PARIS – They are two spool-sized knitting sensations.

Twins Midge Leighton and Gloria Sawyer, 77, have been knitting up a storm for the past 72 years, if you can swallow the clumsy cliché that suggests chunky sweaters and wild tempests might have anything to do with each other.

But during the past 25 years that they have run their business, Paris Knitters, they have knit enough mittens, hats and socks to clothe probably hundreds of people, mostly children. And before that, when they were working at jobs and raising families, the sisters each had their own knitting business.

“Forever and ever,” Leighton said, explaining how long the two have been at it.

The two small-statured but big-humored grandmothers spend hours knitting clothing for other parents, aunts, great-uncles and grandparents who request special orders from them.

It’s as if the twins have an abundance of maternal care to knit into snug mittens and hats, but not enough grandchildren to satisfy their urges.

“It stems from us wanting to make something or other, but no one is in need to make it for,” Leighton said, without a touch of melancholy.

Although they have a big family, once these children grow up, they prefer factory-made clothing.

“As they get older, they don’t want homemade sweaters,” Sawyer said, quite stoically. But there’s plenty of other families that do.

Leighton and Sawyer, who do not have a Web site, hit many craft shows around the area to gain customers, displaying their knitting at church fairs and bazaars to advertise. They then take orders from people who admire their pillows or long, snow-flake covered stockings.

“We will have done 11 craft shows,” Leighton said, after this season is through. Now is their busiest time, for this is when everyone who pulls stitches too tight or too loose to knit properly themselves turns to the industrious twins to make their Christmas gifts.

“It’s a hobby that pays off,” Leighton said. “A little extra money to go out to eat with.”

“It keeps us off the street and keeps us awake,” Sawyer said. She said last year alone she knit 22 Christmas stockings, her specialty. Leighton makes her mark with button-up Norwegian sweaters.

Both women grew up in Auburn. When they each married, Sawyer moved to Bridgton and Leighton to Gorham, before moving back in together about 25 years ago following the deaths of their husbands. During her career, Leighton taught business education at Gorham High School and Sawyer, among other teaching jobs, at one time offered night knitting classes at the Paris high school. They once both played the piano, too, for dance schools in the Lewiston-Auburn area during the 1940s.

Although the twins share many commonalties, they diverge on one point.

“You almost hate to sell them,” Sawyer said, gazing out over the pile of knitted items she had spread over the table.

“I never get attached,” Leighton disagreed. “Buy ’em, buy ’em, buy ’em.”


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