Photos by Maxwell Tielman
One of the best parts about our neighborhood (Greenpoint, Brooklyn) becoming slightly more popular is that some truly awesome people from Manhattan have been inspired to make the move here. One of those amazing people is crafter, knitter and all-around talented designer extraordinaire, Brett Bara. Brett has been blogging, crafting and writing for a long time, and we’ve been fortunate to have her at the helm of our Sewing 101 column for the past three years. Yesterday we had the pleasure of visiting her new apartment in Greenpoint to check out her incredible crafting studio and her adorable cat, Fifi, and to interview her about her upcoming craft camp and what she’s been working on lately. From her toolbox favorites to what inspires her these days, Brett’s answers are full of great ideas and tips for crafters and craft-fans alike. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview as much as we enjoyed writing it. Thanks so much to Brett for having us all in her home yesterday! xo, grace
*Brett is hosting an amazing Brooklyn Craft Camp on March 16th. Be sure to check it out and sign up! It’s a full day of DIY workshops (knitting, terrariums, embroidery, macrame, print-making, nail art and more). We’ll definitely be there.
Design*Sponge: What are your craft room essentials? What sort of creative objects can you not live without?
Brett Bara: Fabric, yarn, embroidery floss, thread, paper, paint. When it comes to things I couldn’t live without, it’s all about my tools — my sewing machine, collection of knitting needles, power drill, paint brushes, good scissors. As long as you have tools, you can make something out of anything!
Design*Sponge: What do you do to make your workspace an enriching and inspiring place to be?
Brett Bara: I feel the most creative potential when there is space to work and when I have easy access to my supplies. So I try to keep my work surfaces clear (which definitely doesn’t always happen, but I try!), and it really helps to have a lot of shallow drawers where I can stash tools and materials. Nothing kills my creative mojo like the dread of having to dig for things or fight for space to spread out.
More of Brett’s studio after the jump . . .
Image above: Crochet-covered rocks designed by Margaret Oomen. These were a leftover sample from my previous day job as editor of a crochet magazine.
Design*Sponge: What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you look for inspiration?
Brett Bara: I get inspired by whatever is happening in my life, so it really changes all the time, depending on what I’m up to. For the past year and a half, I’ve been fixing up my apartment, so I’ve been really inspired to learn how to install light fixtures and restore furniture. In general, I really just like to look at the world around me for inspiration. Whenever I’m out in the city, I constantly see things in stores and think, “I could make that myself,” and then I get obsessed with the idea of a new project, and I’m off!
Design*Sponge: When do you feel the most creative?
Brett Bara: When I have a very particular need for something specific. Whether my goal is to fix up a spot in my home or to finally have the perfect winter coat, when there’s something that I want, and I want it to be just right, I usually get fired up to try to make it myself.
Design*Sponge: What do you do to keep yourself, your space and your time organized?
Brett Bara: I have given up on the idea of ever being completely organized, I think! And I try not to beat myself up about it. I try to keep my things loosely grouped by categories, but I don’t get too crazy about it. I’ve learned to let go of trying to get it all perfect and be okay with good enough.
Image above: I made the woven paper basket for one of my Sewing 101 columns on Design*Sponge, and I use it all the time to hold my knitting! That accordion-like structure is a yarn swift, used to wind hanks of yarn into balls. It’s a handy tool, but I think it’s quite beautiful in a sculptural way, too.
Image above: One side of my sewing table plus my shelves of (way too many) craft books . . . including my book, Sewing in a Straight Line (Potter Craft, 2011)!
Image above: Logo mockups for my next project, which I’m very excited about: Brooklyn Craft Camp! It’s a full-day event I’m organizing in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this coming March, where you can take lots of different craft classes (learn to knit, make terrariums, make jewelry, do macrame, embroider, do print-making, nail art and more!), plus eat good local food, socialize and just have a day to get away and be crafty!
Image above: My jam-packed bookcase, including a crochet afghan in progress, a basket of vintage frames I’ve been meaning to do something with and several handbags (on the doorknob) that I made for an online class I teach (How to Design Your Own Handbags) on Craftsy.
Design*Sponge: How to you combat creative blocks?
Brett Bara: This is a tough one. Usually the surefire way for me to break through a creative block is to have a deadline — if I need to get it done, I will! In cases where deadlines aren’t applicable, I try not to force it; if I’m feeling blocked in any particular area, I try to recognize the block and just walk away. A day when I’m not feeling creative in sewing can turn out to be a great day for, say, baking an amazing cake . . . but chances are if I try to force myself to sit there and sew, nothing will come. So I try to just go with the flow, when my schedule allows!
Design*Sponge: What are your go-to sources for craft supplies?
Brett Bara: I love the NYC garment district, especially Mood Fabrics and Pacific Trimming. Purl SoHo and City Quilter are also favorites.
Design*Sponge: We live in such a mass-produced, buy-it-now society where everything is either a click or a short drive away. Why should people continue to make things by hand?
Brett Bara: For me, there are two reasons. The first is very much about the process of making things, not the end result. Sure, you can buy a scarf for next to nothing. But the process of picking out a scrumptious yarn, holding it in your hands and knitting with it for hours or days — that’s a whole different experience. There’s nothing like being quiet with yourself and doing a creative project with your own hands. It just feels good, and I truly believe it’s something that we all need as humans. The second reason IS about the end result. I love being able to make things that are exactly the way I want them to be. Whether it’s the perfect little floating nightstands for my tiny bedroom, wall art that’s just the right size for that weird wall or fingerless gloves that are the perfect length for my 3/4-sleeve winter coat — you usually just can’t find super-specific things in ready-made. So why settle for something that’s not quite right when you can make the perfect thing yourself?