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Needles & Pens

With all the creative folks who call San Francisco home, it's about time a shop successfully synthesized writings, art, homespun clothing, and accessories the way Needles & Pens does. Tucked away in the Mission, this gem of a d.i.y. store used to be the stuff of daydreams for Andrew Scott, a writer/designer who's been involved in the zine scene for years, and Breezy Strand Culbertson, a sewing machine queen. After returning from six months of travel, the couple decided to give themselves a job by opening a spot that incorporated their own interests as well as those of their artistic friends and the creative community in general. In Needles & Pens you'll find one wall towering with zines, magazines and small press books. The other wall has an ever-changing variety of clothes, bags, journals and other goods made by talented do-it-yourselfers. The store hits its landmark one-year anniversary in June, impressive for any shop in the high-rent retail space of San Francisco, even more so for one with a main goal of being affordable and community-oriented.

The cozy, quirky space (formerly a tattoo shop) is a zinester's mecca featuring everything from Xeroxed and stapled musings to beautifully screenprinted and handbound runs. The zines cover topics as diverse and personal as a stripper's account of working in New Orleans (Rocket Queen) to the telling of an Oakland resident's disastrous band tour (Suburban Bitch). They range in price from $1 to $5 and you can be assured it is money well-spent. The store carries some widely distributed magazines as well but leans toward the more independent glossies like Anthem, Venus, Bust and Index.

The rest of the store is filled with handmade, limited run items, many created by local artists and crafters. Culbertson designs a line called Strandid which features reconstructed thrift store items such as shirts redesigned to include hand stitched hearts and silkscreened birds ($34), or blouses turned into one-of-a-kind dresses with vintage fabric. Strandid also offers men's shirts ($26) in the same vein and handbags ($34 - 38). Among the handcrafted goodies you can pick up crocheted flowers ($10), silkscreened patches ($2), leather wrist cuffs ($12) and that must-have hand-knit beer cozy. You'll also find journals bound in vintage fabric ($16), undies, trucker hats, coin purses and make-up bags, and at $15, a hand-sewn knitting needle organizer is a steal. The inventory is constantly changing as new artists produce their wares so checking back regularly will be worth your while.

The back room of Needles and Pens houses a gallery, completing the nucleus of creativity, which features a new show every month that includes pieces by local artists, many of which contribute to the zines and handmade goods sold in the shop. The patio behind the shop has seen several readings, bbq's, gallery openings and is home to a neighborhood cat named Ghetto, all part of the homegrown appeal and creative charm that makes Needles and Pens a fiercely needed, independent-minded space.