What Makers Want: Gifts for Creatives

Looking to buy a gift for the creative in your life?

We decided to highlight the keynotes of Midwest Craft Con past, not to mention those of Midwest Craft Con future in 2020. Explore their shops and products to find something for the creative on your list.  Of course, the most helpful thing you could give a maker for the holidays is a ticket to Midwest Craft Con.



One of our first keynotes at Midwest Craft Con artist, and illustrator Lisa Congdon brings her expertise to this guide to the process of artistic self-discovery.



Gemma Correll taught us that periods and pugs make the world go round and she offers a limitless supply of products that keep us entertained and inspired.



Our 2018 Keynote, Jen Hewitt, fills the pages of this book with textile examples and simple sewing projects for creatives.


For those who love food and crochet, explore the online shop of Twinkie Chan. Download a pattern, some brightly colored yarn and start making. Also explore books and premade goods. We can’t wait to meet Twinkie Chan at the next Midwest Craft Con.



Kathy Cano-Murillo, aka Crafty Chica, sprinkled in all her positivity in 2018 with how she built her creative business from the ground up, with the assist of glitter and hard work. She offers a wide assortment of books and products.



In 2017 we meet Abby Glassenberg, a sewer, podcaster and who was in the infancy of Craft Industry Alliance. This online membership group hosts live meetups, articles and provides countless discounts and advice for and from other creatives.



Yao Cheng continues to share her skills, as she did in 2018, through online session on Creativebug. Sign up and follow along as she teaches a series of beginning watercolor courses.


We are all looking forward to hear more about Social Justice Sewing Academy and the journey that craft has taken Sara on through her work with this non-profit. You can give the gift of a donation and attend Sara’s keynote address in 2020.



Back in 2017, Chris Glass taught us to slow down and observe our surroundings. To take the time to walk around, to reevaluate what and how we wanted our life to transform. His side business Wire & Twine offers apparel that speaks to Midwest roots.

Anything else on your wish list this year? Share your favorite gifts for makers in the comments!

keynotes · News

Crafting change with Sara Trail

Sara Trail is an author, sewing teacher, pattern and fabric designer. A graduate of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, she founded the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) to be a platform where youth create art that engages and educates communities.

She’s a wealth of compassion and social betterment using quilting as a platform of personal expression. I had a chance to discuss her own journey and how her dedication carries into helping others.

You were taught to sew by your mother and a teacher at a young age. You were also informed that your grandmother was a slave, who made quilts herself. In what way did that early skill set and knowledge impact your work?

It kept me really rooted into the background of quilt making. My parents are really big readers and growing up we had a big history background on everything. Quilts were possibly used to translate messages back in the Civil War days. For instance if you had this quilt on display, outside the front door, it meant that this house was a safe house or don’t go to the house next door. In general I was taught the history of sewing and how embedded it was to the African American culture. That sewing could be more than just a hobby but that sewing was a black skill and that black people have been sewing for centuries really gave me more respect for the art form behind sewing. I really don’t think that sewing was my all. They put me into beading and horse back riding and anything I wanted to explore. My parents had such an appreciation for the arts in general. It wasn’t until I got older that I really developed and took sewing more seriously.

Have you gone back and sewn with your mom since since you’ve embraced sewing and quilting so fully?

I haven’t with my mom but I did with my great aunt, my grandma’s sister, Aunt Lynn. She hand quilted one of the quilts I made, a king size quilt. She put it on her frame and hand quilted it all. It’s now hanging in my parents house. It took her about five months to hand quilt the whole thing while it took me about two months. But she really did: detail, detail quilting.

I think that’s the best part about sewing. You can have as many or as little hands on as possible.

Can you share what it’s been like running a non-profit?

It took about six months of You-Tube research. Understanding how to get an EIN, a tax id, how to make a budgets, how to apply for grants, it was really just a lot of research.

I initially started the non-profit because I realized I needed to be able to accept donations and write grants. If I wanted to reach out to JOANN’s, for donating fabric, I needed it be a nonprofit for companies to sustain us. Then I realized that non-profits have a thousand more things to do than that. It’s really been a learning process. For instance with our summer programs. The population we work with, pretty much a marginalized youth from under resourced communities, not just youth of color, but just in general, there’s always hidden cost that comes up. Some kids will be a part of the program and will have no transportation to get them there or often they come without breakfast. So we weren’t budgeting for things like breakfast, we were budgeting for lunch, so let’s be more prepared to deal with kids not eating before the program starts at 9am. So meals, transportation to the workshop and home, we need to find a way to secure bus passes so kids can get back and forth because whatever adults they have in their life aren’t able to support them.

What’s the best way that makers, sewers and those attending Midwest Craft Con can help support an effort like Social Justice Sewing Academy?

If you can hand sew, sign up to embroider a block. Sometimes our workshops will be all day and we’ll get a 120 kids who will each make a block. So we need a 120 people to help embroider each kids art squares. So embroiderers are a great way and step to get involved. Cash or check donations are also needed to help cover mailing. People are willing to help with donations of fabric but it’s a 3 – 4 dollar charge, per square,  to cover the expense of even allowing people to embroider.

If you are part of a quilt guild you can host a fundraiser for old sewing machines or old fabric scissors. In our long term programming every kid is given a sewing machine and fabric scissors and typically a cutting mat.

Every summer since we’ve started, back in 2016, we’ve had a full time summer program. Last summer we did an art institute program for a week with kids we flew in from Baltimore. then we did a five week program with kids from Oakland and all the kids were able to keep sewing machines. We are constantly asked why do we need so many sewing machines. That’s because throughout the year we are saving up machines so at the end the 37 kids kids in the program can each get a machine that’s been donated to SJSA. We have a constant need for sewing machines, fabric donations, fabric scissors, rotary cutters so these kids can have a starter pack when the leave the program.

What’s been the response from graduates of your program? Are they still sewing?  How many have started their own businesses? How has this influenced who they are today?

Out of fifty percent of the kids in the program they continue to reach out for when they need help. They ask for mentors or someone to come to their house because their machine is stuck.We have embroiderers willing to come visit them or they go out to the kids.  I think really it’s about connecting them, just having a connection to those adult/mentors around them or a grandma figure because most of these kids really don’t have that active,involved or sewing knowledge’d adults in their life.

We’ve had kids from the first summer program who come back on Instagram showing that they’ve made another quilt, like “we’ve done this” and sharing and showing that they’ve enjoyed the process.

It’s not about making them become amazing sewers or making sure their 1/4 inch seam is perfect. It’s about giving them the tools: rotary cutters, scissors fabric, glues, appliques, embroidery thread, to express themselves with fabric.  It’s really not about technical skills but do you like it? Does it share what your feeling? Does it convey your intention?  I think that it allows to express themselves through there color choices and fabrics that might speak to them and that absolute fine.

For those involved in political change and activism, what are your personal tips for allowing yourself to step back and take some time to and allow yourself to move forward?

My biggest self care is reading! I Amazon Prime myself two books a week. So on average I allow myself to read eight to tent books a month, And I don’t just mean academic books, I mean good books. My book shelf is filled with the best self care because it’s filled with good literature. Sometimes I go by recommendations, sometimes I go by my favorite author but really: James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelo. I just read, and I read what I like. I have a corner of my house that has a sewing chair that rotates and it has comfy pillows. I think getting off social media, which can be overwhelming with the amount of young black guys getting killed, the amount of racist social interactions. Sometimes you want to be aware of whats happening but sometimes it’s nice to just unplug and just read.


The theme for Midwest Craft Con 2020 is Crafting your own adventure. How has SJSA allowed you to do that?

The power of personal narrative is more important than people realize. Owning your story and knowing your background, knowing where you come from regardless, whether that’s a place of privilege or disenfranchisement. People don’t understand how powerful their own story is. 

I’m never going to be on the eviction side of being kicked out or experience gentrification but allowing the youth to share their stories and their process of making a quilt while being pushed out is far more powerful than me trying to speak on behalf of everyone making their art.  Hearing from a raw 18 year old boy who didn’t want to sew initially but his mom signed him up for the program. For him to have had a chance to experience what this was all about to see his narrative and interpretation through a block quilt, its powerful in the community. I can say a lot but it’s coming from such a place a privilege and I started SJSA to be everything not like me. I started it for kids of low income, who didn’t have access.  I came from a two parent background with a degree from Harvard. I come from such privileged background and I want to share it with those who don’t have one.

Save the date for Midwest Craft Con  2020  to return February 28 – March 1 to meet Sara Trail and learn more about Social Justice Sewing Academy. 



Look who’s talking at Midwest Craft Con 2018!

The third edition of Midwest Craft Con, happening Feb. 16 to 18, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio, is going to be chock-full of craft business sessions, inspiring keynote talks and hands-on workshops.

Our keynote speakers are the Crafty Chica herself, Kathy Cano Murillo, cartoonist and pug parent Gemma Correll, and Kelley Deal, a knitwear designer who is also in a little band called the Breeders.

kathy cano murillo, kelley deal, gemma correll, midwest craft con keynote speakers 2018

The breakout sessions on craft business topics range from marketing and PR to accounting and legalities as well as getting into wholesale and scaling up your operation. The speaker lineup for 2018 includes some familiar faces as well as new friends! Such as:

There’s just too much good stuff! Check out the whole lineup here.

midwest craft con 2018

The hands-on workshops are new this coming year — we’re working to make these activities free for attendees and totally casual. You’ll be able to drop in to any session that inspires you. Details to come!

You definitely don’t want to miss out — tickets are on sale now!


Kathy Cano Murillo, the Crafty Chica

kathy cano murillo, the crafty chicaKathy Cano-Murillo is an author and artist who you surely know by her chosen name: the Crafty Chica! She spreads the gospel of glitter — literally through her DIY projects and figuratively through her speeches, workshops, books and essays. A former syndicated columnist for The Arizona Republic, she is now a full-time creativepreneur, which has led to multiple Crafty Chica mass retail product lines, and partnerships with Coca-Cola, HSN, HP, WordPress, Disney and many others. She has written seven craft books and two novels, and somehow still has time to sleep. Kathy is Mexican-American, a native Phoenician, a mom, wife and owner of five Chihuahuas.

We are thrilled that the Crafty Chica will be joining us in Columbus, Ohio, for Midwest Craft Con 2018! Meet the woman with all the glitter:

How would you describe your work to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

I like to describe my work as Mexi-Bohemian! Everything is Latin-inspired, has a lot of color and a meaningful purpose. And I try to make everything functional!

How does your heritage influence your crafting?

It influences it a lot, it comes to me naturally. I got tired of not seeing what I wanted in the stores so I decided to make it myself! I like to take traditions and give them my own spin to make them different.

You were one of the first modern crafters to make it big — how have your goals changed since you got started?

My foundational goals have always stayed the same — to offer tutorials and art that makes people say WOW! And art that  reflects culture in a positive way, with function and style. I’ve always wanted to strive for community, and it has grown all along. I’m really happy about that!

What would you be if you weren’t an artist?

I would 100% be writing novel after novel in the genre of women’s fiction. I have two under my belt and a third one on the way. There’s room to do both passions, I work it into my schedule!

What will you talk about in your keynote?

I would like to talk about having a bigger vision for what we each do — finding that signature style that makes you stand apart from everyone else. Ways to look like the money we want to charge, the art of evolving and growing, staying relevant.

What three things would you recommend to makers?

  1. A sketchbook to record ideas for when you feel uninspired. You can go to your book and flip through, and I guarantee the inspiration will return!
  2. Taking a workshop in a new genre and leaving your personal tools at home. Just go in with a clean mind and learn from scratch!
  3. Motivational and/or business audiobooks or podcasts to listen to while you work!

What are your pro tips for crafters heading to a conference?

Have some kind of freebie to give away — a link to a free download, or a charm you made. It’s a way for people to remember you and keep what you give them! Create a Twitter list of people you meet so you can follow them and keep in touch. And use the conference hashtag in all social posts to become part of the story of the event!

What are you looking forward to most about Midwest Craft Con?

I’m from the Southwest, so I’m always excited to leave my comfort zone to meet and connect with new people. I’m nervous and excited! I LOVE all things crafty and celebrating the handmade movement. We each have something unique to share and offer. I feel our community is brilliant, generous and open to help each other grow. I’m really proud to be a keynote speaker, because this topic is near and dear to my heart!

Get crafty with Kathy Cano Murillo at Midwest Craft Con in Columbus, Ohio! The event is Feb. 16-18, 2018, and tickets are on sale now!


Save the Date for 2018 + Keynotes Revealed!

Midwest Craft Con is back! We are returning to Columbus, Ohio, in 2018 for our third Con with three days of programming and three amazing keynote speakers!

Write it on a Post-It, save it to your phone’s calendar, wrap some yarn around your finger… whatever you gotta do to remind yourself that Midwest Craft Con is happening Feb. 16-18, 2018, and early bird tickets will go on sale August 1!

Our theme for 2018 is Never Craft Alone. We are moving to a new intimate setting located about 25 minutes away from downtown Columbus to the concrete cornfields (it’s a thing) of Dublin, Ohio. Our headquarters will be the Embassy Suites Dublin, which is going to be more affordable for our Conners and offers perks like free parking and breakfast!

And now for this crazy amazing lineup… are you ready? Our keynote speakers are:

kathy cano murillo, kelley deal, gemma correll, midwest craft con keynote speakers 2018

SERIOUSLY! We are still pinching ourselves. And we’ve still got a whole lineup of breakout speakers to announce, plus we are adding more craftivities, LOTS of DIY workshops, midday stretches, pool activities and and all the googly eyes you can handle!

We expect early bird tickets to fly away, so do not wait to grab your three-day-pass at the discounted rate of $199 when they go on sale August 1. There are only 100 tickets available at that discounted rate; after early birds sell out, the full-price ticket is $249.

Once you secure your ticket, you’ll get all the details of how to reserve your room as well as access to our secret Facebook group where you can hang out with other creative business owners all year round. You can find a roommate/new best friend in the group, too.

Sign up for our newsletter to get a reminder when tickets go on sale! No one is going to craft alone this February, and we hope to see you in 2018!


Our featured speakers for 2017 are…

Save the date: Midwest Craft Con is coming back to Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 10-12, 2017! And our featured speakers are coming from near and far to share their experiences running creative businesses:

Yao Cheng, Chris Glass and Jen Hewett

Our featured speakers for 2017 are Yao Cheng of Columbus, Chris Glass of Cincinnati and Jen Hewett of San Francisco — one for each day of Midwest Craft Con!

Yao Cheng

Yao is a watercolor artist and designer based in Columbus, Ohio. Yao’s watercolor work concentrates on capturing the immediacy of expressions through color, shapes and brush strokes, with an emphasis on imperfect marks and unpredictable colors. Located in downtown Columbus, Yao Cheng Design is an online retail shop and design studio where Yao’s modern and bright watercolors come to life on products and clientele work. The retail side focuses on a range of products for the home, such as art prints, textiles and paper goods, while the design studio focuses on creating specialty wedding stationery and larger client projects.

Yao’s work can be found at West Elm, One Kings Lane, Houzz, her online shop and Etsy. She has an online tutorial series with Creativebug and has been featured in Southern Living, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Style Me Pretty and Design Love Fest.

Chris Glass

Chris Glass is a designer from Cincinnati, Ohio, working on things like identities, websites, applications and T-shirts. You might know him from the Oxford-based Wire and Twine, a design firm that happens to own screen-printing equipment.

He is currently embarking on a year-long civic sabbatical with People’s Liberty, an unconventional grant-making organization, to explore photography as a way to encourage being a tourist in your own city in a project called PhotoCorps. He shares a sunny loft apartment in an old factory with his sassy cat, Edie. In his spare time, he devises schemes to create spare time.

Jen Hewett

Jen Hewett is a printmaker, surface designer, textile artist and teacher. A lifelong Californian, Jen combines her love of loud prints and saturated colors with the textures and light of the landscapes she grew up with to create printed textiles that are both highly tactile and visually layered.

Her hand-printed textile collages have been exhibited at Rare Device in San Francisco, and Artstream Gallery in New Hampshire, and her work has been featured in Anthology Magazine, Uppercase, Taproot, Design*Sponge and a number of books. When she’s not creating in her tiny (54 square feet!) San Francisco studio or teaching her popular block printing on fabric classes, she can be found cycling around San Francisco on her pink bike, chatting with her neighbors at the local wine bar, walking her tiny rescue dog Gus, gossiping with her friends, redecorating her apartment or noodling on her couch.

Got something to say?

If you’ve got an idea for a talk you’d like to give, fill out this form! We’ll be announcing the rest of the 2017 schedule later in the fall, and you can see the past con’s schedule here.

Tickets for Midwest Craft Con 2017 will go on sale Friday, July 1! The first 100 tickets are $199 each, and after that, the full price is $249. Get your early bird ticket while you can — when the early bird tickets sell out, they’re gone.


Why You Should Plan to Attend Midwest Craft Con

Save the date! Midwest Craft Con will be Friday to Sunday, February 19-21, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio. Tickets for our creative business conference will go on sale in August. (Sign up for our e-mail list to be first to find out when that happens!) Here are five good reasons why you should plan to attend:

  1. You need a break. Solo entrepreneurs and creative workers so rarely give themselves time away from their work to recover, reflect, plan and dream. This is you time.
  2. It’s totally a tax writeoff. Save those receipts: Coming to this creative business retreat can actually SAVE you money. (Consult your tax advisor, obvs.)
  3. See your crafty friends. You’ll be with the friends you only ever see during shows when you’re running around like a crazy person, and you’re sure to make lots of new ones!
  4. You’ll learn from the best. We’re bringing in experts from the Midwest and beyond to lead sessions and participate in panels and workshops about creative business and the state of the craft movement.
  5. Meet your heroes. We’re bringing in two MAJOR keynote speakers: Lisa Congdon and Abby Glassenberg. Lisa is a badass artist and illustrator who has published many books and inspires us all. Abby is a sewing-pattern-maker and podcaster who reports on the state of the craft industry on her blog. We are SO excited to have them with us for the weekend. Read more about them here.

Lisa CongdonAbby Glassenberg Sewing

Do you have a great idea for a session you’d like to lead at Midwest Craft Con? Fill out our contact form to make a proposal! (If you have a session idea you’d like someone else to present, you can drop that in our suggestion box!) If you’re interested in sponsoring the conference, volunteering at the event or supporting us in other ways, drop us a line!