Goodbye Darn It and Stitch

Photo credit Sally Amberton (@nbnqnbnq)

Last week I travelled down to Oxford to say goodbye to Darn It & Stitch with nbnq. This gem of a haberdashery was tucked just off the high street on Blue Boar Street and was a place where dreams are made. Or at least a place where a lot of my crafty dreams were inspired.

I was a very early fan of Jo and her stitchy supplies right back when she had a market stall. I still have a cushion edged in the precious giant ricrac I bought too many years ago to count. As a crafty person living in Oxford, there were very few places to get nice, unusual supplies. There was an odd shelf or two of yarn in Jericho, and the brilliantly eccentric Mason's in Abingdon but nothing quite like Darn It & Stitch. I remember the first time I went to the shop, Jo was behind the perfect, vintage glass counter, red scarf in hair, some upbeat swing on the radio, and sun streaming in like it was made of Instagram. I know that is actually an amalgamation of several different d&s incarnations but I'll keep them all happily smooshed together in my brain thank you very much.

One day BorderlineStraggler and I were sat at London Paddington waiting to get home after a long day of museums, and I saw a woman knitting socks. It's was like watching a virtuoso musician, completely transfixing and baffling in equal measure. When Jo expanded Darn It & Stitch to include Pinworks I immediately signed up for the sock knitting workshop. I was hooked a day still have at least three pairs of unfinished socks to prove it! I've never forgotten that girl sitting at the station and I love that Darn It & Stitch gave me the skills to be her. I have to admit I've even used it as a way to throw off the competition at an all day interview I had when I knew there would be lots of sitting around. My colleague DJ Mermaid still talks of my nonchalant knitting prowess.

Later on, I was lucky enough to be invited to teach a couple of workshops. This taught me so much about working with people, preparing lessons, teaching crafts, and being a professional artist. It has informed my practice ever since and even though I never took my teaching career much further I now run a huge arts programme employing lots of artists and try to use all my experience from the other side.

I'm glad I managed to make it down to say goodbye. It makes me happy that my last Darn It & Stitch memory will be Sassa trying to crawl about on the floor. Darn It & Stitch gave me so much, but mostly it inspired me to follow my crafty dreams, quit my job and run away to art school. Not many shops can do that so thank you, Jo, for helping me knit my wings and fly off on this crazy journey.


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