A modest proposal: how to open and run a business by using sewing skill


Cathe lives a simple life by choice in Northern California after opting to give up her steady paycheck to stay home with her family and develop her creative business. From her roots as a graphic designer, she created a thriving DIY crafting business that will be reflected in the new series, “Inspired Barn,” a nod to the way her business grew from her bedroom to her garage to a barn makeover.

Designer and Artist Cathe Holden Shares Her Rich and Frugal Life in Her “Inspired Barn” Video Series
Designer and Artist Cathe Holden Shares Her Rich and Frugal Life in Her “Inspired Barn” Video Series

Everything was created on a tight budget, but the results are beautiful. Here, Cathe shares how she crafted her dream and her tips for living a modest and creative life.

Amber Eden: Can you tell us more about your philosophy for creating Inspired Barn?

Cathe Holden: After an incredible wide-reaching audience response to my design and craft blog, I was often requested to instruct and speak at various creative events around the country. With young children at home it wasn’t always ideal for me to be away. So after a few years of traveling to teach, it occurred to me that I could invite attendees to classes in my very own workshop here in Petaluma. My husband and I repurposed a large storage outbuilding on our property into a big craft studio and classroom.

 Ephemera DIY Felt Coasters and Tray Kit
Ephemera DIY Felt Coasters and Tray Kit

Here I can work, craft, assemble kits, and host DIY events in my community. However, teaching only in Northern California is somewhat limiting to those who are unable to attend because of location, and so the “Inspired Barn” video series was born. Now I can share my favorite craft projects, techniques, and style with anyone. And now that my kids are all grown, who knows, I may even one day take “Inspired Barn” on the road.

AE: You talk about living well, but living modestly. Your barn is so gorgeous. Can you explain how that came together with your resources and resourcefulness?

CH: I love to shop and collect vintage items, but I’m frugal and I’m patient. I collect only practical items that can be used as materials in craft projects, to store craft materials, or as furniture and furnishings that benefit the process of crafting. I have a good idea of what I’m looking for at all times and will wait and search until I find it or something similar at the lowest price possible. I frequent eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and flea markets on a very regular basis with a savviness for the search.

 Cathe’s desk, where she works her crafting magic.
Cathe’s desk, where she works her crafting magic.

Many of the larger furniture pieces in my workshop were items pulled from our home such as breakfast and dining tables, bookcases, and cupboards, all which were initially acquired inexpensively or second hand. Smaller items such as a watch case and office supply cabinets for housing small supplies were found at flea markets, estate sales, or local antique shops. Having an overall theme helps keep a cohesive, balanced look in the space.

I refer to my decorating style for the barn as mercantile chic—a mix of vintage advertising, bins, and drawers, mixed with an eclectic amount of color and whimsy. I enjoy collecting, decorating, and organizing Inspired Barn as a craft in itself.

AE: How did you get started crafting?

CH: I suppose I’ve always been a crafter. Even as a small kid I was assembling bits of junk found among the gravel in the alleyway, or scraps of office supplies brought home from work by my mom, into funky works of art.

As an old-school commercial artist, I segued into handcrafting as more than a hobby a few years after most graphic design tasks became digitized. I missed working with my hands and began spending time in online [crafting] communities.

Top left:  Yarn Wrapped Mirror and Laurel Wall Art Kit Top right:  Embellished Fabric Panel Pillow Kit
Top left: Yarn Wrapped Mirror and Laurel Wall Art Kit
Top right: Embellished Fabric Panel Pillow Kit

I embraced a new and exciting way to pursue my creative endeavors while satisfying my need to work with physical tools and materials through crafting. It was then that I began sharing a graphic designer’s take on crafting on my blog, JustSomethingIMade.com.

AE : Where do you see crafting fitting into the bigger picture of your business?

CH: Although crafting has become my business through blogging and teaching, I also plan to produce craft materials unique to my style and aesthetic. I’m currently designing a line of typographic, mercantile-style stencils, some of which I have designed exclusively for the video series kit.

It’s my intention to create projects and products that are both simple and impactful. I do this by designing exciting crafts with easy-to-follow instruction, sharing loads of inspiration for customizing, and developing uncommon materials and products.

AE : What is your vision for Inspired Barn?

CH: My hope is for Inspired Barn to become a vintage-style brand known for facilitating individual creativity, repurposing, and re-imagining. Through instruction, ideas, products and materials, it’s my hope for Inspired Barn to become an extraordinary handcraft resource for multiple craft genres online, in print, and in stores.