Spotlight: For Edyie Stika, knitting store means more than a business


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Edyie Stika's store shelves are stocked full of buffalo, yak, alpaca, corn, and milk — but she doesn't sell a scrap of food.

Stika sells yarn, and her eclectic collection of types are sold in a cornucopia of hues that would put a rainbow to shame.

"I am totally out of my mind crazy," she said, sitting among the canopy of colorful yarn she sells. "You would have to be totally nuts to do this."

Crazy or not, Stika has been the owner of the Knitting Shoppe, 2141 Muscatine Ave., since 1983. But to her, the store is much more than a way to make a living — it is a way to build a community.

Sitting at a thin wooden table were four women, their needles clacking away on scarves and blankets. And while Stika provides these women with tips and instruction, for Bonnie Slee, she's a lifesaver.

"A year ago in December, I tried to commit suicide," said Slee, remembering the ordeal she went through recuperating from a severe accident two years ago that required 31 surgeries to reconstruct her right arm and side of her face.

"I went through a lot of therapy, and I was a recluse," Slee said. "My therapist said I have to find things to keep me busy, and Edyie got stuck with me. She is my counselor."

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Whether patrons come to Stika for a ball of yarn or for a person to talk to, she is open to help. And that desire has led her to put on a handmade hat and glove drive for the past 25 years.

Above Stika's register, scarves, hats, and mittens are strung like Christmas lights, eagerly awaiting their departure to Cassie's Mittens, a local drive.

And while Stika said the majority of donations are from a small group of customers, one woman in particular stands out.

"There is a woman who makes a scarf and a hat that matches, and I have never met this woman," Stika said, pulling a tightly bundled forest green scarf from inside a matching knit cap. "She is an older woman who has done this every year for a long time now, and somebody brings it in for her … I have asked for her name before, and they haven't said. I really would like to just send her a note. I want to thank her profusely."

While Stika has never met this anonymous donator, in total the drive has collected 300 to 400 knitted scarves and hats this year.

But her charity does not stop with the drive. She also knits sweaters for her brother, David Pirtle, including one he wore at his third wedding.

"I remember looking at the pattern book that it came out of, and it only took me moments to pick that one out," Pirtle said, remembering the first time he saw the pattern for his favorite sweater: a dark coffee-colored garment with autumn leaves and red roses across the front.

And while a sweater may seem like an odd item to get married in, Pirtle said, it was because Stika couldn't be present for the ceremony.

"It was just kind of like having here there with me," he said.

Her shop is more than a way to pay the bills. The walls of yarn provide a "naturally warm surrounding" that Stika doesn't see herself leaving anytime soon. But if the day comes that she decides to close, she won't be lost for things to do.

"I would just take all this yarn home and knit for the rest of my life," she said.

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