September: Rust Dye Class with Liz Lewis, Music by Quiet Grrrl

Like many of you, we were hit pretty hard by the recent flood. And like many of you, we’re seeking solace in that which we value most: the handmade, the homemade, and the company of friends. So on Saturday, September 13, we’ll gather at the Trumbullplex for another comforting afternoon of social craft. We’ll learn to dye fabric using rust, with local fiber artist Liz Lewis. We’ll enjoy live music by singer-songwriter Quiet Grrrl. And we’ll share free coffee, tea, and homemade vegan cupcakes. For while so much has been lost in the flood, our creative spirit and crafty community are still here to help us through.


Fittingly, this month’s class will teach us to make beauty from water’s decay. Rust dyeing is a natural way of dyeing fabric, using rusted metal as the dye source. It’s a contact dye, which means that the fabric will be dyed wherever it’s touched by the metal. The more interesting the shape of your rusted metal, the more exciting your rust dyed fabric will turn out! So bring along a cool piece of rusty metal, if you like. We’ll have some on hand, along with fabric and other supplies. There’s no materials fee for this class, and everyone is welcome to participate.

Liz Lewis is a talented fiber artist, and a professional instructor, with a degree in crafts from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. And she’s a resident of Small Craft’s home port, the Trumbullplex! We’ve been looking forward to working with Liz for some time, but her instruction has been in such demand elsewhere, that it’s been hard to find a date when she could join us! We are thrilled to finally have this opportunity to learn a new craft from an old friend.


Kayla Freiss is a Detroit singer-songwriter who performs under the name Quiet Grrrl. As the name suggests, she takes a gentle and introspective approach to feminist punk. If you’ve seen Kayla play, you remember her strong voice, bold lyrics, and lovely melodies. And if you were with us at our last couple of get-togethers, you know what a moving experience it is when one of our circle gets up to share her songs.


The damage to our own home has made us especially sympathetic to the problems at the Gwen Frostic studio. The roof of this unique and historic building is collapsing, allowing water into the interior. So at our October 11 get-together, we’ll host a silent craft auction, to help raise money for repairs. Please bring a handmade item to our September get-together, so we can include it in our October auction. All proceeds will be donated to Gwen Frostic Prints, and used to repair the studio roof. Gwen Frostic was building a crafty business, and celebrating Michigan’s natural beauty, long before any of us. So it’s only right that Small Craft take part in preserving her legacy.


Gwen Frostic Studio

The flood took many items that connected us to our history. Countless crafts, both our own and our ancestors’. A scrapbook of articles documenting Amy’s involvement with Handmade Detroit and the Detroit Urban Craft Fair. Ethan’s handwritten catalog of the Idle Kids Zine Library. But it also gave us a clearer vision of our future. Small Craft isn’t about adding to clutter, seeking out fame, or wallowing in nostalgia. It’s about taking part in a nourishing creative process, and doing so within a supportive craft community. And moving forward, our commitment to those values will shine brighter than ever.

Small Craft September Class
Saturday, September 13
2:00 – 6:00 pm
4210 Trumbull

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August Class: Quilling with Megan Deel


At the height of every Small Craft gathering, we all lose sight of the clock, and turn our full attention to the craft at hand. On Saturday, August 9, we’ll lose ourselves in tightly-wound coils of paper, as Megan Deel teaches us the traditional craft of quilling. And as we craft, we’ll enjoy mellow live music, endless hot coffee, and homemade vegan treats. With so many friends around us, and so many good things to share, we’ll forget that summer’s rushing by, and relax into an idle afternoon.

 Megan Deel

Megan Deel

In the spirit of DIY, we met a new friend at one Small Craft event, and invited her to teach at the next! Crafter, photographer, and gardener Megan Deel joined us at our Garden Party last month, and captivated us with her description of quilling, a centuries-old craft in which designs are formed by curling strips of colored paper. This month, we’re delighted to have her teach us how to quill! Megan will provide all the paper, tools, and instruction needed to make two small dragonflies and a flower, and to experiment with further techniques. There’s no charge for this class, but if you want to keep exploring this craft at home, you can purchase a slotted quilling tool at the event for $3.50.

As always, you’re also welcome to bring along your own project. Let the conversation, music, and atmosphere inspire you, while you keep working on your favorite craft.


At September’s October’s Small Craft get-together, we’ll have a silent auction to raise money for the Gwen Frostic studio. The roof of this beautiful and historic building is collapsing, causing water damage to the interior, and funds are needed for repairs. Gwen Frostic was a crafty entrepreneur, and a pioneer in celebrating the natural beauty of Michigan, so we feel it’s only right that the Small Craft community donate to this cause. Please bring a handmade item to our August get-together, and we’ll include it in our silent auction on September 13 October 11. All funds raised will be donated to Gwen Frostic Prints, and used to repair the studio.


If summer is a dream, August is that last moment when you’re struggling to ignore the cold light of day. You’ve become aware that the dream is fleeting, and you’re trying to make the most of it. If your summer has not yet included a Saturday afternoon at the Trumbullplex, we hope you’ll take this opportunity to join us. Stop and craft awhile, before you hurry on into the fall.

Small Craft August Class
Saturday, August 9
2:00 – 6:00 pm
4210 Trumbull

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Craft-A-Way Camp 2014: Return to the Dream


It’s a return to the idyllic summers of the past. To the days when we could give our full attention to crafts and friends. But truth be told, we were a little nervous about returning to Craft-A-Way Camp for a second year. The first year had been so beautiful and dreamlike, it seemed too much to hope that the second could match it. As a wonderful group gathered, however, and began to share crafts and laughter, it immediately became clear that we had nothing to worry about. Craft-A-Way Camp is not just a lovely memory, but a tradition we can return to every summer.


Like the woods of Waterloo Recreation Area, Craft-A-Way Camp is always changing, yet always reassuringly familiar.

We introduced some new innovations this year. More time was spent getting to know each other, before we plunged into the whirl of crafting. Amanda Schott led us in a hilarious series of camp chants. A second bunkhouse was added, so we’d have room to sleep more comfortably.

But we also brought back many of our favorite customs from last year. Every free moment was filled by painting and wrapping sticks. One cabin wall was shadowed by a massive wall of coolers. The campfire was a place for roasting vegan marshmallows, and singing ’90s R&B hits.


There was a great moment in our dreamcatcher workshop, when we all realized together that there was no reason to hurry or watch the clock. Crafts were the closest thing we had to a responsibility, so we were free to settle into our work, and forget about the time. Fortunately, our instructors brought a great selection of projects for us to explore.

Andy Sell led us on his annual nature walk, once again dazzling us with his knowledge of Michigan’s plant life and terrain. He then taught us to make lovely prints by hammering the pigment from flowers into sheets of watercolor paper. (Passing horsemen later inquired about the din of hammers echoing through the woods.)

Val Willer introduced us to another craft addiction: tearing and weaving old t-shirts into new jewelry and accessories. Like last year’s wrapped and painted sticks, it’s clear that this will be an ongoing project at future Craft-A-Way Camps.

Special thanks are due to Karen LePage. When instructor Marcy Davy was called away by a family emergency, Karen stepped in and taught her screen printing class. Our beautifully printed Craft-A-Way tote bags are a testimony to her skills as both a crafter and a teacher. And as if that weren’t enough, Karen also taught her own class, sharing two exciting image transfer techniques!


The woods and the crafts are always amazing, but Craft-A-Way Camp is even more about the friends that gather, and the bonds that form between them. This year, we welcomed back some old friends, and we got to meet some new ones. Campers arrived not only from Michigan, but from Chicago, and six Ohio cities. One couple even travelled all the way from Reno, Nevada! Away from the cares of home, and united by our love of craft, we soon formed a close little community. That shouldn’t be such a rare experience, but in today’s world, it really is. So we’re grateful every time we get to be a part of it.


We miss the bright stars and the fresh breeze. We miss the hours of uninterrupted crafting. Most of all, we miss our friends! So we’re already making plans for next year’s Craft-A-Way Camp. And for a Winter Lodge where we can be reunited even sooner! Whether it’s your new adventure, or your familiar custom, we hope you’ll join us the next time we get together to craft.


Please go to our Flickr page to see all the great photos from the weekend!

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Small Craft Garden Party: Rope Bracelet Class with Music by Cat Midway


Last year’s Garden Party was like a miniature vacation: a brief and refreshing visit to a slow-paced and sun-dappled land. So on Saturday, July 12, we’ll return to the leafy green Trumbullplex gardens, for another short escape. This time around, we’ll make knotted rope bracelets, with instruction from Small Craft’s own Amy Cronkite. We’ll enjoy mellow folk tunes by one-woman band Cat Midway. And we’ll drink cold lemonade from a kids’ stand. By the time you emerge from this idyllic afternoon, you may be surprised to find the workaday world so nearby.


Knotted rope bracelets are beloved by both sailors at sea and children at camp. They’re easy to make: a fun project to share with friends on a carefree afternoon. And they’re easy to wear: sturdy enough to be part of your wildest summer adventures. Amy Cronkite of Small Craft and Handmade Detroit will provide you with all the instructions, tools, and materials you need to make a rope bracelet of your own.

If you’re not in the mood to make a rope bracelet, please feel free to bring another project! Enjoy the good company and pleasant atmosphere of the Garden Party, while making progress on your favorite craft.


With hands strumming a guitar, and feet drumming out a rhythm, Lansing’s Cat Midway is a one-woman band. She performs one of Woody Guthrie’s great sleight of hand tricks: concealing  gnomic wisdom in offhand anecdotes. And she does it with the cool reserve of a Midwestern Nico. The combined effect is like leafing through faded photos of roustabouts at rest. Her songs seem distant and elusive, but that makes them all the more fascinating.

When she’s not performing as Cat Midway, Berry Noxon is the seamstress behind Berry Unconventional, a line of reconstructed vintage clothing. So she’ll bring an authentically crafty perspective to our Garden Party soundtrack.


If summer has a taste, it’s lemonade from a kids’ stand. And every summer, our kids bring their lemonade stand to the Trumbullplex! At 8 and 5, Ramona and Henry are entering their third year as DIY entrepreneurs. They’ve served lemonade to visitors from France and Germany, and built a dedicated local clientele. So support early business education. Enjoy some charming salesmanship. And sip lemonade that’s cold, sweet, and made from scratch.

Garden Bunting

Our Garden Party is a drop-off point for the Detroit Fatshion Exchange, a plus size clothing swap taking place Saturday, July 19 at the Trumbullplex. Fatshion Exchange organizers will be at our Garden Party, ready to accept and approve contributions of clean and gently worn clothing in larger sizes. For each item of clothing approved, you’ll be able to take home a new-to-you item on the 19th! And all the clothes remaining at the end of the swap will be donated to Purple Heart.


If you’re not ready to go home after our Garden Party, we encourage you to linger at the Trumbullplex for an evening of live music. Hear Chicago’s Swimsuit Addition, local favorites My Pal Val, and more. See what the Trumbullplex is like when the summer sun goes down. From crafty parties, to clothing swaps, to punk shows, this historic theater’s summer calendar is filled with fun events, and they’re all a few steps removed from what you’ll find elsewhere. So if you want to escape the mundane for more than just an afternoon, you know a great place to get started.

Small Craft Garden Party
Saturday, July 12
2:00 – 6:00 pm
Trumbullplex Gardens
4210 Trumbull

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Craft-A-Way Camp: Applications Are Now Online


Summer will soon return, and with it comes Craft-A-Way Camp, our rustic retreat for crafty adults. Our second annual Camp will take place June 28 – 29, and will feature all the craft workshops, nature walks, campfire sing-alongs, and yes, painted sticks that we’ve all been dreaming of since last year. Today, we are excited to make applications available! In order to welcome more campers, we’ve reserved an additional bunkhouse at our wooded site in Waterloo Recreation Area. But those bunks will fill up quickly, so be sure and apply right away!


Craft-A-Way Camp is about the joy of making things by hand. And it’s about spending time in the beautiful Michigan outdoors. But most of all, it’s about connecting with friends.

“Camps are all different,” writes Craft-A-Way instructor Marcy Davy, “but I think one thing remains the same– community, relationships, customs and culture form almost immediately and often last a lifetime.”

We’re looking forward to catching up with our old friends at camp, but we’re also excited to make some new ones. If you would enjoy a weekend of crafting and laughing in the open air, and you’re up for roughing it at a rustic site, then Craft-A-Way Camp is for you. We hope you will apply!

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Small Craft Big Screen: Sign Painters


In Detroit, as elsewhere, unique and wonderful hand painted signs are slowly fading from the landscape, replaced by the bland efficiency of die-cut vinyl lettering. In the 2013 documentary film Sign Painters, we meet the brave and stubborn artists who are fighting that trend. If  you know Small Craft, you know that’s our kind of story. So we’ve selected Sign Painters as the next entry in our Big Screen film series. On Saturday, June 14, we’ll gather in the Trumbullplex Theater to view this celebration of traditional craftsmanship and individual expression.


In the film, sign painting is described as “an invisible art,” and certainly, few of us have stopped to consider the hands behind the letters. But the people depicted in this movie are of an immediately familiar type. (“Every artist is a character,” is how one sign painter sums it up.) It’s fascinating to visit the world of sign painting, but the themes we find there reverberate far beyond its borders. This film has something to say to anyone who is trying to lead a unique life in an increasingly homogenous culture.

 Photo: Cassie Staub

Photo: Cassie Staub

We discovered  Sign Painters via co-director Faythe Levine, whose previous film, Handmade Nation, was last year’s Big Screen selection. We had seen Handmade Nation a few times before screening it at the Trumbullplex, and the story it told – the rise of the indie craft movement – was one we had lived through ourselves. Yet sitting in that darkened room, with the Small Craft community around us, we were able to see it all with fresh eyes.

Sign Painters becomes available for home viewing today, but it will be more in keeping with the spirit of the film to watch it in the traditional manner. So leave your computer, and join your friends in a historic art space. We’ll have snacks, cartoons, and all the other extras that make a day at the movies special. We’ll use a projection booth that was built by a neighborhood poet, and covered with hand painted murals by a passing traveller. And we’ll share a unique moment that can never be streamed or downloaded.

Small Craft Big Screen
Sign Painters
Saturday, June 14
2:00 pm
$5 suggested donation
Trumbullplex Theater
4210 Trumbull

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Small Craft Returns to the Trumbullplex: Bookbinding Class and Puppet Show


When the sun is bright, the air is warm, and the leaves are on the trees, there’s no better place than the Trumbullplex. So on Saturday, May 10, we’ll return there for an afternoon of crafty fun with our friends. We’ll learn bookbinding skills, as we create recycled journals with Leslie Gauthier of Gingerly Made. We’ll laugh at the antics of some cuddly critters, as Blair Ellis and Momo present a delightful all-ages puppet show. And we’ll share free coffee, tea, and homemade vegan marbled banana bread. The spring has been slow in making its way back to Michigan, and we’ve been a little slow in making our way back to the Trumbullplex. But that will make it all the sweeter when we do return, like the chorus to an old familiar song.

 Leslie Gauthier

Leslie Gauthier

By the cold light of text on a screen, we can more clearly see the book as a strange and lovely object. It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve been getting more and more requests for a bookbinding class. At this event, we’ll practice bookbinding basics, by making journals and sketchbooks from recycled paper. You’ll leave with a great way to carry notes and sketches, plus some new ideas for making strange and lovely objects of your own.

We’ll provide everything you need, free of charge, but for a truly unique book, you can incorporate some of your own materials. The covers will be made from thinner sheets of cardboard (cereal boxes work well), and the pages from recycled paper (this is a great chance to clear out your stash). Tools will include hammers, awls, and embroidery needles, so feel free to bring those along, if you have them.

 Leslie Gauthier

Leslie Gauthier

The scruffy pout of Jon Snow, and the brilliant hues of a sugar skull. The steam from a solitary cup of tea, and the tangled embrace of two cuttlefish. Crafter and illustrator Leslie Gauthier explores a variety of subjects, but her work is always instantly recognizable for its sharp wit and confident line. She’s fluent in many media, from painted canvas to embroidered felt, giant murals to little zines, and her Gingerly Made table is a hit at craft shows and comic conventions alike. We’ve enjoyed Leslie’s company at past Small Craft get-togethers, and we’re glad to have her teaching this month’s bookbinding class.

 Blair Ellis and Momo

Blair Ellis and Momo

Blair Ellis and Momo rescue discarded plush animals from thrift store dumpsters, and transform them into adorable hand puppets and marionettes. The city where their puppet show takes place is made of cardboard, and inhabited entirely by rabbits, but in most other ways, it seems strangely familiar. Like all the best family entertainment, this works on a couple of different levels. Kids will enjoy interacting with the cute and sassy bunnies. Adults will pick up on the thought-provoking social critique. So while you’re welcome to bring children to the puppet show, you can also have a good time watching on your own.

 Photo: Anne Hayman

Photo: Anne Hayman

We often like to remind our friends that the Trumbullplex has been fostering independent creativity in Detroit for more than twenty years. (Decades longer, if you count its previous incarnations hosting a theater company and a sculptor’s studio.) That’s one reason why we keep coming back: to be a part of that long and colorful tradition. Settle into this cozy little hideout, and you’ll feel that history all around you, like a faint current in the air. And when we slide open the big garage door, you’ll also feel the fresh breezes of a new spring.

Small Craft Returns to the Trumbullplex
Saturday, May 10
2:00 – 6:00 pm
Trumbullplex Theater
4210 Trumbull

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