Several months after Altman’s Needlearts closed its doors, a new yarn and craft store has moved in.
North Fork Fiber Arts, founded by Karen Calabria, offers all of the essentials that Altman’s did — from spools of multi-colored yarn to a variety of buttons ranging in size and shape.
Under Calabria’s ownership, the space has undergone several renovations, including leveling the floors to improve the store’s wheelchair accessibility. Spectrums of colorful yarn, displayed in cubbies, are brightly lit by newly installed light fixtures on the ceiling.
The idea to own a craft store like this came unexpectedly to Calabria after a series of careers.
Twenty years ago, she spent her days working as a journalist, stuck behind a screen and married to her phone. By 2013, feeling burnt out by her writing career, she decided to start her own bakery. She moved closer to her hometown of Jamesport and began searching for a space to move her bakery to on the North Fork. Her career path changed once more when she was introduced to Altman’s Needlearts on Love Lane.
“This was not just a retail space, but a community space,” Calabria said. “The former owner, Kate Altman, wanted this to be a place where people can gather and learn from and inspire one another.”
The space was for sale at the time Calabria and Altman were introduced, but not zoned to be a bakery. Calabria decided to adopt the shop anyway and rebrand it as North Fork Fiber Arts, putting her bakery dreams on hold and embarking on her next venture.
“I learned to crochet and knit from my mother and my grandmother. I’ve done it on and off my whole life. It’s really relaxing and calming, soothing,” Calabria explained. “I like being able to create things for other people that are not only tangible and useful items, but an actual representation of the sentiments and emotions behind them and being able to plug into a long history and tradition of fiber arts.”
Knitting and crocheting are traditions that can be traced back centuries. For most of the 21st century, it was seen as a practice exclusively done by elderly women. However, the practice — specifically crocheting — saw a resurgence among young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My mother and grandmother taught me this art, and I feel connected to them every time I pick up a needle or a hook,” Calabria said. “When I’m being creative with any kind of fiber, it’s connecting me to generations of women and men. I also feel the pride of making something tangible and useful with my hands.”
Calabria provides a place where people can feel the product, see the colors and bounce texture ideas off one another. She finds the experience more valuable than simply ordering yarn and needle art supplies online.
PHOTOS BY LILLY PARNELL
“We are promoting sustainability. You’re creating your own clothing, you’re shopping locally and you’re supporting the local economic infrastructure,” Calabria said.
Apart from yarn, North Fork Fiber Arts has various other fiber art-related items such as patterns, buttons, various kits, tote bags, knitting needles and crochet hooks.
North Fork Fiber Arts holds classes for both beginners and experts multiple times a week taught by Stephanie Raffel and Mary Alice Kohs. They hope that by next summer, the store will also provide a summer camp for children.
“The most rewarding thing about opening this shop is that I’m able to provide a space for people to gather as a community,” Calabria said. “We want to be a resource for people to have a connection to one another. And so far, the community’s generosity has been amazing. Everyone is so supportive.”
You can visit North Fork Fiber Arts at 195 Love Lane in Mattituck. Their full class schedule and website are coming soon.