SPRING HILL — However beguiling, Debra Neville is no witch. But what she creates and teaches others at A Stitching Witch is artfully bewitching.
With yarn having twined through her fingers since the age of 3, Neville, 60, brings to her shop and classroom, opened in January, a vast knowledge of knitting, crocheting, spinning and weaving, along with all of the fibers and implements to do so.
"(Needlework) is a dying art," Neville concedes, "because people these days want instant gratification, so they just go buy something. But it's coming full circle."
Handmade garments are drawing raves for their creators, like chefs serving up down-home, farm-to-table menus. A younger crowd is picking up needles, Neville said. Old fibers are now new.
"It's the enjoyment of doing it," she said. "A lot are retired; they can only play bridge so much. They come in, and we knit and talk and laugh. It gets a little crazy in here," Neville said of the shop's every-Thursday Sit, Knit and Nosh sessions with snacks, tea and coffee.
Knitting, a two-needle craft, is the most popular fiber pursuit, Neville said. As for the other crafts: Crocheting is accomplished with one needle; spinning involves twisting raw fiber into workable yarn via a hand spindle or spinning wheel, and weaving works yarn into fabric.
With yarn, the basic ingredient of needlework, Neville said, "There are thousands, hundreds of thousands of yarns." Among her stock: silk, cotton, rayon, ribbon, sheep and alpaca wool, rabbit angora, even fibers made from sugarcane and milk.
Perusing the varied fibers is a touchy-feely experience, conjuring exclamations of "silky," "cuddly," "luxurious," "satiny," "fleecy."
Their colors are an eye feast, every slice from the color wheel plus every tint and shade thereof, as well as multicolors.
Why a yarn shop in Spring Hill? "There's no yarn shop around," pointed out Neville's assistant, Sandi Malay.
For five years, Neville owned such a shop, Fiber Odyssey, in Homosassa. Destroyed by fire in December 2015, the nearest remaining specialty fiber store is near Orlando, Malay said.
Neville of Spring Hill acknowledged that local craft and fabric stores offer yarn, but their fiber selections seldom range beyond acrylic.
Of the competition, Neville added, "Others don't carry the quality and the fibers. If you want quality, you come here. I'll tell you if it's not a quality fiber."
Neville more than tells. She teaches.
Said Malay: "I told her I couldn't knit because I was left-handed. That's something you can't tell Debbie. She taught me two years ago to knit left-handed."
At the shop's eight-seat work table on a recent afternoon, Neville's grandson, Tyler Faczmarek, assembled table looms for an upcoming weaving class Neville will teach.
While Neville knows men who knit, she forecast, "Weaving is definitely something I think men will get interested in."
The shop also stocks some 20 sizes and configurations of needles, along with patterns ranging from infant layettes to adult outerwear.
Any bridal patterns? Neville hopes not.
A bridal gown with trailing train was Neville's most challenging knitting project.
"I'd never do it again," she declared. "Oh, it was beautiful. But the fittings and adjustments — it was nuts."
The gown was a world away from her project at age 3. Growing up in the British Isles, where needlework is revered, the youngster knitted a series of strips and needled them together with more yarn to make a child's blanket.
"We pulled apart old sweaters, and I used that for yarn," she said.
Now, at A Stitching Witch, Neville and local needlers have a world's selection of yarns at their fingertips.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]