From reporter and writer, to the creator of the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, to a guest craft on the Martha Stewart Show, Lish Dorset has led an interesting creative life! We especially love how she teaches kids to sew! Discover more about this talented maker, and be sure to check out her Simply Stripe Placemats pattern she’s created exclusively for OLFA.
Please tell us about what your business and what you do
By day I work at an American history museum just outside of Detroit, Mich., but by night I’m a passionate crafter – making just about anything makes me the happiest. I’m a freelance writer in my spare time. (I used to be a reporter), primarily focusing on crafty topics, ranging from artist interviews to hands-on tutorials.
I’ve been a crafter and DIY lover ever since I was little, coming from a very creative family. Shortly after graduating from college I helped create an independent craft fair, the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, presented by Handmade Detroit. It’s Michigan’s longest-running indie craft fair today, showcasing amazing makers from around our state and across the country. While that was going, I wrote for CRAFT magazine, the sister publication to MAKE, for several years and helped with the Maker Faire event series. I also had a monthly column in a local magazine dedicated to kid-friendly crafting.
I’ve had all sorts of amazing craft experiences over the years, but one of my favorite, to this day, is being a guest crafter on The Martha Stewart Show. I knew the producers of the show and let them know that my then-fiance and I were headed to New York City to see the show in its final season in 2012. It worked out that they needed a guest to craft right alongside Martha, so I found myself learning how to make upcycled paper bows on national television.
Today I’m the president of the Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild () and find myself immersed in the sewing and quilting world. It’s the best.
Where are you from? What is your community like?
I live just outside of Detroit, in a suburb called Royal Oak, in a house that’s almost 100 years old, with my husband and cat, Ronnie. The metro Detroit area is amazing; Detroit has been enjoying a lot of national attention over the years thanks to all of the exciting opportunities our city has to offer. By nature, people from this area are hard workers, incredibly friendly, willing to help someone out, and over-the-top creative thinkers.
You take a lot of classes and workshops. What are some of them and which did you enjoy the most?
I love to learn craft techniques from experts and teachers I admire. You can always learn something new! I haven’t met a craft class I haven’t loved – I try to take a DIY class as often as possible. In Detroit we have an amazing maker-fueled space called POST Detroit. They offer DIY workshops every week speaking to a huge variety of class disciplines. I really love anything related to textiles. Earlier this year I took classes from the workroom in Toronto and was in DIY heaven; they have some of the best sewing and quilting classes around.
What started your fascination with hexies? You have such a variety on your IG feed! What kinds of projects do you make with them?
I’m a newbie hexie maker and I love it! I like hand projects that I can take on the road with me; many of my guild members sew hexies during our meetings, so their colorful stashes always caught my eye. I love the work of Nicole Daksiewicz, so after admiring her patterns and products (how cute are her hexie pin cushions?!) for a while I tried my hand at her Hexie Pillow pattern – I was hooked immediately. They’re such a fun gift to make and give.
Can you share some tips for making hexies?
I like to have a hexie-making kit with me wherever I go, from taking lunch breaks at work to waiting for appointments to begin. I think having that quick kit is key. In my kit I keep a small pair of scissors, a small needle book with a pre-threaded needle (in case you have just 5-10 minutes to spare), clips for holding your fabric and paper form in place, ready-to-go 2.5” squares, a small lint roller (for precuts that shed), and a small pouch to hold completed hexies for the trip home. I keep everything inside a bag that can easily fit inside my purse.
Small gift boxes make for great project storage. I use an old glasses box to store a completed hexie set that I’m using in a project, separate from the rest of my hexie stash.
I just started making my own hexie paper shapes. I use a craft punch and recycle thicker papers to use. It’s a green option and helps keep expenses super low.
Besides hexagons, what other items do you like to make?
Bags! I wanted to become a more well-rounded sewist the past few years, so I started learning how to make bags in all shapes and sizes. Anna Graham (https://noodle-head.com/) makes the BEST bag patterns, so thanks to her designs and ideas, I think my sewing and pattern reading skills have improved so, so much.
Is there a season or holiday that you enjoy creating for the most?
Probably Christmas, as I tend to make a lot of the gifts I give. And I love to make handmade decorations.
Some of your photos on IG show you making things with kids. How can others encourage children to take part in making and creating?
I don’t have children, but I am a “Professional Aunt” and I love to create with my nephews and nieces – and they know that, too. Kids take their cues from the adults around them; if they see you making, chances are they might like to try it, too. While spending the afternoon at our house my niece asked me to sew a saddle for her stuffed animal pony because she knows I like to sew (and she’s only 4!), so we sat down and made it together. My favorite sewing tip for kids comes from Sandi Hazlewood (@CraftyPlanner); if you show a child how a standard sewing machine, and not a child-sized offering, works and how to be safe with it, you’re empowering them to respect such a big tool and feel confident using it. Look for sewing machines with the START/STOP button for young sewers in lieu of using your foot pedal to keep small hands safe. That’s how I taught my nephews how to use my machine.
When it comes to encouraging children to try their hands at making, I love to see what sparks their interests and go from there. My two oldest nephews are beyond creative and intelligent, so I love to take my cues from them and help bring their ideas to life. I helped my nephew design a shirt for a stuffed animal and we approached it as a design challenge: we sketched out the design, measured the animal, and worked together on piecing the top. I think as adults who craft, we can sometimes get caught up on doing things perfectly with kids projects. It’s ok if it’s not perfect, it’s just more important that you’re trying to inspire creativity and the ability to problem solve. Even if that means learning how to make glitter slime on Halloween…!
What craft or hobby did you do prior to sewing? Do you still continue?
I used to make and sell my own jewelry. I don’t make it that often these days, but I love to support DIY jewelry artists instead.
Which school class do you wish you’d paid more attention to?
Math. DEFINITELY math. I’m always wishing I could attend a “Math for Quilters” class as an adult!
What have you dreamed of doing but haven’t yet?
I don’t sew clothes for myself, so I’d like to change that. I just picked up the Wiksten Kimono jacket pattern (https://shopwiksten.com/products/womens-kimono-jacket-sewing-pattern-1 ) and would love to make that. I’d also love to attend an international destination sewing class one day, too.
Which OLFA tools do you reach for the most?
I have a handmade basket right next to my sewing machine with all of my rotary cutters in it. I’m reaching for them constantly! I also keep a smaller OLFA cutting mat right under my sewing machine table for quick block trimming while I’m working.
Besides OLFA, what are your go-to sewing and quilting tools?
Wonder Clips! Where would we be without those?! I also use some old slate examples from my grandfather’s pool supply company as pattern weights. They’re so useful.