Meet Abby Glassenberg and Kristin Link. These accomplished makers may have started their creative journeys individually, but their passion for sewing brought their paths together, resulting in the dynamic duo behind the Craft Industry Alliance.
Introduce us to you.
A: I’m Abby Glassenberg. I’m a sewing pattern designer, journalist and teacher. I live in Wellesley, Massachusetts with my husband and our three daughters. My blog is whileshenaps.com and I’m also the co-founder of Craft Industry Alliance (CIA), a trade association for craft business owners.
K: I’m Kristin Link, Abby’s Craft Industry Alliance business partner. I’m also the founder and editor of Sew Mama Sew, a blog I launched in 2005. I live in Boise, ID with my husband and two daughters.
How did you get your start as a maker and what do you make?
A: I think I’ve always been a maker. I’ve enjoyed arts and crafts since I was a kid and did all sorts of different things like polymer clay and origami through high school. I bought a sewing machine in 8th grade after learning to sew in Home Ec class in school. I really started learning how to sew in 2005 when I left my job as a middle school teacher to stay home with our baby daughter, Roxanne, and that’s when I started my blog – I quickly gravitated towards sewing dolls and toys and began selling them on Etsy when they first launched.
K: My mom taught me to sew and embroider, my grammy taught to me crochet, and my grandma taught me to knit. All the women in my family had either a crossword puzzle or a craft project going at all times, so it’s just something I’ve grown up with. When I was a teacher, I gave up that part of me for awhile, but the second I found out I was pregnant I was running to the fabric store for quilt supplies.
How did your paths cross?
A: I always admired Kristin because she had one of the first really well-known online fabric shops and sewing blog, SewMamaSew. I contributed posts to her blog several times over the years and was really honored when she agreed to be a guest on my podcast.
K: Yep, Abby and I never even met in real life until after we’d launched Craft Industry Alliance! We went to Quilt Market together to get to know each other and tell the sewing community about our new venture.
How did the Craft Industry Alliance come to be?
A: A few months after Kristin was on my show, she emailed me asking if I might want to co-produce a craft business conference with her. At that same time, I’d been working individually on creating an industry newsletter that would be a paid product. We got on the phone and began talking about what the industry really needed and what we might provide and we landed on a trade association. Over the next 10 months, we talked to many, many people both within the craft industry as well as people outside of the industry who ran trade associations to figure out what our model should look like. Craft Industry Alliance launched in 2015 and today we have 1,175 members and are growing every day. We’re really excited that Darice has joined CIA this year!
K: After we developed our business model and wrote our business plan, we had a good vision of what we needed, so we spent the next 6 months or so choosing the tools we needed. It was a big undertaking because we needed membership, community, forum and webinar software. Selecting and configuring those took a long time, but they’ve worked really well for us.
Have you always had a creative side or did someone help you find it?
A: I’ve always been creative, but definitely had people in my life who helped to nurture my creativity. My mom always bought craft supplies for my siblings and I, and let us make big messes! She also got me art lessons throughout junior high and high school. My art teacher during those years, Marion Osher, taught me a lot about color and composition and how to draw. I still use so much of what she taught me today.
K: I had a crafty family. I entered college as an art student, but got interested in other subjects, so I just kept creative hobbies. My husband has a photography hobby and my teenage daughter is starting to look at art schools, so they both inspire me to make things. I admit to being creative in spurts, though. Sometimes I’ll sew several things in a row for a month, then walk away from the sewing room for a couple of months.
Do trends help guide what you’re creating? And if so, how do you identify them?
A: I definitely keep track of trends and incorporate them when I like them. I make sewing patterns for dolls and toys, and I made an owl when owls were trendy because I knew it would sell. But I also like to just make what I’m drawn to, whether it’s trendy or not.
K: I am very inspired by trends. I used to have a fabric store and still keep an eye on trending patterns and colors. I also get taken in by trends on Instagram. Last year, I bought myself a loom and took up arm knitting for awhile. It’s fun to learn new crafts!
What trends are you seeing pop-up right now?
A: Llamas are definitely hot right now. And, of course, Living Coral, the Pantone color of the year, is getting lots of attention. I love all the excitement about punch needle and I think bargello is possibly coming back as well.
K: A lot of knitters are making chunky cardigans in beautiful neutrals. It seems like succulents are out and cacti are in. Small project kits are getting a lot of attention and taking up more retail space – it’s great to have everything you need to make an ornament, an embroidery design, or a softie all in one box. Hand-lettering is still popular, too.
Who (or what) gets you excited about the work you do?
A: I really enjoy writing and reporting about issues in the craft industry. The mainstream media really ignores most of the stories in our industry unless they’re huge (like when Etsy went public), but there’s so many interesting things unfolding every day. I see craft as a window to the whole word. Every political, social and economic issue plays out right here and I hope to provide a trustworthy media outlet that digs deep and covers it all.
K: Abby and I both have our masters in education, so even though neither or us are in public schools anymore, we’re both still educators at heart, which definitely influences what we do. We stay on top of business trends, social media platforms, legal considerations, issues surrounding representation and diversity and so on. We’re always thinking about the best way to teach our members about these things. It’s really rewarding when people tell us that something they learned from us had a positive impact on their business.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
A: You don’t have to start a business. So often when you make something that people like, they begin suggesting that you make more and sell them. Although that’s flattering to hear, the person giving this advice usually hasn’t really thought through how this business would really work. Is it really possible to make a profit from the handmade item given how long it takes you to produce? Is there a large enough market for it? And, most importantly, are you going to be happy making that item over and over again to fulfill demand? It’s entirely okay to make things just for your own joy! Not everything needs to become a business.
K: A couple of years ago I moved from Oregon to Idaho. Before we left, I had a huge fabric, pattern and craft sale. I got rid of everything I didn’t love or wouldn’t realistically use. A whole room’s worth of stuff. My craft space is very manageable and organized now, which actually inspires more creativity. Not to get too Marie Kondo, but if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.
What goal(s) are you working toward?
A: I balance quite a few things in business: a blog and podcast, a pattern business, and my role at Craft Industry Alliance. Sometimes I end up feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks on my plate. This year I’ve begun delegating some of those things and trusting that someone else can take some of them on and do them better than I can. For example, I’ve hired a VA who is managing my Instagram account and that’s been tremendously helpful. I hope to slowly do more of this as it becomes affordable.
K: After 14 years of managing the Sew Mama Sew blog, I’ve become a bit burned out with the traditional blogging model. I’m talking to a couple of people about ways to restructure the format to benefit all of us. We’re still hashing that out, but I think you’ll see a new Sew Mama Sew next year. I’m also very interested in growing our corporate membership base for the Craft Industry Alliance. I believe that involving business of all sizes, from solopreneurs to corporations like Darice, can benefit the industry as a whole.
What’s your creative mantra and why?
A: It’s never a waste of time. Creative work often leads to dead ends and sometimes we feel like we’ve wasted our time on something only to have it fail miserably, but really it wasn’t a waste of time! You need to go down those dead ends in order to realize what the right path looks like.
K: I’ve been working on an embroidery project on and off for 5 years. I have it in a special project bag and whenever I pick it up, I remember all the places I’ve worked on it – on a plane traveling to DC, in Hawaii, at a retreat with friends and the list goes on. It just reminds me that the process is what it’s all about. When the process is no longer any fun, it’s time to find a new craft.
What’s on your studio playlist?
A: I actually love listening to podcasts. My favorite shows are The Longform Podcast and Recode Decode. Believe it or not, I’ve listened to every episode of both shows (and there are hundreds of each!). I didn’t go to journalism school, so I’ve had to learn how to be a reporter on my own. The interviews on the Longform Podcast have helped me to better understand how to report stories. I really admire the host of Recode Decode, Kara Swisher, because she isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions and she’s been reporting on her industry (tech) for decades.
K: I also listen to podcasts, but I’m more of a true crime fan when I’m making and a news junkie when I’m exercising. My husband bought me a turntable for Christmas, so it’s also been fun rebuilding my record collection with things like Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon.
When you’re not creating what are you up to?
A: I’m a stay-at-home mom to my three daughters who are now 8, 12 and 14. We love to do crafts together. I also love to cook and bake. Recently I’ve begun sewing my own clothes, which has been a wonderful new adventure! I also love to run.
K: Reading, walking the dogs, puzzles with my daughters, crossword puzzles and hiking with my husband. And I spend much too much time on the internet.
Darice is excited to partner with the Craft Industry Alliance as business members this year and look forward to our future collaborations! If you’re interested in becoming a member of the Craft Industry Alliance, visit their website for more information.
Makers make the crafting world go ‘round. Are you a maker who wants to be featured on Darice? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re looking forward to meeting you!
You may also like -
Darice was founded in 1954, by Pat Catan, an entrepreneur from humble beginnings who valued hard work and dedication. Today, Darice Inc. is a premier manufacturer and wholesale distributor in the craft industry.