Clever, Cool and Crafty

I woke up this morning and had a google alert in my inbox about an article on crafty goodness that I thought you might be interested in.

Clever, Cool & Crafty
By CATHY FRISINGER
Special to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram


It’s hard to pinpoint precisely when knitting patterns changed from Kleenex-box covers to iPod covers, when crocheting shifted from something your grandmother did to something your daughter does, but crafting in all forms — from needlework to jewelry making — has unquestionably taken a hard left recently.

Just thumb through one of the first two issues of Craft magazine. Projects include faux stuffed deer heads, knitted brains, a punked-up Little Tikes car, voodoo-doll pincushions and a shirt with LED lights that can be sequenced to display images of the creator’s choice, naughty or nice.

“We are very irreverent,” says Carla Sinclair, editor of Craft, whose motto, printed on the cover, is “transforming traditional crafts.” “The new craft movement is 20-somethings using creative additions like computer technology and recycling,” she says.

It’s taking old ideas and giving them a new twist, sometimes literally. For instance, contemporary crafters have taken plastic grocery bags and twisted them tight, then used them like yarn, Sinclair says. How about a plastic grocery-bag storage container crocheted out of plastic grocery-bag twists? There’s a craft project that combines recycling and a clever twist on the tried and true.

“I think [crafting] was considered kind of geeky in the ’70s and ’80s,” Sinclair says. “I think it was a mixture of women’s lib and crafting getting kind of stale. But there’s a resurgence. . . . With Generation X and Y, they don’t have that stigma attached to crafting. It’s all fresh to them.”

Internet influence
One reason for the renewed interest in crafting? The growth of online communities.

Etsy.com, an online marketplace for all things handmade, was launched in 2005. It’s a site where you can buy hand-knit slippers and one-of-a-kind glass jewelry and set up your own online booth.

And there’s www.austincraftmafia.com, the Web site for the Austin Craft Mafia, a group of nine women armed with glue guns and soldering irons who joined together in 2003 to promote their wares and support respect for crafting, especially crafting with a wink. It has spawned a series of other Craft Mafias, including ones in Denton and Dallas.

Artist Jenny Hart, a member of the Austin Craft Mafia, creates gallery-worthy embroidered portraits of Iggy Pop, the White Stripes and Marianne Faithfull and sells embroidery patterns with names such as Om Sweet Om, Gothic Garden, Roller Derby and Sushi Bar on her Web site, Sublime Stitching ( www.sublimestitching.com).

“I think the Internet has really helped crafters get together and exchange ideas if they don’t live in the same area,” Sinclair says. “You can get products online and sell them.”

Journalist Kathy Cano Murillo’s Crafty Chica Web site ( www.craftychica.com), which features kitschy-cool ethnic-flavored crafts, gets 1.6 million hits a month.

Murillo, an entertainment writer for The Arizona Republic and crafter who jokes that she “bleeds glitter,” writes a hip crafting column that runs in 50 newspapers and writes Latina-themed crafting books, including Crafty Chica’s Art de la Soul (Rayo, $19.95).

“We think of the Latina crafter and we think of Nana sewing the quinceañera dress, but there’s this whole new generation of Latina women,” Murillo says. She says her projects, including Frida Kahlo jewelry and Day of the Dead shrines, appeal to the hip crafty woman, whatever her age or ethnicity.

“Contemporary crafting has a lot more of a designer look to it,” she says. “It’s more playful, kitschy, tongue-in-check edgy. It looks like something you could buy at a high-end boutique as opposed to the ones people make fun of, like crocheted napkin holders.”

Murillo recently took inspiration for a jewelry project from the Golden Globe-winning television show Ugly Betty. Each week Betty wears a chunky necklace that features a bold “B.” Murillo made a “K” version of the same necklace.

“The idea now is to put a twist on it, use things that we see in the media and incorporate that into the design,” Murillo says.

TV shows highlight the hip
The DIY and HGTV networks are another reason for the boom in cool crafting. Both networks air craft shows aimed primarily at teens and 20-somethings.

Austin Craft Mafia member Vickie Howell hosts a show called Knitty Gritty that airs on both networks. Howell says her goal is to banish knitting’s stodgy image.

“We apply the same traditional techniques that have always been around to cool projects like guitar straps or iPod cozies or messenger bags,” says Howell, who offers patterns for projects such as a punk kilt and a bowling pin and ball in books like New Knits on the Block (Sterling, $14.95) and Knitty Gritty Knits (Lark Books, $14.95). “I feel like anything artistic, whether it’s knitting or writing music or painting a portrait, all comes from the same place. I want to reclaim the word ‘craft’ so that it’s not just seen as lowly women’s work.” Hope Perkins — who, along with her sister Jennifer Perkins, Howell, and most of the Austin Craft Mafia, appears on the DIY network show Stylelicious — has taken inspiration from the music world. A series of vintage purses and suitcases painted with likenesses of rappers the Notorious B.I.G. and Eazy-E outlined in pink are available on her Web site, HotPinkPistol.com as well as naughtysecretaryclub.com, the Web site Hope shares with her crafty sister.

Inspiration for contemporary crafting can come from just about anywhere, crafters say, as long as it’s clever or amusing.

Jennifer Perkins, faced with the challenge of making a purse for an episode of Stylelicious, took a pair of toddler training pants and turned them into a purse.

“They have padding in them already,” she says. “I bought fabric and filled in the leg holes.”

Not exactly the Junior League handbag of choice. But then crafty girls aren’t usually going for the “designer” look, unless it’s the crocheted Louis Vuitton or Dolce & Gabbana purse knockoffs in the second issue of Craft magazine.

Crafting resources online
The Austin Craft Mafia has spawned a whole series of other Craft Mafias, including ones in Denton and Dallas. Find links to all the Craft Mafias at www.craftmafia.com.

Etsy.com: This Web site is an online marketplace for crafts. Sellers guarantee that all items are handmade. Go to www.etsy.com to purchase craft items or to set up your own online booth.

www.craftychica.com is Kathy Cano Murillo’s Latina-flavored crafts Web site.

www.getcrafty.com is a site for sharing ideas with other crafters, such as knitting a bikini and felting with cat hair (yeow!)

www.naughtysecretaryclub.com was started by jewelry maker Jennifer Perkins when she was supposed to be typing and filing.

www.sublimestitching.com is the place to find Jenny Hart’s contemporary embroidery templates.

Square off
The DIY network is holding a “Super Bowl Knit-In” beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday. The cable network will air six hours of Knitty Gritty. Viewers are encouraged to spend the time knitting squares for the Warm Up America! Foundation, an organization that provides knit blankets to homeless shelters, nursing homes and day-care centers. The knitted squares should be 7 inches by 9 inches. Send completed squares to: Warm Up America! Foundation, Department DIY Network, 2500 Lowell Road, Ranlo, NC 28054.

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