Forget the stereotype that arts and crafts are either for children or a hobby for grandmothers.
Consider the Halifax Crafters Society, a community of local artists and crafters, started in 2004 with 20 crafters looking for a place to sell their work. By their tenth anniversary they’d grown into a market of over 80 local artisans and an award-winning craft show.
The art of knitting, sewing, quilting, felting and similar pursuits come with a sense of isolation for some. While there are popular websites and blogs like Ravelry.com and Craftsy.com, more crafters are yearning for a real live community to connect with. Three local shops offer up a solution.
2571 Robie Street
When Christina Pasquet opened her modern fabric shop and sewing room she knew she wanted more than just a fabric store. “I wanted it to be a place where people could work, learn and create and be joined in a mutual love of something,” she says. The big, bright workshop offers fabrics, patterns and other materials, classes and machine rentals. The regularly scheduled (and often sold out) workshops range from beginner to intermediate, covering a variety of projects.
“There’s a perception that fabric and quilting and making clothing is something that your mom and your grandma did,” says Pasquet. “I think what’s modern about it is just that it’s new, it’s central. We carry fabrics that are really interesting and really inspiring.” She says a number of customers who don’t sew have been inspired to start sewing simply by the beautiful fabrics that previously weren’t available locally.
According to Pasquet, customers include young parents who want to make things for their kids, older people who are established quilters, twenty-somethings (including men) who just want to learn a new skill (like how to hem their pants).
“There are people crafting at home on their own and developing a community on the Internet because of blogs and craftsy.com and places like that,” says Pasquet. “But I think people really like stores like Patch because they get to do it in the real world.”
122 Portland Street, Dartmouth
Sabrina Korman has been working at Dartmouth Yarns for over two years. Her enthusiasm bubbles as she speaks about her passion, which lucky for her, happens to be her employment. Along with working in the shop, Korman, who is 23 years old, teaches some of the classes. “I’ve always been a crafty type of person, and would love to make a living out of it,” she says. “We call each other Yarniacs,” she says.
Dartmouth Yarns, filled with yarn, fibre, knitting and crochet supplies and accessories regularly offers basic classes like Knit 101 and Crochet 101, as well as technical classes on specific techniques: toe up socks, Entrelac (knitted fabric in little squares), non-felted slippers, wet felting “the moulding clay of the fibre world,” and kids classes. If you and a friend have a specific technique you want to learn (think lacing or brioche), they’ll set up a class for you.
“The idea of knitting has changed,” says Korman. “It’s not just about making mittens and socks. Knitting is no longer a necessity. The focus has changed with more ideas to try, techniques to explore. It’s a great hobby to have because unlike playing video games for hours on end, I can spend six hours knitting in front of the TV and come away with finished products.”
1547 Barrington Street
The Loop, an open and airy modern fibre craft shop in downtown Halifax, offers high-quality natural fibre yarns, tools, needle felting supplies, embroidery floss and accessories for all kinds of crafting. Regularly scheduled workshops cover knitting, crocheting and needle felting for beginners and beyond.
“I often say that I think you’d have trouble finding a store that has as diverse a group of customers as ours even though it seems like we’re a niche business, because we’re right downtown,” says owner Mimi Fautley. “We get everything from high school and university students through ancient South End dowagers. We see a lot of people who work in the area, men and women. And then of course in the summer we get lots of tourists.”
As for the classes, Fautley says a good cross-section of people get thrown together and learn together. “I had a high school student in the last sock class I taught, and today a giant man signed up for the absolute beginner class. It’s all over the place.”
The Loop will celebrate its tenth anniversary this fall. “I think there’s no stigma attached to it anymore,” says Fautley. “Enough people didn’t do it for long enough that it kind of just fell out of having any kind of association. I don’t think it strikes people as stodgy or old-fashioned. I think it’s just cool. You can make your own stuff. What’s wrong with that? Nothing.”