By James Walsh
Posted Mar 9, 2012
GREENWOOD LAKE — Visions of Silas Marner weaving away on his loom quickly disappear as Barney Lopilato leads the way into his computerized knitting workshop.
Inch by inch, one of his four knitting machines produces what will be the first of 10 green soccer-team blankets. In a back room, Lopilato flips on a desktop computer screen.
“Each box on the screen is a stitch,” he explains. “You have to punch in every box on the screen to make the pattern. You program the color, the tension of the fabric.”
Welcome to Blanket Boss.
Lopilato, 50, has three decades in the knitting business. He learned the trade from his paternal uncle Tony at Jacquard Patterns in Queens.
“Queens used to be the headquarters for sweater-making,” Lopilato tells a visitor to his Windermere Avenue shop. “The fashion industry was in Manhattan and the sweater manufacturers were all in Ridgewood and Glendale, Queens.”
Lopilato took over the business in the mid-1990s, which was when sweater manufacturing was going overseas, he recalled.
He moved the business to Greenwood Lake in 2006, exchanging the commuting life for a five-block stroll to work.
That was also when Lopilato began a continuing process of keeping up with consumer interests. Photo blankets are a big part of the business, particularly around holidays, but it was bigger still when there were photo shops in every town and mall.
“The challenge is finding new places to put them in,” Lopilato says of displaying his work.
A photo store on Manhattan’s Park Avenue continues to be a reliable seller. “A lot of tourists come in,” he said, “and I sell three or four there a week.”
He’s branched out to embroidery and silk-screening.
“I always keep reinventing myself,” Lopilato said with a smile. “It takes a life of its own. I’m making blankets and people ask if I can embroider shirts. After four or five people ask for the same thing, I figure it’s another avenue to explore.”
Businesses, softball teams and bowling leagues are keen on embroidered shirts.
Some customers asked what he could do for fundraising events, so Lopilato silk-screened logos on water bottles, coffee mugs and golf balls.
He’s a tireless booster of Greenwood Lake. He repeatedly urges his visitor to go see the public beach, which he’s depicted on a 4-foot-by-6-foot framed blanket. On another wall is a photo of a smiling Rob Reiner, the actor and director, sporting one of Lopilato’s Greenwood Lake caps while filming a movie in the village last year.
Nearby is a photo of former President George W. Bush being presented with one of Lopilato’s creations by the head of a police fraternal group.
“That’s George Bush holding a scarf made right here in Greenwood Lake,” Lopilato said.