The Novel Novocastrian
The Random Ramblings of a Temporary Resident
By Tara Brady
Hand to Hand Crafts – the best way to get your knit on!
If you wander west down Hunter Street past The Lock Up and Curve Galleries, Studio Melt and Bagga’s Pharmacy, you will eventually come to Wolfe St; and if you turn right you’ll find a rather extraordinary craft and wool shop called Hand to Hand Crafts. The first time I came across Hand to Hand Crafts I had left it rather late in the day and the shop was closed, but peering through the window I spied a treasure trove of multi-coloured embroidery threads, vivid wools and a wall of buttons…and thus started a whole new creative drive: it was time to get crafty.
I decided to start with knitting – it was something I vaguely remembered being taught as a twelve year old, but I wasn’t sure where to begin, so I wandered back to Hand to Hand and explained my situation to Katrina who within 10 minutes had me sorted with some basic wool and knitting needles and was even teaching me how to cast on. It was clear to me at this point that this was no ordinary craft shop, and that Carmel and Katrina (the lovely ladies who run the place) were not your usual retailers. However, it wasn’t until my second visit that I realised just how extraordinary Hand to Hand Crafts is, because on my second visit I got to meet Henry, Bryce and Lauren. Henry has a flair for the dramatic and was kind enough to write me a birthday message on my till receipt when he discovered not only was it my birthday but we share the same birthday month and are therefore very cool people. Bryce has helped me sort through a basket of bias tape looking for just the right shade of blue-grey to match some dress material, and his choice was spot on. Lauren, who shares a similar dread of flying as my mum (they agreed it was fine once you got on the plane, but the moment just before is awful) has patiently scoured pattern books with me, looking for a simple pattern for a tea cosy and eventually finding one. All three are assistants in the shop, but all three are also clients.
Hand to Hand Crafts is a shop with a difference. Along with Char’s Café and the school canteen at The Junction Public School, it is run in partnership with Response which, through funding from the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NIDS) supports adults with disabilities through workshops, active learning enterprises and transition to work schemes. Carmel and Katrina are support workers who help train people to work in a retail setting gaining skills such as interacting with customers, operating the till and organising the displays. They are also very knowledgeable about knitting, embroidery, sewing, paper crafts…the list goes on. There is something about walking into the shop, which is always a hive of activity, and being greeted with a friendly smile and an offer of assistance that instantly makes me feel at home. And some of the craftwork on sale that has been made in the regularly held workshops is just exquisite. I have it on good authority that Mandy is one of the people behind the perfect Christmas bunting and gift tags, and Mitch designs the wonderful paper-bags you get to cart your goodies home in (my favourite has a sheep on it, although a recent Santa Claus one is pretty spectacular!) So if you’re looking for a gift for the craft enthusiast in your life, then look no further than Hand to Hand Crafts…but take your time when you’re there and relish the friendly, helpful atmosphere, feast your eyes on the baskets of pinwheels, felted balls and beaded necklaces. There really is no other place like it.