It really wasn’t the best time. Bianca Smalley was laid off from her job as a graphic designer, confined at home in close quarters with her family of four and, you know, dealing with the start of a global freaking pandemic and everything else that came with it.
But there, just when she needed it most, was Schitt’s Creek and the sweaters.
More specifically – if it even needs to be said – David Rose’s sweaters. And even more specifically than that, a new pastime rendering David’s sweaters and shirts into cross-stitch designs, then stitching them.
“I really enjoy it, but at the same time from the outside I’m laughing at myself about it,” says Smalley, who lives in Oakville, Ont. “I don’t take myself too seriously.”
Smalley first stitched one of David’s sweaters for a friend last fall. When the pandemic lockdown arrived, she stitched another.
“It’s kind of like my happy place,” Smalley says. “The show brings me comfort."
Comfort being a challenging commodity in 2020, Smalley soon found herself stitching another of David’s sweaters, then another and suddenly she had a goal to do them all, 146 in total.
Like the show itself, David’s sweaters have a fiercely devoted fan following, inspiring voluminous slideshows such as A Comprehensive Look Back at David Rose’s (Simply the) Best Sweaters on Schitt’s Creek, and – the mark you’ve truly become part of the Zeitgeist – a Buzzfeed Quiz that asks: Which of David Rose’s Iconic Sweaters Are You?
There are sweaters ringed with thunderbolts and blobbed with polka dots, patterned with duelling panthers and stars and eyes and hands and flames. There are superfluous zippers, swirls of fun fur, all-cap words such as ICON and NONCHALANCE and, most importantly of all, “LOVE.”
Smalley posts the pieces to much love on her Instagram account, @designingbianca, where people are variously amused and inspired and “OMG obsessed.”
Smalley – who declined to say exactly how many times she’s watched the series, except that it is “a lot" – says she’s inspired not only by the community depicted in Schitt’s Creek, but also by what the show has inspired in real life, including the generosity and spirit of its cast and fan community.
It also isn’t the first time the show has helped her.
She says she began watching it for the first time not long after her father was paralyzed and found meaning and inspiration in the Roses, who had lost everything and were learning to rebuild.
“My personal opinion, it is kind of a story of grief and getting through that grief,” she says. “To go through this and seeing people be able to grow and evolve and make it through is quite hopeful.”
On Sunday night, Smalley watched the Emmys, her kids (also fans) bouncing on the bed in glee as the show swept the comedy categories.
She has about 65 sweaters stitched so far, some contributed by friends based on her designs. She says she has no goal for when the sweaters will be done and no plan for the finished set. Instead, she just stitches when she can, taking herself away from the news and everything else for a little while. Sometimes, she takes a break to work on something else – this week, a piece in honour of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – but then she’ll go back to David’s sweaters.
“I know it’s not anything important, but it’s a light in what is a pretty dark time,” she said.
And what could be any more important than that?