Project Management

Project Management

Editor’s note: Shortly after publishing this story, we learned that Sew Crafty is closing up shop. We regret any crafting hopes this news may dash!

Sew Crafty, a New Haven craft studio, looks like Santa’s workshop if the elves were big on Pinterest. One wall, converted to blackboard, is covered in neat block type, another in splatters and swirls of paint. Tables are covered in butcher paper, newsprint and whatever the day’s project might be. The back wall is stacked with shelves holding neatly arranged craft supplies.

“It’s kind of a weird story,” Jamie Goodner-Bingham (pictured first, right) says about the birth of her business, which opened in August 2016. She’d worked for eight years as an ovarian cancer researcher, including at Yale, and was gearing up for medical school when she began to reflect on her path. “I just wasn’t happy, doing what I was doing. I never really had a chance to stop and say, ‘Am I enjoying what I’m doing? Am I going to enjoy it tomorrow? Did I enjoy it yesterday?’”

The answers were no, so she made a list of the things she did enjoy. The result is Sew Crafty, a place where children and adults can also pursue their passions—sewing, woodworking, crocheting, leatherworking, felting or painting, or more specific projects like soapmaking, papermaking, jewelrymaking and rugmaking, or really any sort of hands-on crafting at all. Goodner-Bingham’s DIY ethos came from a parental stricture in her childhood, spent on a farm in Georgia: “If you want it, you make it,” she recollects with a smile.

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Nearly nightly, she hosts a session focused on one project, with prices that generally seem to range between $25 and $40. Projects from the last few weeks have included terraria, concrete bowls and clutch purses. Additionally, Goodner-Bingham offers open studio hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., where crafters can pay an hourly fee ($10 for adults, $5 for kids) and get access to Sew Crafty’s materials and equipment—paint supplies, sewing machines, die cutters—along with wide tables at which to use them.

As varied as the projects are the ages of the participants. “My youngest customer is 18 months old and my oldest customer is 82,” Goodner-Bingham says. During the school year, she says she gets lots of after-school business; at the moment, she’s running a series of summer crafting workshops for children. Their topics even extend to “Outdoor Survival”— building fires and shelters and such.

“I encourage to think bigger than what they do at school, where there’s a lot of structure,” Goodner-Bingham tells me. “At school, there’s a right or wrong way to do things, but here there’s no limit to what they can do.” Woodworking is popular, as are colorful Instagram-ready projects. One element that Goodner-Bingham looks for in a project is functionality in the final product.

“We do sometimes make things to decorate, home goods-type things, but mostly I’m trying to instill skills, and this value that they can do whatever they want to do themselves,” Goodner-Bingham says of her younger students, who use the space the most. Adults, she says, are usually less willing to take artistic risks and largely focus on fabric crafts.

One of them, sewing, is near and dear to Goodner-Bingham, and on the day of my visit she was overseeing a sewing camp, with children making everything from pillows to pajama pants. But recently Goodner-Bingham has been combining her love of the outdoors with crafting in an unusual way: tanning, curing and drying animal hides. While she draws the line at killing for the craft, she uses downed animals she and her clientele find to practice upon. She showed me the tail of a chipmunk she had recently finished, now stiff and straight like a fuzzy exclamation point.

She then showed me things others have made. While the kids’ crafts are more exuberant—a three-tiered cardboard house painted in iridescent colors, or bright, lumpy mini-pillows repurposed from old leggings—the adults’ tend to be more home-ready and Pinterest-perfect, like a handmade wooden baby gate.

“Whatever you want to do, we’ll do it,” Goodner-Bingham says. “We just have to figure out how.”

Sew Crafty
87 Audubon St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Sat 10am-9pm
(203) 936-7330

Written and photographed by Anne Ewbank.

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