teach you," added Eig, looking up from the brown cashmere scarf she's working on.
The knitting table at La Knitterie Parisienne is all about this sense of community. Customers knit and laugh, and purl and share, and are quick to help one another. The experience is as much about the bonding as it is about the knitting.
"In Los Angeles, it can be difficult to meet people or find a place to call your own. People come to the shop looking for yarn or to learn to knit, but they also come to find solace and camaraderie," said Eig, who will host a television series for the Home and Garden Network this summer.
While knitting can be done at home, Eig's customers love to gather around the store's table.
"It's all about the female bonding. People talk about everything. You quickly discover how much you have in common," said actress Nancy Schnoll, who learned to knit from Eig two years ago.
"Men, women, even celebrities all sit here knitting together. Everyone is equal around Edith's table," said Studio City resident Harriet Dezen.
And what is everyone knitting? Scarves, shawls, baby blankets, kippot, talitot, even chuppahs. "We help women recreate designer cashmere sweaters that sell for $1,500 in the store, for $150," Eig said. "This year, it's all about form-fitting knit tops and very long scarves. We're talking 108 inches," says Eig, whose has had such a large impact on knit fashion that Berroco Yarns dubbed one of their designs "The Edith coat."
La Knitterie Parisienne boasts more colors than Joseph's coat. The boutique is stocked floor-to-ceiling with shelves and baskets over-stuffed with yarn of every color, shade and texture. Eig sells pastels, brights and neutrals, in cashmere, cotton, silk, wool, micro-fiber and more. It's this tremendous yarn collection, the largest in Southern California, that fires up Eig's customers.
"It's all about the yarn," said Christine Morgan, who drives from Pomona with her mother, Bonnie Allee, to sit at La Knitterie's table. "If you pick a yarn that inspires you, the knitting will come easily," she added, her hands quickly creating orange booties for her grandson.
With this in mind, I choose a cotton yarn in deep lavender (my grandmother's favorite color). And despite my own self-doubt, Eig has this novice knitting in minutes. With the encouragement of my table-mates, I'm pulling loops and transferring stitches like a pro. Or a celeb. Or a Jewish grandma. Thanks to Eig, this is one style-trend that fits all.