Event Report: Made in Nerdwaukee Tent Sale

Back in March I vended at TINY HANDS craft show to benefit Planned Parenthood.  It was a great experience, not only for the money I made, but because I had forgotten how empowering it can be to spend time with artists and crafters who are passionate about their work.  Most conventions I vend at I’m often stuck in the booth, so I don’t get much time to chat with other vendors, and often the other vendors are reselling mass produced items.  So there’s not a lot of opportunities for me to soak in the creative vibes that come from being surrounded by makers.

I made a note in my journal that I wanted to find more geek-friendly craft fairs to vend at.  This led me to the Made in Nerdwaukee Tent Sale hosted by 42 Ale House.  This is the third Made in Nerwaukee event 42 Ale House has hosted.  Last year they had the tent sale and then a Christmas event, all featuring crafters from the area.  From what I had heard from the grapevine, it was a good, low-key craft fair with the added benefit of being hosted by a bar so one had accesses to alcoholic refreshment.

While I love travelling to Milwaukee because I get to hang out with fellow crafter and friend, Moira, this trip was special.  For the first time I allowed myself to get excited about vending.  Where before I was always riddled with guilt about either dragging my family along with me, or leaving them behind, I had finally decided to embrace the fact that this is my job.  Not only that, but this is a job I enjoy and having fun with what I do is not something to be ashamed about.

I spent the three days before heading out on prep work instead of my usual frantic hustle to get one last skirt or bag done.  I made signage and worked on displays and crafted little sewing gnomes and skull carrying unicorns.  Most importantly, I actively worked on keeping my anxiety levels low, and my anticipation of having a good time high.

Cross Stitch Signs
An example of the signage I worked up for Nerdwaukee. I really like the simplicity of the sign, and it does go along with my evolving booth aesthetic.

Come Saturday I was up, showered and dressed, and had the Jeep packed by 7:45 am, a minor miracle around these parts.  A quick stop for caffeine and breakfast saw me on the road by 8:00.  I headed up to Milwaukee blasting Electric Six, and letting my phone’s GPS guide my way.

I love road trips.  I grew up in Wyoming where they are necessary for everything from visiting relatives to getting groceries.  Driving I-94 from Chicago to Milwaukee isn’t the same as a stretch of US-20 between Worland and Cody.  It’s not without it’s charms, though.

Made in Nerdwaukee was thoroughly charming.  Moira’s booth was to the right of me.  To the left was Copper Chicken run by Nichole, who makes wonderfully geeky pillows.  I also finally met Michelle of Crafted in the flesh after a year or more of knowing about her through Moira.  Sitting in shady tent, sipping on a cider and chatting with customers was the perfect way to spend a Saturday.  I was even introduced to a Wisconsin staple—cheese curds—making this event peak Milwaukee for me.

Made in Nerdwaukee Display
A pared down set up at Nerdwaukee. I still managed to fit pouches, wallets, usb holders, keychains, dice bags, skirts and scarves into a 5″ x 5″ space.

One of the highlights of the day was chatting with a lesbian couple about making some pieces for their wedding.  They are planning costumed nuptials with one dressing as Morticia Addams.  The more I say I am not a wedding sewist, the more the Universe keeps challenging me on that, it seems.

Mildred at Nerdwaukee
MIldred donned a scarf, bag and skirt for the day. I’m considering making a belt to hang bags off here at future events.

In between sales patter and actual sales, I worked on an embroider project.  This piece isn’t for anything, it was just something to keep me occupied when traffic was slow.  I find working on a project is better than screwing around on my phone; it saves on the battery, too.

Embroidered Project
Had some fabric, needle and floss, and a hoop in my booth bin (as you do) so I worked on this creature between chatting with customers.

As I have for the last few events, I made slightly more than my goal.  Since I changed the way I calculate what my target is I have met and/or exceeded it every time*.  So I take that to mean I am doing something right.

This was my first event since April and I’ve realized I have to have one every four to six weeks.  Longer gaps between shows means I end up with very lean weeks.  The nice thing about Nerdwaukee was that I didn’t spend any money on creating inventory.  I took only what I had on hand.  That plus the low cost of the booth meant it was a good filler event between major ones.  If I can find more of these kinds of craft fairs, it would mean greater financial stability.

At the end of the day Moira introduced me to a Polish buffet.  We ate potato pancakes and perogies and plotted our next adventures.  I headed home full and happy and singing till I was hoarse to “Improper Dancing.”  The night ended with a glass of blackberry whiskey before bed.

This is it: the contentment that I have been fighting for for years.  A day of happiness with what I do.  I still have issues: financial, mental and emotional. There is so much more work I have to do, this is just a pit stop on the road.


*My old calculation for events was Number of Expected Attendees × Number of Cents Per Attendee.  Both numbers were volatile, dependent upon my ability to accurately estimate how many people would be at an event and then adjusting the cents/attendee to the kind of event I was vending at.

My new calculation is Event Expenses (booth fee, travel expenses, etc.) + (# of hours of the event × $20).

Client Spotlight: A.C. & Moira

You all may recall that I’ve mentioned before I don’t take on wedding dress commissions.  It’s not out of a dislike of weddings (I’ve had two of my own: one with the white dress and all the trimmings and one with just me, my love and my daughter at the justice of the peace).  I merely find that there are others who specialize in nuptial-wear and so really no need for my skills.

And yet, I have found myself once again working on a wedding outfit commission, and like the last one, it is not your familiar white satin and lace affair.

Before we get to that commission, however, I have a long awaited (well at least for me) update on the wedding tux I made for A.C. last December.  As a refresher, A.C. is non-binary, and wanted an outfit for their wedding that was a) fitting to their tastes and style b) included some traditional wedding motifs and c) could be worn to other occasions.  I made them a white satin vest suit with lavender lapels.  Well, A.C. just sent me photos of the ceremony featuring their suit and I must say they look absolutely fantastic.  Behold the glory of wearing whatever the frak you want to your wedding:

I’m am thrilled with how the tux turned out and it made my day to get to see the pictures of the happy day.

Now, let’s turn to the next commission, another wedding outfit, for one of my dearest friends.

I’ve known Moira going on eight years.  I met her at the second convention I ever vended at.  She helped spread the word when I ran a fire sale on custom corsets to raise money to keep my house.  We’ve vended together at various events, we bounce ideas off of each other, and we are supportive of each others’ goals as artists, crafters and women.  So when Moira told me that she was getting married to her long-time partner (another wonderful person I am lucky to call my friend), and asked me if I was interested in making her wedding dress I said yes before she had even told me what she wanted.

This weekend Moira came over and we hashed out some of the details.  Before I get into a break down of what I’ll be making for her, I want to make a slight detour and mention that this is the first time I’ve had a client over since we adopted our cats*.  I learned quickly that cats will: lay down on open patterns you are trying to discuss, attack dangling tape measures when you are taking measurements, and monopolize the attention of your client if they give any indication of liking cats.

On to the dress: Moira brought in several patterns she had picked up for us to discuss.  We narrowed it down to the one she and her groom liked best: McCall’s 7086.   McCall Pattern 7086

As with A.C., Moira wants a dress that she could wear after the ceremony to other functions.  I love the idea of practical wedding wear.  (My dress from my first marriage is sitting in a box in my parents’ home.) I took measurements, set up two future appointments for a tissue fitting and a second fitting afterwards.

Then we discussed fabric.  This was honestly the best part of the whole meeting because when Moira asked if I had any advice on patterns.  “Maybe not stripes or plaids because they would be a nightmare to match with this pattern.”  Anything else? Fair game.  As long as she found a print she loved, I’d work with it.  My reasoning is that one should wear what makes one feel fabulous.  If that’s big prints?  Awesome!  And if anyone makes any noises about how the print resembles furniture, then you sit your fabulous self on that person and smother them because you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

At this point you might be wondering, “Are you going to add pockets to this dress?”  And that’s how I know you are new to this blog.  Of course I will be adding pockets to this dress.  I personally view any pattern that omits pockets to be a design flaw that should have seen the pattern sent back for redrafting.  But fashion rarely makes sense, which is why I and other sewists are here to make up for the mistakes of others.

I’ll update as work on this dress progresses.  I also have a few other commissions that are in various stages of completion which I’ll post on in the coming months.  In the meantime, I’ve got some pockets to insert.


*I realize I didn’t mention this before, but in January I had to put down Trixie. While I am not ready for another dog, the house was feeling empty without a furry presence, and so at the end of April we adopted two cats: Barley and Jake.  We got them from the Humane Haven in Bolingbrook and the house has felt in balance once again.