Just so we’re clear: the woman who holds the record as the fastest knitter in North America remains Linda Benne-Finnie, the owner of Linda’s Craftique, a wool and needle shop on Lakeshore Road East in Port Credit.
“It’s amazing to watch her,” says Sarah Arblaster of Spinrite, which manufactures knitting yarn in Toronto. Ms. Arblaster officiated when Ms. Benne-Finnie took the title at the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival in Toronto, in 2004. “She gets into a groove and then: Schlooo! She just goes.”
At that sitting, Ms. Benne-Finnie knitted 253 stitches in three minutes, knitting 60 stitches on a row with a 5mm needle, one row knit, one row purl.
I met Ms. Benne-Finnie writing my series Letter from the Water's Edge. Last Saturday the Post published my piece about another knitter, Wannietta Prescod of Angus, Ont., who represented Canada at a global Knit-Off in Minneapolis on Saturday. Ms. Prescod managed 245 stitches in three minutes, beating out all but the Scottish and Dutch competitors. Even so, Ms. Benne-Finnie still holds the North American record.
Ms. Benne-Finnie's shop, Linda's Craftique, is a wonderful place where balls of wool in all colours fill shelves on every wall. A wood table in the front is where women sit around and knit. Business is booming.
“Over the past five years, knitting has virtually become a cult,” she tells me, knitting a pink cashmere sock, needles flashing. “It’s beyond my wildest imagination.”
Now she ships yarn -- including yarn made from corn fibre, bamboo fibre, milk fibre and seaweed fibre, to customers worldwide. (She doesn’t sell synthetics). A Canpar guy came in and dropped off a box of cashmere sock yarn, from Vancouver. Ms. Benne-Finnie took out a skeen in rich green, blue and orange, fondled it, and attached it to a swift on the table. She pulled the yarn to her ball winder, attached to a back of a chair, and, at lightning speed, transformed it into a perfect ball.
“I think I’ll be knitting socks out of this at bitch and stitch tonight,” she said. “We just eat pizza [at Great Canadian Pizza, across Lakeshore] drink wine, and knit, and do a little bitchin’, depending on who’s mad at their husband.”
Taught by her mother, Ms. Benne-Finnie began knitting at age 4.
“I was a closet knitter,” she says. “I didn’t want my friends to know. In high school, I would rush home and knit because I wanted to get my sweater finished.” At age 18, she opened a yarn shop in Mississauga’s Sherwood Forrest, which soon moved to this spot. She’s been here 21 years.
She has plenty of company, including customers who’ve bought more wool than they can ever knit, which the owner classifies as SABLE: “Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy.”
Lately Ms. Benne-Finnie suffers from tendonitis. Her doctor says she could cure it if she stops knitting for two months, but she says, “If I did that I’d become an alcoholic.”
Now, she is going to physiotherapy and training herself to compete in October, when she expects to meet Ms. Prescod and the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival smackdown. Won't want to miss that one!