DIY Trunk Show showcases the best of the Midwest

Chicago's holiday shopping season kicked off with a bang on Saturday, Nov. 19 with the DIY Trunk Show (, the city's largest Midwest-focused craft fair. Shoppers packed the Broadway Armory, the show's new Edgewater location, to stock up on everything from handmade holiday cards to stuffed monsters to one-of-a-kind pens.

Local crafters Amy Carleton and Cinnamon Cooper launched the show in 2003, and it's since been taken over by the Chicago Craft Mafia, an organization of local craft business owners.

Chicago Craft Mafia member Cinnamon Cooper

Left: Chicago Craft Mafia member Cinnamon Cooper of shows off her handmade purses and totes. Right: These pillows from Chicago Craft Mafia member Beth Cummings of Diffraction Fiber ( channel your inner geek.

According to Cooper, a current Mafia member, they hoped to find 32 crafters for the show's first year. As it turned out, that wasn't a problem, and this year, more than 100 handmade sellers from the Midwest set up shop for the day.

Unlike other craft fairs of its size, the DIY Trunk Show only accepts vendors who live within a seven-hour drive of Chicago, says Cooper, who sells handmade purses and totes through her company Poise (

Chicago Craft Mafia Richelle Albrecht of Girl Metro

Left: A shopper makes her letterpress card selections from Steel Petal Press ( Right: Chicago Craft Mafia Richelle Albrecht of Girl Metro says that each year she looks forward to seeing the unique items that midwestern crafters have brought to the show.

"We know this area of the Midwest has a lot to offer, and we're convinced that if people know the gal who made their scarf or the guy who made their wallet, they'll be more likely to go back to them for more goods," she says.

The Mafia is also committed to helping new crafters launch their businesses -- organizers reserve a percentage of spots in the show for vendors who are brand new to selling.

"We want to encourage the craft community, and it means that we're always bringing in fresh new talent in addition to our repeat vendors." says Mafia member Richelle Albrecht of Girl Metro (

Smiling plush hamburgers

Left: Smiling plush hamburgers fill a basket at Steff Bomb's booth  ( Right: Perpetual Relief ( offers handmade prints of subjects ranging from Ouija boards to Edgar Allan Poe.

Albrecht, who was new to crafting when she sold her handmade stationery and notecards in the first DIY Trunk Show, says the show is constantly evolving each year. "Each year, we continue to learn what works, what doesn't, and where we can improve by talking to shoppers, vendors, and the crafting community," she says.

Albrecht and Cooper agree that each year, vendors surprise them with the ingenuity of their crafts. This year's unique offerings ranged from lamps made from vintage household appliances to smiling plush hamburgers.

Lyn Hooley of Replica Chicago

Left: Lily Sky Designs ( puts a modern spin on traditional children's clothing and accessories. Right: Lyn Hooley of Replica Chicago ( models one of her eco-friendly screen-printed T-shirts.

"We have a vendor who happens to be a chemist and is selling a complete line of makeup, which kind of makes us feel all grown up," says Cooper, referring to handmade cosmetics vendor The Elixery ( "We're also thrilled by the really creative kids items we're getting this year. Kids' stuff has been fairly simple for years, but this year it has just really been amazing."

Albrecht's favorite part of the fair each year is the minute that the event begins. "I love taking a moment at about 10:05 on the day of the show to stop and look around the room," she says. "That's the moment that the shoppers are entering, the music's going, vendors are set up and smiling, ready for the day, and the air is full of promise. That moment alone is worth all the work we do."

Omni Mee of Entropyware

Left: Omni Mee of Entropyware ( wove this shawl from thousands of bronze rings. Right: Paul Snagel of WORKS!  ( creates lamps from vintage coffee urns, mixers, and "anything that will hold still long enough to drill a hole in it."

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