Julie Merrell, owner of the Pa-Pa Patch Knit Shop, 500 S. Kentucky Ave., is following her passion for knitting and design that began when she was a child.
Merrell has been in business for approximately 10 years and her shop carries specialty and novelty yarns for purchase, but she also designs sweaters and purses and offers knitting classes to adults and children for $15 an hour.
The yarn she carries comes from well-known brands such as Debbie Bliss, Crystal Palace, Universal, and Skacel.
“We have everything from acrylic to cashmere,” Merrell said. “And any kind of novelty yarn.”
In her workroom she has a knitting machine and a large studio or rug loom that she is making several tartan plaid scarves on. She has already created a purse by hand with a rather artsy design that is made with colorful angora goat hair that she calls her “Fire Bag.”
“I knitted the lock,” she said. “I had never seen anybody do this before, it’s kind of funky. My mom suggested that I send it in to Vogue Knitting.”
In 1988 Merrell received a Bachelor’s degree in fashion, textiles and clothing in business from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
But before that, she received her inspiration from her late grandmother Dorothy Merrell, of Marshall, who taught her how to crochet. However, she gains her love for working with yarns and textiles from both sides of the family — on her father’s side they knitted and crocheted, and on her mother, Lela Merrell-Savage’s side they were seamstresses.
“After I learned some of the basics with my grandmother, a lady across the street, in Raytown, was moving and she gave me a pair of knitting needles and a little book,” Merrell said. “I was probably 14 or 15 years old. I took the book and taught myself to knit.”
She began a sweater, that she still has in the shop, which set her on her way to where she is today.
“My mom said, ‘Julie if you do not finish something, I don’t care what it is, I’m never going to buy you another art supply in your life,’” she added. “The thing that I picked was the sweater and I knew nothing about it.”
Merrell finished the sweater and wore it to high school.
“All of my friends went nuts over it,” she said. “So after that I started doing some research, and I went to the library and I learned how to do all these different stitches.”
Eventually an aunt told her she was going to buy her a pattern and some yarn.
“At the time the Jones Store was carrying yarn and I’d never seen really nice yarn before,” she said. “What happened was, I got the pattern and I didn’t like the pattern so I changed it, and it fit me. I designed my own thing and I wore it to high school and everybody went nuts over that. So my mom said if you can duplicate that sweater, you have a talent. And fortunately for me I had written down everything I had done and I made another one just like it.”
Because of this her mother decided she needed knitting lessons, which lead to Merrell working at a knit shop in Overland Park, Kan., with Tabitha McCale, 16, who designed knitted items for Saks 5th Avenue.
“She taught me everything that I could learn about design at that point,” Merrell said. “I was designing, but she taught me the tricks of the trade. I’d never been to a knit shop and I went in and I was like aww. The minute I went in I felt at home.”
Besides designing, Merrell has found she loves to teach others about the craft. And although the class is $15 an hour, she said students can learn what they need to know with two lessons.
“I received a grant from the State of Missouri to open my shop,” she said. “It was through the board of elementary and secondary education so they wanted me to teach. They want to see this as a teaching opportunity, because it is kind of a lost art. It is calming and relaxing — it’s a passion.”
Merrell also offers a group rate for her knitting classes.
Pa-Pa Patch Knit Shop hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. For additional information contact Merrel at 826-1109 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on etsy.com/the papapatchknitshop.