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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sip and stitch: Liquid creativity fuels Chunky Knit Blanket classes at Pinot’s Palette

If you think an evening at Pinot’s Palette is all about paintbrushes and canvases, you might be surprised to learn about the paint and sip establishment’s newest classes. (Hint: They’re super cozy.) On Oct. 30, approximately two dozen people were up to their elbows in yarn during Pinot’s Palette’s Chunky Knit Blanket class. Most of the attendees were knitting novices.

“I don’t knit, but my husband does,” said Keri Gardner, who invited her friend Rachel Bucklin to join her. The two sipped red wine, pondering the large skeins of gray and white chenille yarn in front of them, while checking out the finished example on display.

“It’s really easy,” said Jackie Casey, owner of the downtown Spokane and Coeur d’Alene franchises. “You just use your fingers. No needles needed!” She’d offered an initial class this year, and it proved so popular that she scheduled a slew of classes for the autumn/winter months.

“These blanket classes have been on fire,” Casey said. In fact, they’re filling so quickly, she’s thinking of adding more yarn projects, including scarves and stocking caps.

Knitting is on the rise across the nation. The Craft Yarn Council of America reports that more than 38 million people, many younger than 35, say that they love to knit. (That’s more than 1 of 10 Americans.) Instagram and Pinterest are awash in millions of knitting posts. It seems Grandma’s knitting circle has been reborn in places as unlikely as a paint-and-sip shop.

As instructor Bee Allen prepared to walk the group through the step-by-step process to create a cozy 40-by-50-inch blanket, Dan Lettellier, the lone male in attendance, sipped an amber beer and eyed the yarn. He said that he and his wife, Janet Lettellier, have enjoyed previous paint-and-sip classes at the venue, so he was game when she mentioned the Chunky Knit Blanket workshop.

“We always have a good time here,” he said. Allen said the technique used is hand-knitting. We’ll be making loops and pulling them inside other loops,” she explained, holding up her hand and wrapping yarn around it. “Going forward, every loop is going to be the size of your hand.”

But before things got too loopy, she cautioned the crowd. “We’re going to have to do some math here,” she said. “We’re going to count out 17 rows.” The group groaned. “You might want to visit the bar and refill your liquid creativity,” Allen advised.

Casey and an assistant milled around the tables offering help to those who seemed lost in the loops. “This is the hardest part,” said Casey. “After the initial rows are done, you just repeat them. It gets easier and easier.”

Some participants were flying through their rows. Unlike most at the class, Stephanie Wagner is an experienced knitter and kept busy helping others at her table. “My boss wanted to do this,” she said, pointing to April Lalonde, owner of Prodigy Property Management.

Lalonde grinned. “We’ve rented out this place for our whole company, but tonight is mostly friends and family,” she said.

Her mother, Teena Bailey, laughed when asked if the instructions were making sense. “No,” she said. “But I’m just doing it.” She wasn’t worried about not getting the hang of the technique. “I got an A in macramé in high school,” she said. “It was the only A I got.”

When the rows began to grow in length, Allen encouraged the participants. “It’s just loops within loops,” she said. “And we’ll end just like we began.” As a chill wind blew outside, tables and laps were soon covered in soft chenille creations.

With the holidays approaching, a cozy handmade blanket makes a great gift, but the novices at Pinot’s Palette weren’t inclined to share the warmth. Janet Lettellier scooped her blanket closer.

“This is our hard work,” she said. “We’re going to keep them and use them.” A few tables away, Rachel Bucklin caressed her gray and white creation. “This is mine,” she said.

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