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Getting the hang of it

MORGANTOWN —Morgantown local Danielle Conaway has always been interested in creating, whether it is through music and theater or handmade items.

Eager to continue trying new art forms, Conaway attended a beginner weaving course at Free Spirit Fibers, a yarn store in downtown Morgantown. It did not take long for Conaway to get the hang of it, and within a month of learning, her woven designs were up for sale at Hoot and Howl. 

“I don’t feel like I am any kind of expert on weaving,” Conaway said. “I just started this and I just enjoy doing it. Honestly, it has been really supportive for my mental health.”

Finding a creative outlet through COVID-19 has become a way for many to cope with the additional time spent at home. This was the case for Conaway, who said learning to weave has become an important stress reliever.

Conaway initially was gifting her creations to family and friends. As her collection grew, she decided it would be fun to see if she could sell her artwork, so she reached out to Stephanie Swaim, owner of Hoot and Howl. 

Conaway said she instantly felt gratification when she saw her work on display for the first time. Two of her pieces are also set to be on display at Galactic Panther, an art gallery and store in Westover.

Mandi Powell, owner of Free Spirit Fibers, said several courses are offered weekly at the yarn store, including beginner courses for knitting, crocheting, weaving and punch needle. She said Conaway regularly comes by to try out new things and work on projects, and was excited to find out she was sharing her work with the community.

“I was super-excited for her,” Powell said. “She is a really nice person and is super-creative.”

Heather Rios, owner of the online shop Harara Textiles, led the beginner weaving course Conaway attended. She said weaving has been growing in popularity, and can be a relaxing and meditative hobby.

She said she was proud to see one of her students using the skills they learned in her course.

“Danielle seems to be a natural,” Rios said. “She learned so fast. I’d love to take credit, but she’s just naturally talented.”

Over the past few months, the pandemic has brought several new artists like Conaway to Swaim’s shop. She said she has seen an increase in creators contacting her about selling their work. 

Swaim said she is glad to see people in the community investing more free time into creativity. Along with creators looking to sell their art, she said she also has seen an increase in customers purchasing DIY kits for embroidery and weaving, and coloring books. 

“That was their therapy,” Swaim said. “Whether they knew that or not, they immediately were drawn to it because it was something that was going to help them.”

When it comes to selling her product, Conaway said she hopes her pieces bring others the same joy creating them brought into her life. 

“I care about somebody having joy from one of my wall hangings more than I care about money,” Conaway said. “The wall hangings have brought me joy just creating them.”

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