by Sherry Smither

As Tarja Yuill starts her next project, she settles into a chair with her cup of green tea. Yuill is creating a luxurious, hand-knit blanket that her company, Connection Knits sells online.

As a child, Yuill learned to knit from her grandmother.

“I used to sit next to her ““ I was interested in making things, so I asked her to show me how,” she says. “By the time I was six, I knit a scarf.”

Tarja's Finnish grandmother spoke very little English, but knitting created an everlasting bond between them.
“I'd be with her all the time, watching her make wedding blankets for someone getting married in our family; they were beautiful intricate blankets,” says the mother of two. “This became a tradition in our family. I keep the blanket my grandmother made me in my cedar chest.”

Inspired by her grandmother and wanting to carry on the custom for her daughters, Connection Knits gives Tarja the creative freedom she longed for. Tarja designs one-of-a-kind wool blankets weighing 12 pounds that she makes with giant knitting needles: three-and-a-half to four-feet long and one-and-a-half to two-inches in diameter.

Hand-stitching ranges from rib, knit, seed or basket weave and depending on the desired colour, Yuill uses Merino wool for creamy white blankets and for grey, medium or dark brown blankets, New Zealand Corriedale wool. Orders take six to eight weeks to reach her clients in Canada and Sweden.

To add a pop of colour, clients select from a wide range of hues including navy blue, baby pink or soldier green for edging made of lamb's wool making their blanket unique.

After graduating from university with a degree in psychology, Yuill studied painting at Oakville's Sheridan College and became a hair stylist, but once she found her way back to knitting, things seemed to fall into place.

When her children were born, she found time between their naps to knit. “It was kind of like quick, quick ““ that's why I started with simple stitches,” Yuill says. “The thing about these blankets, is they are so giant and heavy, that I can only do a specific size and as far as patterns go, I only do a simple stitch even though some look more intricate than others,” she explains. 

Tarja felts the wool, a process that binds wool together, strengthening it with soap and water, knits, fills orders, and designs and updates Connection Knits' website. Plans include an e-commerce account with a shopping cart.

“I wanted to make natural and basic blankets, bringing it back to the earth and at the same time, instead of using harsh chemicals and formaldehyde, like many new clothes that smell funny, cause you to get a rash or are sprayed with some weird thing, I wanted to bring it back to a really beautiful, functional, natural product,” she says.

Since the finished product is about four-feet by six-feet, once the blanket starts to take shape, Tarja moves out of her chair and knits at her large dining room table that supports her work and helps alleviate the strain on her back until the blanket is complete.    

“For me, I knit blankets whenever I can, it's sort of a hobby that's turned into something more. I've always enjoyed working with my hands and being really creative and that's really what motivated me my whole life. That's all I really wanted to do ““ time flew when I was doing things like that,” she reflects. Connection Knits is giving me that and I'm running with it!”

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