Long Thread Podcast: Liz Sytsma and Theresa Hill, Wild Hand

Season 5, Episode 10: Every Local Yarn Store wants to be part of their community. Wild Hand takes it a step farther: with a written community commitment that guides every decision and a Little Free Fiber Library on the wall.

Anne Merrow Dec 10, 2022 - 4 min read

Long Thread Podcast: Liz Sytsma and Theresa Hill, Wild Hand Primary Image

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Most stores don't invite passersby to walk up to their shop, open a door, and help themselves—no obligation, no purchase required. But not long after opening new new yarn store in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, Liz Sytsma hung a box on the side of the store labeled "Little Free Fiber Library." Inspired by the give a book, take a book model of the Little Free Library, Wild Hand wanted to create a place where anyone who wanted or needed yarn could obtain it freely. Instead of viewing the fiber library as competing with the shop's sales, the Wild Hand team views it as an opportunity to bring new crafters into the fold, make yarn accessible to all, and participate in their community.

Liz left the nonprofit world to open Wild Hand in 2019, wanting to build a a yarn store that would promote the kind of community she wanted to see: inclusive, diverse, thoughtful, kind. She gathered a team to work together as managers, teaching artists, and colleagues who share a dedication to building the kind of yarn shop where everyone who comes through the door can feel welcome and valued. One of the first projects of Wild Hand was the Community Commitment, a list of 11 principles that guide everything from purchasing decisions to customer service.

One of Liz's first collaborators was Theresa Hill, a spinner, teacher, independent dyer, and nurse. Theresa serves as one of the managers of Wild Hand, where she enjoys feeding the creativity and skills of the shop's customers. She appreciates the way Wild Hand encourages customers and staff members alike to be fully themselves in the space, free to be silly, make mistakes, and feel welcome.

In addition to a storefront in Philadelphia, Wild Hand has included an online store since early days, too. When COVID-19 closed the shop's physical doors and the operation shifted entirely online for a time, the Community Commitment kept right up: Liz prioritized accessibility on the website, too, and even the Little Free Fiber Library is available to online customers (who cover the cost of shipping). Although neighborhood roots are important, Wild Hand invites everyone to be part of their fiber community.

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Anne Merrow is a former editor of Spin Off magazine and a cofounder and editorial director of Long Thread Media.