I had the tremendous fortune to interview one of my favorite people in the sewing and quilting industry: Sandi Sawa Hazlewood of the Crafty Planner podcast and blog. She produces a weekly podcast featuring some of the industries biggest names. Each episode is filled with interesting guests, nuggets of wisdom, and beautiful truths.
We delve deep into why she does what she does, her main priorities, and how sewing and quilting has affected who she is. Continue reading, it’s good stuff…
How did you get into podcasting?
I was working on a challenge for my blog and the series was called “Learn More, Sew More”, and it was about all of these things that I was scared to try or people had told me they were scared to try. I was working on a bag, which was the challenge of the month (every month had a challenge), and I reached out to Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness, and said, “Hey do you want to do a pattern giveaway or a guest post?” At the time I had been listening to a lot of podcasts, “Or do you want to do a podcast?” She said, “I wanna do a podcast!” and I said, “Fantastic!” I turned to my husband and said, “Well now we have to figure out how to do podcasting…” So that’s really how it started, and I don’t want to call it a fluke, it was just an option I wanted to explore.
I had Sara on, and the next weeks challenge was garment making, so a couple weeks later, I offered the same thing to other people, and they were like, “Yeah! Let’s have a podcast!” I really started doing it full time in March of last year when I started going to a weekly format.
It filled this need to learn more about other people in the industry, to really share their stories, which sometimes gets lost in social media and blogs which can be very filtered. It gave me an opportunity to really learn about somebody on a deeper level and I found that other people were also interested in that. The podcast, for me, was just a natural extension of my curiosity for people in the industry and to learn more about them.
It’s so interesting for me interviewing you because I feel like, “Oh, I know everything about her, and I listen to her every week!” I almost feel like I know you personally, and on the flipside of that, you must be like, “Who is this lady?!” That must be kinda weird?
Well, I would say you have a filtered version of me because my podcast is really about my guest. I do share stories about myself and things that I think are relatable, but I’m also filtered. I’ll go on tangents but because I’m on the podcast I’ll put a little bit of control on myself. I do think it’s weird in the way that I wish I knew everybody as well as they think they know me because they listen to me every week. But it gives me an opportunity to get to know them, and obviously, if they’ve listened to the podcast, they’re my tribe. They’re people who are interested in at least some of the things I talk about and they don’t mind my quirky style. They don’t mind that I’m naturally curious, which can be irritating to some people so I feel like, “Oh, good! I’ve found another kindred soul!”
Was there a moment that you realized that, “YES. This is what I’m going to do.”?
Off the top of my head, one of the episodes that just did not go at all how I was planning it to go – and that’s something you learn along the way, is that you can’t really plan for anything, and you’re talking to someone who has their master’s degree in planning – was with my episode with Lizzy House.
I had written out 15-20 questions and at that time, Lizzy had never been on a podcast, I’d never met her, I wasn’t really sure who she was, and that’s why I wanted her on the podcast. I have a vast Lizzy collection, and I wanted to know more about her, and when we started talking, it was very clear to me that we weren’t going to have a superficial conversation. It was going to be a “real talk, let’s really share, let’s get honest” about things. It was kinda at that point when I realized that all I need to plan for is an experience. I don’t get to choose what that experience is. My guest helps me choose that experience. I was going to have a really in-depth conversation with somebody and that person was Lizzy House. It just changed how I felt about what the podcast could do, what I wanted to do, and the depth that there is within this industry.
How was Quilt Market? Fun stories?
My experience at Market was uniquely shadowed by an article that came out shortly before that stated, “Was it worth it to go to Market?” I don’t have anything to sell, I’m not buying anything, or if I do, it’s for personal use, so I’m not buying for a store. I’m going to learn more about the industry and people and see if I can make it fit with future podcasts.
So when I go there, I feel like a human sponge. I’m trying to absorb absolutely everything I can, I try not to get in the way of the business that is actually happening, after all, it is a tradeshow. I remember that it is NOT everything everybody sees on Instagram. It’s fantastic to see all the new fabric lines, but there’s A LOT that goes on that isn’t related to that. Spring is a smaller Market in my experience than Fall Market, and it was an excellent learning experience about the industry that goes far above just the fabric lines that come out.
One of the things I really look forward to is the Schoolhouse Sessions, where I get to hear from the designer themselves; what was the thought process behind what they chose. How do they see it being used, often with examples. I get to hear from stores what things they’re working on, what is their feeling about the trends that are happening. So, for me, Schoolhouse is very valuable and it’s hard to try to split myself to get to all the Schoolhouses in one 15 minute period. I really enjoy that aspect of Market, just getting to hear an inside perspective that sometimes gets lost in the hype.
What does Modern Quilting mean to you?
It’s a mindset. I don’t know how else to explain it. I remember when I was Guild president, there was a lot of push to tell people that they could only bring in show and tell items that were modern, and if they were traditional to describe how it could be made modern.
I think there are characteristics to modern quilts; use of solids, for sure, use of negative space, the option to have a border or not. There are characteristics of things that can be used as a modern quilt, but for me, modern quilting itself, as a movement, is being open-minded as a process. It’s about sharing what you know, and I’m not saying that’s different than traditional – but for me, if you’re at a modern quilt guild meeting, are you there because you want to learn and see a different way of doing something? If your answer is, “Yes”, then to me, you’re a modern quilter.
Going along with the modern theme, what inspires you? Your color palette, patterns, and choices?
I tend to be inspired by what I can find in nature. Maybe I’ll have a shocking pink or yellow, but generally, I’m looking for is this something I could find naturally in some way? You and I both share a love for purple, and once you love purple, you see it everywhere, and you see it a lot in nature. So when I’m looking at color combinations for something, I think, “Ok, what would this be combined with in nature? Where can I find this naturally?” I’m starting to get away from some prints, and if they are, they tend to be floral.
The second is geometric. I’m really drawn to geometric designs, and sometimes it is opposite of my nature love, but as a planner in my career – I worked on historic preservation projects as one of my projects – I’m really drawn to the graphic design of geometric appeal that you can see in modern design. True Love by Libs Elliott, I’m really loving how that works for me.
You helped start the San Diego chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild, do you have any advice on starting your own MQG chapter? Any pitfalls?
What we did, and everybody has their own story and it may not work for somebody else, but we found each other, there was about 5 of us, on the MQG forum talking about “Is there anyone in your city?” We met at a Corner Bakery and we discussed it, and we were all in. For awhile we met pretty informally, and then at some point, the MQG was like, “Hey, do you guys want to be an official group?” Because I had been involved in some other groups, I knew that we would need to write some official bylaws, and getting membership together, and in San Diego, we’re pretty low key people, but we figured it out and became official.
For other people, I would say make sure there are a lot of people willing to help you. I didn’t do it on my own and had lots of help, it really does take a village. Find a location, I know it sounds silly, but we’ve gone all over the county but location, location, location, location, location… location!
Stay consistent for your brand in your guild, so your blog name should be what your Flickr name should be what your Twitter name should be what your Instagram name is. The key is to bring people together, and the quickest way to do that is to make sure everyone knows where to find you. Just be conscientious of those decisions because they will impact people’s ability to find you and stay with you.
Lastly, have a super stupid amount of fun! Generally, quilters come into a guild because they want to meet other people that love what you love. I would do icebreakers every meeting because it was important to me that everyone got to know each other. Make it fun, you at least have one common bond and it’s nice to see if you can build that bond in other ways.
You have your master’s in planning, how has that, if at all, translated into your quilting?
I don’t see it in my quilting. I see it in who I am and in my business. There are two aspects of it that really hit home with it; the first is my drive and motivation. As a planner, I became manager of a very large planning program by the time I was 32. A lot of it was just really hard work and setting my mind on accomplishing something, wanting to learn absolutely everything I could, and I have the same approach to the industry and to my podcast.
Again, I’m a sponge. As a planner, you want to understand things from many different aspects so you can help solve them. That’s why I became a planner because I saw a need. I wanted to see what I could do to help. In the things that I was doing, you’re pulling in things like traffic analysis, engineering, and you’re pulling in landscaping, and this and that, so you’re taking all these different resources and you’re putting them together and trying to find a solution. I find that’s what I do in the business now. For the podcast, I might pull in a garment maker, maybe people wouldn’t see that part of what we’re doing, but to me, it’s a natural connection. How do I put them together? How do I continue pushing to make sure that’s part of our community?
The second is that my specialization was in community development. As a planner, I worked for city council, and I started out in the field and I helped people with things like traffic signals, and then I evolved into writing policy, both on city council floor and metropolitan transportation authority. It’s always been about looking at situations and figuring out how can I bring people together? How can we talk about common issues? How can we just be honest and transparent in order to get to a point where we’re all getting what we need?
Sometimes when I bring up issues on the podcast like diversity, it comes from my desire to bring awareness to different perspectives. Maybe if you hear it, maybe you can put a voice to it, that you will consider it a little bit differently than you might have before.
Would you say that quilting is your release?
I think I’m getting more into being an improv quilter because I don’t care about all of the perfections that a pattern might need. I like having a little bit of leeway, I like being able to create something that fits my specific needs. I’ll often start with a pattern or idea, and think, “I really want to make this, but how can I make it with what I have? I only have fat quarters of something but it needs yardage, how can I make it work?” I think it is a release.
There is definitely a utilitarian aspect of it that I think appeals to the planning side. Creating something that can be used and tells a story, and is meaningful to me, those are all things that I think are parallel to the work I would do in planning.
Do you have any cute summer patterns That you could recommend?
Depends on what you’re looking for and your experience level. I still consider myself pretty much a beginner garment sewer, so my standard stock tee is the Scout Tee by Grainline Studio. People say it’s boxy, but there are ways to make it not boxy, and it’s easy and accessible. I have a lot of them in my closet and it one of the things I’m drawn to when I’m looking for just jeans and t-shirt.
In terms of a dress, right now my perfect dress is a modified Esme tunic from Lotta Jansdotter new book, and the pattern was designed by Alexia Abegg of Green Bee Patterns and Cotton + Steel. But my second go-to dress that works out of the package for me is Dress #2 from 100 Acts of Sewing by Sonya Phillip. I think she does a really good job of presenting the patterns in a way that is not intimidating, there are illustrations, and I feel like it’s a really good beginner pattern.
I’m eager to try the Willow Dress/Tank by Grainline Studio that just came out. I also bought Lottie which is a new design dress by Christine Haynes, and I think there is something like 64 pages BECAUSE there are so many different options – sleeves, sleeveless, 3/4 length, etc. I think that would be a good standard make-anything-from dress pattern.
Congratulations on your latest gig, writing for Love Patchwork and Quilting! So how do you do it all?!
The best way to describe it, I have a 3 1/2-year-old daughter and from 9am-2pm, I am balls to the wall. I talked about my experience as a planner and I had projects that had to meet legal deadlines, timelines, all kinds of things, so I became really good at breaking down projects into what’s the timeline, when does it need to be done by, and that self-motivation has really helped me with what I want to do. If I know that I have a magazine article due, I need to interview by this date, I know that I need their responses by this date, and I’m constantly tracking to reach that deadline.
The podcast is a tight timeframe. I publish every week, so I generally like to interview someone a week to two weeks before publication of the podcast itself because it keeps the information timely, but it also helps me produce what I hope is a good sounding podcast. The editing alone can take 2-6 hours depending on the sound quality.
I think keeping both daily and weekly to-do’s, I have a monthly editorial calendar and I still try very hard to balance my time with my family. When my daughter gets home, I try not to be working. I work much better in the morning than at night and that was one of my biggest lessons very early on is that I don’t try to write at 8pm at night. So I started thinking, “well, what can I do?” I can hand sew. I spend a lot of time thinking about what are the things I do well, when do I do them well, and what, ultimately, do I want for my family?
Is my house always clean? No. Do I have a mountain of laundry to work on? Yeah. Is my daughter happy? I hope so. She’s my main priority more than anything else. That’s how I approach it.
It seems to be the theme for the week, but I keep coming back to: “Every time you say ‘yes’ to someone else, you’re saying ‘no’ to yourself.” There are times I have to say no, and it’s not that I don’t want to or I don’t like that person, it’s because it doesn’t fit with what I’m doing at that moment. Every time I dedicate myself to something else, it IS time I take from my family or another aspect of my business.
I don’t mean to sound callous about it at all, I just mean that we get to choose our priorities. We get to choose how we spend our time and that is the one thing that none of us can buy any more of is time. The way we spend it, who we spend it with, and how we do it is a thing we control. I think our actions and what we do speak way louder than our words. If I’m there with my daughter, I hope I’m focused on her and spending time with her. When I’m not with her I hope I’m working hard so that I can provide her with what she needs.
That’s so great to hear because it’s so easy to forget to take care of yourself. And that’s really what that is, taking the time to realize your needs and take care of them. Good job!
I heard a great speech by Emily McDowell at Craftcation this year, and I’ve talked about it a few times on the podcast; Emily McDowell has built a company which, I’m going to guess is worth multi-millions, she talked about how she had to have all of her cards in so many different stores, and she had to have this and that. Her advice to us as entrepreneurs in a creative field in whatever way we are, is to really think about the life you want, and whether or not what you’re shooting for fits within that picture.
So what’s next? Teaching? More patterns?
I don’t think there will be many more patterns, it really isn’t the thing that does it for me. I really enjoy connecting with people. I think my focus right now is producing the best podcast I can, inspiring people through my body of work, my reviews, my blog, so that people can feel empowered to really get into that, too.
Now with the magazine, provide another avenue to feel close to someone, the ‘celebrities’ are not above you. They put on their pants one leg at a time too. We all have – literally – dirty laundry. To say that you can do whatever you put your mind to. If I have a way to convince people of that, that’s my motivation, and it comes out in the podcast, and writing, and things like that. It all comes down to that central goal.
Thank you so much, Sandi, for a thoughtful, wonderful discussion on life and its intricacies. I love listening each week, and if you haven’t yet, I HIGHLY suggest you get on that! Her Instagram feed is also wonderfully curated with beautiful patterns and fun projects.
Got anything to add? Who would you love to see interviewed next? Lemme know in the comments!