Leah Livingstone lives in a house full of color.
Stacked in the corner of her living room are clear storage bins full of hand-knitted rainbow, pink and blue scarves, blankets and shawls. In baskets to the side of her couch sit a half-dozen, half-finished projects, and in a room upstairs there are bags and bags full of various kinds of yarn in every color.
“It has just kind of evolved overtime,” Livingstone said of her hobby, which has gone from knitting scarves for friends to hocking dozens of items at local craft fairs. “It was never something I planned on doing.”
Like many children, Livingstone first learned to knit when she was about 5 years old, but the hobby didn’t stick. It wasn’t 2012, when her own daughter brought home some yarn and knitting needles from an after-school program at her middle school, that she tried her hand at crafting once again.
“She brought the stuff home and it was just immediately nostalgic for me — I remember my mom teaching me,” Livingstone said. “I made one scarf and I wore it to work and everybody at work said ‘I want one, I want one.’”
From there, Twisted Knits was born, and eight years later Livingston has moved on from simple ruffled scarves to selling infinity scarves, baby blankets, throw blankets, shawls, doll clothes and more.
“It has grown exponentially,” she said. “When I first started doing craft shows I would pay to go to the show, load up my car, set it all up and not sell a thing. Then I started doing some that were so busy, I didn’t have enough stock to do the one I’d signed up for the next weekend.”
It’s evolution was so organic, Livingston said, that she still feels a sense of shock when her items — humble pieces she makes in her Quincy living room — make a customer smile.
“When someone comes over and says ‘Wow, I love this’ or “It’s so pretty’ I still think, ‘Really?’” she said.
Livingstone was doing craft shows all over the region until about two years ago, when her mother’s Alzheimer’s started taking up more and more of her time. It’s been about two years since her mother passed away, and it took her a year before she started to get back into the swing of things with Twisted Knits.
She joins every craft show she can, and last December was hitting her stride.
“I probably sold 100 scarves and blankets over that month,” she said. “I just couldn’t keep up. I was sitting at my booth knitting and saying ‘I’m almost done with this one — then you can have it.’”
Livingstone sells her items for a fraction of what other handmade blankets and scarves sell for — her scarves, which can take up to eight hours to finish, are usually sold for between $10 and $25, and her blankets go from $45 to $60.
She said people regularly tell her she could charge more, but she says it’s by design.
“I don’t want to quit my day job. This is just a hobby for me,” she said. “It’s relaxing and has turned into something really fun.”
The products Livingstone makes are obviously homemade, and they’re not perfectly-patterned and sized like items found in big box stores or at clothing retailers. But she says the occasional imperfection is part of the charm, and that their popularity is indicative of a larger cultural shift toward valuing the handmade over the mass produced.
“I think now, especially more than in the 90s and 00s, people are into handmade, quality products that you know who made them,” she said. “Culturally we’ve moved back into the direction of wanting individual, homemade things. You can’t ask Kohl’s how something was made or what it’s made of. People appreciate knowing where their things come from.”
Photos in this post were taken by the lovely Lauren Owens Lambert. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.