As therapy or as art, Cochrane’s a good place to be a cross-stitcher

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The Stitching Corner in the city center next to the post office is a magical place.

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The goods cover the floor from floor to ceiling, all cross-stitch and needlework materials in bright neon colors as well as in soft, calming pastel tones.

“We do all the different ways you take a needle and use it for something,” remarked co-owner Gail Jones.

The First Street Shop focuses on cross stitch, needle, petit point, hardanger and lace work. Lately, they have also looked into bead materials.

“We had to adapt and make adjustments so our business could continue to thrive and keep going even though things had to change,” said co-owner Betty Whitford.

Due to COVID-19, the store had to cancel its popular courses and events (e.g. when members of the local needle guild did a 12-hour stitch-a-thon in the store).

“During the times when we couldn’t be open, we were still working on the side of the road,” added Whitford.

“So we came in and took orders for people, and we’re still here all the time to answer questions and help people. We had to cancel courses and the like, but we can help people to keep sewing and get what they want. “

The co-owners emphasized the therapeutic value of an activity like the cross stitch during these particularly stressful times.

“It helps you relax and takes away a lot of the tension you feel and the pressures people have these days because they’re always uptight,” said Whitford.

“And that helps you just relax and your thoughts then go back to what you are working on instead of being stressed by all the other things around you.”

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Jones added, “A lot of people suffer from depression and loneliness. But when you embroider, you can be with a lot of people because you can actually FaceTime with others and sew together. So doing handicrafts has many advantages. “

The couple are hoping they can bring face-to-face meetings back to the shop once the COVID-19 has subsided. In the meantime, Jones recommends beginner cross stitch kits as a good starting point for those looking for a relaxing activity at home.

“There are also embroidery and cross-stitches,” she noted.

“So there are quite a few beginners out there. And the internet also offers patterns and things to print out and do handicrafts. So there is a lot out there that people can get into. “

Jones and Whitford always have their own projects in the Stitching Corner.

“The people who come into the store can see us sitting and sewing because we always have our projects outside. And they can ask questions about the projects and get information, ”said Jones.

“Betty just finished a needle painting that takes threads and turns them into a picture. And I’m working on a piece of canvas that I’ll turn into a bowl, a candy bowl for Halloween. “

“The canvas is stiff, so you fold it up and sew it together to make a bowl. And our guild did a project that makes small candy bowls. They ran like hot cakes, they couldn’t make enough bowls to give away for Christmas and birthdays and all sorts of things. “

The “guild” is the Cochrane Big Hill Needlearts Guild. For more information on the club’s activities, visit CBHNG.ca.

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“I think we have four guilds here in Alberta: Cold Lake, Edmonton, Calgary, and Cochrane. Our guild is fifteen years old and we have an average of between twelve and sixteen members. And we take part in the class. We either bring teachers or we have one of the members teach a class. There is a lot of commitment. “

It is a member of the Embroiderers’ Association of Canada, which offers distance learning courses for the group online.

“We’re starting right here this month and the teacher is in Ontario and she’s going to send us all of our papers, our classes,” Jones said.

“And if we have any problems, we just go to the site and can ask her questions and send her pictures.”

“We keep communicating everywhere because we have the right computers. So it really helps us to come together and share our thoughts and images and try different things. “

The national federation is a good source for all sewers, added the couple. Information on physical chapters, virtual groups, and various lessons can be found on the website at eac-acb.ca.

“The Embroiderers’ Association of Canada has virtual threads, so there is a group that does everything virtual,” said Jones.

“You can get a membership, you can be a general who is a member of the Canadian, or you can be part of one of the other guilds like Calgary has a guild, Cochrane has a guild, and Vancouver has a guild Victoria has a guild and the original guild was formed in Winnipeg. “

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The rate of sewing has increased in some younger populations. Patterns that some associate with younger people, those with hip-hop lyrics, swearwords, or Instagram-like aesthetics are becoming increasingly popular.

“I think it’s new to a lot of people, but there has always been a section of younger people who sew because they feel good about it,” remarked Jones.

“People started after they hadn’t done it in years, and then there were people who just started. And families did it together and couples did it together. So it was more of an opportunity to bring people together. “

The co-owners say the internet is a good resource for people looking for patterns.

“A lot of people post projects that are in parts,” said Jones.

“And a lot of people make very colorful pieces and there are pieces online that you can download that are free projects and then buy your materials.”

The part-by-part format is becoming very popular with staplers, she says.

“You get the first part and then you don’t know what the rest is going to be, and then every month you get your second part and then your third part and it’s a mystery what it takes to turn out,” she added.

“And then you can choose your own colors and talk to other people online because you can communicate back and forth with other participants. It has everything to do with participating and sharing with others. “

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Of course, those who don’t want to use the computer can visit the store at 185 First Street East or call them at 403-932-3390 for information on the world of sewing.

“There are some people who are only working on one project at a time, but there are a lot of people in the world who have a lot of projects going on,” said Jones.

“They switch to different things and if they have problems they can call or email or give us a call.”

Those who enter the store are also treated to a gallery of finished sewing that covers the walls of members of the community.

“It’s great fun and people come in and they’re all excited about the new projects and colors make people feel really good, it’s like candy,” said Jones.

“People are amazed at how many samples we have from the various projects. And we’re very lucky that our customers share with us, and we sew ourselves and our guild members with us too. So there is a lot for people to see and when they see something they like we help them put it all together. “

The shop is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays noon to 5 p.m. and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“There is a lot of camaraderie in sewing,” remarked Jones.

“You can sit down at an airport somewhere and sew or knit or crochet or whatever, and then people will come up to you and talk to you because they share the interest with you.”

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