Jen Giuntoli is in love with knitting, hopelessly crazy in love.It’s the kind of love that makes her sigh and slow down to appreciate the twists and turns in the journey to understand how two little stitches, knits and purls, can be combined in such ways as to produce fabric and textures of enormous variety. Whether grown and shorn, or harvested from a field, everything about fiber and yarn consumes her thoughts.
Giuntoli taught herself to knit only six years ago, when on a whim she decided to knit herself a beanie. After trying a few patterns, she was certain she could improve them. With her natural creativity combined with a flair for fashion, plus a dash of perfectionism, Giuntoli Designs was born.
“I can look at a photograph and knit it,” she said. “My brain seems to work in a very mathematical way that lends itself to knitting.”
The name Giuntoli is familiar to many old-time Key Penners. The family house on A Street in the town of Home was destroyed by fire in 2002. Her father and brother were living there at the time but survived the tragedy. It’s been many years since Jen Giuntoli lived on the Key Peninsula, but she recently moved back to raise her own children.
Giuntoli attended Evergreen Elementary and Key Peninsula Middle School, and graduated from Peninsula High School in 1996. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but I got good grades and played three sports from grade school through high school,” she said. Her parents, Gary Giuntoli and Cheryl Cain were so committed to athletic opportunity for local youth that they started the Little League at Volunteer Park. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she became a dental assistant after completing her education at Pierce College on an athletic scholarship.
For independent knitting designers like Giuntoli, Facebook and user-driven social media sites like Ravelry.com provide opportunity. People from all over world can check out her designs, purchase a pattern or simply become a follower. Her Facebook group, “Yarnitude,” has over 3,000 followers. One day last summer, her design for “The Georgia Hat,” ranked as the second most frequently viewed pattern out of a half-million patterns available on Ravelry. “My boys and the neighbor boys were running around the house wearing Georgia Hats whooping it up while cheering, ‘My mom’s famous, my mom’s famous!’”
Using Facebook Live video streaming, Giuntoli regularly takes her followers along on her visits to yarn shops and fiber shows as she “oohs, aahs and squishes” her way through glorious yarns, she said. “The people I’ve met and friendships I’ve made in the online knitting community are absolutely amazing.”
Giuntoli’s patterns often include options for incorporating beads, wild pompoms and big buttons, but also include classic cables and cleverly designed plaids. She especially enjoys knitting colorful yarns from independent local dyers.
Giuntoli was asked by Evergreen Elementary in November to teach afterschool-knitting classes. “I couldn’t have said yes any faster,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be volunteering at Evergreen. It feels good to be on the other end, giving back by sharing what I’ve learned.”
The children at Evergreen were knitting within the first hour. “Who doesn’t like to make something useful with their own hands while spending time with friends?” Giuntoli said. She plans to teach knitting classes at the Red Barn Youth Center as well.
Giuntoli also arranged for weekly rental of the Key Center fire station to provide space for local knitters to get together. Calling themselves “Not Your Mother’s Fiber Station,” the newly formed group meets Friday evenings from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Knitting brings people together, Giuntoli said, and she is on a mission to share her passion for knitting from the heart of the Key Peninsula out into the world, with plenty of yarnitude.