Volume 74, Number 48 | April 06 - 12 , 2005

Villager photo by Bonnie Rosenstock

Helane Blumfield in front of bundles of yarn on the wall at The Point

A crafty Bedford St. cafe really gets to the point

By Bonnie Rosenstock

When Helane Blumfield’s life was hanging by a thread, she took up knitting. Even though she came from a family of master knitters, and her mother had tried to teach her for years, she never warmed to the idea. Blumfield preferred to crochet, but how she finally learned to knit was “unfortunate,” she recalls.

“I was one of those people who left their apartments in Battery Park City on 9/11 and couldn’t go back,” she says. “My son was 3 years old at the time, and we went from apartment to hotel to hotel for a few months. I picked up a copy of Real Simple Magazine, and they had an article on how to teach yourself to knit. That’s what I did. You know, the news about 9/11 was on 24 hours a day. I started knitting and haven’t stopped,” she laughs.

Not only didn’t she stop knitting, but the entrepreneurial Blumfield, 45 (she co-owns SFI, a full-service branding advertising agency), decided to open a knitting cafe, inspired by a similar idea she read about in Los Angeles two years ago. When Blumfield settled into the Village, she immediately fell in love with the neighborhood and thought it would be the perfect place for a different kind of coffee shop where people could come to create.

Coincidentally, about a year ago, in the middle of her business plan, another knitting-based cafe, Knit New York opened at 307 E. 14th St. Instead of packing it in, Blumfield was encouraged.

“I thought it was great because it set the tone, so I just went for it,” she says.

The Point opened at 37A Bedford St. between Carmine and Downing Sts. on March 1, “without a price tag on the merchandise,” she laughs. “We just opened the doors and jumped right in.”

“Eat knit and be happy” is the motto of The Point. Buyers, browsers, knitters, kibitzers, quiet readers, earnest laptop users — the store has wireless — and coffee drinkers from the neighborhood all co-mingle at round tables or at a long rectangular worktable. Either Blumfield, who splits her day between her two businesses, or co-managers Sandy Loh and Rebecca Crea are available to assist would-be knitters.

“Knitters like to share information. It’s very communal,” says Crea.

Balls of dazzlingly colorful yarn spill out from baskets suspended on a long white wall. Loops of loose-flowing yarn cascade down another section of the wall. The Soho architectural firm Lubrano Ciavarra designed the shop. The wide selection of yarns range in price from an affordable $6 to a high-end $30.

“Many of the yarn stores in the city can be a little pricey,” Blumfield notes. “Since we’re by schools and New York University, there are a lot of college-age and younger knitters who don’t have the same budget as someone who can buy cashmere. We don’t want to turn away anyone because of the price.”

You can find organic, 100 percent cotton, 100 percent wool, 100 percent cashmere ($19.50 and $29) and novelty yarns with ribbon mixed with fabric, or with little protruding bumps or consisting of furry wool. Noro from Japan, a hard-to-get silk blend with an exquisite mixture of colors ($10 to $12), is a favorite. There’s a one-skein yarn, with instructions included, which makes a complete project, like a baby hat ($7.25). A shimmering lightweight yarn from Gossamer Karabella Yarns ($22) is ideal for creating a summer shawl (on display). And the ever-popular Manos de Uruguay ($14.50 for wool, $8 for cotton) “is like candy,” observes Blumfield.

“They see it, and they buy 10 skeins for the colors.”

Customers, like the yarn, are also varied. There are a lot of knitting moms who come by after school and knit while their kids do homework. There are also knitting kids, especially from P.S. 3, where both boys and girls are taught the craft. Artists buy the beautiful colors to incorporate into their projects. And a growing cadre of men have cast on, like Ira Cohen of Yonkers, a freelance graphic designer for Channel 11 news, who finally worked up the courage to enter after casing the place a few times. Now he comes in about twice a week before work and is making his first scarf. A sweater is next.

“I thought it would be intimidating,” Cohen admits. “Then I met Helane, and she was so sweet, the next thing I know I’m knitting away and love it. It’s therapeutic. Once you get the hang of it, it’s such an unbelievable state,” he exudes.

Classes in knitting and crocheting start in April for moms, kids, parents and kids together, ordinary folks and “just for the boys,” with a variety of projects and delectable snacks from Eli’s.

The Point, 37A Bedford St.; open seven days a week; call 212-929-0800 for hours — cafe opens at 7:30 a.m. for before-work coffee — and schedule of classes.

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