Amelia Freeman-Lynde wants to help you make things. Her yarn, fabric, and craft supply store called Freeman’s Creative is located in Durham’s Lakewood Shopping Center next to the Scrap Exchange and has been a great addition to the creative community since opening its doors in November of 2017.
Growing up in Athens, Georgia, in a creative family, Freeman-Lynde always thought she would be a performer. It was during her time at Barnard College in New York, however, when she realized her true calling for all things behind-the-scenes. After a successful career as a prop maker and stagehand in NY, Amelia moved to Durham, North Carolina, for a slower pace of life. She poured her energy into Freeman’s Creative, firmly believing that good things come when people use their time and energy to create things they need.
I had a chance to sit down with Freeman-Lynde recently, to learn not just about her beloved store with its thoughtfully sourced materials and robust class calendar, but also about her southern roots, her commitment to slow-fashion, and her journey in becoming an indispensable part of Triangle’s creative community.
Tell us about your time in New York?
I knew that I wanted to go to New York from probably middle school. I had family in upstate New York so we would drive through the lights and the energy made me realize that I wanted to be there. Eventually, I went to Barnard college in the upper west side of Manhattan and did a theater degree with a thesis in directing.
There wasn’t really a props track or anything like that, but my first job out of school was as a props stagehand. I was the person backstage making sure all the props were in the right place and handing people things, and going in between scenes and rearranging the stuff on stage. From there I started doing more prop construction and prop mastering, and being the person in charge of finding, altering and building all the props that would be on stage.
Would you share a little more about the craft, yarn, and knitting stores you came across while living in NY and how have they inspired you in planning for Freeman’s Creative?
Shopping has been a big form of research for me. It’s a little bit of a joke, but I really do study other shops and what I like or dislike, or how they’re organized. Living in NYC, the biggest thing was just how far away everything was from me in Queens. That’s when I first started thinking of opening a shop. Of course, I love Purl Soho, and when I first started shopping there it was two separate shops, Purl, and Purl Patchwork.
Everything was just so beautifully organized in these really tiny storefronts. Space is such a premium in NYC, (in North Carolina )we’re really lucky here to have so much room to grow and to have classes. And Brooklyn General is another favorite, but they were a little harder for me to get to from where I lived and worked. But I really love the general store vibe, with a treasure around every corner.
What attracted you to opening your store in Durham’s Lakewood Shopping Center?
We love being part of Lakewood. Honestly, the parking was a huge draw, as was being part of the Reuse Arts District with the Scrap Exchange. There’s a lot you can walk to from the shop, and we have great neighbors.
How do you stay motivated as a business owner?
The thing about starting a business and being just a year and a half in, is that we are still a new business. There is not a lot of downtime. I love that about knitting, I can take it anywhere with me, if I am waiting for something or if I am at dinner. I can always be working on things. I focus a lot better and relax a lot better if I have something in my hands to keep doing. I do a lot of sewing in between customers. I have made clothes for a long time. It was a hobby before the store opened.
I am a big thrift store shopper so I always have plenty of clothes on hand. I am trying to shift to a handmade wardrobe. I now am surrounded by these great fabrics and great patterns and I want to be able to help people with their projects so that the more I make garments the more I can give people feedback or steer them in the right direction or do a good combination of fabric and patterns. So it does feel like part of my job, that has the great side benefit that’s just a really cool wardrobe that I am excited about putting on every day.
What makes Freeman’s Creative different?
There are a lot of places where you can go for an after school program, or do painting as a girls night out, which do feed people’s creative energies. We are not really a fine arts program, we are not really a craft store in the same way. Here, we are really focused on doing skill-building. You are going to learn a skill and then the next step to apply that skill. I want us to shift mindsets into producers instead of consumers.
I am pretty serious about our mission. And then there’s the education component. We have this pattern line …. about the simplest version of a garment you can make … this is the simplest a garment gets and it took you three hours to make it, just think about the t-shirt you bought for $12 and how much materials cost, and how much the person made it got paid.
How do you keep up with new trends?
This is an area where social media has been a real boon. I follow companies, publications, and other shops on Instagram primarily, and it really helps to connect the dots of what people are interested in, beyond just the color of the season into broader shifts in our industry.
How far out do you plan your calendar of events?
It’s always a goal to plan further in advance, but right now I usually get everything nailed down and sent out in our newsletter about 2 weeks prior to the start of each month.
What are some new and upcoming class offerings that you are excited for?
We are offering a jeans-making class in October for the 3rd time ever, and it is so amazing to see what the students are able to make over two weekends. We’re getting ready for the holiday season too and working on more ideas for gift-making classes.
What is the best way for someone to reach out to you if they have a suggestion for a class, or are a professional and want to teach a class?
We actually have an instructor interest form on our website, but probably the best thing is to come by the shop and introduce yourself!
What have you learned in the second year of Freeman’s Creative?
It’s the sort of thing where the more you learn, the more you learn of the things you don’t know. I keep saying that it’s still a huge learning process and I am not sure when I will feel like I can pinpoint what classes do well, and what days are the busiest, and when to have staff. You throw a lot of things at the wall and you see what sticks, and so much of it is up to whether there was another activity on the same day, or whether the schools were out, but I keep trying to remind myself about the big picture.
Larger trends. It is very easy on slow days to feel like I am failing miserably or that I have done everything wrong, or that I don’t know what I am doing. And a lot of that is outside of your control … It’s a leap of faith to start a business. I was very confident that this community would support this business and it is still very true that this community is very enthusiastic to have us here … In the past year and a half we know that we have so many people to reach and so many people who will come in and use us as a resource.
How do you see Freeman’s Creative evolving as time goes on?
I’ve got lots of ideas, but I mostly hope it grows along the same lines that it’s been going. I want to be able to stock more of the supplies that people are looking for and be a really reliable place to learn and make. And I want to grow enough to really be able to support myself and my employees financially. We’ve all seen shops that sell yarn or sell fabric close, for various reasons, and I just want us to stick around for the long term.
What are some of the things that you have enjoyed the most since returning to the south and laying down roots in Durham?
Definitely the food. I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years, but I love how many restaurants in the area are focused on connections with farmers and the community.
What is one of your most favorite restaurants in the Triangle?
I’m totally biased, having worked there, but I’d eat at Monuts every day of the week.
How have your thoughts about being southern changed since when you were a child to now?
I’ve embraced it a lot more. It’s important to me to fight the stereotypes and recognize the huge diversity of the South and not let one sort of viewpoint continue to be recognized as the dominant narrative. I’ve finally come around to (saying) “y’all”, after all, y’all means all!
Freeman’s Creative is located at 2020 Chapel Hill Road, Suite 25, Durham NC 27707 and is opened from Wednesday-Sunday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.
In addition to being a yarn, fabric, and craft supply store, it also offers classes for all skill levels (including one on how to simply and easily mend clothes you already own), a weekly craft club where you can bring your own projects to work on with like-minded adults, and a quarterly clothing swap. You can find out more on their website, Facebook, and Instagram.