Ann About Town: A Little Fiber Art Therapy in Pandemic-Land

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Photo courtesy of Jessy Gregg.

Jessy Gregg, the owner of Seams, poses with some fabric.

Being a person who can’t afford death just now, before a recent walk “uptown” for a little holiday gift recognizance, I emailed store owners Meg Croft of Woven Art and Jessy Gregg of Seams to be sure a “live” visit was a safe option. I was assured that both businesses were limiting customers, requiring masks, and offering a number of online ordering options for pick-up or delivery.

So I headed over from my home in the Oakwood Historic Neighborhood to the zone of mandatory masks.

At Woven Art, I was asked to wait outside because there were already two patrons in the store, and the limit was two people from different households. On entering, I was asked to hold out my hands for a spritz of sanitizer, and once inside, I noticed that employees were as friendly as always, but from a consistent six feet away (even during checkout). Inside, I soaked up the colors and textures of workmanlike cotton, beautifully variegated dyed wools, and the silkiest and most luxe blends of cashmere and angora.

Woven Art features yarns of many hues and hefts.

As a crocheter, I always find something I “need” at Woven Art, but it’s really not just for knitters and crocheters. While there this time, I bought myself some cotton yarn to make replacements for my decrepit oven mitts, and also spotted potential holiday gifts: a bracelet loom for a crafty teenage friend, a copy of the very cozy Taproot magazine to inspire another friend through a long, quarantined winter, and tiny, imaginative pins, stickers, animal tape measures, and buttons capable of finishing (or transforming) any sweater. I might even buy myself a pair of needles and teach myself how to knit this winter.I will also say that a generous Woven Art gift card was one of the most delicious birthday gifts I ever received.

A selection of scented candles at Woven Art.

It’s worth noting that unlike some large craft stores in the area, the humans behind both Woven Art and Seams are skilled and passionate in their respective fiber arts, and will always make the effort to help, advise, and inspire. For makers at any level, Croft, Gregg, and their employees are valuable resources, all more than willing to work with you via Zoom, Facebook Messenger, or your medium of choice to make sure a purchase is just right for a planned project or gift.

I can’t actually sew anything more complicated than a straight line, but whenever I look at the fabrics and patterns at Seams, I am inspired to get out the sewing machine I inherited, buy some linen, and create a skirt, an apron, or one of the other eminently wearable garments. (Linen because it is a summer fabric and I predict the learning process may take at least six months). Until that day, I buy fabric at Seams for other projects—I’m hand-sewing reusable drawstring gift bags for the holidays, I make seasonally patterned beeswax wraps for the kitchen, and I am a sucker for a funky fabric liner for crochet projects.

Carina Teoh

Elissa Slotkin (Rep. to Congress, right) speaks with Jessy Gregg at Seams.

Seams also has lots of possible gifts for the not (yet) sewers of the world, including some very sassy badges and buttons, and embroidery patterns and supplies including holiday samplers (each featuring a variety of stitch styles) that are both appealing and non-terrifying in terms of skill level. As someone who loved embroidering as a child, I’m thinking an assortment of embroidery needles, threads, fabric, a hoop, and a complete sampler kit for getting started would make a great gift for a creative, quarantined kid. Or for me. There also fabrics that I have considered buying, mounting, and framing (probably with help from Saper Galleries) because they are really, truly, art all by themselves. Seams also sells gift certificates, so your giftee gets the glorious option of choosing what they love most.

What might you want to know pandemic-wise? Since the new MDHHS orders, Woven Art has added contactless delivery to the Greater Lansing area on orders over $20. They still offer curbside pick-up, and customers can still choose between ordering from the website or visiting the store. If a customer is immune-compromised or pregnant, Croft will make private appointments before or after regular shop hours. If local numbers continue to climb, she plans a voluntary shut-down with curbside pick-up, contactless delivery, and shipping only, and no shopping in-store.

Woven Art Yarn Shop is located on Grove St. in downtown East Lansing.

Seams also requires a spritz of hand sanitizer and a mask before entering, and allows only two customers in at a time. They will be upgrading door signs with “kind but firm” language explaining their policies, and putting floor stickers down. Gregg says she strongly encourages curbside pick-up, and says if locals select the “shipping” option on a website order, Seams will deliver. Both Woven Art and Seams have been replacing Saturday hours with Sunday hours to keep shoppers safe from football crowds.

These shops create community, inspire us to spend time making things using our hands, and are now (you’ll forgive the pun) deeply woven into the fabric of this community. They are part of this village. 

Woven Art has a wide selection of gifts for holidays and pandemic pick-me-ups.

I know it’s easy to go online, push a button, and have anything you desire dropped on your porch in a box by The Store That Will Remain Nameless. But you can just as easily buy online from Woven Art or Seams, talk to a human if you have questions, have your purchases delivered to your porch, and then order dinner from a local restaurant to celebrate, all the while helping people who live here put food on their own tables.

Like hearing what Ann is up to? Keep these articles coming!

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