Crafter Thought

So I'd like to know where you got the notion

Just when you think you've seen everything Phoenix has to offer, someone drives you down to the warehouse district and walks you through a towering maze of boxes stuffed with papier-mâché teapots, tiny plastic feet, and soaring stacks of grosgrain. And there, deep in the swamp-cooled bowels of Diane Ribbon and Notions, something in you -- something you've been trying to repress, or maybe that you didn't even know you had in you -- begins to stir. Your inner crafter is awakening and, like some scary movie monster, is about to burst into being and overtake your life. Soon, you'll be buying sacks of bugle beads and "Sad Hobo" heads and something called Mod Podge, and from way in the background, perhaps behind a big box of glitter paint, will come the sound of Diane Rust's knowing laughter.

Rust, for whom Diane Ribbon and Notions is named, likes to say she's been in the crafting business since before she was in the crafting business. Her parents founded the wholesale notions company in the mid-1940s, and Diane herself opened the company to the public a few years ago, "because we want people to be able to get their notions at a good price." Rust isn't much of a crafter herself, but she's not above talking the occasional newspaper reporter into making a big plastic Fourth of July wreath while she tells him all about sequins and decoupage and the lost art of safety-pin jewelry.

New Times: Here's something I've always wondered: What's a notion?

Mod Podge lodge: Diane Rust in the bowels of her warehouse.
Emily Piraino
Mod Podge lodge: Diane Rust in the bowels of her warehouse.

Rust: It's just a big word for buttons, zippers, bias tape -- all kinds of doodads to help in sewing.

NT: Couldn't you just say "buttons, zippers, bias tape"?

Rust: Yeah, but I think most people know what notions are. They're what made us a success. In the early '60s, there was the squaw dress craze. Everybody had a squaw dress. I had three. We sold the metallic rickrack you needed to make these dresses.

NT: Rickrack.

Rust: It's like a kind of braid. Rickrack. It's what made my parents into successful businesspeople. Squaw dresses and rickrack were the foundation of our company.

NT: But you couldn't call them squaw dresses today.

Rust: Right. Back then, you didn't get in trouble for saying that. But then we evolved into the crafts business from the notions business in the late '60s because of safety-pin jewelry.

NT: Ah, yes. Safety-pin jewelry.

Rust: Have you ever seen it?

NT: No. But I'm guessing it's jewelry made from safety pins.

Rust: Yes. Pins and pendants and squash blossoms made from turquoise beads and pins. And we had the pins, because we sold sewing notions. And [our customers] said, "Well, if you carry the pins, why not carry the beads?" So we did, and it got very hot. Then another great thing happened: macramé!

NT: Macramé owls!

Rust: Owls and pot slings! We used to sell truckloads of jute. Truckloads!

NT: But where are those macramé owls today? Where are all those squash blossoms made from safety pins?

Rust: They're probably in people's attics. Although there might be people who still like the look of a safety-pin squash blossom. If a craft hits and the demand is there, it can live forever.

NT: What's up with the name of your store? Shouldn't it be Diane's Ribbons and Notions?

Rust: You mean, like several Dianes?

NT: No. Like a possessive and a plural. But it's Diane Ribbon and Notions. Why? Why is it only one ribbon? Why doesn't the ribbon belong to Diane?

Rust: They wanted to name the company after me. I'm only one Diane.

NT: And your father wasn't a grammarian.

Rust: No. Now, where was I? Oh, okay. So before all the Michaels and the Jo-Anns --

NT: These are employees of yours?

Rust: What? No. They're craft stores.

NT: Oh. Sorry.

Rust: Well, back before Michaels and Jo-Ann, there was the Cabbage Patch craze. There weren't enough of those dolls to go around, and so people started making their own. And we started selling Cabbage Patch heads. And iron-on eyes. It was good times! We were selling cross-stitch, puff paint. That was very hot. We rode all those different crafting trends. Now it's somewhat lost because a lot of the bigger stores have teens working there, and they just don't really care about crafting.

NT: Maybe they know something we don't.

Rust: No. Crafting has a lot of competition. Let's face it. There's the Internet, there's people working full-time, the importers are bringing in ready-made crafts. When I started, you couldn't go buy a wreath already made. Now you can go into Target and they've got them, and they're already decorated. Here, I'm going to show you how to make a wreath out of punchinella.

NT: Is that a drag queen?

Rust: No! It's the ribbon that they stamp sequins out of. It's a by-product. We sell a lot of punchinella, and it's very popular to make it into wreaths. Now, take this Styrofoam stem --

NT: It looks like a pipe cleaner.

Rust: Well, right. But they call them stems in the craft world.

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Darlene Rappuhn
Darlene Rappuhn

I am trying to locate a pattern for a Squash Blossom necklace made out of small safety pins and beads. A lady at my church was wearing one and I was unable to get her name due to the Homecoming festivities. I saw a comment on this site about them, however, I am not very savvy finding info online. Could you please help me? thank you