There were days at home that Denise Abbott wanted to scream about the crumbling music industry. On furlough, she wondered about how she’d pay rent and when her unemployment check was coming. She wondered when and if things would ever go back to normal. Some days, she did let out a scream. Most days, she kept her cool.
She says that’s because of the sweaters. She’s hand-knitted brightly colored sweaters, mostly for her own wardrobe, for 30 years on weekends and to wind down after a workday.
Suddenly, she had all kinds of time to make sweaters. So she doubled down on her longtime dream of doing solely that.
“All I did was knit for a whole month and then another whole month,” she said. “I knew I had to do something to keep a positive outlook.”
As Abbott can personally attest, the coronavirus pandemic’s disruption of the entertainment industry is not only felt by musicians and performers but the many other workers who have a hand in those events. Abbott, director of marketing for The Broadmoor World Arena and Pikes Peak Center, has been mostly on furlough since events halted at both venues on March 11.
“It’s hard,” she said. “We were one of the first industries to really close and we will be one of the last, if not the last, to reopen.”
While tours are being scheduled for 2021, the future of the industry is uncertain.
“We’re all kind of like, how long is this going to last?” she said.
With all of that weighing on her mind, she needed to let stress out.
“It was a way for me to turn attention to my dream,” she said. “And do something positive so I could remain sane and calm and not sit at home and think about my plight.”
Knitting has always been a bright light for Abbott, who is 57.
Growing up, she saw her mother knitting all of the time and wanted to learn. At the age of 8, Abbot became the slipper maker (and slipper gifter) of the family.
In her early 20s, she poured over knitting books and taught herself to make sweaters from patterns. Then she knew enough to design her own.
“I stopped using any instructions more than 20 years ago,” she said. “I just started making them up as I went along.”
She always dreamed of opening a little store selling her hand-knitted wares. But it remained a hobby — something she did “for the heck of it” — through moves to Los Angeles and Indianapolis and back and forth to Colorado. Whether she was working for Fox Sports or the Olympic Training Center or the IndyCar Series, she always knitted on the side.
Last year, she made a website and a plan. She’d launch ORIGI-KNITS, INC. by September 2020.
The pandemic gave her more time, especially when one sweater requires about a week of work. But it’s happy work.
Each sweater is inspired by the yarn and materials she’s stocked up over the years. She never has a specific plan. And never makes two sweaters alike. They’re colorful and cozy and, as Abbott said, you won’t run into someone wearing the same thing.
With all these extra knitting hours, Abbott made her goal. A line of her clothes is available at Eclectic Co. in downtown Colorado Springs. During her first weekend there, she sold sweaters even though it was 90 degrees out.
“When people are wearing bright colors and something unique, they feel special,” she said. “Hopefully, I can put smiles on people’s faces.”