Craftcation : Overview of a Creative Person’s Business Conference


A few weeks ago I attended Craftcation, a business and makers conference in Ventura, California.  I try to attend a creative retreat of some kind most years, mostly to nurture my creative juices and to connect with other makers. I honestly don’t expect too much beyond the ability to get away and come home revived. Craftcation, however, completely exceeded my expectations.  Honestly, it has left me on fire! I’m already planning to attend again next year.

Organized by Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson, this conference puts so much effort into building a community around the event and it pays off. They start by inviting all attendees and instructors to participate in a Facebook page beforehand.  I connected with so many people so easily because we already knew each other a little.  Additionally, the business workshops are so good that many established makers come to Craftcation as attendees as well as instructors and it’s very heartwarming to gather their insights and hear their questions alongside with the presenters.

On top of that it is just so much damn fun! As far as business workshops go, I attended an SEO class with Se Reed, a workshop on social media with Meighan O’Toole, a workshop on how to teach with Ashley Nickels and a an amazing talk about authentic branding with Lela Barker. All of the workshop were top notch and I learned so much.  The workshop about authentic branding  with Lela Barker, however, was jaw-dropping.  I was so full of ideas afterwards and need a bit of time to process it all but it sparked a lot of deep thoughts about what I want my purpose to be and where I want to take this creative career.  I am brimming with excited and enthusiasm.  Lela Barker is my spirit animal, folks!

Craftcation WorkshopsI realize I just called business workshops “the fun stuff” and they were fun but truthfully the fun stuff was the workshops, dinners and after-hours.  I was lucky enough to bum around with two friends Anne from Flax and Twine and Carla of Small + Friendly (my girls pictured up top from left to right on either side of me, at one of our beach breakfasts!).  I also met the lovely, inspiring, super rad Anna Joyce (pictured with giant eyes) who is one of those people who is so sweet and tough and says things like “you could totally write that book! Do it!” on a regular basis. Because the community aspect of Craftcation is so strong and so thoughtfully incorporated into the event, I also met dozens of other wonderful people.  The cocktails and yummy food also helped everyone network. The conference is attended by mostly (but not all) women which has prompted me to describe it as “My four days with 200 kickass women”.  That’s my husband’s favorite description.  It’s exactly what he wanted for me.

As for the nitty gritty details, On Thursday I attended a cheese making workshop with Ernest Miller and a watercolor quilting workshop with Ashley Nickels.  Friday, I did repeat block printing with the inimitable Lisa Solomon and on Saturday I went back for color theory with her.  She’s totally incredible and I learned so much.  I’ve already started doing watercoloring on fabric using what I learned about color theory and watercolor quilting.  The keynote speech was from Emily McDowell who shared her heartfelt story of massive success and the odd road sorting it all out and getting back to what she loves.

It can be so easy to attend a creative person’s conference and be surrounded by successful, artistic makers and come away feeling a little “less than”.  I have been there before. But I came home from California and Craftcation nurturing a renewed faith in this whole creative field.  Knowing that we all have questions but we can surround ourselves with people willing to share the answers and the journey.  Willing to laugh about it over a glass of wine and share those vulnerabilities and applaud our successes.  Cheers to Craftcation!

P.S. Please forgive my iPhone pictures! I didn’t lug my fancy DSLR around.

Handmade Fashion Revolution Week

Fashion Revolution | a happy stitch

Happy Earth Day everybody! This week is Handmade Fashion Revolution Week hosted by Celina at Petit a Petit and Family. It’s the hand-makers response to the Fashion Revolution Organization, which was started to commemorate the terrible garment factory collapse in Bangladesh three years ago this week.

Bangladesh has one of the lowest wages in the world for its garment makers and over a thousand of these workers died, nearly all women, in one day.  Around 2,500 workers were injured.  Just to repeat, in one day, doing work for some of the lowest wages in the entire world, 1,134 people died. Thousands of families changed forever.  Bangladesh makes a lot of our t-shirts and if you have ever had a t-shirt flung at you through a t-shirt gun at a sporting event, you already know just how much care we take of their work. If you have seen any images from this tragedy, you know that it’s impossible to forget them. The ecological damage and human danger of fast fashion is something that is often on my mind.  It’s a world so removed and so unseen that we are hardly to blame for forgetting it even exists.

It has been nearly sixteen months since I started my Nothing New Project .  Sixteen months of buying used, making handmade or swapping clothes with friends.  Sixteen months of a wardrobe I hang in my closet with awareness and attention.  It has completely transformed how I think not only about what I wear but what it means to reject fast-fashion.  And, I do. I reject it wholesale.

To be honest, the Nothing New Project process itself has been easy.  There is an abundance of discarded clothing out there.  An abundance of barely worn, easily tossed aside clothing and I love to sew my own clothes.  It’s been a wonderful and fun challenge for me.  But on a deeper level, it’s impossible to start down the road away from mainstream fashion and not be changed.  When I reject the current trend I end up asking myself a lot of obvious but un-asked questions such as what do I want from my clothing? what do I feel comfortable in? what looks good on me and my body just the way it is right now? what I feel good / sexy / happy in? what do my clothes say about me?  Those questions were, for the most part, answered for me when I consumed clothing at the mall.  I didn’t have to dig deep and unearth anything uncomfortable. Shopping happened to pass the time and make me feel better.

Oddly enough, when I interact with new clothing now (such as for the kids), I have this strange feeling like it is lonely.  It strikes me that new clothes don’t have any stories or past lives.  They seem soul-less to me in contrast to knowing the story of my handmade shirt from the trip to buy fabric to cutting pattern pieces to gathering seams to hems. I love that soul and that story. I love how much MORE-ness is embedded in what I wear on my back.

There is so much we can do to reject a system of cheap, poorly made clothes in dangerous conditions.  Just little things that collectively make a big difference.  Join me in a few! Bring the soul back!

+ Buy Less: This is a no-brainer but still needs to be said.  Buy fewer things.  Save that cash for something that might cost more but can be worn more often and for a longer period of time.  Check out this shopping directory of ethically-minded retailers.

+ Thrift Stores:  A massive Goodwill store may not be your jam but try finding a fancy consignment store that only accepts clothing in good condition.  You can still make it a fun shopping experience.

+Thred Up: Shop online for clothing! This website offers cash money for your brand-name clothes and a great selection of clothes to choose from.  If you use this link, I also get credit there and that would be great because I buy most of my workout wear from them.

+ Fashion Revolution Organization:  Join the Fashion Revolution and ask who made your clothes!  The worst thing that could happen to places like Bangladesh is if the garment industry left.  They desperately need garment factory jobs but we have to push for those jobs to improve.  Make sure your favorite brands know you are paying attention.

+ Wear Handmade with Pride:  Make it and flaunt it.  It’s easy to get embarrassed about wearing handmade garments.  To feel uncertain in them.  After all, you know all the flaws and mistakes.  But, nobody else does.  Wear it!

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway from yesterday so you can jumpstart your handmade wardrobe with Sanae’s beautiful book AND some luscious fabric!

Sewing Happiness :: Book Review and Giveaway!

It is no secret that I love Sanae Ishida.  Her elegant style, thoughtful prose and intense awareness are a constant source of inspiration for me.  She is the kind of blogger that I visit in order to “draw from the well”, so to speak.  So it is not an understatement to say that I am quite literally thrilled to be a part of the book launch tour for her new book Sewing Happiness*.  (P.S. feel free to scroll to the bottom for giveaway information, there is no shame in that game!)


[Photo by Michelle Porter]

This book is more than a collection of projects.  It’s the story of Sanae’s path back to health after a debilitating disease and work exhaustion and the role that sewing played in re-finding her balance and happiness.  She honestly stitched her way back to health.  The book is an open, honest, raw and vulnerable conversation about how making things can heal us. (more…)

Selfish Sewing Week :: Sparkly Animal Print Mesa Dress

I very nearly missed participating in Selfish Sewing Week but I am just squeaking in the door with a sparkly animal print Mesa dress.  If you are going to show up late to the party you had better show up in sequins, right?

Mesa Dress from Seamwork Mag | sewn by a happy stitch

And you had better play it like a cool girl.  Just kidding. I don’t really do cool girl well.

Mesa Dress in sparkly sequins | a happy stitch

This dress is totally out of character for me, which makes it really fun but as it turns out, a little complicated.  It’s a Mesa Dress, one of the patterns I was able to choose as a Seamwork Magazine subscriber.  The good news about this dress is that I love the neckline and the sleeve-length.  The fit on top is really good and suits me.  The fabric is from Jo-Ann and is kind of an amazing, stretchy Jaguar (?) print. It’s kind of insanely good.

Mesa Dress in Black Sequins (roar!) | sewn by a happy stitch

The bad news about this dress is that it’s short and tight around the tummy, which makes me a bit self-conscious.  Also, the snazzy fabric is really itchy! I was looking to make a date night / girl’s night type of dress but I’m just not sure I will be able to toss this one on.  Why is special occasion wear so hard to make? I can make a wearable everyday dress without nearly as much incident.  I do think that perhaps I would like this dress a little more if it were sewn in a more structured knit…maybe a ponte de roma?

Mesa Dress in animal print sparkles | a happy stitch

I mean, this fabric, though! Kind of good stuff.  Almost makes me think I had better pluck up the courage to wear it as some point.  Somebody throw an animal print theme party soon.  Can we make that happen?

Sparkly Mesa Dress from Seamwork Mag | a happy stitch

Did you get any selfish sewing done this week? Any sparkles involved?

Sailor (Top) Dress

Sailor Top Dress | a-happy-stitch

Apparently, I have a theme.  Well, besides the ever-present theme of “Look! I turned a top into a tunic/dress!”  Ok I have two themes.  The one you don’t know about yet is this: Project Sew It encourages me to tackle those ideas that I’ve been thinking about for a long time and haven’t gotten to either due to fear or fear of how time-consuming a project might be.  So, basically just fear. Ha!  Last month I finally made a Minoru Jacket and for my March project I hacked the Sailor Top pattern to transform it into this here Sailor (Top) Dress.  Really, it’s a tunic, I suppose. But it is long enough to wear without leggings and, in my mind, that makes it a dress. (more…)

Costa Rica :: Our Family Trip in a World of Color and Life

Costa Rica : Our Family Trip // a happy stitch

Our little family just returned from a most wonderful week-long vacation to Costa Rica. I had, of course, heard people talk about Costa Rica and heard their wondrous stories of vacations. But before we went ourselves I had no idea what a spectacular place it truly is.  Nestled on the Central American isthmus between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has a staggering amount of biodiversity…5% of the worlds biodiversity in fact, the densest of any country. Totally mind-blowing. It’s truly a world of color and life; warmth and vibrancy. We are smitten.  Did you know they have no standing army, only a National Guard? Did you know Costa Rica has extremely low crime?  That they have strict wildlife protection laws and all hotels must meet specific ecological standards?  Did you know I have a background in public policy and it is really shining through right now? Bear with me because I was geeking out about this stuff. (more…)

Where I Sew :: My Sewing Studio Tour

Where I Sew a sewing room tour a happy stitch

Hey, today seems like a good day for a sewing studio tour!  Want to see where I sew? I personally love snooping around creative spaces so my stylish, sewing friend Kelley and I decided to give a tour of where the magic happens for us.

Remember six months ago when we moved? Well, we have been slowly but surely settling in and that, of course, means I have a new sewing studio space. In truth, it was one of the first spaces I established in the new house (yes, it still feels new, very new).   Truth be told, this lovely house we moved into is over a hundred years old and it came complete with creaky windows that rattle in the wind and holes in the hardwood floors big enough to let lights on in the basement shine right through.  It came decorated with musty lace curtains and dust-filled doilies and old brass fixtures and the feeling of holding onto a stuffy, long-ago past.  We were eager to open windows and let in as much clean, pure light as possible.  This desire has translated into longing for a playful, fresh, but minimalist aesthetic.  That feeling has definitely translated into my sewing studio.  If you remember my old sewing studio (discussed here) you know that I had a room to myself and I filled it with color and art prints.  Well, the new sewing studio is a corner of our (rather large) bedroom.   (more…)

DIY fabric buckets

DIY Fabric Buckets // a happy stitch

I’m not exactly sure how many years Sanae and Ute have been running the Secret Valentine Exchange but it seems like I’ve managed to miss out on it a million times.  I honestly read Sanae’s blog religiously and every time I see it announced, I intend to sign up and then forget.  But not this year! I signed up and participated and loved it.  I received the best, beautiful suede-like bag and cement magnets from the lovely Aida. I feel so lucky! For my part, I made my secret partner these hand-stamped fabric buckets.  They nest together and form a lovely ombre pink effect when they are all sat inside of each other. (more…)

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