Freeman’s Second-Anniversary Party

Sunday, Nov. 10, 11 a.m.—7 p.m.

Freeman’s Creative

2020 Chapel Hill Road, #25, Durham

I’m a good thrifter. 

My closet overflows with dangly skeleton earrings, velour pedal pushers, and tie-dye sweatpants. I have elaborate inside jokes with the employees at Scrap Thrift. 

There’s a hole in my thrifting skills, however. While I enjoy the challenge of making do with what I own and can find secondhand, I’ve never been much of a mender. I never learned to sew. I don’t really know why—I never tried because I assumed I’d suck at it. 

Often, though, sifting through a box of lightly mildew-scented sweaters at a clothing swap, I’m hit with a twinge of regret. I’ll discover an item with potential that needs only the tiniest bit of tweaking: It’s a little too long, a touch too wide, torn at the armpit. I’d love to bring it to life again. (I’d especially love to be the kind of person who could bring it to life.) I’d like to patch that hole.

With this in mind, I make a plan to meet with Amelia Freeman-Lynde, who, two years ago, opened Freeman’s Creative, a small sewing shop a few yards from The Scrap Exchange. And, on a warm October afternoon, I bring a pair of pants into Freeman Creative. 

The door to the shop is wide open, and all three employees are inside, including Freeman-Lynde, all wearing glasses and—this is just by chance—an item of goldenrod-yellow clothing. One wall of the shop is lined with a library of fabric, upright spines organized by material and color. Big boxes, shipments of even more fabric, sit opened by the register. The other wall is for yarns, grouped cozily together in cubbyholes like stuffed animals. 

While growing up in Georgia, Freeman-Lynde learned to sew and knit from her mother and grandmother. For college, she moved to New York to study theater at Barnard. It was there, through a work-study job, that she fell in love with set design. She abandoned acting and became a professional prop-maker, eventually landing a job at the prestigious off-Broadway Public Theater. City life wasn’t a forever thing, though, and when she and her husband moved to Durham eight years ago, Freeman-Lynde couldn’t shake the call to crafting. After a few years working in restaurants—she was the first employee at Monuts—she opened Freeman’s Creative. Since opening her shop, Freeman-Lynde has hired one full-time and three part-time employees; the store’s second-anniversary party takes place this Saturday.

The communal backstage spirit has made its way into the store, and Freeman-Lynde has worked hard to make her shop a gathering place. Freeman’s Creative offers affordable classes (based on a $15/hour price). Many are suitable for beginners, but she’s also intentional about offering courses that build skills.

You can learn to thread a needle, and you can keep taking classes until you’re ready to make a pair of jeans. You can also, for free, reserve studio time on a Friday evening to work on projects using Freeman’s tools and getting advice from employees in the process. There are weekly crafting club meetups, too.

In the store, at a large work table in the back of the store, River Takada-Capel is teaching a private lesson to Janice, a woman in her sixties who is wearing spider earrings and says she wants to dress up as a sexy tomato for Halloween. Janice is a regular. Today, she’s brought three large plastic bins of things to work on. Amazed, I ask how many projects she has. Takada-Capel responds for her: “Well, think about it—how many projects do you have?” 

Freeman-Lynde is a natural teacher. When wandering through the maze of ice-cream-colored yarn, I accidentally untwist a skein of it. She first teaches me the word skein, then patiently shows me how to wind it back into form. We sit down at a table and get to work on my project: some chinos I got at a clothing swap. She shows me that it’s possible for me—me—to fix a hole in a pair of pants with some pink embroidery thread and a patch of gauzy plaid I’ve chosen from a bag of scraps. (See below for instructions.)

After a while, she leaves me sitting at the oilcloth-covered table to practice while she returns to fielding customers’ questions. 

Wait, that’s it? I think. A Sylvan Esso-based playlist weaves through the shop as I work, willing my hands to adapt to the strange new motions. I wouldn’t say my fingers are flying; I would say I’m lightly stabbing them every few minutes. 

However: I am doing this

After some time, more people begin to filter in; there’s a craft circle this afternoon. Freeman-Lynde greets each person by name, and suddenly, I’m surrounded at my table by a group of people praising each other’s handiwork. 

In an era of fast-fashion, sitting with people who are making sweaters feels retro—maybe vintage—in just the way I like. 

It’s refreshing.

People work at all skill levels. Someone’s nearly completed a child’s sweater with uncannily realistic horses on the front. One person, normally an embroiderer, has just learned to “cast off”—i.e., to start knitting. (There’s a lot of jargon flying around.) 

Another, a regular, drops by to pick up a special order. She’s getting compliments on the sweater she’s wearing, a piney-green turtleneck that she made herself. 

“Finally, it’s knit weather!” she says. 

We all rejoice.

How to Save Those Pants

“Boro mending” originated in rural, medieval Japan. Japanese farmers and fishermen have long carried on the tradition of sewing scraps of fabric together using many rows of stitches, reinforcing their work clothing. In recent years, boro has become internationally popular thanks to its functional beauty and owing to a general trend in slow fashion toward “visible mending.” Here are Amelia Freeman-Lynde’s instructions (interpreted by me) for an easy boro-inspired patch:

1. Choose your patch fabric, cut a square to size, and decide if you’d like it to show through the tear you’re mending or cover up the tear entirely. 

2. Use Wonder Tape to secure all four edges of the patch, centering the tear. Wonder Tape is a double-sided adhesive that washes out in water and holds the patch in place more firmly and less pointily than pins.

3. Prepare your thread: Cut about a foot of embroidery thread. This type of thread has six strands of fiber in it. Thin it by picking at the cut edge to remove three of the strands, creating two threads of three strands each. You can use one now and one later. Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread.

4. Begin to sew by reinforcing around the tear in the fabric. Start from inside your clothing item and poke the needle out from underneath. Sew a running stitch, the most intuitive stitch there is: Simply stitch in and out until you have outlined the hole.

5. Reinforce: Starting at one edge of the patch inside the article of clothing, again use a running stitch to make horizontal dashes across the patch. When you reach the edge, make sure your needle points inside your clothing. Then you can poke it up onto the next line and stitch back toward the direction you came from. 

6. When your foot of thread begins to run out, tie it off inside the clothing by looping the top of the needle (not the tip) through the last dash you’ve stitched; having secured that, tie an overhand knot close to the fabric. Start again with a new foot of thread.

7. Continue until you’ve covered the whole patch with horizontal dashes. You’re done! Or go a step further, creating “+” or “x” -shaped patterns of thread. Repeat this process, sewing vertically across your existing horizontal stitches.

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