Handmade: Crafters find creative ways around virus

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Chances are you're finding yourself at home more these days because of  the coronavirus pandemic, leaving you with more time to devote to your craft projects.

With so many businesses closing temporarily and reducing hours of operation to help cut down on the spread of the virus, I couldn't help but wonder what effect it's having on the crafting community -- from business owners to individuals in need of supplies and social crafting. So, I decided to reach out to several local business owners/managers and crafters to see how they're dealing with this major health crisis.

Patti Mitrowski, co-owner of Sew Many Things Sewing Center, sanitizes a tabletop in her Clinton Township shop.

Here's a rundown of what I found:

Melissa MacLeod (owner of the Wool and the Floss, 397 Fisher, Grosse Pointe): "We have closed our doors to face-to-face business, but we are very much open. People have been calling and I'm shipping things. People walk into the glass (enclosed) vestibule and I hand them what they need. I wipe it down after each customers leaves -- all the door handles (etc.) We're being super creative in how we are helping our customers -- winding yarn (etc.) -- we're just doing it all through our glass window, and I'm posting more to social media."

Nancy Dufoor (co-owner with sister Patti Mitrowski of Sew Many Things Sewing Center, 35486 Groesbeck, Clinton Township): "It's difficult. Our business is down by 80 % and it's been pretty much the entire month of March. We are open, but we've had all of our employees stay home in the interest of their health and their family. This was effective last Saturday. We're getting in one, two or maybe three people a day. They're making large purchases, but we're used to having about 30 customers a day. I think the large purchases are two-fold."

Joan Sheridan (owner of Heritage Spinning & Weaving, 47 E. Flint, Lake Orion): "In keeping with governmental and sensible guidelines, we decided to close Heritage to the public as of 5 p.m. (March 14), and will evaluate carefully when we will reopen (perhaps April 7). If you are signed up for a class, you will be contacted as soon as an alternate date or cancellation has been determined. During this closure, we will staff the shop from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, to fill your phone or email orders, answer emergency fiber questions over the phone, or make curbside deliveries in front of the shop. If you need a pickup after 3 p.m., we can make that happen by appointment. We know you need your fiber." 

Aviva Susser (owner of Woolly&Co., 147 Pierce, Birmingham): "I appreciate that there is a lot of fear and uncertainty in the air and I certainly sympathize with these feelings. Nevertheless, Woolly&Co. will remain open and continue with its normal business hours. For our customers who wish it, we offer free curbside delivery of yarn ordered by phone."

Jen Hofer (co-owner with husband Kim of Plum Tree Yarn Shop, 28 E. Main, Milan): "After going back and forth a lot, Kim and I decided this morning (March 14), to close our shop in Milan for a few weeks. It just came down to reducing risk and simplifying. And honestly, we have a ton of respect for our fellow LYS (little yarn shop) owners, and seeing some of them struggling with the decision and doing the same thing helped validate what we were thinking."

Amy Houghtalin (manager at City Knits, 26050 Crocker, Harrison Charter Township) "We are currently doing what we interpret the social distancing policy to be. We are open, and we are having classes as long as people practice social distancing of sitting 4-6 feet away from each other. We're also asking them to wash their hands upon arrival, and we're asking them to wipe down the area where they sat before leaving. It doesn't mean we won't go behind them, but we're keeping the staff from having to do all the wiping after them." 

Lynette Halalay (owner of Knit Sew Fabulous, 8325 E. Jefferson, Suite 201, Detroit): "I did a live stream last Saturday in place of my normally scheduled (monthly) knit-together. And because my space being so small, it would have been impossible to do the social distancing of six feet apart. I'm asking all my patrons to buy gift certificates so after everything blows over, they can use them for alterations services and custom items."

Leigh Mosley Bloodworth of Detroit is spending her extra time at home crocheting a throw.

Leigh Mosley Bloodworth (president and founder of the Detroit Knitting and Crochet Club which meets every fourth Saturday at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library) "It's affected me going into craft stores because I don't want to be around crowds. We had a (day) trip  planned to Yarncon (in Chicago) April 4, but that's been canceled because Yarncon was cancelled. One of my personal worries is -- when we start meeting again, I hope our warm atmosphere continues with people being willing to sit next to one another, and how it will affect the whole crafting community." (Hmmm -- interesting point!)

Barb Caddy of Royal Oak (knitter, crocheter and president of the Black Sheep Knitting Guild): "What we've done as a guild for Tuesday night social knitting is we sent an email out to our Black Sheep Knitting Guild members with information regarding how to sign into our 'Zoom' social knitting meeting, held in place of our Panera Bread meetings, held every Tuesday from 6-9:30 p.m. 

Gregg Burrell of Highland Park (knitter, crocheter) "I haven't done anything because I haven't been feeling well, but I see where stores are allowing you to order online. I think that's a great idea. I haven't been to any stores, but I don't need to go because I have a lifetime of yarn!"

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or