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Thursday, December 3, 2020
The Open: "Yarn heals.”

The Open: “Yarn heals.”

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

JuJu Knits

552 Lipscomb St.

Fort Worth 76104

817-854-9276

www.jujuknitsfw.com

From the JuJu Knits Facebook page:

“My name is Julie Hatch Fairley … but you can call me JuJu. My dream is to one day offer a yarn shop in the Near Southside of Fort Worth. A community space that binds people together … a gathering place, where people put down their phones to connect with each other in person … to talk .. . to share … all while learning to work with yarn … so they can grow, create & heal.”

The Open

“Yarn heals.”

Julie Hatch Fairley knitted her way through grief. Now he’s helping others find their own joy through the craft.

Julie Hatch Fairley isn’t used to the glare of the spotlight. As a longtime publicist, she is used to helping others find their way there. So, on May 20 when she awoke to social media chatter about her name being in the Washington Post, it was an odd feeling.

“I’m trying to roll with it, but it’s not in my nature,” she says. “I keep reminding myself, ‘What would you tell a client to do?’”

Bill Fairley and Julie Hatch Fairley courtesy photo

Fairley found her name in the lead of a story on using crafts to find joy during the pandemic lockdown. Her story – which she has shared at several Near Southside meetings is this:

Fairley’s mother died in 1998 and, in dealing with the grief from that loss, her counselor suggested she return to something that gave her joy an hour each day. She returned to a childhood hobby: knitting. So, she picked up a ball of yarn, began to knit and – eventually – began to stitch together that joy that had been missing from her life.

“Yarn heals,” is a phrase that will fall from Fairley’s lips more than once during a conversation.

Fairley decided to spread the joy; first via a mobile yarn store in a vintage Roadmaster trailer – JuJu Knits in April of last year – and then opening a bricks-and-mortar store in October. All seemed to be weaving itself together.

Then came March and the looming pandemic.  

JuJu Knits courtesy photo

“I’ve just signed a three-year lease and I’ve only been in business four and a half months,” she said. “I was very scared, so I was looking for any opportunity that I could find out there like many small businesses.”

Through the Near Southside organization, she began searching for different grants and opportunities for financial relief.

“I have to say the Near Southside group has been an absolutely incredible resource for us small businesses over here,” she said. Fairley applied for several and received a small grant, but eventually JuJu Knits was among the first 200 businesses to receive a $5,000 COVID-19 relief and recovery grant from The Red Backpack Fund, an opportunity for small businesses and nonprofits made possible by The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation.

“To me, it felt like a million dollars, I was so excited,” she said.

Shortly thereafter, Fairley found herself in the Washington Post spotlight. That brought a whole new group of customers to her door, some of them to her virtual door. Online sales, which were not an initial focus for the store, suddenly jumped.

“I’ve been filling quite a few more beginner kit orders,” she said, “and then I’ve added, gosh, probably at least 50 people have signed up for my email list.”

Fairley followed up Washington Post with a local WFAA story on her story.

She is now doing Facebook live chats and seeing people in her small shop by appointment.

Fairley knows it will be difficult even if things return to whatever passes for “normal.”

“Crowding people into my little shop just isn’t going to work like it did,” she said. “I have to find a new way to make it work.”

What she does know is that her dream to open a yarn store has connected with others.

“I’ve had – just in the four short months that we were open – I’ve had strangers come in, and then start talking to me about their child committing suicide. Or I’ve had people come in that have just left the doctor and gotten a bad diagnosis,” she said. “And our space was a space where I think people really felt safe to be able to come in, and share, and want to talk about picking up a craft that could really help them unwind.”

“Yarn heals”? Fairley has proved it with a dream.

– Robert Francis

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