A peek inside the craft barn

Cathe Holden calls her blog "Just Something I Made," a name that suggests something ordinary and easy, whipped up in her spare time.

Don't believe for a minute that it's that simple.

Holden is a master at concocting craft projects. It takes a certain mind to think of creating old-fashioned shelf edging out of book pages, wreaths from vintage recipe cards and magnetic refrigerator organizers out of old tins.

For instructions on a few of Cathe Holden's crafts, go here.

Like a master chef, she can pull together weirdly disparate ingredients and turn them into something clever, charming, useful and utterly unexpected and then devise a recipe — or instructions — that can be easily followed by home crafters.

"It might take two weeks to get an idea figured in my mind before I start buying supplies," she explains, likening a finished project to a well-mannered child. "People have no idea what you went through."

Her most fruitful time of day is the quiet of the early morning. Before arising she can lie in bed with a clear head and let the ideas flow.

The SC Johnson Company, manufacturer of household cleaning supplies, found Holden's popular blog and recruited her for their "Family Economics" blogging panel. Chronicle Books publishing company commissioned her to do a book, "Rosette Art," about the craft of folding paper and ribbons into decorative medallions. And Country Living Magazine invited her to be a contributing editor. Their April issue features her new "Inspired Barn," a fanciful space of long tables and thousands of found objects, materials and tools artfully arranged in antique cabinets and shelves. Here she holds crafts classes for people who want to reconnect with the old joy of making something with their own hands.

The 1,000-square-foot barn had been an outbuilding on her rural Petaluma property where husband Jeff, a battalion chief for the Petaluma Fire Department, stored his salmon fishing boat. When the motor blew, it created a perfect opportunity for Holden to move her budding crafts business out of the house and into a space big enough to contain the multitude of intriguing items she had collected over the years at flea markets, antique shops and the nearby Garbage Reincarnation Thrift Store at the county landfill.

"I hoard supplies whenever I can find them," she says. "And because I don't just stick to one type of craft, I don't have just one set of supplies. I have a lot of craft supplies. It was overwhelming the house and the family."

The giant room is ringed with cabinets with drawers and bins that once serviced mercantiles, hardware stores and watch repairmen. A bank of wooden cubbies where a hotel once kept room keys becomes the perfect place to store tiny treasures in a way that looks neat and charming and not cluttered. Vintage pressed-steel toy trucks haul materials, like a load of tomato pin cushions. A wire bin becomes a container for vintage wrapping and wall papers.

One trick to bringing order out of what could be visual chaos is to employ some uniformity, with similar sized and shaped jars or boxes or containers for particular items.

Although it all looks lavish, it represents years of collecting, thought and hard work.

Her association with Country Living gave her leverage to get corporate sponsors to help out with the remodel. Lowe's provided the paint and rugs. Pergo contributed the flooring. Overstock.com donated chairs and lamps.

The room is a case study in how home crafters can organize their materials.

"It's a lot more fun to look at your things if they're in an interesting container like a glass jar or a tin," she said. "Not everyone is into vintage. But you can even use cute little pots or dishes."

A former graphic designer with her own agency in Santa Rosa, Holden turned to home crafting after her children — all now teenagers — were born. At first she launched her own home business, "Homegrown Logos." But it wasn't until 2008 that she started blogging, just for fun.

"I had gotten onto the forums of Etsy and started poking around and realized, 'Wow, there's a whole lot of people who think the same way I think,' " she said.

She first conceived a blog that would feature designs that people could print out and put on fabric. But Holden's creative mind eventually started spinning out in multiple directions.

Craft classes, she believes, are much more than just an opportunity to teach a skill or technique. That's a tiny part of the whole experience.

"It's about shedding the daily work and getting together in a creative environment that isn't yours," she said, "and using glue and paper and other stuff and just creating something."

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5204.