A little over a week ago, we posted a note asking you to help out with donations for our knitting friends in Paige who shop at Yarnorama. Paige is real close to Bastrop and many of the 1500+ homes that were lost were in Paige. I asked Susan Fricks, who owns Yarnorama, if she’d be up for an interview. She agreed. Below is what she had to say. Please remember that if you’d like to make a donation, you can still drop stuff off at HCW until September 25.
HCW: What was it like for you, personally?
SF: It has run the whole gamut of emotions. When the fires started that Sunday, we had our Paige Purls knitting group. As people got calls about the fire along 21 in Paige and in Tahitian Village, we all mobilized to get people home safely. Over the next couple hours, we had half our group displaced, so it was about worry and fear. As I located people and learned they were safe with other knitting group friends, I was relieved. Then the fires grew and the shock and horror grew as we watched the fires, the smoke, and the mile-high smoke clouds from our home near Hwy 21. So many emotions… John, my husband, and I were evacuated when a new fire broke out about 5 miles up our road and we stayed at the shop for a couple days. During that time, people who had lost everything began showing up looking for some supplies to keep their hands busy. Powerful stories of escape, loss, thankfulness and emotions unfolded and still continue.
HCW: Did a lot of folks come to the store after the fires just to sort of find good company and comfort each other?
SF: Yes, many have come to be together. Those that have lost so much have come in to get things so that they could get back to knitting/crocheting/spinning and try to get some sort of comfort/solace. Then they found company and emotional support.
HCW: You came up with a really great idea for the donation drive-- did it just pop in your head?
SF: No… I am a big believer in finding ways to support people’s emotional needs through fiber. Can you imagine how it would be if you lost all of the very thing that gives you comfort? There was so much outpouring of support from people asking how they could help that it seemed a logical extension that they might be able to help build the very things that were lost, that mean so much to all of us - our stashes, our tools, our means of creating. I didn’t want people just going in and cleaning out the things they didn’t want and donating them. My desire was that those who gave would take a moment and think about what they were giving, something dear to them, so it might hit home and would be a true empathetic gesture, sending positive wishes to their fiber sisters and brothers who had lost so much. That’s how the idea evolved.
HCW: Have you had a lot of donations and good letters?
SF: It is beyond my wildest dreams. We have gotten boxes and boxes of beautiful yarns, needles, hooks, books, patterns, bags. We have had people send items from other states who heard about this! The outpouring of support, caring and concern for our fiber community has been over the top!
HCW: Can you tell me about some of the donations and maybe some of the letters?
SF: A group that meets up from Austin and Houston has contributed sock yarns, luxury yarns, needles, bags, toiletries, washcloths… boxes and bins of items. Someone from Cypress got her knitting group together and they put packages together with yarns and needles, one sewed maybe 20 project bags for people. Another gave a backstrap loom she had gotten on a trip to Peru. She hopes that someone else who wanted to do this will pick it up and continue on the tradition. I have customers, 3 adult sisters, and parents, all of whose homes were lost. One of the gals lost her loom, her spinning wheel, projects, another lost knitting and felting projects, another cross-stitch/embroidery projects. One of our friends gave a loom, one a spinning wheel, one a whole bolt of cross-stitch canvas and frames… all that in addition to yarns, sets of interchangeable needles, bags, notions.
I have only read a few of the notes, as most are private. They all talk about the meaning to them of the items they are giving and what they hope in the healing of their new fiber friend. More things continue pouring in with more personal stories and touching notes.
HCW: How are people now, a couple of weeks after the fact-- in shock? recovering? rebuilding?
SF: Shell shocked. Those displaced are just now getting back into their homes and having to deal with all the stress of working with insurance companies, reparation companies and such. Many have lost pets that they are trying to locate. Those are the good outcomes. Those who have lost everything are in random states of emotional turmoil, while dealing with their loss. Recovery will be long and challenging. Imagine that you have a beautiful 3000 sq ft home in the woods near Lake Bastrop, some of the most beautiful landscape in Texas. You get evacuated with only 15 minutes max to get out, some less than that, with only your purse, your clothes and maybe a computer or whatever you have your wits about you to grab. As you escape out of your neighborhood with only one way out, flames are all around you. You live with friends or in a motel for 5-6 days before you even know what has become of your home. When you do learn of its fate, you see that there is nothing left… only grey soot, your house is only 1-2 feet high with its tin roof on top. Not even a shard of glass to be found. No living trees, no plants, toxic soil. That’s how it is, and that’s why recovery will take some time.
SF: Continuing to give lovely supplies, especially notions, scissors, project bags, stitch markers, needle tips, tape measures… lots of smaller items that we all need but never seem to have enough of in the best of times.