How Liz Sytsma at Wild Hand is helping locals deal with COVID anxiety through knitting
The Mt. Airy shop also has its own version of a Little Free Library that features materials for crocheting.
The COVID-19 pandemic still has millions of citizens across Philadelphia and the world wondering when it will ever end.
Instead of overwhelming yourself with questions and anxious thoughts that linger, why not take a free, virtual knitting class?
Wild Hand, a quaint shop huddled in the heart of historic Mt. Airy is giving online lessons to people who are having trouble dealing with anxiety, or people who just want to learn a new skill.
“Since I was young I was always knitting and crocheting, I just love fiberwork,” said Liz Sytsma, the founder of Wild Hand.
Sytsma wanted to create an atmosphere where people of all genders could interact with one another and be in a comfortable environment.
“We don’t make assumptions about a person’s gender or pronouns based on cultural norms,” she wrote on her website.
Wild Hand opened its doors in April 2019, less than a year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Last spring, due to restrictions that Gov. Tom Wolf established in March 2020, Wild Hand closed its doors for six months, then reopened September 2020.
“We’ve actually grown a lot in this past year,” said Systma.
With new rules displayed for small businesses, Sytsma had to think outside of the box.
“Before the pandemic I had launched a new online store, which was about 5% of our sales, but now, because of the pandemic, our online store is about half of our sales,” she said.
Sytsma ensured people that if they do not want to go outside and head to Mt. Airy to see her space, they don't have to.
Her virtual workshops are beloved by locals thanks to her art teachers who’ve helped many with their anxiety or PTSD.
“I send supplies out all over, or people pick them up locally, and people meet over Zoom,” said Sytsma.
Research conducted by the Anxiety Resource Center, believes that knitting can help heal the brain in many ways.
The beautiful range of colors and textures can help the brain receive subconscious feedback and make it more calm. Serotonin is also released with repetitive movement, so people can benefit from knitting before they go to bed.
In regards to Sytsma’s business, attendance has been on the rise since she offered virtual classes.
“These are really hands-on tactile, crafts, and community intimate gatherings, but our teachers are amazing with making people feel comfortable,” she said.
She also made a point to make the classes accessible financially as a result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
Over 22 million people lost their jobs in the beginning of 2020.
“We want to help our economically diverse customers,” she said.
Sytsma and her father also installed a “Little free library” box in front of the store that will give conscious locals a chance to dive into the fiberwork community.
“I just really thought that some people shouldn't have to spend money on something they are just getting into, what if they don't like it?” said Sytsma.
The ‘Little free fiber box’ also carries other tools and needles that are essential for crocheting.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to knit a hat or make your own stylish bomber jacket, Wild Hand has you covered. Sign up for one of their virtual classes online, where you can meet new people and become a member of a burgeoning knitting community.