BY MOLLY JOHNSON
Laura Sparks admits to being something of a yarn hoarder. Baskets of blues and yellows, cotton and wool, spill into five rooms of the 28-year-old’s modest home on South Washington Street. She has been knitting for more than a decade and, in line with her yarn addiction, rarely leaves home without one—or six—of her latest projects. “I like choices,” she says.
Originally from California, Sparks has been in Bloomington since 2008, knitting while she works on her Ph.D. in English at IU. But as of late she has turned her hobby into something more. It was Sparks’ excess of yarn, obsessive habit, and desire to accessorize someone besides her husband that led her to create Lit Knits, an online business selling literary-inspired knitwear through etsy.com.
Etsy is an online outlet for people to sell their handmade products to shoppers who care about how and where an item is made. The site hosts hundreds of thousands of sellers from 150 different countries but also has an option for shoppers to find local products. The Bloomington community’s more than 60 vendors offer items ranging from light fixtures to jewelry. “I knew some talented people using Etsy, so it made sense for me to join their network,” Sparks says, noting that it’s a good option for people like her who don’t have storefronts or online businesses of their own.
Though a seasoned knitter, Sparks’ leap into business this past February has pushed her creativity further. She has expanded from traditional knitwear to neckties and even iPad sleeves. And she is now working with a process called “wet felting”—wetting and molding felt around her hand-knit items to make them sturdier—to produce decorative coasters, cozies, and other items, such as “Dorothy Parker’s Square Ruffled Bowl.” It keeps Sparks busy through the summer when her scarves and “Jane Austen Reading Gloves” aren’t in demand.
“The store has made me more imaginative and more confident as I try to develop my own sort of style,” says Sparks, who was originally taught the craft by her grandmother.
At this point, her knitting venture remains part time, though she dreams of one day making a living off her art alone. “I’d rather knit than write my dissertation or grade papers,” she says. Find Lit Knits online at etsy.com/shop/litknits.