Written by Courtney Lockemer and photographed by Alex Maness
About halfway through my interview with Amelia Freeman-Lynde, I realized that the majority the clothes she was wearing were not only handmade, but handmade, by her, with materials from her own shop.
Freeman-Lynde is the owner of Freeman’s Creative, a creative supply store in Durham, North Carolina. She wore a sweater and hat she knit with yarn she carries at her store. Her pale pink velvet burnout scarf was dyed with avocado pits at a workshop there. She was a walking endorsement of both her business and her ethos.
“I love supplies. I love helping people make things happen and create things,” she said.
The front half of Freeman’s Creative displays these supplies, a curated selection of necessities and delights for textile and fiber-related crafts: bolts of cotton fabric neatly filed like books behind a large cutting table, skeins of yarn in every color stacked in cube shelving, sewing patterns from several independent companies, a rainbow display of sewing thread spools, Swedish tracing paper, indigo dye kits, leather bracelets that unwind into miniature measuring tapes.
At the time of my interview, Freeman’s Creative was just past it’s one-year anniversary. “Just being open for a year feels like a really big success,” she said. “And to have grown this much. When the shop opened it was basically three shelves of fabric and three shelves of yarn and a couple shelves of other supplies, and it has grown pretty steadily over the course of the first year.”
Freeman-Lynde grew up in Georgia, studied theater in college, and had a career in theatrical prop making in New York City before returning to the South with her husband a few years ago. She has been sewing, knitting, and doing other crafts most of her life, and sold handmade goods on Etsy. Freeman-Lynde describes herself as a “stuff person,” and one can see her love of materials as the bridge between her past and current occupations.
Freeman-Lynde is specific about the way she thinks about the materials she carries. “I do call it a ‘creative supply store’ or ‘handcraft supply store’ more than a ‘craft supply shop.’”
“A lot of it is wanting to be a space where people can explore their creativity and feel like capable people,” she said. “If you learn to sew a pillowcase, you can kind of see that if you break down any problem into steps you can accomplish them. I think that’s a problem solving skill you can take into other areas of your life.”
At Freeman’s Creative, the space for creativity is literal as well as figure. Past the fabric and yarn and measuring tapes, the back half of the store is for making. Three arm chairs arranged around a small round table await visitors who might want to sit and knit or embroider a while. Behind it, several tables with sewing machines and two more large tables provide space for workshops, craft meetups, and after-hours studio rental.
“I feel really good about the community that’s been built. We have a lot of turnout, a lot of regulars at the craft meetups.”
The shop’s events calendar shows an abundance of opportunities for local community members to come to the space and explore their creativity. The space hosts one or two workshops per week on topics like sewing, knitting, fabric dyeing, and embroidery. The free and open Craft Club happens every Sunday and the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. Other events, like clothing swaps and pop-up craft markets, round out the schedule.
“Durham’s a really creative community, so there’s a big chunk of Durhamites who I think were really eager for a space like this and really happy that we exist. “
Freeman’s Creative is situated in the Reuse Arts District, an multi-year project “to transform an under-utilized shopping center into a national model for creative reuse and an inclusive neighborhood destination for creativity in Durham.” The Reuse Arts District (called “the RAD” for short), is an initiative of local nonprofit The Scrap Exchange, which purchased a significant portion of the property in the shopping center in 2016.
“I’m the first retail business to open in the RAD. So aside from just people who like to knit and people who like to sew, I think there’s a good number of people in [the neighborhood] and in Durham who are more interested in the sustainable side of crafting or making.”
“People say all the time about retail, why have a brick and mortar business? Everything’s online. People can find anything they want on the internet…I feel like this first year has proven that people do want a physical space to come to. They want to see colors. They want to touch textures. They want to ask questions.”
“It’s really about filling the needs people have that they can’t find elsewhere. If I have the stuff that people want, and a place that they want to be in, and we’re solving problems for them, then the business will do fine.”
This producer profile is part of a series documenting small-scale producers across the fiber supply chain of the Piedmont Fibershed. This project was generously supported by a microgrant from Fibershed.