From 7 p.m. pot banging, all-day sourdough bread baking and crafting of all kinds – the COVID-19 pandemic has led many people away from the daily grind of productivity and towards the things that bring them joy and calm.
At least that’s the theory Julia Hugget, manager at Beehive Wool Shop, uses to explain higher sales of brightly coloured yarn and knitting materials.
“We’re selling a lot of bright fun colours, normally it’s greys and neutrals,” Hugget said. “People are taking a moment to do something fun and springy and joyful…as an expression of joy and calm and peace.”
She jokes that everyone sitting at home is either “baking, gardening or knitting.”
“Knitting and crocheting is very meditative, very calming. It takes you away from the screen, away from the kids or the husband, whatever it may be,” she said with a laugh, adding that there is a sense of accomplishment to seeing your progress “even if it’s just you sitting on your couch with two needles and a ball of yarn.”
The Douglas Street craft shop is open for online and phone orders with curbside pickup only – but Hugget said with reopening guidelines from the province, the team is preparing to open for appointment only after May 19.
“We don’t want to open too fast or be rushed into something where we can’t ensure the safety of our staff,” she said. “Our number one thing is we miss seeing our customers. We feel very well supported by the community and that customer support allows us to be a little more prudent with safety measures.”
A few blocks away, nestled in the southwest corner of Market Square, Megan Sandover-Sly works to keep Thrift/Craft open for the city’s makers and creators.
The brick and mortar craft supply shop is full of second-hand gems – buckets of beads, ribbons, postcards and Polaroids line the store’s shelves, and bins full of vintage Playboy magazines, photos, old letters and endless markers, paints and pencil crayons meet your eye at every turn.
It’s a tactile, feeling-based shopping experience, Sandover-Sly explains. People come not only to be inspired, but to dig their hands into a bucket of cat’s-eye marbles or rummage through discarded jewelry.
At least – that’s what it was before the pandemic. Listing large quantities of “bits and bobs” online is next to impossible, but Thrift/Craft has adjusted to COVID-19 with weekend take-out services on Saturday and Sunday. Shoppers can pre-order from a set menu and pick up their crafting materials between noon and 2 p.m.
“For about two weeks, it was just closed. Then I was getting a lot of messages with people asking for things…mask-making supplies and paint and things, so I figured I’d want to open for them,” she said, adding that many weekend shoppers have been purchasing graffiti and street art materials.
Before the pandemic, Thrift/Craft was doing exceptionally well, she says.
“The shop was getting quite busy, there was times there would be 30 people in the shop at a time – even in February. People would come all the way from Seattle to shop at Thrift/Craft,” she said. “And then all of a sudden the borders closed and nobody is coming to shop and I still have to pay all my rent and all the hydro and all these other things.”
While she’s struggling with a sudden dip in income, Sandover-Sly quickly launched a fundraiser to help get craft supplies into the hands of local youth during the pandemic. More than $600 in donations will bring craft supplies to 140 kids.
“Maybe mom and dad don’t have time to get supplies…or it’s hard to put your budget towards [crafts] when you need to be focused more on just keeping a roof over your head,” she said.
At the end of the day, Sandover-Sly feels it’s important for everyone to find their outlet.
“[The pandemic] is bringing a lot of different emotions out of people,” she said. “Some people are very positive, some people are becoming very political, some people are becoming very non-political and switching to just being a little bit more thoughtful about what they do.
“I think a lot of people are angry too. So you’re going to see probably a lot of people working on art that has a very negative look to it,” she added. “But that is a really positive thing – for people to work through their emotions. I definitely made a pretty dark-looking collage a couple days after I closed the shop.”
Starting May 18, Sandover-Sly plans to open for regular hours with strict cleaning and safety protocols and restrictions on the number of shoppers allowed in-store. Some of the items will be off-limit to restrict contact.
“I feel positive because despite being low on funds right now, there’s a lot of people who do support the shop by purchasing here instead of going to bigger businesses,” she said.
Victoria Beadworld has been operating out of Market Square since 1984. The store is also adjusting to the new reality. But manager Kathy Murray says it’s one where beaders and crafters are leaning in to their creativity.
Customers can have orders sent to them or shop by appointment, and a staff member is in the store each day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Murray said each day someone has been in the shop has been worth it, financially, based on the number of sales.
“I think it’s one of those summers where people will feel more like staying home and feel like doing more crafts,” she said, adding that many are picking up beading or trying to make some extra money, selling their crafts. “I think people have been wondering when we will be open and they can come get supplies.
“I foresee us rebounding and having no problems in the months ahead.”
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