Handmade: Needle points to growth for The Wool & The Floss
Business is booming at The Wool & The Floss, a popular knitting, crocheting and needlepoint shop in Grosse Pointe.
"Actually, it's exploded," enthused owner Melissa MacLeod, referring to the dramatic increase in the number of needlepoint customers she's gotten since COVID-19 arrived on the scene.
"We were super busy before we closed (for the shutdown)," she said. "People started staying home and digging out projects they started 20 years ago, and realizing how much they enjoyed it. We had a lot of people coming in for threads for old projects saying, 'I'm loving it and want to get back into it.' She said some also commented they're tired of 'wasting' all their time surfing the internet on their phone, and that they'd rather 'have something to show for it.'
"People who had been stitching were home stitching more. Others started to see the visuals again, and that 'what's old is new again.' I can't tell you how many brand new stitchers I'm working with."
Prior to the pandemic, those age 40 and older made up the majority of needlepoint customers at The Wool & The Floss mainly because "it is not an inexpensive hobby." MacLeod said, "Older people tend to have a little more disposable income, but that's starting to change. I think the younger people are now staying at home and vacation money is starting to be devoted to a hobby.
"Back in March, I felt like it was a lot of mostly women who had kind of rediscovered something that maybe their moms or grandmothers had taught them when they were young. I would say over the summer, I started to notice a lot of 20-30 year olds, mostly women, but some men as well, who've discovered it because of social media, being on Instagram, and people posting their projects," continued Macleod, who believes learning to needlepoint is easier than learning to knit.
University of Michigan student Abbey Schuetze, 21, became interested in the age-old fiber art while doing a "deep clean-out" of the house where she lives in Grosse Pointe Park. "My brother found belts that my mother had needlepointed for my dad. He graduated during the pandemic in the spring and I wanted to make him something for his graduation, so I went online and looked up belt patterns. I ordered a kit from Etsy in the beginning, and I took it to The Wool & The Floss to be finished into a belt. Then, I started going in and speaking with Melissa. I buy supplies there now."
Since March, she's done about 15 projects, and has had several finished at the The Wool & The Floss with plans for giving them as Christmas presents. "I'll be gifting about four ornaments and one stand-up decoration," said Schuetze, who sometimes needlepoints while watching Netflix or listening to a lecture in a digital class.
In terms of sales, supplies for needlepoint projects at The Wool and the Floss have always out-numbered those for knitting and crocheting, but now even more so. "Before the pandemic, I was 65 percent needlepoint and 35 percent yarn," said MacLeod. "This year, I'm 90 percent needlepoint and 10 percent yarn. And, probably about 30 percent of the people I work with have started stitching in 2020 since the pandemic."
Aside from people wanting something creative to do in the safety of their home, MacLeod credits her business growth during this challenging time to the fact that she "dove into social media" when she had to close in March. "We have had a website since I opened the shop, but it is definitely getting more utilized.
"When we shut down, and as a single owner, I would come in and spend so much time with people on the phone, and I'm very pleased to know most new customers I started working with have become repeat customers," she remarked. "I've been very fortunate to have many, many new customers from all over the country, Canada, France, England, two in Singapore, and one in South Africa. I go to the post office with 15 packages everyday, Monday through Friday. One postal worker asked, 'What are you guys selling over there?'
"(And) I literally have groups of stitchers in different places in the country who stitch together in their backyards and watch my unboxing (new supplies) party every Friday at 9:30 a.m. on Instagram and Facebook.
"The other thing I'm doing is I have a very good friend in St. Louis who owns the Needlepoint Clubhouse. We do a video podcast and we interview needlepoint designers. We started that in April, and now have 25 episodes and over 1,000 subscribers!"
MacLeod, learned to needlepoint when she was just 7 years old in the very shop she now owns. The spot is "right where my desk is now, which is funny," she laughed.
Before the pandemic, she held eight needlepoint classes each week and now there are none, but clearly that hasn't affected business because customers are "basically teaching themselves at home." She said, "We sell our 'Begin to Needlepoint' kit with paper instructions and links to needlepoint videos and resources."
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact The Wool & The Floss (397 Fisher, Grosse Pointe) at (313) 882-9110, thewoolandthefloss.net, and on Facebook or Instagram. Email: email@example.com.