Many customers who buy the charming sweaters or dinnerware designed by Ouisha McKinney have no inkling of the story of McKinney's athletic family that lived on Parkers Mill Road in Lexington.
McKinney's wares are for sale at a booth at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Trade Show.
McKinney skied competitively in Nevada, where the family had a winter home, and was on the Nevada State Ski Team in 1966. She is the third of seven children. Her sister Tamara and brother Steve skied on an international level.
Tamara won 18 World Cup medals in Alpine skiing, more than any other other U.S. skier until Lindsay Vonn broke that record in 2009.
Never miss a local story.
Steve, who died in 1990, broke the world speed skiing record six times and was the first man to go 200 kilometers an hour.
"Our mother wanted us all to be athletically accomplished," Ouisha McKinney recalled.
Their father, the late Rigan McKinney, is in the Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga, N.Y. For 80 years he held the record for the number of races won by an amateur steeplechase jockey.
But Ouisha McKinney had a passion besides skiing and horses: knitting.
At age 16, she started a hat business, designing and knitting hats for her fellow skiers.
She said that at 18, she was at the top of a training course with her ski coach, who said, "Stop thinking about designing and think about the course."
It was an "ah-ha moment," McKinney said as she tended the booth where she sells knitted sweaters, hats and headbands, plus a large line of ceramics, all of which she designs.
"Maybe I didn't want to stop thinking about designing. The next year I gave up skiing," she said.
Horses, dogs, rabbits, foxes and farm animals appear on all her items.
"I started out hand-knitting everything," McKinney said. "Mother said, 'Get a knitting machine.' I earned money to buy my first machine by selling a litter of Saint Bernard puppies."
McKinney, 59, lives in a townhouse in Lexington that has an art studio in the back, with two kilns. There, she makes ceramics. She employs four hat knitters and two sweater knitters, who knit on machines, and a woman who helps her paint the ceramics.
She sells only at horse shows and online at Ouisha.com.
Her sister Laura runs the family farm — still on Parkers Mill Road — where she raises and sells Thoroughbred horses and show jumpers. Another sister, Sheila, who was seriously injured in 1977 in a skiing accident, also lives on the farm.