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The crafting tradition

crafting tradition
© Afishman64/

Behind every piece of art is a story. In this case, the story is about the beginning. Something initially sparks creativity. Maybe it is a loved one passing on a family tradition. Maybe it is a beautiful work of art that sparks inspiration and curiosity. Maybe it is a teacher whose enthusiasm triggers something within. To everything there is a beginning.

Over the holiday season, Facet will be featuring jewelry-related crafts that readers can make with children. We hope that they will help to create long-lasting memories and traditions in your own families. 

To get you in the crafting spirit, we thought we’d share with you stories about how the Facet staff started crafting. If you have traditions that you'd like to share with other readers or have stories about how you started crafting or jewelry-making, please send them to us at


Kathryn Keil, Content Editor, Facet

My rather stern maternal grandmother believed firmly that every girl should know how to sew, crochet, knit, and do needlepoint. As though I were living in a novel set in the Victorian era, I was given “instruction” in all those things starting around age six, and I hated every minute of it. But hey, 40+ years later, I can repair and alter my own clothes, so I’m grateful for that, at least.

I definitely inherit my love of making and repurposing from my mom, who had a completely different mindset about creativity and imagination. She excelled at all the great 70’s crafts: macrame, latch hook rugs, decoupage, and quilling, and she also has a talent for making tiny things out of clay. She is great at coming up with new uses for discarded items, and whether we were building school dioramas or shoebox Barbie furniture, she always gave my three sisters and I plenty of time, space, and materials to draw, glue, build, and pretend.  I was always a writer as a child, rather than an artist, but I loved to build tiny things like dollhouse furniture and to draw floor plans on graph paper, always lost in my own imagination.

When my own son demonstrated a great love and talent for drawing at a very young age, I found all new excuses to acquire TONS of arts and crafts supplies. I would encourage him to try different mediums but he stubbornly stuck only to his pencils and sketchbook. So eventually I started using all the supplies I was buying to explore my own creativity. I cannot draw at all, but prefer to work in three dimensions. Stained glass led to mosaics, which led to taking apart old, broken jewelry. I took my very first metalsmithing class and there, I finally found my happy place. I knew from the first time that I put enamel in a kiln that I was “home."

I’ve explored all the different ways to make jewelry, quite a bit. I’ve dipped in and out of different mediums, and I’ve taken about a million classes and workshops at bead shows, park districts and art centers. I love metal clay and resin and paper craft and needle felting, almost always in tiny scale. And I still buy ALL of the books, magazines, tools, and supplies. I can’t honestly say that I have any great talent, but I’ve become fairly skilled at a few things! More importantly, I am calm and happy in the studio and gain immense satisfaction from the smallest of successes. Now I write about jewelry, and my son is a visual artist who works with preschool children, passing down creativity to another generation. And I still buy him art supplies that he never uses, every single Christmas.

Diane M. Bacha, Editorial Director, Facet

My Polish-American grandma was a masterful sewer and quilter, though we took those things for granted at the time. Grandma passed her needlework skills to her four daughters – including my mom of course -- so sewing was a familiar activity to me as a child. I was taught to handle a needle and thread at an early age, and I learned some rudimentary techniques on the family’s Singer sewing machine.

But I didn’t really catch the bug until I started tagging along with my mom on excursions to buy needlepoint, embroidery, and crewelwork patterns. I loved the colors and textures of the threads, and I loved the knots, chains and trellises you could stitch with them. Mom gave me unused bits of thread and scraps of fabric to get me started, and taught me the basics. I’d experiment with my own patterns and pictures for hours.

That launched me on a fiber phase for quite a while. I don’t know exactly when I discovered macramé – those jute plant hangers were everywhere at the time! – but I do have a vivid memory of working on a macramé wall hanging on a hot summer day while the Watergate Hearings were on TV. All that droning must have been the perfect soundtrack for tying things in knots.

Heather Gergen, Web Editor, Facet

When I was a little girl, my grandmother was reunited with her birth father. She was an interior designer who had just spent a year studying in Paris. During their many moments spent reconnecting, she had mentioned to him that she always wanted a doll house. So, as a Christmas surprise, he built her a grand Victorian dollhouse.

That Christmas, my father built a dollhouse for me, too, with real stairs and working lights. Together, my grandmother and I worked in-tandem building furniture for our dollhouses. She taught me how to make grand French-style furniture out of scraps of satin and beads with a cardboard toilet paper roll base. In later years, we re-upholstered a couch for my first apartment complete with handmade throw pillows.

Her kitchen was the studio for many great craft projects. One time, she refurbished an old merry-go-round horse that she bought at a barn auction. I watched her as she repainted the old horse including an extra-special antiquing glaze. In the year that I was planning my wedding, we spray painted glass ornaments with a ceramic glaze and added beaded embellishments to them for my first Christmas tree.

Her mother, my great grandmother, was quite the crafter in her own right. She was the most talented baker and needlework artist. My set of crocheted snowflake Christmas ornaments that she made are one of my most prized possessions. A tear comes to my eye every year when I put them on the tree. I remember her making them while she took care of me after preschool. She knitted afghans, sweaters, scarves, mittens and more. We still use her afghans to snuggle under today.

My grandmother was a former Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader with a "we can do anything" attitude. It was important for her to pass her skills down to the next generation. I didn't realize how important that knowledge was until I became a parent. I, too, am a Girl Scout leader and I try to carry on the tradition of sharing my knowledge with others.

Connie Whittaker, Associate Editor, Bead&Button magazine

I have always been interested in arts and crafts with drawing and painting being my favorite thing to do in high school. After that, I dabbled in other crafts like crochet, cross stitch, and quilting.

I began my jewelry career with stringing when I couldn’t find a necklace I liked for an upcoming wedding. So I made my own! Unfortunately I had no idea what I was doing or what supplies I needed, but a local bead store was there to help me out. I ended up taking a couple of classes on basic techniques including stitching, and I was hooked. I’ve been stitching ever since! 

Dianne Wheeler, Editor-in-Chief, Kalmbach Books

My grandmother taught me to sew when I was only 6 years old. She made all of  my dresses when I was young, and she taught me to hem them. After I learned to do it to her satisfaction, (she wanted everything perfect because she was a seamstress), she taught me how to use her sewing machine. When I visited, we would make cloth napkins and doll bed blankets from the scraps she brought home from her job. 

An artist at heart, she was always making something beautiful from things around her house. Our first craft project was making paperweights for Christmas presents from baby food jars. I painted the lids, added plastic flowers ,and placed a tiny bit of glitter in the water. They were gorgeous (at least that's what everyone said)!

Cassie Donlen, Associate Editor, Bead&Button magazine

My discovery of the beading world followed an interesting journey. I come from a deeply creative family and have always loved the arts but practicality led me into the business world where I worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. When our first of three boys was born, I quit work to be a stay at home mom and my creative drive kicked into full gear. I found myself involved in several crafts such as stained glass, wedding photography, knitting, floral arranging, quilting, scrapbooking, and stenciling large murals. I guess you could say I couldn’t stay put or focused on one endeavor as I found pleasure in all of them.

Then by sheer chance, I stumbled into the world of lampworking and jewelry making. My sole motivation was seeing a lampwork bead ring that a friend of mine was wearing.  I loved it. I wanted it. When I asked her the price, I was like “No Way! My husband won’t let me blow that much money on a ring.” So I determinedly decided to learn how to make glass beads so I could make my own ring. (He should’ve let me buy the ring, as it would’ve been way cheaper in the long run!). That was over 15 years ago, and I can honestly say that I have discovered my true passion. Every other crafty endeavor was replaced by all things bead related. I officially started calling myself an artist.

Erica Swanson, Associate Editor, Kalmbach Books

My grandma is a talented crocheter. She dabbles in quilting and knitting as well—and probably other crafts through the years—but it is always wonderful to receive a beautiful, hand-crocheted afghan as a gift from her. When I was young, Grandma taught me a few stitches so I could learn the craft as well. The best I could do was a scraggly scarf, but I was proud to see the finished project taking shape as I worked away on my creation. It was amazing to form something with my own two hands! 

I didn't continue crocheting, but I definitely continued to enjoy the cozy blankets Grandma made especially for me. When I began working for Kalmbach Books and learned how to stitch jewelry, I re-discovered how satisfying it was to create for myself and others. It makes me so proud to know that my friends and family enjoy wearing special handcrafted necklaces and earrings. Now I know how Grandma feels every time she wraps up an afghan! 


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