A Cure for Crafters?


Jourdan Betette works on a craft project during the inaugural, hands-on workshop by Topaz and Arrow featuring feathers, yarn and branches in the Ulysses Room of the 52 O Street Artist Studios.

It’s a wonder I’m able to type these words. An avid crafter, I’ve Krazy Glued my fingers together while decking Converse sneakers with rhinestones, and I’ve come close to running a sewing-machine needle through my pinkie a dozen times.

My location in D.C. doesn’t exactly make it easy to get my craft on. Despite the surging handmade movement and proliferation of DIY blogs, there are no big-box craft retailers (Michael’s, A.C. Moore) or indie fabric shops within the city. Finding materials to make a leather-trim pillow or a glitter-dusted picture frame can be harder to find than a crochet needle in a haystack.

“We’ll never be Brooklyn,” says Kelly Rand, co-founder of Hello Craft (hellocraft.com), a D.C. nonprofit that supports small-business owners who sell handmade wares. “There’s still room for growth in D.C.’s craft scene. We’re lacking places for people to come together and just make things.”

Yet there are signs of hope for urban glue gunners and bead stringers. Last Sunday, more than 30 people crowded into a space at 52 O Street Studios for the inaugural session of Topaz and Arrow (topazandarrow.com), a monthly crafting workshop that guides artsy attendees through projects using out-of-the-box materials — in this case feathers, yarn and branches plucked from local woods.

“The idea was to focus on found objects and common items in most stores,” says co-founder Morgan Hungerford West, who, along with partner Virginia Arrisueno, provided direction and inspiration during a two-hour session on creating  mobiles and wall hangings that look like something you’d see on Pocahontas’ Pinterest board.

The second session, on July 28 ($37.50 a person), will celebrate hippie-chic “gypset” style with tips and supplies for making no-sew jewelry and purses from fabric sourced at local thrift stores.
“We’re going to transform the space into a tent with a bohemian feel to it,” Arrisueno says. “It’s going to be like summer camp for adults.”

Meanwhile, at Adams Morgan’s Bits of Thread sewing studio (1794 Columbia Road NW, Suite 6; bitsofthread.com), wannabe Diane von Furstenbergs can take more than 20 different group and private lessons, from hemming and mending to pattern-making. Allison Lince-Bentley, a former consultant for an international development firm, founded the covert sewing studio in November 2010. The modest space houses a small army of sewing machines and a mini mart of basic supplies, including seam rippers, patterns and more than 400 swatches of second-hand fabric for $3 a yard.

“Sewing provides emotional therapy,” Lince-Bentley says. “Our typical student sits at a computer all day. Rather than filling out a spreadsheet and handing it off to the next person, sewers get to see the final results of their efforts.”

Techy crafters can find ideas and more-advanced equipment at Fab Lab D.C. (1418 N. Capitol St. NW; fablabdc.org), a shared workspace where they can tinker with tools including vinyl cutters and 3-D printers. And Scrap D.C. (52 O St. NW; scrapdc.org), a volunteer-run, hit-or-miss thrift shop, sells a hodgepodge of crafting remnants including sequins, googly eyes and embroidery floss.

Still, despite these resources, D.C. lacks a single, locally owned shop where DIY diehards can find materials and inspiration. Until someone is moved to open one, creative types will continue to do what they’ve always done: Get crafty.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of The Washington Post Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@wpost.com.
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