An Interview With Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod

The blogosphere is a DIYer’s dream. It provides an interconnected community of writers and readers that share common bonds. Educating and being educated is the premise of many blogs. The Internet provides endless inspiration. Needless to say, as a writer, I read a lot of blogs to stay up to date with my niche. EcoNesting  and EcoNesting DIY  are blogs that share information about green homes and do-it-yourself projects for the home.

On an early morning hike through the blogosphere a few weeks ago, my curser stumbled upon the CraftyPod site. Blog readers know quickly whether there’s a kinship with the writer. Often it’s the tone and the tempo of the blog, as well as how well researched the material is. Diane Gilleland’s  CraftyPod blog and podcasts connected with me on many levels.

Diane creates a blog and free (!) podcasts about making things. If you have the DIY ethos, and love to create beautiful stuff, CraftyPod is right up your alley. This interview with Diane, done via the internet (where else?), provides DIYers and crafters, bloggers and readers of blogs, insight into why we love to create, why doing it yourself is eco-friendly, and why handmade is so special. Also, check out the green DIY projects for your home that Diane shares with EcoNesting readers towards the end of the interview.

Why did you start the CraftyPod blog?
I started podcasting about a year before I started blogging. Originally, I thought blogs were a waste of time – the old “who wants to read about what people had for breakfast” assumptions. But then I got hooked on craft blogs, and I was compelled to start one of my own.

Do you have a philosophy about making stuff?
I think every one of us has an innate need to make things. Maybe you craft, or maybe you build radios, or maybe you bake bread. The act of making offers us profound benefits: relaxation, excitement, and reconnection with ourselves and others. We are all makers in some form. If you think you aren’t creative, I believe there’s something out there you just haven’t discovered yet.

Where do your draw your inspiration?
I look at lots and lots of things – I think Julia Cameron  referred to this as “filling the well.” I read all kinds of creative blogs. I always look at craft and home magazines on newsstands. I watch how-to shows online and on TV. And I look at colors and shapes and patterns everywhere I go. All this stuff kind of layers together until ideas emerge. I’m zealous about always carrying a spiral notebook to jot things down as they surface.

Do you believe the economy has affected crafters and DIYers? How?
I think the economy has affected pretty much everything! Crafters seem to be making things from their stashes more, which I think is a good thing overall, but it’s really tough on local, independent craft retailers.

Hard economic times are also drawing more people to all kinds of DIY, which I think is ultimately empowering and positive. But again, it will have impact on people who’ve made their living doing these things for us. So, like any complex system, every benefit comes with a potential downside and vice verse. My hope is that over time, our culture will evolve into greater self-reliance and the economy will re-balance around that.

I notice from your website that CraftyPod focuses a lot on sewing. What’s your favorite DIY project?
Well, I’m really more of an omni-crafter. I don’t tend to favor sewing or any other craft over others. My favorite DIY project is usually whatever I’m working on at the moment. So right now, it’s a crocheted tote bag, a series of Kanzashi flowers for my new book’s website, some fabric jewelry, and a set of woven placemats.

You’ve created a whole brand around “Sister Diane”. Why is that?
It was really more of a series of events than a conscious brand-building!

The name “Sister Diane” comes from my days organizing a chapter of the Church of Craft here in Portland, OR. You have to choose a “church name” to lead a chapter, so that’s what I chose. By the time I started podcasting and blogging, that nickname had stuck to me, so I kept using it.

I think it works, though, in the sense that I don’t want my blog and podcast to be about me – I want them to be about ideas and issues in crafting. So using this sort-of pseudonym helps keep me a little separate from the mix.

Are you from a crafty family?
Yes! My mom is super crafty, and always fostered creativity in me and my brother. (In fact, she has a lovely craft blog. My dad is a talented woodworker. My grandmother paints. And my great-great grandmother cooked and sewed and made all kinds of wonderful things.

How do you think DIY and crafts intersect with the green world?
I think the best intersection of the two comes from repurposing old, worn-out items into new and useful ones. I love seeing people in the craft blogosphere tearing thrift-store garments apart to make quilts, or turning old sheets into grocery totes.

The next level, then, may be educating ourselves about the environmental impacts of the various materials we use in crafting, so we can make lower-impact choices.

You recently attended the Maker Faire  and shared photos and comments about the event. Can you give a quick synopsis of what you took away from that weekend?
The biggest lesson I took away was that making things makes us better people. You cannot believe how many different creative projects are on display at Maker Faire – crafts, of course, but also technology projects, and local food producers, and people showing you how to fix your own washing machine, and giant LEGO villages, and on and on. And the greatest thing was the affect all this creativity had on the crowd attending. People were so excited and open, asking questions and engaging with each other. There wasn’t any of that usual energy you see at fairs, where so many people seem to walk around with their filters on “high.” The level of human interaction was amazing.

CraftyPod shares your thoughts and tips about the business of crafting and blogging. For people who are interested in both, do you have any pearls of wisdom?
Well, if it’s okay, I’ll first mention that I wrote an ebook on this very subject!

In general, though, the biggest piece of advice I have to offer is this: a blog is not an ad for your business. If you start a blog, and only post updates about what you’ve listed in your online store, you simply will not attract an audience. People don’t want to be sold to, they want to be delighted and inspired. If your blog provides delight and inspiration, people will check out your online store enthusiastically.

Diane, you are very inclusive of the web community, and “share the love” by offering companies and individuals who want to be included on CraftyPod and have something of lasting value to crafters. What do you consider having lasting value to crafters?
Well, it’s probably a subjective definition, but I’m interested in sharing people, places, and things that are unusual in the crafting landscape, and that offer my readers some form of learning or inspiration. Ideally, my readers can access at least some of this value without having to make a purchase.

I actually get a lot of requests to blog about products or businesses that I have to pass on, because it’s clear to me that the requester only hopes to benefit commercially from my audience. But if I hear from someone who has an interesting or useful product or idea, and genuinely wants to share his or her passion with others, then I’ll try to help spread the word.

Since you like to share, do you have any eco-friendly DIY projects on your site that you would like to share with the EcoNesting readers?
Here’s a fun picture frame I made from a paperback book I picked up at “The Bins,” which is Portland’s last-chance-before-the-landfill thrift store.

I made a simple and very functional quilt from two thrift-store sheets and an old blanket. Even if you’ve never quilted before, this project is completely doable.

…And EcoNesting readers might enjoy this podcast: Crafting Green: What’s It Mean?

What’s on your horizon?
At the moment, I’m preparing for the launch of my first print book, Kanzashi In Bloom. It comes out July 21st from Watson-Guptill. It’s a simplified take on an old Japanese craft, where you fold squares of fabric to make various kinds of flower petals, and then assemble wonderful flowers. In the book, I’ve used them in jewelry, clothing, gifts, and home decor projects.

Soon, I’ll also be releasing my second ebook – a crafty one – so stay tuned to for more details on that! And after that’s done, I’ll be hard at work on the second installment of my blogging ebook, which will be about how to promote your blog.

So, a very busy summer ahead!


Chris Miser
C M8 years ago

Thanks for this interview! I've enjoyed every one of the podcasts in the Craftypod archives. I rely on the Craftypod website for links to a wide variety of resources in all areas of craft. Diane has a comfortable style which makes the information she offers very accessible, as well as a real respect for the crafters of the community. She helps to bring us in all areas of the crafting communities together. Craftypod fosters creativity! It's cool to hear more about Diane and her background and influences.

I look forward to using her Kanzashi tutorials!