Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Obit: Springwater Fiber Workshop, Alexandria, Va.

Springwater Fiber Workshop was not only my LYS (local yarn store), it was a fiber workshop where I learned to spin and dye when these crafts were not yet as trendy as they are today. It was supported by commissions for the arts, other agencies and foundations. Most importantly, it was supported by the teachers and the members of the community who have made Springwater a part of their lives.

Once I was on my own at the spinning wheel and producing knittable yarns, the shop welcomed my products and sold them at the store. Springwater didn't just ask for my support; it also provided me with encouragement and support to pursue my interest in fiber arts. Therefore, it was with great disappointment that I learned yesterday of the closure of the school and of the shop "effective immediately". Needless to say, there were a flurry of emails on the yahoo group of Springwater habitu├ęs. Finally, my spinning and natural dyeing mentor, Sylvie Demar, wrote this:

OK all;

Before rumors start flying . . . .

The decision to close was not made lightly and for me personally it feels like another death in my family.

Decisions were made that at the time seemed the best way to solve some of the problems and, unfortunately did not work.

During this process, additional problems began to surface, and reached the point of being unsurmountable.

Personally, I'm tired of fighting.

Springwater has always had financial obstacles - one was trying to maintain an open studio in an extremely and increasingly high rent area so as to be close to other arts (i.e. Art League).

Closing is the result of many, many factors in combination with a downswing in the economy. And yes, rising gasoline prices are included in this.

The fact that one can now find almost as many knit shops and knit classes as Starbucks in any given area is also a contributing factor. Why drive in congested rush hour traffic to a place that is notorious for bad parking when you can just go down the street from where you are to do the same thing.

Also purchasing on the internet, while extremely convenient leaves many small organizations/retailers wondering how to pay the rent when people come into a store, look around and try things out - then buy online because its less expensive.

The only way to keep small businesses open is to patronize there as much as you can - even if it costs a bit more or is less convenient than buying online. Not a criticism - just a statement of fact that times have changed.

These are not the only reasons for the decision to close Springwater - but these consumer trends are forecast to continue, making it extremely difficult to deal with.

So, having said all that, we need to celebrate the spirit of an organization that while physically will pass into history - but will live on in spirit for a long time.

One last point:

The lease on the site is up the end of this year and all of you renters know what that means:

new lease = higher rent or moving - and believe me its worse for commercial property than for residential.

All of these contributing factors and more unfortunately made the decision to close the most prudent.

Sylvia D.


If you have your beloved LYS, you have to think twice before buying the cheaper products that you find on the internet. You may be saving a few dollars, but losing your community of crafts people.