Like those sparkly chandelier earrings Sarah Jessica Parker wore on the steps of the Met Costume Institute Gala, but can’t afford the Bulgari price tag? Maybe the gem encrusted choker another celeb wore on the red carpet at this year’s Oscars, cited as being on loan from Harry Winston. Shiny stuff is wonderful, but not all of us can rock out for the really pricey rocks. Seasoned NYC shoppers know where to find the bargain baubles that imitate the serious bling in the windows of the finest jewelry stores of Fifth Avenue. Manhattan is full of little accessory stores that sell everything from epic rhinestone drop earrings to imitation Judith Lieber clutch purses. Chain stores like Laila Rowe and Claire’s are always full of girls of every age who need a little affordable retail therapy. Blossom is a little store on Broadway near 79th Street that offers all that, with a little something extra wonderful on the side.
When Blossom’s owner, Hasik Lim’s, first son, Noah, was born, his mother Myung-hee An, who lives in Seoul, Korea, knew she wanted to make him a doll with “every stitch from my own hand”. Not happy with the idea of buying him a “generic toy”, An decided to hand knit her new grandson a small doll in the shape of a little dog. The proud grandmother did not stop there, going on to knit many more adorable dolls for Noah and his little brother, Ian. Soon, the hobby turned into a full time occupation, and the creations wrought by the prolific grandmother now fill every available nook, cranny, shelf and window of her son’s shop in NYC.
Blossom’s hand knit dolls are a treasured secret of Upper West Side mothers and kids, as well as collectors of unique and well made items. An makes dolls in every size and shape, from super heroes to mermaids, to a family of sunbathing bunnies. There are hand knit dinosaurs and tiny cavemen that stalk the shelves of necklaces and bracelets, and a jolly elf that sits in the window amidst the scarves and handbags and hair clips. Babar the elephant chills out on a shelf with some bunnies, bears and monkeys, and there are pandas, piglets and blue hippos. Each doll is totally unique, for, in An’s words, “every piece of work is always different.”
Lim’s mother is so enamored of her craft that she rises at 5 in the morning and knits all day long. Her husband does the cooking for both of them. The dolls are shipped to Blossom from Seoul on a regular basis, so the store is always stocked with the cheerful creations. An makes sure to buy so much yarn during every visit to New York that her house back home is full of skeins of colorful wool and acrylic.
A little girl in Long Island once sent a drawing of a monster to Lim, asking him if his mother could knit her a doll from the sketch. Lim sent the drawing to his mother, and shortly after the little girl received her monster in knitted form. An says her desire to make the dolls comes from the wonderful feeling she gets from making people feel good. She says she feels a great sense of satisfaction whenever someone appreciates her work. But mostly, she says, it is fun. What began with a grandmother’s desire to make her grandson a special gift has grown into a wonderful enterprise that brings delight to people a world away.
Lim’s sister, Michelle, who also works at Blossom, says that the dolls are in huge demand at Christmas. There are times when the shelves are a little emptier of the colorful creatures and animals because a new shipment has not yet arrived. A best selling doll is a little girl with orange braids and freckles and a skirt made of flower petals. She was recently center stage at Blossom, but may already be sleeping on the pillow of a little girl somewhere in the city.
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