PAWTUCKET â€” The best compliment that Farida Ferrario could ever receive was the sight of a group of her customers dressed in sweaters, tunics, skirts and other knitwear items that she had inspired them to make.
As the longtime owner of the Wayland Yarn Shoppe, located at 112 Raleigh Street in Pawtucket, Ferrario has passed on her knitting and crocheting talents as well as her passion for the crafts. On October 5, those who benefited from Ferrario's lessons, design sense, and encouragement crowded into her cozy shop to help celebrate her 44 years in business.
The women, who ranged in age from their late 20s to early 90s, along with Ferrario's two daughters, Debbie and Susan, applauded when Ferrario entered her shop. In addition to a festive spread of sandwiches, cake and coffee, Ferrario received a visit from Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, who presented her with a proclamation from the city congratulating her on more than four decades of successful proprietorship.
â€śI love coming in to work every single day,â€ť stated the energetic Ferrario. â€śThis is my glorified hobby. And I like to see the smiles on the faces of my customers when they put their clothes on that they have made,â€ť she added.
Ferrario has been at her Pawtucket location for 20 years, after having spent the first 24 years working out of a small second-floor shop in Providence. And her description of her artful knitting and crocheting as a â€śhobbyâ€ť doesn't do justice to her accomplishments as a professional knitwear designer.
When Ferrario was 15 years-old, she would go to the Providence shop of a well known professional knitter and designer named Lynn Delson to help with typing work. Delson, seeing how fast and skillful Ferrario was with the crocheting that she had learned from her grandmother, taught the teen how to knit and do finishing work. â€śShe could do anything,â€ť Ferrario said, of Delson. â€śShe taught me everything I know.â€ť
Delson employed seven knitters who worked from home, but Ferrario worked out of the shop, doing finishing work and writing up knitting instructions in three sizes. Many of the finished knitwear pieces would be sent to fashion and trade magazines such as Vogue, McCall's, Spinner and Yarns, where they would be modeled, photographed and published.
Ferrario often traveled to New York with Delson, where she met some of the top magazine editors, designers and yarn manufacturers, including Nam Comstock of McCall's, Tom Reynolds, founder of Reynolds Yarn, and William Unger of Unger Yarns. McCall's magazine once sent her the measurements of Mary Tyler Moore and Ferrario knit an outfit that the actress later modeled in an issue of McCall's.
Ferrario worked hard to improve her craft and took fashion design classes at the Rhode Island School of Design. She designed and crocheted the full-skirted and elaborate wedding gown that she wore when she married her husband, Edward, as well as fashioning the crystal beaded crown that held her veil.
It was at Delson's shop that Ferrario met her future business partner, another talented knitter named Amy McCarthy. When Ferrario was about 25 years-old, she and McCarthy opened their own yarn shop at 201 Wayland Avenue in Providence.
Ferrario said that McCarthy, who passed away three years ago, â€ścould knit anything. She was the best knitter I've ever known.â€ť In the beginning, McCarthy ran the shop while Ferrario helped out by phone, while raising her two daughters.
When rents on the Providence location started to rise, along with complaints from customers about having to climb two flights of stairs to get to the shop, the two women began to look for another place. A couple of customers recommended the current storefront in Pawtucket, just over the Providence city line, and Ferrario said the space has suited her needs perfectly ever since.
Those who had gathered to congratulate Ferrario on her 44 years in business were universal in their praise for her skill and creativity as a knitter, crocheter and fashion designer, and also the patience and enthusiasm she displays in trying to teach others how to learn those crafts.
â€śI didn't know how to knit at all two years ago,â€ť said Karen Bergel, wearing an intricately crocheted tunic dress over leggings that she created herself. â€śI brought in the needles one day, calling them chopsticks, and asked Farida how to use them.â€ť
â€śShe has so much patience and understanding,â€ť agreed Linda Mittleman, of Ferrario. â€śShe loves what she does. And she's the most creative person I know. She's a magician with her hands.â€ť
Several of the women remarked on how talented Ferrario was with knitwear patterns and design. Melissa Nickerson, who began knitting with Ferrario about five years ago, said, â€śYou can bring in a photo of anything you want to do and she can help you, or you can co-create with her. She's amazing.â€ť
Longtime customer Dorothy Barry agreed, saying, â€śIf you show her a photo of a $5,000 designer suit, she can copy it.â€ť
Another veteran knitter, Roberta Loenbenberg became so skillful under Ferrario's tutelage that she knitted the dress that she wore to her granddaughter's recent wedding and crocheted the wedding canopy used during the ceremony.
Carolyn Botvin said she has been a customer of the Wayland Yarn Shop for 21 years, and credits Ferrario with making all of her customersâ€”from beginners to veteran knitters and crocheters--feel at home. Ever the encouraging teacher, Ferrario is always generous with her praise and guidance, Botvin said, and truly wants others to enjoy the crafts as much as she does.
One of Ferrario's daughters, Susan, also enjoys knitting and crocheting, and specializes in children's knitwear items. Susan noted that her mother never did a lot of advertising and said her business grew largely by word of mouth. â€śPeople knew her for her finishes,â€ť she said. Of her mother's yarn shop, she added, â€śThis is her love, working here with her clientele.â€ť
For her part, Ferrario said she has no intention of retiring or slowing down. She said that since her husband died five years ago, the yarn shop and the social network it provides have been even more important to her. Plus, there is her never-waning love of knitting and crocheting. â€śAs long as I can see and I can sew, I'll be here,â€ť she said, with a smile.