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Keeping in the loop with Susan Cropper

The Loop founder speaks on the benefits of starting a craft, and shares a pattern or two...

If you’ve ever wandered down Islington’s quirky Camden Passage in London, you’ve probably found yourself side-eyeing a rather whimsical looking woollen shop (and if you haven’t, we highly recommend the trip). It’s small but charming, quirky yet welcoming, and has been acting as London’s little slice of haberdasher’s heaven since founder Susan Cropper first opened her doors 17 years ago. 

You’re greeted by hundreds of beautiful yarns, threads, wools, patterns and books, plus a delicious array of crafty delights perfect for any ‘yarnie’ enthusiast – or anyone, really, who can’t resist a peek at the colourful scene inside. Since it was founded, Loop London have been pioneers in their field, sourcing materials from all over the world, promoting small businesses and keeping the craft of needlework alive and kicking throughout the pandemic.  

But, beneath the bundles of multi-coloured fibres, Loop is home to something quite extraordinary – a community from across the globe all bound by one simple act: the art of craft. Something that founder Susan Cropper believes reaches far beyond the finished creations. Susan says there are loads of benefits to starting needlework: it brings a sense of calm and mindfulness to our frantically busy brains, friendships and community in times of need and helps protect the planet, one stitch at a time.

Casting on

35 years ago Susan Cropper moved her life from New York to London, deciding to give up her job as an Art Director and pursue her longtime love for haberdashery. In 2005, after a timely chat with interiors expert Abigail Ahern and some “detective-style” research sourcing yarns and materials from around the world, Susan was ready to open the doors of her Islington shop, Loop.

“The knitting community in London seemed small and I was struggling to source the types of materials and threads I’d seen back in New York,” says Susan, who wanted to take her passion for yarn – which she suspected was shared by so many in the capital – and create a space for creativity, talent and collaboration to thrive.

“I thought, well, if I’m searching for it, others must be too. I wanted to start more advanced classes and couldn’t find them either. It felt like there was this real need for a community,” she says.

Since 2005, Loop has welcomed hundreds of thousands of customers, grown a social following boasting 87,000, sold out weekly classes for over a decade and now ships their thoughtfully chosen stock of knitting, crochet and embroidery supplies worldwide – some need for a community.

And community, says Susan, is one of the best perks of the job.

A kit of knitters. A cache of crocheters…

“At first it wasn’t so much about community; the space was small and we had classes but it was mostly students learning from our tiny stockroom,” admits Susan. “But once Loop started classes and workshops and began visiting local festivals, the community spirit really grew – we had a queue out the door!” she says.“When you have people chatting to each other in the shop, helping each other in class, all being like-minded lovers of the craft, a community just grows.”

“When you have people chatting to each other in the shop, helping each other in class, all being like-minded lovers of the craft, a community just grows.”

Loop’s range of classes stretches from beginners’ knitting and crochet through to masterclasses by visiting teachers from all over the world, teaching embroidery, knitting, crochet, mending, and tonnes more. The classes are what bring together Loop's community, which has acted as an important support system through hard times, says the founder.

“During Lockdown the community really came together,” says Susan. “There was all this madness on the news and knitting was a good way to shut it out. We Zoomed so much.” Hosting classes and workshops online over the last two years was the only opportunity some people had to find a sense of connection, says Susan. 

And it’s that support network, bound by a shared love for wool, that really makes this craft special. Susan says the secret is in the nurturing spirit of the craft. “It brings people together on so many levels. We’re learning and growing all of the time.”

Keeping the wheel (world) spinning 

Loop was founded on the principle that along with creating a bustling haberdashery, they would always put their commitment to the planet first. As pioneers in their field, they have an impressive back catalogue of organic cottons, natural dyes, and ethical haberdashery suppliers – something Susan says she was dead set on from the beginning.

“If we get a new yarn, there’s a whole process to it, it’s a big deal. I give it a lot of attention, and I won’t get it unless I know about its credentials,” she says. But Loop’s commitment to the environment goes beyond the practicalities of wool orders and supplier checks.

“I think the main thing we do is give people the tools to slow down and make their own clothing, or make gifts for people.”

Susan emphasises that there are aspects of the craft that offer a thoughtfulness that can only be good for the planet. “I think the main thing we do is give people the tools to slow down and make their own clothing, or make gifts for people.” She says, “Sewing something, knitting something or making something with intention behind it is way better – so what if there’s holes, who cares!”

Good for the (sewing) soul 

“It’s proven these kinds of crafts bring certain mindful benefits,” says Susan, reflecting on what exactly it is about needlework that draws people in and keeps them visiting her shop year after year.

What might seem like a niche hobby and exclusive club is actually a haven for exercising mindfulness. “It’s cross-generational, it’s trial and error, and it’s physically calming,” says Susan.

Diving into what that means in practice, she notes that a lot of the calming benefits are in the physical act of the craft. “Whether you’re by yourself or with other people, the act of doing something with your hands, sewing, knitting, whatever it is, where you’re physically touching the fibres and concentrating on the motion” is, Susan says, a proven source of mental easing.

“It’s so good for your mind, it’s like a type of meditation! It doesn’t matter if you mess up, or find something hard, that’s the beauty of it. It’s just fabric at the end of the day!”

“You try and try, and eventually, once you feel that ‘oh I can actually do it’ feeling, you’ve solved the big mystery.”

These are the kinds of lessons Susan is talking about when she references the multifaceted layers of the craft. Some may say that it's unforgiving – one dropped stitch and you’re out, one line of the wrong stitch and your whole pattern is ruined. But Susan believes this is the exact reason behind its gratifying quality. “You try and try, and eventually, once you feel that ‘oh I can actually do it’ feeling, you’ve solved the big mystery.”

Well, pass us the yarn.

Feeling inspired?

Here are Susan’s top tips for a knitting novice

1. Don't be afraid, relax.

“Don't be afraid of mistakes, it’s only yarn. No one is judging you. It’s best to relax and roll with it, it’s not precious.”

2. Try new things.

“There are thousands of beautiful stitches you can do, even if you’re just playing around with swatches, try out as many as you can.”

3. Get the best materials you can afford.

“You’re putting effort and time into it anyway so you want to love it for longer, get less but get good stuff that is going to last.”

Why not give it a go…

Get started with a few beginner's patterns from Loop’s archive

Socks? Or Shawl?