With the rise of crafty websites like Pinterest and Etsy, handcrafts such as knitting and sewing have taken off among a new generation of do-it-yourselfers.
Around Sonoma County, folks are getting together this winter to knit baby shoes and embroider tea towels, curling up on their own sofas or relaxing at one of the many craft store lounges.
"It's my drug of choice," said Shelli Westcott, owner of Knitterly yarn store in Petaluma. "I'm not a big wine drinker, so this is my replacement. It's very relaxing ... and way cheaper than therapy."
Nicole Cowlin, owner of The Material Girl in Windsor, offers a wide range of funky, retro fabrics and DIY kits for trendy projects like duct-tape bags. She also gives private lessons in sewing and quilting.
"I have a lot of teen-agers coming in who want to sew," she said. "They want their own style, and there's a sense of accomplishment that comes with making things."
Little by little, Cowlin has started adding more crafty stuff to her fabric store, creating a DIY gift shop with items like chalkboard birds, homemade cards and invitations.
"This store will be like Pinterest, only you can walk into it," she said. "There's a lot of young mommies out there, and they are very hip and modern and have a fresh take on shabby chic."
Justine Malone, owner for the past five years of the Cast Away knitting store in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square, moved into a bigger space this year. With the help of two partners, she dramatically increased her inventory and morphed into Cast Away + Folk.
The new store carries a wide range of unusual, crafty supplies sourced from independent designers, including organic cotton fabrics, Japanese ribbons, all-wool felt, designer kits and patterns, heirloom sewing tools and shelves of inspirational books and magazines.
"We give a modern, clean twist to the old classics," Malone said. "Our inspiration is the Purl Soho (shop) in New York, which does the Purl Bee blog. That's the only blog I read."
With the help of six to eight teachers, the partners also have launched a raft of new classes aimed at everyone from beginners to advanced crafters. You can learn to sew a simple skirt or apron, knit a washcloth or a felt bowl, crochet a baby blanket or cross-stitch button covers.
"Some of these classes are just two or three hours long, and you walk away with a finished product," Malone said. "They appeal to people who don't have the patience to (learn to) knit."
The partners view the crafting movement as an extension of what's going on in the food world, where dying arts like butchery and jam-making are suddenly hip again.
"People just want to make stuff," said partner Leslee Fiorella, a textile designer. "For me, it's like making cheese. I may never do it again, but I want to know how."
The Cast Away + Folk shop has the look of an urban loft, with brick walls and exposed beams, white work tables and shelving. But hanging lightbulbs with homey, cloth shades and comfy sofas make it feel like a living room.
"We wanted a central lounge, so people could come in and sit and look at a book," Fiorella said. "We wanted to create an inspiring environment that would pull people together."