Dot Conant

by Mary Wood Ohiku / photo by Peter Di Antoni

“My daughter Linda gave me that nickname,” Conant said with a heart-warming smile. Linda owns Closet Classics, a cafe and clothing store at 1000 E. North Ave. Conant, who has been knitting as long as she can remember, furnishes the clothing store with her original hats and scarves. Her creations are home-knit in bright colors and original patterns, attracting customers from all over the neighborhood. “Even my friend Mimi, who knits herself, comes over to buy my scarves,” Conant said. Conant herself is part of Riverwest history. Though she now lives in Shorewood, she was a founding member of the Gordon Park Co-op. Years ago, she watered, fed, and trimmed in the co-op’s plant department. Despite Conant’s efforts to keep the co-op open, including investment of her own money, legal fees took their toll and operating funds dwindled. “The co-op went under because it wasn’t run properly,” Conant said. “They tore it down, and now, in its place, they have a park where neighborhood people sell their items every summer.” Now 84, Conant still loves plants and gardening. And it’s evident in a visit to her home. “In every house I ever lived in, I always planted trees,” she said. Her other passion is obviously knitting. Walking into her living room, you’ll see an area strewn with baskets of yarn and recent projects. Piles of fabric and ornate jars of old-fashioned beads permeate the confines of her back room. “At one point, I had so many different colors, I couldn’t decide which ones to use,” she said. “So I threw all the yarn in one big bag, and while I was knitting, whatever color I pulled out I used!” The cost of yarn has gone up dramatically since she began knitting. Now Conant’s yarn comes from Switzerland, England, Italy, and France. “Upstairs, I used to have wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shelving full of yarn, plus yarn sitting in boxes,” she said. Her zest for life can be seen in every beautifully patterned hat and scarf. Her shih tzu, Willie, quietly keeps her company on a living room rug while she works diligently. “If I’m knitting or working, he’ll just lie quietly on the floor,” Conant said. “That dog has all the patience in the world.” She knits sweaters, baby-booties, and afghans as well as cotton dishcloths. When she was growing up, everyone in the neighborhood knitted. Her dishcloth pattern, she believes, is at least 70 years old. “Cotton is so tough to knit with…look!” she said, holding up a tired knitting finger. The next time you’re out in the neighborhood this winter watching people bustle about in their colorful hats and scarves, take a closer look. You just might catch a glimpse of Dot’s Riverwest legacy Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 1 – January 2003