Here is the finished product! I hope it meets your approval. Thank you so much again for allowing me to use your shop as my paper topic. I really enjoyed visiting and speaking to your customers!
Professor Katie Fallon
25 September 2007
More Than Meets the Eye
“A lot more goes on here than just knitting,” says Marilyn Spencer, a Mosaic Yarn Shop regular.
Walking into the local knitting shop in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia, my eyes were drawn to the shelves of brightly colored yarn skeins. The warmth of the sun shining through the glass ceiling illuminated the shop with a heavenly glow. The chatter of the women knitting and socializing together filled the shop with happy sounds that reminded me of birds in early spring. The atmosphere in the shop was comfortable and exceptionally welcoming. Just as simple, broken pieces of glass, porcelain, and stone combine to form a beautiful mosaic, the individuals, unique atmosphere, and mission of the Mosaic Yarn Shop combine to create a truly special place.
The sumptuous, red couch and matching oversized chair provide comfortable seating for customers. Jewel-toned oriental rugs warm the brick floor. Two large wooden boxes full of knitting magazines offer ideas for new projects. From the ceiling above the cash register, colorful balls of yarn dangle by strings. In the corner of the shop, brightly colored star-shaped lights twinkle along the ceiling.
Scattered throughout the store, scarves, sweaters, hats, and shawls serve as visual goals for the knitting customers. A small, black pug puppy, aptly named Purl for the reverse of the knitted stitch, roams the shops and eagerly greets customers. The home-like feel and comforts of the Mosaic Yarn Shop are a haven for knitters, young and old alike.
Gina Bonomo, the store’s owner, opened Mosaic six years ago. She previously owned a shoe store called “Sole Mates,” but due to the illness of a friend, she had to sell the store to the store’s manager.
At the sale of the shop, she signed a non-competition agreement with the new owner preventing her from opening any kind of shoe, clothing, or fashion-related store.
Gina noticed there was not a knitting shop in the area.
She heard “rumblings of knitting coming back,” which prompted her to open the Mosaic Yarn Shop.
Gina optimistically noted that each year business doubles from the previous year. She believes knitting is so popular because it is a “soothing craft” that combines fashion and textile.
Summer is usually the slowest time for Mosaic; however, this summer, the store owner mentioned, was actually one of the busiest times for the shop.
After the tragic events of April 16th , the store became flooded with people wanting to knit and talk about their feelings. Bonomo was also looking for any way to help in the long healing process.
The store’s owner came up with the idea to ask people to send in knitted or crocheted squares to be sewn into blankets for the victims and families of the April 16th tragedy.
Gina mentioned people heard of the project through various sources, but mostly through the “blogger world” and the shop’s own website. The store owner explained the knitting community has a large base of Internet “bloggers” who post short diary-like entries about life and knitting.
She noted that it is “amazing how many people found out about the project.” The Hokie Healing project was mentioned in newspapers, such as the
New York Times , and shown on many television news shows. The project was overwhelmingly supported by the public and squares were sent in from all over the country and around the world. At the height of the project, so many knitted and crocheted squares filled the store that there was no room to sit down! Bonomo stated that the project “gave a stronger sense of community” and also was a way to “help in a helpless situation.” One volunteer said, “Most people think that this project was initiated to help others, but mostly it’s to help us heal. We are all part of the Hokie community and we all wanted to do something to help.” Gina explained giving money is a good way to help out, but these blankets gave a little something different. She and those involved in the project knew the blankets provided comfort.
The store owner pointed out, “With every stitch [knitted], the blanket’s recipient was thought about and prayed for.”
To date, almost 8,600 squares have been sent in from caring individuals throughout the world. Sixty-four squares are needed to make one blanket, so about 134 blankets have been sewn together by volunteers through the Mosaic Yarn Shop.
In the back room of the shop, 40 comfort blankets remain waiting for the special person they will help to heal.
As the first anniversary of the tragedy at Virginia Tech approaches, those people directly affected by the heartbreak will continue to drift in to the Mosaic Yarn Shop to receive their special gift of love and healing. In this way, the shop will continue its mission of hope and recovery for the community and for the volunteers. One of the knitters who helped to assemble the squares said the outpouring of concern for the Hokie Healing project “makes you want to do more.”
At first, the blankets were only intended to be given to the actual victims of the tragedy and to their families.
However, due to the overwhelming response, Gina Bonomo noted the blankets have also been offered to all the first responders. Recently, the store owner stated, a woman came into Mosaic to buy yarn and was wearing a Blacksburg Rescue Squad shirt. Bonomo asked if she helped out during the day of April 16th .
The customer said she helped to clean up, and immediately, Gina offered a blanket to the customer.
The customer gratefully accepted and has since referred other members of her squad to Mosaic to receive their own comfort blanket. Bonomo said that the project has even extended to nurses who worked on patients in the emergency room during April 16th .
As fibers of yarn are woven together though knitting, my life was woven into the Mosaic Yarn Shop just a few months ago.
Through a chance encounter at freshmen orientation, my mom spoke to a professor in the college of science and made reference to the fact that my older brother, Richard, was in Norris Hall on April 16th . Thankfully, he survived by jumping out of a second story window and only suffered a few scratches. The professor, a volunteer for the Hokie Healing project, encouraged my mom to bring Richard by the Mosaic Yarn Shop to receive a comfort blanket.
My brother, usually quiet and reserved, was genuinely happy and thankful to receive such a special gift.
My mom suggested she take the blanket home for safe keeping, but my brother insisted on keeping it and using it.
The beautiful blanket of orange and maroon my brother received will help him heal from the horror he experienced last April. Because of this kind, generous deed, the Mosaic Yarn Shop holds a special place in my heart and in the hearts of my family members.
Aside from the significance and impact of the Hokie Healing project, the Mosaic Yarn Shop truly is a special place for its customers.
Every Wednesday and Friday morning a small group of members of the local Knitting Guild meet.
One member explained they usually do the same project with different yarn and needles and compare the differences in the finished projects. The first project they all completed together was a sweater; now, they have branched out and do not necessarily work on the same project together.
All five members present on the Wednesday I visited seemed to agree they come to knit, but primarily, they come to socialize. Marilyn Spencer, a Knitting Guild member who has knitted for over fifty years, emphasizes the Mosaic Yarn Shop as a “place of therapy.” She also notes the shop is very accessible because it is open daily, even on Saturday and Sunday.
The ladies collectively agree they come to the shop for so many more reasons that just to knit.
Knitting is a form of healing and stress relief, and serves as a reason for socializing.
One member mentions they come to the Mosaic Yarn Shop to knit, but also “to learn new things from each other” and to “talk about everything.” Karen Greider, another Knitting Guild member, comes to the shop “to be nice to herself and buy something for herself.” She describes it is “therapeutic to look at all the colors of yarn and feel them.” For this particular knitter, knitting is a family activity. Karen and her daughter learned to knit together six years ago.
While her daughter has become occupied with other activities since, this mother still continues to knit regularly.
She mentions that when her daughter has horse riding lessons, she comes to Mosaic to knit while she is waiting for her daughter. Karen Greider commented that her daughter even taught her husband how to knit, and every Christmas, the mother, daughter, and father all work on a knitting project together.
When first asked why the women come to the shop, they quickly respond with, “Addiction!”
Spencer and Greider both agree they have more yarn than they could ever knit in a lifetime.
The loyal customers and Knitting Guild members appear to be truly enjoying themselves as they knit various items together. Greider is working on a cool-toned shawl of blues and greens. The soft, fuzzy yarn is pleasing to the eyes, as well as to the touch. Spencer is knitting together a brightly colored pair of orange, pink, and white socks using small, narrow, wooden knitting needles. She is making these socks for herself and comments that “the people who make them appreciate them the most.” Spencer even takes a brief hiatus in her knitting to lift her foot up to the table and proudly display a pair of socks she knitted previously.
Another lady sitting at the round table in the center of the store tells that she is knitting a baby cap for her two month old granddaughter. She lovingly interweaves delicate strands of yarn together in soft colors for the new addition to her family.
As the women knit and socialize, customers come in and out of the store entrance. One young woman walks in and is warmly greeted by the Knitting Guild members.
Out of her cloth bag, she pulls an intricate scarf. At a closer glance, I can better appreciate the time involved in making this piece of art. Small, brown flowers line the entirety of the scarf, complete with a pearl bead in the center of each flower. The woman sitting next to me explains the scarf was knitted to raise money for an Iraqi child to come to the United States to have surgery. Bonomo, the store’s owner, chimes in that knitting shops are always looking for charity projects and for ways to help others.
Another Knitting Guild member modestly describes that she is “just” making a baby sweater to raise money for charity. The knitting customers of the shop truly love to use their skills and talents to help out the community in any way they can.
A few minutes later, a mother and daughter pair walk into the Mosaic Yarn Shop. Gina Bonomo casually greets the duo. When the mother says that “we are here to spend money,” Gina jokingly replies, “We’ll take it!”
The care and concern the store owner shows for each customer is extremely evident.
As the mother is explaining to Gina she needs wool to make a sweater for her daughter, Bonomo quickly replies that she knows the customer cannot use a certain yarn because of her daughter’s wool allergy. The customer is surprised, yet pleased that the store owner knows her needs before she even mentions them.
Just as the loyal customers are eager to buy from Mosaic, the employees also seem delighted to be working in the shop.
Debbie, a Mosaic employee, works part time at the shop on Wednesdays and Fridays.
She says a perk of the job is the discount she receives on yarn, needles, and other knitting supplies.
Debbie also acknowledges that she loves working for Gina. While the Knitting Guild members occupy the center of the store, Debbie stands to the side and helps a customer wind a skein of yarn into a ball.
Wright explains this helps to prevent any tangling during a knitting project.
While knitting may stereotypically be thought of as geared toward the older, retired crowd, five minutes spent in the Mosaic Yarn Shop proves this theory wrong. The Knitting Guild is comprised of grandmothers and mothers. However, Gina Bonomo explains that a younger crowd meets several times a week in the shop to knit. This group is made up of college students, college professors, and those who work during the day. Customers flowing in the shop consist of all age groups from great-grandmas to young elementary students. The Mosaic Yarn Shop is appealing to all ages due to the relaxed atmosphere and the creativity of knitting.
At 6:00 p.m. nightly, the little shop closes. The work done by those staying until the shop closes is packed away to be taken home. Purl the pug is all ready to go to his home for the evening. The lights go out and the door is locked.
Inside, the shop is dark and silent- the chatter and the knitting needles have stopped for now.
But in the morning at 10:00 a.m., the shop will open, new projects will begin, new friends will meet, and the work of the Mosaic Yarn Shop will continue.
At first glance, it seems improbable that a humble appearing knitting shop in Blacksburg, Virginia, could have such a far-reaching impact on the lives of so many. However, the Mosaic Yarn Shop plays an important role in the thousands of lives that have been knitted together through this quaint shop. The shop’s name, Mosaic, certainly suits the business.
Just as a mosaic is much more than shards of glass and pieces of stone, this shop is much more than the skeins of yarn and knitting needles that fill its shelves.