A Metro section article last week should have noted that The Ladybug knitting store in Rockville's Seven Locks Mall, which closes this month, will open under new ownership March 1 as Jennifer Lauren Knitting Studio.

On a weekday afternoon, there's pandemonium at The Ladybug:

Customers stand four deep at the checkout counter, arms loaded with needlecraft from the "We're-Closing-Everything-Must-Go-Sale." Clerks rush about, advising one shopper on the proper shade of mauve angora for her sweater yoke, another on how best to remedy the nasty problem of too-tight sleeves.

And at the round table in the center of the Rockville store, needles clicking, bright fingernails flashing, sit the mourners -- those customers for whom the closing of The Ladybug means the demise of their clubhouse, their special place.

"I feel like my right arm is being taken away from me. I do, I do, I really do," said Roz Fishkin of Rossmoor Leisure World, whose retired husband, Samuel, reads in the car while she knits in The Ladybug. "Do you know I've been coming here for three years, twice a week, all day long? I've been to other places, just as convenient, but . . . let me tell you, it just was not the same . . . . "

With their plastic bags and their Gucci totes, customers in suede slacks or well-worn jeans have congregated at The Ladybug since it opened in the mini-mall section of Seven Locks Mall nine years ago.

Originally, they wandered in for the same reasons customers go to any store: to browse a little, perhaps buy a few things. But soon they began to view The Ladybug as more than a store. It was a suburban version of the country cracker-barrel, a variation on the beauty-shop scene, a place to sit, stay a while, knit a bit and talk a lot.

Now that owner Joanne May has decided to close Feb. 14 because of other demands on her time, the several dozen hard-core regulars are experiencing the lost feelings natural to those who have grown accustomed to a certain routine, a certain face, a certain place.

"Human beings like the places they hang out," said Stefan Pasternack, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University. "They're associated with safety and familiarity and warmth, and it really is a pull at the heartstrings when they're gone. A lot of studies have been done that show when people are uprooted from important gathering places, they feel sadness at the loss."

For The Ladybug crowd, much of the sadness has to do with the exit of Joanne May. She is, after all, The Ladybug.

"Look at her," said Robert Gold, a yarn manufacturer's representative, watching as May moved from knitter to knitter calmly giving advice, despite the store's chaotic atmosphere. "Even with so many people in here, she's still taking the time to help her customers, even though she won't even be here in a couple of weeks."

A tall woman with finely etched features and a patient air, May, 43, initially learned needlework, she said, "out of self-defense."

"I have dyslexia," she said, "so I don't read very well or very accurately. I had to learn how to cope with the talents I have -- texture and touch and three-dimensional things."

The store evolved from crafts classes May taught to various clubs in suburban Maryland. "My husband told me, 'When the money runs out, you have to come home,' " said May, who has three children. Instead of sinking, the store thrived, largely because of the warm atmosphere May created.

"The worst kind of customer you can have is the one who acts like you're not there, you don't exist," she said. "We always wanted to be involved in the project, in the people."

"While you're talking, are you designing my red-and-black sweater?" customer Joanna Simeone asked slyly, pushing a box of yarn across the table toward May.

Simeone frequents The Ladybug for a specific reason. She is trying to quit smoking and she needs constant diversion; thus, she came directly to The Ladybug that afternoon after a meeting at her teen-aged daughter's school.

"When I stopped smoking, I had to do something with my hands," she said. "I've made a sweater and a half in the last two weeks. By coming here to knit, it also keeps me away from the refrigerator."

The conversation at the knitting table revolves around children, spouses, diets and exercise, what one has just done or is planning to do later, and knitting projects. The knitting fad is in full bloom at The Ladybug.

"Everybody asks, 'How are you and how is your sweater?' " said Martha Horton of Rockville, who works for a dentist and spends her two days off at the store. "I'm what you would call a real new beginner. Joanne must have thought I was a klutz at first because all I did was drop my needles, but you can't imagine the feeling of accomplishment I had when I finished my first sweater. It was wisteria-colored with white angora sleeves.

"I don't even know what time it is when I'm here," she said. "I think 20 minutes have gone by and come to find out three hours have passed. I never knew I had so much creativity until Joanne brought it out."

Susan Jepson of Rockville, a television camerawoman, rediscovered knitting -- and stores like The Ladybug -- after a 20-year lapse.

"When I was a kid growing up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., there was a place called Mitzy's," she said. "Everybody sat around a table and worked, instead of the way it is in a department store where you pick things out and pay for them and leave. I thought, 'That's . . . the way every store should be, like Mitzy's. When I walked in here, I knew I had found it again."

"And now," Jepson said, casting a mock-evil look at May, "she's going to close it. I tell her it's an institution going down the drain."

May is closing her store but not dissolving her corporation, she said. In a few years, after her other business and family pressures calm down, she hopes to open another store.

In the meantime, she, too, expects to have separation pains.

"The sad part is, every day is like Christmas in a business like this," she said. "Every day, you're opening up UPS boxes. Every day, you're meeting people. Plus, I'm a very unstructured person, and this kind of work allows you to be that way. Whatever is asked of me that day is what I do."

"I've told my family," she said, "that they're going to have to be really nice to me for a while. I'm going to be going through withdrawal."