The beautiful hydrangea, in a clay pot, stands about three feet tall in the window.
It’s not until closer inspection that you realize, not only is it not real, it’s actually made of embroidery: a three-dimensional embroidered topiary created as a State Fair show piece.
Amanda Young’s skills are proof that the art of embroidery goes far beyond your grandma’s doilies.
“I have to say, that’s my passion,” said Young of Knit & Sew World in St. Peter. “I’ve embroidered on wood, window screen, vinyl, cardstock, paper, fabrics, burlap, organza, (etc.).”
The hydrangea took only six hours to complete, thanks to machines that can handle the intricacy of the work at high speeds. It’s on those machines, and various others, that Young has become an expert over the past 14 years working at Knit & Sew. The store on South Minnesota Avenue sells and repairs various sewing, knitting and embroidery machines.
Young started embroidering about a year before being hired at the store. She taught herself the skill.
“Some of the 3D butterflies and dragonflies can be the most difficult,” she said, regarding how her skills have grown. “But basically they’re only difficult because I don’t do well with some of the hand-sewing.”
Young picked up many new skills at the store, pretty much out of necessity. Owner Shawn Dolan said she needed to learn to sell all of the store’s various machines, and to do that, she had to learn to use them to demonstrate to customers.
This led to the idea of starting clubs at the store shortly after.
“I loved embroidery so much, I wanted to share it,” Young said.
Women — and men, Young is quick to point out — take part in one club or another most Saturdays at the store. Machine Knitting clubs meet the first two Saturdays of the month. The PE-Design Digitizing Club (learning and exploring embroidery software) and Machine Embroidery Club meet the third Saturday of the month.
The clubs are hands-on and participants bring their own machines to learn new techniques and work on a project every month.
Most people are aware that various kinds of sewing machines exist. But Young isn’t surprised when people don’t realize there are machines that can knit and embroider.
She said it’s fun to see what detailed projects people take on once they get used to using the machines.
“I started off with scarves and built into blankets, and now I’m doing clothing,” she said. “People make skirts, pant suits, evening gowns, bridal dresses, toys, christening gowns. If you can put it on your body or in your home, the machines can make it.”
Kay Carlson of St. Peter bought a knitting machine four years ago and joined one of the clubs to learn how to use it. She had been a hand-knitter for years.
“I was always intrigued by the knitting machines because I thought it’d be a real easy way to do a sweater,” she said. “Zip! You’ve got a row done.”
At first Carlson learned the basics in the club, and then over the years, her knowledge expanded to various methods and techniques. She’s made several afghans, sweaters, socks, slippers, hats and other projects.
She still does some hand-knitting, but the speed of the machine is hard to pass up. An afghan can take dozens, maybe hundreds of hours to hand-knit.
“(On a machine), with a complex one, if you work on it, oh, two or three hours a day, you can have one done in less than a week,” Carlson said.
Now that Carlson knows her way around a knitting machine, she says she stays in the club for the camaraderie, but also because there’s always something new explore.
“We keep learning new stuff together,” she said.
Anyone interested in joining one of the clubs can contact Amanda Young at 507-934-3741, or visit knitsewworld.com for more information.
Knit & Sew World
119 S. Minnesota Ave., St Peter