Could the Yarn Shop Be a Place of Healing?


Unlike many small businesses, City ThreadsLeti Ruiz’s yarn store in New York’s East Village has survived the pandemic unscathed. The surge in interest in crafts, including store specialties in knitting and crochet, has brought both returning and new customers in search of comfort and distraction. When people are stuck at home, customers order over the phone or Instagram, and a friend of the store has delivered to all five counties. Ms. Ruiz finally said that the store is in better shape financially in 2020 than in 2019.

But now, Ms. Ruiz faces a new landscape: the unknown world of post-pandemic crafting. “It’s slowed down a bit because people are returning to work or traveling,” he said. “So now I feel more like normal times.”

For many, craftsmanship has emerged during the pandemic as an important way to reduce anxiety and transform ambient unrest into something soothing and productive. Co-owner Andrea Deal Gotham Quilts She described a spree in Midtown Manhattan when her store’s regular sewing machine sales tripled at the start of the pandemic. The bloating wasn’t just about keeping idle hands busy, he said. A reflection of how people rethink their lives during isolation.

“We see low-wage workers not wanting to go back to their jobs. Mrs. Deal says, ‘I am more important than that and I want to do something more valuable’. “Being able to create something for yourself and be creative and produce something useful for yourself or someone else, I think there’s great satisfaction in that.”

However, it is unclear what role craftsmanship will continue to play in the lives of those who adopt it, as stress and uncertainty about the future begin to subside, largely due to the availability of vaccines and the lifting of pandemic restrictions. A stress relief measure during an extraordinarily difficult year.

Rita Bobry, who owned Downtown Yarns for 17 years before retiring and transferred the shop to Ms. Ruiz, remembers a similar post-traumatic crafting moment in the city. In 2001, when his shop had just opened, he welcomed worried New Yorkers who turned to knitting to comfort themselves after the 9/11 attacks. That day, the air outside the yarn warehouse was covered with dust. but Miss Bobry has decided to keep the store open. He lit candles to put in the window, opened his door to passersby.

“I think people were staying at home more, they wanted to be in groups, in communities; a lot of people lost their jobs,” said Mrs. Bobry. “When you’re not working, you knit more. When you’re afraid to go out, you knit more.”

The spinning shop became a sort of gathering place. “People who felt lost came in,” Mrs. Bobry said.

Craft stores were unable to serve as physical gathering places during most of the pandemic. Beginning craftsmen in search of convenience have turned to the digital options that different stores offer online. Purl SohoA yarn store that opened shortly after 9/11 has seen traffic to its website increase during the pandemic as customers search for the store’s online repository of tutorials and free patterns.

But the online experience cannot replicate the tactile pleasures of hands-on crafting or learning in person from other artisans. Purl Soho highlights natural fibers, colors and textures in the materials they sell, providing a perspective on the store’s co-owner Joelle Hoverson’s background in fine arts. Crafting is a way to enjoy such materials and connect to a shared past.

“Over the last 20 years, the number of articles like, ‘This is not your grandma’s knitting’ – Google that phrase, you’ll find 100 articles written with that title,” said Ms. Hoverson. “And everyone in our industry rolls their eyes, ‘Yeah. We know.’ We don’t do what our grandmothers did. However, I think that’s part of it: We Which she does what our grandmothers did, you know?”

Jennifer Way, an art historian and professor at the University of North Texas, has studied the use of craftsmanship in times of crisis. He discovered that the crafts themselves—quilts, scarves, needlepoint pillows—tend to be less important than the soothing manufacturing process that created them. He explained that craftsmanship has a “tactile quality” and connects with mindfulness and wellness ideas through touching and working with craft materials.

“The Craft, in some ways, with its repetitive gestures and sometimes repetitive projects, seems to offer this opportunity to re-establish the mind-body connection,” said Professor Way. “The practice of the craft itself provides an opportunity to connect mind and body to address healing, stress and all that sort of thing.”

Quilt Store He hosted a Zoom quilting class in Los Angeles last year with more than 60 attendees. The store’s owner, Lisa Hanson, says many of her pandemic customers are interested in face-to-face quilting — though not all, she believes, is a natural consequence of the lifting of restrictions. After all, crafting is something people usually do in their spare time, and many of them have been unusually plentiful over the past year. Those days may be over.

“I don’t know about you, but my life has gotten a little more complicated since things opened up further,” said Ms. Hanson.

Survey It was run by Premier Needle Arts, a holding company that operates several handcraft brands in the quilting space. space found that the number of new quilters increased 12 percent in 2020, and 51 percent of existing quilters spent more time quilting than in previous years. Ms. Hanson maintains her faith in the new converts. “Until now, a lot of people keep some dedication to their newly discovered craft,” he said.

Annie & Company Needle Point and Knitting Manhattan’s Upper East Side recently held its first in-person classes since the start of the pandemic. For the Starting Pinpoint class on Saturday afternoon, four of the eight slots were filled.

“You’re either interested or not,” said Annie Goodman, owner of the store, “those who walk in may find it very relaxing and meditative. And I think they stick with it.”

Saturday class attendees represented an intergenerational group of new craftsmen huddled around a circular table while wearing masks, exchanging television suggestions while learning continent and basketweave stitches.

I watched the group’s facilitator help a participant correct a mistake in a neat string of green threads. Observing the closeness of the interaction – the two of them head to head on the same pile of yarn and canvas, hands almost touching, trying to determine what went wrong – it seemed impossible to me that you could learn how to craft. another way.

Ms. Ruiz of Downtown Yarns believes online artisans will emerge in person, just as her regular customers returned when she first opened her store last year. “It started with people in the neighborhood standing at the door and I was showing them yarn,” she said. “Wow, I felt like we were a small village. We are a community. And everything is fine.”


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