Festival of yarn arts features Barbie in pretty stitches

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A Barbie Fashion Retrospective will headline next week's seventh annual Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival as world-renowned knitwear designer Nicky Epstein showcases more than 100 Barbie dolls in period outfits.

To be held Feb. 11-13 at the Four Points Sheraton North in Marshall, the festival will draw knitting exhibitors, fiber artists and enthusiasts from across the country and Canada.

Farmers will bring wool from their own animals, craftspeople will offer classes, and artists will bring their patterns, books and finished creations.

But the hit of the festival is likely to be Ms. Epstein and her Barbie extravaganza. Ms. Epstein, who lives in New York City, has written more than 20 knitting and crochet books, ranging from original resource, historical and travel to Barbie Doll books and creative design.

The patterns for many of Ms. Epstein's Barbie outfits will be available in her books. In addition there will be a design available for a Pittsburgh Penguin hat in black and gold that can double for Steelers fans.

Moreover, in honor of the upcoming Super Bowl contest Sunday, the festival has challenged attendees to create their own black and gold knitted or crocheted outfit for Barbie. (Oddly, Ms. Epstein hadn't created any.) The two winning Barbie outfits will be voted on at the event's Friday evening reception, People's Choice, and then displayed along with Ms. Epstein's Barbie exhibit the whole weekend.

Barbara Grossman of Fox Chapel began the festival in 2005. She comes from a family of knitters.

"My mother learned to knit as a child in Poland, out of need, and my mother-in-law has been knitting for 80 years. We didn't live in such a disposable society then."

Everyone in the Grossman family knits, including her husband, Randy Grossman, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, following in the pattern of Rosey Grier, a New York Giant who did needlepoint.

"At the festival, we have a few dedicated men, but it is mostly women who do this," Ms. Grossman said. And it will be women of all ages because we are having a knitting craze.

At the festival, classes will be offered in the basic skills as well as advanced forms of using fibers.

A local teacher, Susan Radford, will offer two classes called "Maybe There Is a Better Way I & II," where students can request help on a certain topic and learn techniques to make knitting easier.

Karen Paige, another local artist, will teach a class called "Making Yarn From Recycled Materials." In this session old T-shirt fabric will be fashioned into yarn for knitting or crocheting.

Some of the basic classes are free, but some require pre-registration and a fee. Most classers require that you bring your own materials and do some work beforehand, so it is well to have a close look at the registration form at www.pghknitandcrochet.com.

Most details are at the website. For other questions call Ms. Grossman at 412-963-7030

Admission fee is $10 in advance and $15 on festival days.

Bette McDevitt is a freelance writer: bettemcd@verizon.net . First Published February 2, 2011 5:00 AM


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