Not Your Grandma’s Craft Fair: Crafty Bastards Cabin Fever

Crafting is in my blood, even though I am not a Pinterest mom. My mom is High Mistress of Preschool Crafts and Perfectly Wrapped Gifts. When she wasn’t sewing my Halloween costumes, she loved dragging my dad and I around to craft fairs. Despite these fairs’ variable quality, I grew to appreciate beautiful hand-made things, from their creators’ unique vision to the ethics of buying small. So I love Crafty Bastards, DC’s annual professional-level craft fair supported by the local alternative newspaper. This past weekend, they held its first indoor winter edition (Crafty Bastards: Cabin Fever) in all of its hipster glory.

Buying stuff – even from small crafters – may seem contradictory to my simplifying goals, but I had a very particular focus: baby clothes and accessories. Although the new baby will inherit most of Sprout’s clothes and toys, I want him to have at least a few of his own things as well. Even though he won’t know the difference, I don’t want everything to be a hand-me-down. One of my worries is that I’ll compare him to Sprout too much and not value him as an individual. Buying a few things just for him provides a little bit of peace on that front.

Hecht Warehouse Crafty Bastards

Hecht Warehouse Lobby

Unlike the summer event that’s held outside, Crafty Bastards Cabin Fever was in a warehouse. But it wasn’t just any warehouse – a development company is in the process of turning into swanky condos. It was the most hipster place I’ve possibly ever been, both the good and bad of that term. From the food trucks outside to the distinctly steampunk lobby, it oozed cool. The lobby simultaneously made me think “Well, this is a bit much” and “This is really cool.”

In contrast, the booths were in the unfinished part, a veritable wonderland of interest for a kid. The organizers used the unpainted wall as a canvas, commissioning an artist to spray-paint a mural. Sprout enjoyed pointing out “pink flamingos!” several times. The uneven floor, especially one place where there was a gap between two concrete slabs and another where it sloped dramatically, were also big points of interest. Sprout walked up and down, back and forth, feeling how the changes in the floor felt and affected his balance. Most importantly, the large, open area created wide aisles to run down. Sprout usually did a good job holding our hands, but I let him wander where it wasn’t too crowded. (With me close behind, of course!)

Flamingos at Crafty Bastards 2When we weren’t chasing our child, Chris and I did manage to find some adorable clothes for the new baby. Mirasa Design had lion-patterned pajamas and supported literacy programs in developing countries. I couldn’t pick just one, so we bought two screen-printed onesies from Earth Cadets. From Stronge Designs, we not only picked up a onesie, but the seller talked us into getting a matching shirt for Sprout. It was on sale! I particularly liked that all of the vendors had great gender neutral clothing. It’s easy to find adorable stuff for little girls, but clothes for boys often shift abruptly from overly babyish to bizarrely aggressive. (Or worse, outright sexist.)

There were also a number of displays with items we loved that just didn’t fit our needs at the moment. Sprout was drawn to the booth of an artist who did huge, colorful paintings that he then nicked up like graffitied school desks. He spent several minutes looking at a painting of a garbage truck and two different ones of whales. The person at the booth (who I think may have been the artist’s wife) explained to us that the trash truck picture was actually inspired by one of her toddler son’s favorite books, Trashytown! Definitely one we’ll have to check out at the library.

Sprout also liked the handmade wooden cars at Christina Boy Design, which I may purchase later for the little one when he’s older. Zooguu’s mounted dragon heads were fantastic, but Sprout had his eye on the smaller dinosaurs. All of the artist’s items were particularly neat because she made each one with fabric scraps, making them both envi
ronmentally sustainable and totally unique. I came very close to purchasing a print of a raccoon under the stars for the baby’s room from Small Doses of Wonder, but I wanted to settle on a definitive theme first. As Chris said, if we ended up going with the jungle theme over the forest, the print would be like a raccoon on vacation.

We even sampled a few of the food vendors, with Harper Macaw handing out pieces of chocolate. Much to my surprise and delight, Sprout enjoyed the 74% dark chocolate (or at least he didn’t spit it out), a far cry from the milk chocolate most kids prefer.

On our way out, we hit up a couple of the non-buying opportunities for fun. A craft table with patterned paper and shaped hole punches held Sprout’s attention for at least 10 minutes. He sat on my lap as he happily punched out a bunch of hearts and airplanes. The photo booth – which I was more excited about – was less successful. He refused to wear a hat – not even a fireman one – and protested when I wanted to put on oversized sunglasses. While I wasn’t going to make him wear anything, I’m also trying to teach him he can’t dictate others’ choices, so ignored his directions on the sunglasses. As a result, he’s vaguely frowning in all three photos, while I’m making odd faces or trying to fix my hair because I couldn’t figure out when the camera was going off. At least the pictures were free!

Crafty Bastards Cabin Fever offered a great opportunity to get out of the house after almost a month of focusing on tidying. I’m glad that we have the chance to browse and buy from such great small artists and crafters on a regular basis.

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