As cooler weather gestures an onslaught of vibrant patinas, Kate Hutton is briskly preparing for the changing season. Perched in the crook of a couch she parallels courses of yarn, interlocking and progressing by row to create garments characteristic of New England, but with a modern twist. Each stitch represents time-honored textile techniques, a craft resulting in classic, heirloom quality pieces that serve as an expression of her creativity.
Inside a flaxen-colored clapboard colonial building on Main Street in Somers, Kate designs, hand knits, weaves and sews every item in her shop, K.M. Hutton Modern Stitchery. While the space – appropriately named The Hive Creative Co-op - serves as a working textile studio and retail space, its intention is to serve an ever-growing craft, art, and entrepreneurial community.
Kate is a maker spirit, reveling in traditional artistry with a strong focus on applying practical skills to crafting. She began knitting in college, a utilitarian purpose while battling sub-zero winter weather in Minnesota, where she attended school. Law school followed her undergraduate study and with a rigorous schedule, she temporarily lost track of producing. After graduation, wedding preparations beckoned her creativity and to prepare, Kate and her husband completed a series of crafts, personally “touching” nearly every visual element of their nuptials. She spent a year hand-embroidering table numbers – among other projects – and experienced post-wedding “craft letdown,” when creativity left her evening routine. It was then that she returned to knitting and discovered the world of weaving.
“I started by making things I would want to wear, and then gave them to friends as gifts. When I ran out of friends I decided to start a business,” smiles Kate. “I enjoyed doing this so much I just had projects piling up.”
The derivative of being a Boston commuter, her product line is intended to complement everything from formal coat to “puffy” vest. A marriage of style and function, her knitted products include a variety of hats (with a detachable pom-pom, depending on preference), cowls and button scarves. Her woven collection includes bandana scarves, infinity scarves, bags and clutches.
“My concept has always been to bring things up a notch every time I introduce a new product,” Kate explains. “As I go through the year, my plan is to elevate materials, making each gift-worthy. I think my customers appreciate having a source for specially curated items that they can tell a story about.”
Kate makes all fabric on a loom; her woven collection is a statement of pure artistry. Each is truly one-of-a-kind and designed to be a long-term purchase, where style and function meet, like all good things in New England.
Positioned at a foot-treadle floor loom, she swiftly passes a wooden shuttle over-and-under lengthwise yarn, held in tension on wire heddles. Reminiscent of those our ancestors used, the mechanics of the self-propelled apparatus is fascinating, operating on a system of pulleys and cranks. The loom is a focal point within The Hive, space specifically designed for innovation. With walls dressed in textiles, each earth-tone yarn cone serves as inspirational eye-candy in contrast to the white, rough-sawn shiplap paneling. Free-form woven hangings give dramatic texture while a large conference-sized table invites making. It’s her fresh place to create, but also serves as a platform to serve a growing creative community.
“My original conception was to have this as my home base [for business], but thought to offer that same idea to friends and other makers,” says Kate. “I want to share in the experience, and I think it’s good to be able to reach out to your audience and have a conversation –that’s my favorite part in all of this.”
Her doors opened in February and since then The Hive has been a buzzing venue for trunk shows, workshops, private events and meetups. Kate’s intention is to build a functional gathering space for creative entrepreneurs and those seeking a “crafty break.” Since “making” is often completed in isolation she sees The Hive as a way to bring people together, exchange ideas, spark creativity and foster a community experience.
As an attorney by day, Kate has learned how to synchronize both her left and right brain. Analytical foresight has influenced smart business decisions for success while abstract, intuitive thought has stemmed creative projects, like introductory weaving workshops. Kate’s goal is to offer continual “bite-sized” craft classes, hoping entry-level projects will foster continual creativity.
“Some people come in with a conception that they’re not that creative. Over the course of three hours people talk, hang out and work indecently – in the end, they walk away with something cool enough to hang in their own home,” says Kate. “It’s cathartic as a creative experience and people get a lot out of it; you’d be surprised what’s in you with the right tools and guidance. It’s fun tapping into creativity; adults especially are looking to connect to that [artistic] part of themselves.”
Similarly, The Hive will host a series of six “Trunk & Brunch” events from September to October, each featuring local makers within the fun, crafty setting. The pop-up style market features a different local artisan each weekend day (beginning September 10) with merchandise from Lizardi Jewelry, Carmen’s Hope, Thirty6signstudio, Wild Carrot Cordage, GIGI & LALA, and Payne and Comfort. Each event is free, offers refreshments and the opportunity for visitors to “meet the maker” while purchasing truly unique products.
“I think people have fallen back in love with handmade and are getting back into the maker mentality. Some of these old crafts are dying off – not being taught from generation to generation. It’s nice to see people curious and value what you’re doing,” smiles Kate. “Making is a way to connect back to your childhood, a fun way to exercise energy and thoughts. We all sit in a chaotic headspace a lot of the time and weirdly, this is a good outlet that’s focused, but refreshing. I know it does that for me.”
Visit The Hive Creative Co-Op at 598 Main Street in Somers, Connecticut. To learn more about workshops, trunk shows, events and happenings, visit hivecreativecoop.com
To see Kate’s time-honored textiles, visit kmhutton.com