Janice joined forces with daughter Penny in 1964 in the small seaside village of Padanaram, where Penny had opened her first yarn shop two years earlier. Penny discovered that many of the patterns which her patrons requested were not available. Penny and Janice began designing and writing directions for customers, and this team of “best friends” quickly evolved into a special and creative mother/daughter pattern design partnership, which spanned more than twenty years.
Simple typewritten instructions grew into a more professional, shop-friendly design. In 1975, mother and daughter opened a second shop on Nantucket, which flourished and provided a wider view of knitters’ needs throughout the country. Penny discovered her love of writing and, in 1980, began to publish the Straker designs. Today Penny Straker brings 23 years of yarn-shop owner experience to her designs and pattern-writing.
Although they designed independently, Penny and Janice were each other’s toughest critics and strongest champions. Janice passed away in 1985, but many of her timeless, classic designs remain favorites for today’s knitters and are offered in our collection of patterns.
Janice’s illness and death, and Penny’s marriage and the raising of two sons forced the selling of the Nantucket shop in 1983 and the closing of the Padanaram shop in 1985.
While restoring and building an addition to her 19th century house, Penny extended her love of the outdoors and design to landscaping and eventually to a new career as a professional gardener. Since 1991 she has worked in, managed, and designed in a variety of properties along the coast of Dartmouth and Westport Point as Penny Straker Gardens.
Penny missed knitting too much, an integral part of her life from the age of five. She reestablished her knitting pattern business in 2001 and continues today to work in both careers. The updating and reprinting of Straker classics, the sketching and knitting of prototypes of new designs, and the production of an annual press run are ongoing throughout the fall and winter months.
Cathleen Ormonde, Penny’s associate and friend since the Sixties, continues to bring her proofing and editing skills to the pattern writing and her expert knitting and finishing to our model knitting. Elizabeth Newton joined us in 2008 as an assistant, contributing to many facets of our company, including proofing, editing, marketing and shipping, allowing us to fill our orders promptly throughout the year.
Penny Straker Patterns are the benchmark of hand knitting patterns. Knitter-friendly, with clean graphics, including illustrations of techniques, they are written in a straightforward style. They take the knitter one step at a time through each section of a garment and are complete and accurate.
They are the original generic patterns, written for weights of yarn, not specific brand names. With a Penny Straker pattern any appropriate yarn that tests to required gauge can be used in the project.
A prototype is knit from an idea and a rough sketch. The math is calculated for the size range of the design and then rough drafts are written, proofread and re-written. Other sizes are then test knit to check the fit and tailoring of each size and the wording of the directions. Only then is the final draft ready to be published.
Knitters have come to trust in our patterns because of the extra time and care given to each design.
In addition our patterns go several steps further:
• Patterns are suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced knitting levels.
• Designs for six yarn weights: fingering, sport, DK (heavy sport), worsted, light bulky and bulky.
• Yarn Notes on the grey flap (on printed patterns) educate the knitter in the varieties of texture, spinning methods and yarn types commonly found in a yarn weight.
• A step-by-step eight-inch swatch, also on the grey flap (on printed patterns), familiarizes the knitter with the pattern stitch and determines if required gauge is met.
• P.S. Pointers – little knitting lessons and tips for knitters of all levels.
• The back cover has helpful information regarding how to measure and determine sizing.
• A Yarn Chart listing yarn weights, and their corresponding range of yardages, optimum needle sizes and gauges in Stockinette Stitch.
Our pattern sizing is based on traditional American tailors’ sizing. Every size from baby to adult is determined by the fullest part of the chest. A size 40 sweater measures, after assembly, 40” around. This measurement is taken with a tape measure placed just below the underarms, around the back and across the fullest part of the chest or bust.
The directions present average lengths for torso and sleeve. The knitter is encouraged within the text to adjust the measurements to suit their personal sleeve and body lengths, and when appropriate to the design, their personal style.