As therapy or as art, Cochrane is a good place to be cross-stitch

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Downtown Stitching Corner next to the post office is a magical place.

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Merchandise covers the floor from floor to ceiling, all cross stitch and needlework materials in vibrant neon colors and soft, soothing pastels.

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

The First Street store focuses on cross stitch, needlework, petit point, hardanger and lace work. Recently, they have also dabbled in pearl materials.

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

COVID-19 has forced the store to cancel its popular classes and events (like when members of the local needle guild hosted a 12-hour Stitch-A-Thon at the store).

“During the times we couldn’t open, we still worked at the curb,” Whitford added.

“So we came in and filled orders for people and we’re still here all the time to answer questions and help people. We’ve had to cancel classes and stuff like that, but we can help people so they can keep sewing and get what they want.”

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

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

“And that helps them kind of relax, and then their minds focus on what they’re working on instead of getting stressed out by all the other things around them.”

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

The couple hope they can bring face-to-face meetings back into the store once COVID-19 wears off. In the meantime, Jones suggests beginner cross-stitch kits as a good starting point for those looking for a relaxing activity to do at home.

“There’s also embroidery as well as cross-stitching,” she noted.

“So there’s a whole bunch of beginners. And the Internet also offers patterns and things that you can print out and copy. So there’s a lot out there for people to get involved with.”

Jones and Whitford always have their own projects going on at Stitching Corner.

“People who come into the store can see us sitting and sewing because we have our projects out there all the time. And they can ask questions about the projects and get information,” Jones said.

“Betty just finished a needlework where threads are taken and a picture made of them. And I’m working on a piece of canvas that I’m going to turn into a bowl, a candy bowl for Halloween.”

“The canvas is stiff, so you fold it over and sew it in place so it forms a bowl. And our guild did a project to make small candy bowls. They sold like hotcakes, they couldn’t make enough bowls to give 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: I think they’re Cold Lake, Edmonton, Calgary and Cochrane. Our guild is fifteen years old and we average between twelve and sixteen members. And we take classes. 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 correspondence courses for groups online.

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

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

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

The national association is a good contact point for all sewers, the two added. Information on physical chapters, virtual groups and various lessons can be found through the website at eac-acb.ca.

“The Embroiderers’ Association of Canada has something called Virtual Threads, so there’s a group that’s doing everything virtually,” Jones said.

“You can purchase membership, you can be a general member 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 nutrient rate has increased in some younger populations. Patterns that some might associate with younger people, those with hip-hop lyrics, swear words, or Instagram aesthetics are growing in popularity.

“I think it’s new to a lot of people, but there’s always been a segment of younger people who sew because it makes them feel good,” Jones noted.

“People picked it up after years of not doing it, and then there were people who just started doing it. 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 release projects that are in parts,” Jones said.

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

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

“You get the first part, and then you don’t know what the rest of the parts are going to be, and then every month you get your second part and then your third part and it’s a mystery what it’s going to turn out to be,” 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’s all about participating in others and sharing.”

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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 403-932-3390 for a chat about the world of sewing.

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

“They move to different things, and if they run into problems, they can call, email, or call us.”

Those who enter the store are also treated to a gallery of finished needlework covering the walls by members of the community.

“It’s a lot of fun and people come in and they’re all excited about the new projects and color makes people feel really good, it’s like candy,” Jones said.

“People are amazed when they see the amount of samples we have from the different projects. And we are very fortunate that our customers share with us, and we also sew ourselves and our guild members share with us. So there’s a lot for people to see and if they see something they like, we help them put it all together.”

The shop is open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 6pm, Thursday from 10am to 9pm, Sunday from 12pm to 5pm and closed on Monday and Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie in sewing,” Jones noted.

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

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