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Joleen Snowden and her friends used to get together to sew and stitch a lot, and one day, it dawned on them: Other folks were all over town doing the same thing. Not only were these other folks knitting and sewing, but they were doing other cool stuff, like making sock monkeys and reconstructing T-shirts. The idea to form the Tucson Sew-Op--a DIY academy where crafters get together and teach each other new skills--was born. The group meets regularly to workshop new skills with other crafters. To find out more about the Sew-Op and their workshops, e-mail

What sort of a crafter are you? A knitter, primarily, or a sewer?

I'm a knitter and a sewer.

How did you get into that?

I started sewing in high school. I wanted to be different than other people, and I wanted to make my own stuff that was different than what other people were wearing.

What do you think made you want to look different from other people?

Well, I think everyone wants to look unique, which is a lot harder to do when you're shopping at the mall.

I'd imagine it's mostly girls who'd be into crafting. Are there any guys in the Sew-Op?

We have two guys who ran our puppet-making workshop, and they do other things, also--one knits; one sews. Then I was knitting in another coffee shop, and a guy approached me and said it was great that we were knitting, and he'd like to knit with us sometimes.

So you have like a regular stitch 'n' bitch?

Yeah, we have a group that meets every Sunday morning at the Rainbow Planet Café. We've been approached by a lot of people who are crafting already or who want to craft and want to learn new skills. We might be starting a new one on Monday nights as well.

So, do you think this is making a social statement, or is it more about fun?

It's definitely about fun, but I like to think that there's a sort of active element to it. We're trying to get people to share their skills with others for a low cost or for free. We also focus a lot on recycling, since so much stuff gets thrown away; we'd just like to see those things get turned into new items.

It was you and Lisa (Zander) who decided to start this group together?

We both had the idea, and we immediately found like-minded people. We'd already been crafting and wanted to learn new techniques ourselves, and we realized that other people had those skills and could teach them to us.

If you guys are making a social statement, what would that statement be?

The main thing would be that by supporting local crafters or making something yourself, you know exactly where it's coming from, so no one's being exploited, and materials are being reused. And then there's the humanitarian aspect of crafting, like knitting hats for cancer patients or repairing clothes for the homeless.

When you say repairing clothes for the homeless, does that mean they bring you their clothes, and you stitch them up for them, or what?

So far, (we're) teaching them how to repair their own clothes. Someone approached me at this sewing machine workshop we had and asked me how to fix his shorts, I think it was.

How did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me when I was really young, and then I forgot, but a few years back, I taught myself again. I got a how-to-knit book and taught myself. It was at a time when I really needed a hobby to take up all my free time. And I haven't stopped since.

What do you guys want to do with the Sew-Op?

We really want to get a space where we can have our workshops right there, where people can come in and use our sewing machine and our knitting needles, and we could also have a boutique to sell things that people make there.

Sounds like BICAS (the nonprofit Bicycle Inter-Community Action and Salvage).

Yes, it's pretty much based on the BICAS model.

Besides knitting and sewing, what other stuff do you guys do?

We've done a sock-monkey workshop, bookbinding and T-shirt reconstruction, and we're going to do embroidery and cross-stitch, and we're going to have a jewelry-making workshop.

Is it working out that each time you have a workshop, a new person comes to that workshop, and then they teach a new workshop, and so on and so forth?

Yeah, we're hoping it gets to that point, where at each new workshop, we find we have another person with a new skill.


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