As a new-ish crocheter, I was intimidated by Woven Art. I knew about the store because friends and family shopped there, knitted there with friends, took classes, and (in the case of ELi reporter Jessy Gregg) displayed finished work and taught classes there.
I imagined an exclusive group of old friends sitting together with miraculous creations on their needles, and not much time for an outsider only recently graduated from making granny squares out of acrylic yarn from big box craft stores.
What I found when I finally went in was community.
I was greeted immediately by owner Meg Croft, who explained how to find things, and was generally around but non-intrusive as I looked at shelves and displays of yarn made from cotton, wool, yak, angora, linen, flax, cotton, and more. The colors and textures available set me dreaming about everything from baby blankets to linen sweaters for spring, and maybe a spinning class, or learning how to knit. As I was building tentative piles of coordinating fiber for different projects, a voice said, “You have to squish it! That’s the best part!”
The voice came from a tiny woman standing next to me before a rainbow of worsted weight wool. We started talking, and I found out that she and her husband had come to East Lansing from Grand Rapids for the day, and that she’d always wanted to check out Woven Art. She was a knitter, loved indie yarn stores, and had been following Woven Art on Facebook and Instagram for more than a year.
The couple talked to Croft about possible lunch options in downtown East Lansing, and once they had settled on Black Cat Bistro (right around the corner), the husband went to read his book in the comfortable seating circle in the store’s front room.
He didn’t actually read, though, because he was joined by an employee who had come in early to work on a complicated sweater before her shift started. They chatted, and I heard him say, “You have spare time before work and you choose to come in early? That’s dedication.” She laughed.
“I’d be knitting wherever I was,” she answered, “and I love it here – plus Meg can help me with this sleeve I screwed up.”
A “regular” came in on her lunch hour, greeted Croft and her employee, complimented me on choosing the hand-dyed skein I was clutching, and asked where Zeb was, and if he was feeling better.
Zeb is not, as I thought, another employee or Croft’s husband. Zeb is Croft’s corgi, who is often found hanging around among the balls and skeins. He had been ill, and was still resting at home but was expected to be back at work in the next couple of days.
ELi’s non-editorial policy prevents me from expressing my feelings at discovering the existence of a “shop corgi.”
Between other customers, Croft told me about some of the groups that came in to knit and crochet together, some with babies, some with pictures of grandchildren, beginners getting help from more experienced crafters and conversations about far more than yarn, needles, and hooks. There was no snootiness about a lowly crocheter; Croft herself teaches crochet, and there are books of crochet patterns among the yarns, buttons, books, magazines, bags, and other goodies she stocks.
After I’d made my choices and paid for them, Croft asked if I wanted the skeins wound into balls. (If you’ve ever wrestled with winding a skein at home, you know that the answer to this question is always “yes.”) As she wound ball after ball using a swift and ball winder, a young woman came from the cold, and I learned that she was a recent MSU grad, a current high school debate coach, and looking for a sedentary hobby due to some health issues. We talked companionably, and, although I tried to convert her to Team Crochet, I was pretty sure she’d be leaving with a set of knitting needles.
By the time I stepped out into the cold again with a bag full of yarn (and a unicorn pin and a magazine), I could see myself sitting in the front-room circle, my own miraculous creation growing on my hook and a corgi named Zeb in the front window, and the certain knowledge that I had found one of the many smaller communities within the city I call home.
Woven Art is located at 325 Grove Street, directly across from the Grove Street parking ramp.