By Matt Robinson, Contributing Writer
NEEDHAM – As we get older and seek deeper purpose in our lives, if we are lucky we can also use our work to serve and support others as well.
Lisa Lazdowsky is one such person.
She has not only been able to help others discover and fulfill their own creative passions. She has also helped craft and create ways by which she and others can use what they make to support people in need as well.
“I just love what I do,” the owner of Elissa’s Creative Warehouse (with the appropriate website, www.weloveyarn.com) said. “I love helping people achieve their goals through their projects.”
Supporting the community
Lazdowsky hosts, teaches, and supplies area students who knit and craft items to donate to and raise funds for the homeless. She also collects knitted items for veterans, children, cancer survivors and other groups in need, and even for animals, including cats and penguins.
She also organizes knitting circles that make hundreds of items a month for new immigrants and refugees. “As fast as the items come in,” Lazdowsky proudly observed, “we send them out!” Another one of her projects involved working with Connect-Africa to employ people in a village in Uganda to knit samples for another one of her businesses, which designed and sold knitted/crocheted/felted doll kits.
In the family
As the granddaughter of an experienced knitter and yarn shop owner, Lazdowsky was literally surrounded by hand-crafted woolens and hand-crafting people since her earliest days.
“My grandmother, Ida Leavitt, owned a yarn shop [in Dorchester] for over 40 years,” Lazdowsky recalled. “I loved her shop. I used to go in and feel these amazing sensations in my hands and fingers. I still feel them today.”
Through her hands and fingers, the love of yarn got into Lazdowsky’s soul and the desire to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps became a life passion.
“I always wanted a yarn shop,” she mused, “and I guess I always knew I would have one.” Though her grandmother first tried to teach her crochet, Lazdowsky noted that it was not until she put the hook down and picked the needles up that her path was truly set.
“I can still hear my mother’s voice,” Lazdowsky reminisced. “’Look how nicely she holds the needles,’ she said. It’s like my world began!”
Lazdowsky’s creative proclivities soon dominated most of her life.
“I was always crafting something,” she explained. “My mother would [advise me to] read a book and I’d say something like, ‘I just need to finish this row!’”
In the small pockets of time when she was not knitting, Lazdowsky would take whatever came to hand to make other creative things. “I used to take the wrappers from the chocolate candies and make people with popsicle sticks and anything I could find,” she says, mentioning toilet paper rolls as another favorite craft material.
When it came time for Lazdowsky to find employment, the choice was obvious. “I always worked in yarn shops or in retail,” she maintained. “It just worked for me!”
Speaking of working for, it was the owner of the store where Lazdowsky worked for many years who eventually sold her the location in Needham that she currently runs.
“Sylvia Miller had been in business for about 24 years,” Lazdowsky explained. “I worked for her for a couple of years then she sold me her shop.”
Over 30 years later, Lazdowsky is still buying from, selling to, and working with her grandmother’s suppliers and friends (and their descendants) and creating crafts and community, both at her shop and in homes and venues all over the area.
“I’m teaching a class with Needham Adult Education,” she said of her frequent project partner. “I also teach a Thursday night class where people can knit or crochet…and offer private lessons here after three p.m.”
And while members of the so-called “gig economy” might not be able to see their way to three years in the same place, let alone 30, Lazdowsky says she loves coming to her shop every single day. “Every day I go to work, it feels like play,” she attested, “so I’m not really working.”
This sense of play has attracted younger knitters to host their birthday parties at Lisa’s store and has even encouraged some to knit items that they donate to people in need (just as she has since her earliest days at the shop).
“Sometimes I set up lessons for people who [are] unable to go outside and I go to their homes to help them with their projects,” she smiled.
Another form of giving
Speaking of giving more, though she cut her hours somewhat during the height of the Covid pandemic, Lazdowksy knew that people would be home looking for things to do to feel productive and calm. She not only made sure to be available for her customers but spent some of her time developing new skills that could benefit them as well, including becoming certified as an advanced practitioner of Eden Energy Medicine.
“This works great,” Lazdowsky observed, “because I can help people to balance their energies and clear out blockages that may impact their knitting and crochet skills [and to learn] techniques that enhance their whole life.”
It is said that the gift without the giver is bare. Especially during this season of giving, we might all be wise to take some cues from Lazdowsky and try to craft paths in our own lives that allow and encourage us to use what we love to show love for others.