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Dec 012010
Authors: Kate Bennis

Editor’s Note: Kaeli West previously worked as a Collegian staff writer.

The best gift that sophomore economics major Kaeli West ever received was from her roommate. It was a hand-sewn apron, and all of the materials used to make it were recycled.

“Getting something hand made was way better than getting any old gift,” she said.

When West and her friends get together, something is usually being created.

West is the co-creator of the student group Craft Co-Op, a club that was started on campus about a year ago. She wanted the club to be an opportunity to bring people together through the creation of handmade things.
“The club was started to encourage everyone to be working on a project at all times, to keep the creativity going,” she said.

Sometimes, the group works on individual projects. Occasionally, someone will share a skill they have with the rest of the group, such as knitting or crocheting. More recently, they put their skills to use by making toys for the animals at the Larimer Humane Society.

Card making is West’s specialty.

“I have a hard time settling with ‘just writing a note,’” she said. “I can’t buy a card from the grocery store.” 

Her friends may find West’s cards wedged into a pocket on their backpacks, or stuffed into a desk drawer. Often, she does it to remind them how important they are to her, or just to say ‘hello.’
“It’s rare that someone gets something in the mail that reminds them that they’re special,” she said.
She calls her creations her “random spurts of joy.”

Crafting seems to be coming of age. Knitting circles, once an escape for homemakers from the daily grind, are now in the hands of a younger generation. Twenty-somethings are holding “Stitch n’ Bitch” parties, based off of the popular book series by Debbie Stoller. Stoller’s books are chock-full of project ideas for knitters; both novice and beginner.

Those who think that they can do it better on their own call this the DIY or the “do-it-yourself movement.” For those looking for a creative outlet, learning is quickly becoming more accessible.

Websites such as Etsy, where individuals can list their hand-made items to sell, have given the craft world a boost into the mainstream and an opportunity for others to choose unique items as gifts over in-store finds.

And then there’s craft blogs. Authors who could ModPodge their way out of a cardboard box share their wits with the rest of us laymen and women. Alternatively, hundreds of accounts on exist to provide an outlet for amateurs to share their hobbies with those who are somewhere closer to the level of Elmer’s glue and popsicle stick-welding.

Senior natural resource, recreation and tourism major Emily Wasson uses craft blogs to find patterns for things she plans to crochet.

“People aren’t possessive of their craft ideas and are willing to put them out there for free,” she said. 
Even sites like “Craft Fail” exist to make fun of the DIY projects that have gone terribly wrong. Jell-O molds gone awry, quilts with wild stitching –– you name it. But why the sudden interest in doing it (or at least trying to do it), yourself?

“I think firstly, it’s the money,” Wasson said. “I think the economic issue is really driving it. But there’s also tons of crap –– if you find something cool, it inspires you to make something out of it.”

Sifting through dumpsters and looking at ‘unwanted’ things can spark creative energy, Wasson said.

“Anything that you find that’s trash has the potential to be really pretty,” she said.

Vintage fabrics and retro patterns line the walls inside of Old Town shop Mama Said Sew –– one of its kind amid a plethora of coffee shops and downtown restaurants.

The shop was opened last April by Angela Gray, a longtime knitter/sewer/crafter. Since its arrival, the store has gained a local following, offering classes ranging from sewing basics to particular projects that can be made in one session.

“Angela opened the shop to inspire creativity,” said employee Jenny Vazque.

Some of the customers are there in search of paisleys and stripes, fabrics they plan on using to repurpose an old favorite item. Others are there for buttons intended to be the finishing touches on a collared shirt.

The process of creating something is a great way for people to come together, Vazquez said.

“(Mama Said Sew) provides a space for the community to come share their talents with each other,” she said.
In addition to classes, the store will hold a Freedom Market. The event is scheduled for Saturday Dec.11, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at both Mama Said Sew and the Bean Cycle. Entirely volunteer-run, the Market will have more than 20 local artists with their handmade gifts on display.

For those who are uncertain of how to embark upon their own crafting journey, Wasson offers some advice.
“Get inspired by others, but try to do something that’s your own –– if you have your thoughts behind it, you’ll want to share it,” she said.

Staff writer Kate Bennis can be reached at

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