Some craftspeople are born to work in one medium. They’re woodworkers through and through, or they’re potters, or jewelers, who spend their lives immersed in a singular pursuit of one particular creative passion. Others are like local artisan Cal Patch, who embraces a multitude of crafting disciplines within the fiber arts.
Patch sews, crochets, knits, embroiders, dyes fibers, prints on fabric and designs sewing and crochet patterns. She wrote a book, Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified, published by Potter Craft. And she teaches frequently, in local shops, online and at retreats around the country where crafters get together in scenic locations to make things under the guidance of experts. Patch also maintains an Etsy shop online where she sells what she makes: one-of-a-kind sewn garments of her own design, along with crocheted hats and accessories and patterns to make them.
That embrace of the eclectic is reflected in what Patch has aptly named her collective endeavors: “hodge podge farm,” deliberately rendered in lower-case letters. Her Etsy shop and website are found under that name; her clothing label is simply “hodge podge.”
Patch started her career as a clothing designer in New York City after studying fashion design at the University of Cincinnati in her native Ohio. But while she worked for some notable names and found success in that realm, Patch became increasingly disenchanted with the disposable nature of the corporate fashion world.
“I started to realize that the whole industry is about convincing people that they need to throw everything away,” she says. “People are told they need to buy new clothes, wear them for a few months, and then after that, they’re no longer valid.” That planned obsolescence creates a “vicious cycle,” Patch says, of poorly made garments that aren’t made to stand up to much wear, and of mistreatment and underpayment of the people in the factories overseas who have to make the clothing cheaply. Along with that, Patch says, she found that in designing for a big company, one doesn’t really get to handle fabric much, and she missed the hands-on aspects of making something herself.
So she left the corporate world in 1998 and opened her own shop, Patch 155, on the Lower East Side in New York City. She made each garment that she sold there: things of her own design that could never be mass-produced. But the women who came into her shop would tell her, she says, “‘I love what you make, but I can’t afford to buy it – I wish I could make it myself.’”
Patch began teaching women how to do just that, and found that she really enjoyed showing people how to make something themselves. After four years of shopkeeping, Patch closed the store to co-found MAKE workshop, one of the first indie craft schools. She taught there for five years, but came to a growing realization that her do-it-yourself lifestyle didn’t require living in expensive New York City.
After 18 years there, she packed up and moved to the Hudson Valley. She lives in Accord, where she keeps a vegetable garden along with a few chickens, and says that she could see herself getting a sheep or two or some goats in the future, in order to use their fibers to crochet with.