I love sewing, but there are stages in every project that can be tedious. Stuffing a softie, for example, or pressing seams open. When faced
with these tasks it’s easy to make an excuse to set the project aside and go get a snack, or check Facebook, or really do anything but finish the annoying parts
of the project.
This is when I put on my headphones and listen to something interesting. Podcasts get me through many repetitive sewing tasks. In fact I look forward to these tasks now knowing that I’ve got something fascinating to listen to.
I also run 3 miles a day and I couldn’t do it without podcasts. I’m not a natural athlete and exercise has never been my favorite activity, but I’m convinced great audio can get me through anything!
Here are 20 of my favorite podcasts, as well as some notes on other places to find engaging audio recordings online.
Bullseye– This show is a curated guide to culture. Formerly The Sound of Young America, this show began as host Jesse Thorn’s college radio show. It’s now been picked up by NPR. Jesse is an incredible interviewer and through this show I’ve learned about countless awesome things that I never would have found on my own. I’ve listened to every singe episode Jesse has ever made. Yep.
After the Jump– Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge conducts fantastic interviews with all the indie designers and makers you want to hear from. I find myself cheering and smiling with every episode. This podcast is amazing. Go get it.
99% Invisible– Roman Mars sees the beauty in design everywhere he looks. This beautifully produced podcast explores architecture, design, and public spaces in ways you’ve never thought of. Lovely from start to finish.
Here’s the Thing– This is a WNYC show hosted by Alec Baldwin. I know nothing about Hollywood actors, but I now love Alec Baldwin. He’s incredibly smart and well-read. Alec talks to artists, singers, actors, comedians, and public policy makers. He has a terrific interview style and an insider’s perspective that is unmatched anywhere else. I love that he reads the commercials on the show, too.
The Moth– True stories told live without notes. This is like listening to the really good parts of This American Life without the twee.
Yarn Thing– I don’t knit or crochet, but I love Yarn Thing. Marly Bird is an upbeat and down-to-earth podcast host and I enjoy hearing the stories of designers even if they aren’t in my field. I particularly liked the recent show with the founders of Craftsy.
Risk!– True stories you never thought you’d dare to share. Risk! is definitely not for young ears. It can be raunchy at times, but it’s also very real. It’s like The Moth and This American Life, but wild.
Makers in Business– Liz Smith has a community television show in Lowell, MA, in which she interviews makers about commerce and creativity. This is the audio feed of her show. Liz has a very supportive and encouraging interview style and you get to hear the stories of creative people that live and work near her. The show just turned a year old!
Good Food– KCRW in Los Angeles creates this show. I love food and cooking and I learn a ton about unusual ingredients and how to use them from this show’s host, Evan Keliman. Plus I drool over all the awesome restaurants in L.A. This is like The Splendid Table without the annoying parts.
The New Yorker Out Loud– A weekly conversation about what’s in the New Yorker. Much to my mother’s dismay (she’s a lifetime New Yorker devotee) I don’t have time to actually read the New Yorker. I love hearing from the reporters how they approached their stories. Look mom! I’m kinda listening to the New Yorker!
The New Yorker Fiction– The New Yorker fiction editor, Deborah Treisman (who has the greatest voice and sounds like one of my college professors), asks an author to choose a favorite fiction story from past issues of the magazine to read and discuss. Get lost in terrific fiction.
The Tobolowsky Files– Actor Stephen Tobolowsky is a fantastic storyteller. He recounts stories from his life that are profound, moving, and hilarious. Stephen has had smallish parts in one million movies and he’s got great stories to tell. Sadly I’ve listened to every episode. I need more!
BBC Radio 4 Bookclub– Want to hear J. K. Rowling? Or Art Spiegelman? Or Jeanette Winterson? Or any of your favorite authors talking with a super well-educated British audience about their books? This is the podcast for you. And there are thousands of episodes.
Gweek– Gweek is made by the editors of Boing Boing and hosted by the awesome Mark Frauenfelder. Learn about the best in new and obscure comic books, video games, movies and science fiction. This show is totally quirky and real and I love everything about it.
BackStory-Created by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, BackStory is hosted by three historians who examine a particular topic in American history in each episode. I was a history major in college so there you go.
Aloud at the Los Angeles Central Library– Live recordings of author readings at the library. New books you haven’t heard of. Favorite authors you’d like to hear more from. Here you go.
Free Library of Philadelphia– Live recordings of author readings at the library. Same as above, just on the East Coast.
The Seattle Public Library– Can you tell I like hearing from authors? Yep. Everyone’s creative process is fascinating to me.
Blogcast FM– A podcast about blogging. The host, Srinivas Rao, annoys the crap out of me, but there are some useful interviews here.
Radiolab– Another WNYC production, Radiolab is a beautiful, creative, informative show about the intersection between science and culture. Incredible work with sound. Always informative and entertaining.
I have a subscription to audible.com. I think it’s reasonably priced and the readers and production quality are top notch. I get books for myself and for the kids. We listen to audiobooks in the car wherever we go. We enjoyed The One and Only Ivan recently and I loved listening to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
You can get audio recordings of books that are in the public domain on Librivox. The books are read by volunteers so the quality is not consistent, but I’ve enjoyed some great books for free this way. I loved listening to Silas Marner and Frankenstein.
And, of course, I’ve recorded quite a few interviews with softie makers and experts on creative business practices. You can find my
Do you enjoy listening to any of the podcasts I’ve listed here? Have any other favorites? Please share in the comments. Great audio is key to great crafting, at least in my opinion!