October 17, 2013

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Yearning for yarn at Genuine Purl

WELCOME TO THE PULSE’S NEW COLUMN: STYLATUDE. in it, we’ll explore and celebrate the world of Chattanooga fashion and style—but with our typical Pulse attitude. Stylatude won’t be another tired look at skinny jeans or Jimmy Choos. Instead, we’ll be seeking out local designers, outlets and ideas and talking about what Chattanooga brings to the fashion-and-style table. 

And we can use your help! Do you know someone who is creating great clothes, hats, bags, jewelry, accessories? We want to hear about them! Send your suggestions to We’re also looking for writers to help us create the column—so if you’re tuned into the local style scene, can put a sentence together and meet deadlines, send your info to the email address above.

Remember, the great Coco Chanel famously said, “Fashion changes. Style remains.” Now that’s stylatude!

For this first column, we profile a place that’s been creating individual style—and fashion—for 28 years, knitting shop extraordinaire Genuine Purl. Owner Kathy Brunson has had the needles out on the North Shore for 14 years at the current location on N. Market, and for the previous 14 up the road a bit. An expert knitter herself, “It’s a rare day,” she says, “that I’m not knitting something.”

If your vision of knitting is limited to someone’s grandmother sitting by the fireplace making shapeless scarves—you obviously haven’t visited Genuine Purl. The shop is filled with gorgeous yarns from all over the world, including Italy, still the knitwear capital. Wool, silk, cotton, wool-and-silk blends (“alpaca is very hot right now,” says Brunson), jostle for the attention of knitters who run the age and demographic gamut. 

“The two employees I have now are wonderful knitters—at 18 and 20 years old,” Brunson says. “We see a lot of young knitters in here.”

In fact, knitting is on a bit of a roll right now, and why not? There are fabulous patterns available that go far beyond the classic crewneck sweater—not that a crewneck created in one of Genuine Purl’s eye-catching yarns wouldn’t have style to spare. 

“Cowl necks, sweaters with a longer tail in back, and especially wraps and shawls—we get many requests for those,” Brunson says. She and her employees often knit examples of new patterns, which are displayed in the shop, though not for sale except during the summer sale, or if one of the model patterns is discontinued. What are for sale are unique and hard-to-find shawl pins, a must-have knitwear accessory. 

Fingerless gloves are another hot knitting project at the moment, and the shop stocks yarns that have the perfect “hand,” or texture, for them.

Brunson clearly sees the connection between artisan and artist, and gives her customers a chance to experience it. Last year, Genuine Purl hosted a workshop with Brandon Mably, for more than a decade the studio manager of the world-famous Kaffe Fassett Studio in London, which creates knitwear, tapestry and mixed-media artwork. Mably, who designs patterns for Vogue Knitting, talked to students about color and design, using famous paintings as examples of color choices and shadings as they knitted projects.

“On the first day of the workshop, people were not sure they were mastering it,” says Brunson. “But by the end of the second day, when we hung up all the projects together, the results were stunning.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, she’s hosting a trunk show with a yarn maker from Maine who creates incredible hand-dyed yarns. “When we hear of a designer or fiber artist who is going to be in the area, we jump on it,” she says.

If all this sounds fascinating, but you’ve never knit one, purled two in your life, don’t despair. Genuine Purl offers a variety of both day and evening classes, including an “Open Knit Night” on Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. What’s better than knitting together your own style?

Genuine Purl 

140 N. Market St.

(423) 267-7335.

Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.



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