Knitting in Needham
In the 1850’s Needham began to see the development of industry, especially in Needham Heights, where the Creative Warehouse shop is located. Knitters from the English Midlands, displaced by economic changes in their own country migrated to Needham and the surrounding towns to reestablish their businesses. The most famous of these was the William Carter Company, which today still produces fine knitwear (though no longer in Needham). In 1890, there were more than 15 companies manufacturing knitted garments in Needham Heights. By about 1900, the demand for labor in these factories brought a influx of new immigrants to Needham, not only from England, but also from Ireland, Italy and Poland.
The building housing Elissa’s Creative Warehouse used to be a dyeing mill. You can still see remnants of its mill past in the old beams and ceilings of the shop.
Knitting and my family
I grew up in my grandmother’s yarn store, at 733 Dudley Street, Upham’s Corner, and Roxbury. She taught me to knit when I was 6. I loved crawling under her counters and feeling the fabrics and yarns on my skin. I still get that thrill when I come to my store everyday! My father’s family moved there from Worcester during the Depression and they opened their store, “Daniel Leavitt, Yarn and Yard Goods”. In those days people needed to knit and sew because not everyone could buy the things they needed.
When I started working at the Creative Warehouse I met people in the industry who worked with my grandmother for years. I still work with the same family-run companies, buying from the grandchildren of people whose grandparents worked with my grandparents. I remember some of my grandmother’s customers shopping at Creative Warehouse and bringing their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My grandfather passed away in 1948 and my grandmother kept the Upham’s Corner store until the mid-1970’s. I purchased Creative Warehouse in 1990 from Sylvia Miller.
My mother Rose was my official “Day Manager” for 12 years. She was the smile you met when you came into the store. She had an incredible sense of color. And everyone asked her for advice and opinions. She had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the store. She gave the store warmth and we continue to bring that feeling when you come in. She sat at the front counter with her transistor radio listening and laughing at Rush Limbaugh and the Red Sox.
Those of you who are from this area or old customers you may remember Sylvia Miller. Sylvia Miller opened the Creative Home in Newton Upper Falls and was there for about 16 years. After closing the Creative Home she moved to Newton Center and finally came to Needham Heights where she opened Sylvia Miller’s Creative Warehouse in an old dying mill. I worked for Sylvia for a couple of years and in 1990 she sold me the shop. She was an amazing woman full of energy and ideas. Sylvia passes away March 17. What a blessing for those of you that may have known her and certainly for all of you who love to shop at the Creative Warehouse. I think of her everyday and I smile.