A new feature of the weekly Mt. Lebanon Uptown Market this year is the “I Made It” area at Clearview Common.
During the market’s May 11 opening day, local vendors were set up in the prime spot at Washington Road and Alfred Street, offering products about which they can say, well, “I made it.”
Kitty Lou Handmade, for example, is the business that Margaret Schappell started in November, featuring yarn that she dyes herself.
“I’ve been knitting for a long time,” she said. “Actually, my store is named after both of my grandmothers, who taught me how to knit and have really been the inspiration in my creative life.”
In her professional life, she’s a teacher at Mt. Lebanon’s Foster Elementary School. And the more she became interested in knitting, the more she wanted to learn about some of the related aspects, including how the yarn gets its color.
Her research led her to a company that supplies her with wool from Merino sheep – a relatively thin, soft variety that feels good against the skin – and secures the fiber in a humane manner. She uses acid dyes, which have a low environmental impact because almost all of the coloring substance is absorbed by the fiber.
“I do it in my teeny-tiny kitchen in Dormont. I’m hoping to clean out my basement this summer and make a little studio space, but right now it’s a rather long process just to get one batch finished,” Schappell said. “But it’s a nice relaxation after a day of work.”
The 2007 Upper St. Clair High School graduate mainly sells skeins of dyed yarn for customers to knit their own creations, and she also has her own distinctively tinted handmade items such as shawls, children’s hats, key chains and wall hangings.
“I find it to be really fascinating to figure out all the different ways that the colors mix together,” she said. “Every batch is a little bit different.”
Another fitting business for the “I Made It” area was Pip & Lola’s Everything Homemade, owned by Samantha and Bruce Story-Camp – it’s named after their kids – and specializing in soaps and other body-related products.
“They make them onsite,” Gabriel Gryffyn, representing the couple at the Uptown Market, said. “So if you go to the shop in Homestead, you can see the soaps drying in the racks, and the whole back end of the shop is where she mixes all the stuff and creates all the new varieties.”
Pip & Lola’s products tend to have creative names, especially one line of soaps paying homage to a certain British playwright.
“Sami’s a professional actress,” Gryffyn explained, “and she really just loves Shakespeare.”
And so the offerings include Falstaff, Poor Yorick, Montague and, of course, Macbeth.
“They recently crowdsourced for a new soap that ended up being called Petal to the Nettle,” Gryffyn said, with it joining the likes of Lavender Fields Forever, Rosemary Crooney, Khia’s Favorite Old Hippy Soap and Ain’t No Cure for the Spearmint Blues.
Then there’s the unscented, uncolored, just plain old cleansing soap that fans of Al Bundy in “Married ... With Children” will appreciate: The Nudie Bar.
The Mt. Lebanon Uptown Market takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Oct. 26 in the municipality’s Central Business District along Washington Road. For more information, visit mtlebopartnership.org.