New York City

Explore: Get Crafty at Etsy Labs in Dumbo


Leave it to those Brooklyn hipsters to develop a 21st-Century version of the old-fashioned quilting bee. At Etsy Labs’  Hand-On workshops, cool kids come to learn creative crafting and share their passions for making stuff from scratch.

Etsy Labs is the Brooklyn-based headquarters of, an online marketplace where crafters sell their handmade jewelry, clothing, bowls, rugs and other artisanal goods. Etsy’s corporate culture, if you can call it that, is all about creating community online and off, so they offer workshops, demonstrations and free craft nights for people who want to work on creative projects. It’s all in the service of supporting this micro-economy and macro-community of crafters.

Hands-On Etsy occurs one evening per month in Brooklyn. The series is designed to broaden the range of materials and techniques you work with, so if you’ve been a lifelong knitter, for example, maybe you’ll learn felting. Materials are provided, and workshops are geared to the season, which is good news with the holidays coming up. And the design level of the projects is such that unless you’re totally ham-fisted, you should leave with something worth having—or giving.

At last month’s Hands-On, participants made articulated paper letterpress puppets using an actual letterpress. Before the Labs’ summer hiatus, someone from the Textile Arts taught natural dying. Next up, Leah Goren, an artist who sells her printed scarves, pouches and prints on Etsy, will be teaching a hands-on in block printing. You can see some of her designs by clicking here.

Letterpress Puppets, by animator and Etsy seller Norma Toraya.

A good mix of people in their early 20s to mid-50s shows up at the Etsy Labs, including a core group of regulars and a changing cast of drop-ins. The space in Dumbo is large and well-lit. People gather around five tables scattered around the room, each big enough for about 10 crafters. A bookshelf loaded with Bernina 350PE sewing machines stands in the corner. Stored in an ancient library card catalog file are X-Acto knives, embroidery floss and other supplies, all neatly labeled. Selections of trimmings, fabrics, paper and paints are available for use. Through the wall of windows, you can watch sunsets and subway trains rumbling across elevated tracks.

Besides the supplies and the learnings, for me the best thing about Etsy’s craft nights is the conversation. People trade everything from creative ideas to tips on buying shoes online. In addition to working on an art project while making new friends, I walked away with a great soup recipe.

The Lowdown

What Etsy Hands-On, a friendly craft and design workshop

Where Etsy Labs, 55 Washington St., Room 712

When Hands-On Etsy takes place monthly; afternoon and evening hours vary. The next Hands-On is Nov 29, 4-8pm. More details are still to come; click here to watch for online registration.

How much  Free, but an RSVP through Eventbrite is required.

Wheelchair accessible?  There is a large wheelchair ramp in front of the building, but be advised that Washington Street has a steep incline.

Senior Friendly? Very; although the crowd is mostly younger, participants are open to older adults.

Letterpress Puppets photo by crankbunny


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