By Rich Fisher
In a world that has become obsessed by screens, be they on computers, TVs or cell phones, stress release becomes increasingly important. The mind needs a break, a place to go wander aimlessly.
Kathleen Gittleman has just such a destination at her shop, Pins & Needles in Princeton.
Now in its 14th year, the cheerful Chambers Street establishment contains vast arrays and colors of yarn and needlepoint canvases for knitters and crochet artists of all tastes.
Welcome to your mind’s vacation resort.
”The amount of time people spend in front of screens grows bigger and bigger, and the need to get away from that and do something else grows at the same pace,” Ms. Gittleman said. “This is just such an amazing break from all that.”
The Illinois native and Princeton resident calls knitting and needlepoint “almost yoga-esque.”
”They’re relaxing,” she said. “They’re repetitive motions; a lot of psychologists use them in therapy. It releases endorphins and calms you down in the same way that running does. Life is hectic, it’s hard and you have tons and tons of technology and this constant stimulation from the screen.
”This suddenly becomes a nice respite from all of that for a lot of people. It can get you off the Internet, which is constant stimulation. Knitting is the opposite.”
Not to mention, it can be productive. Even more men are turning toward it.
”You can play a ton of solitaire on the computer and you have nothing to show for it at the end,” Ms. Gittleman said. “I have a nice scarf or pair of mittens I can give you.”
Ms. Gittleman and a former partner bought the space in May of 2001. The College of St. Elizabeth graduate majored in art and business before working in retail. She took time off to raise her children, then looked around town and realized there had not been a knitting shop in Princeton for 10 years.
Despite having very little knitting background, she opened the store on Sep. 9, 2001, selling mostly yarn and fabric with a just a tad of needlepoint.
Two days later, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. Ms. Gittleman quickly discovered everyone needed stress release at that time, especially when a women came in and said “I can either sit and twitch, or sit and twitch and knit.”
Ms. Gittleman has never looked back. She filtered out the fabric in favor of needlepoint, since fabric took up so much space, and eventually became a knitting expert.
A trip to her shop is a pleasant experience, as walking into the bright establishment is like entering a kaleidoscope. Visitors find themselves swirling within a myriad of colors. There are two floors, with fully stocked shelves reaching the ceiling on the lower level.
The copious variety fits the eclectic needs and tastes of consumers. Pins & Needles uses more than 50 different needlepoint vendors and there can be 300 different canvases in the shop at any one time.
”And we have a ton more yarn,” Ms. Gittleman said.
There are other places around to get yarn, but a distinct facet makes Pins & Needles unique.
”The teaching, the endless helping,” Ms. Gittleman said. “You can go on YouTube and learn anything but it’s not the same as someone saying ‘Not like this, like this.’ We are with you every stitch of the way. We get them going, if they run into a problem, they come back and you correct the problem.”
It is the classic small shop that provides personal attention, which the retail world seems to be losing. Classes are also offered and the schedule is on the shop’s website.
Classes fill quickly, for whatever reason. Everyone has his or her own motives for taking this unique break from the world.
”There are process and product knitters,” Ms. Gittleman said. “Some knitters are stitchers, some people stitch because they want that Christmas gift for their daughter, or whatever. I could knit a 100-mile red scarf, it wouldn’t matter to me. It’s the process. It’s an amazing gift.”
And it can be unwrapped at Pins & Needles.
Pins & Needles is located at 8 Chambers St., Princeton. For more information, go to pinsandneedles.biz or call 609-921-9075.
By Rich Fisher