Charlie gave me an iPod for my birthday six years ago and I cried when I opened it. “I don’t have time for this! Why would you think I would ever be able to listen to something on headphones when I’m home taking care of little kids?” I rolled my eyes, crossed my arms, and frowned. In a rather ungrateful move I tried to give it back to him.
Not my finest moment.
He made me keep it and, begrudgingly, I downloaded a podcast for the first time. The baby was sleeping and I was sitting at my desk stuffing a jointed horse. Stuffing and closing openings is a pretty tedious task and usually I’d get sick of it and walk away after ten minutes. With the podcast on I worked for a full 45 minutes and by the time I got up, the horse was done.
Listening to podcasts has become hugely important to my daily productivity. I’ll happily wash a sink full of dishes, fold and put away piles of laundry, or run three miles if someone is telling a compelling story to me through my headphones. I work in the studio longer, too. Listening to great audio builds my stamina so that instead of coming downstairs for a snack after a half hour I will cut and pin, sew and press, stuff and embroider for hours without tiring.
Podcasting is still in its youth and there are new shows popping up all the time. Finding out about them is kind of a random experience – a tweet, a mention in a newspaper article, a link that leads to another link. And they’re not all great.
I’m a habitual trier of podcasts. I wrote a post a few months ago with my top 20 shows. Check it out if you haven’t already, and be sure to read the comments for more great recommendations.
Here are 10 more terrific podcasts to listen to while you’re crafting. Three cheers for great audio!
1. Answer Me This – Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann are two very witty, intelligent people who record this long-running show in a living room in the London suburb of Crystal Palace. Listeners submit questions ranging from how to manage an awkward relationship to etymology. The pacing is perfect, the banter uplifting, and the accents are fantastic. Always a fun half hour.
2. Short Cuts from BBC Radio 4 – Wonderful short documentaries of all kinds. Host Josie Long is witty and empathetic. There’s some Radio Lab-style sound art mixed in with totally engaging true stories told by real people. Sadly, I’ve already listened to them all. Please make more, okay?
3. 360 Documentaries – One of the best things about the internet is that I can listen to Australian radio shows while I jog around Wellesley, Massachusetts. Again documentaries, but this show mixes things together around a theme, like cookbooks. The theme pulls thing along, but all kinds of bits and pieces of stories come together to make the final whole. Fascinating.
4. State of the Re:Union – I love this show. The episodes are close to an hour and each one focuses on a particular American town or city, exploring how the people who live there create community and overcome challenges. I spent two years living in the Mississippi Delta, one of the most isolated parts of America, after living in suburban and urban Maryland my whole life. That experience left me with many things, but one of them is a fascination with what makes a region unique. Host Al Letson entered, and won, the Public Radio Talent Quest with the concept for this show. High five, public radio!
5. Snap Judgement – Glynn Washington also won the Public Radio Talent Quest (and I’ll note that both of these winning hosts are African American, fairly unusual for public radio). Glynn is a wonderful storyteller in his own right, and hilarious to boot (I love how he does the credits). Again, documentaries. The story Cat Got Your Tongue in episode 412 is one of the best audio stories I’ve ever heard.
6. Fiber Hooligans – I don’t knit. Or crochet. No yarn, unless I’m making a pompom. But I’m a designer and I love to hear from other designers. How did they get their first magazine project? How do they come up with new patterns? What goes on at those yarn conferences and trade shows? This show is hosted by Benjamin Levisay, the CEO of XRX Inc., home of Knitter’s Magazine and XRX Books, and the Stitches expos. Each episode he interviews a rock star in the fiber arts world. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Franklin Habit. Next up? Susan B. Anderson, knitted toy designer. Excellent.
7. The Memory Palace – Public radio producer Nate DiMeo tells an unusual story from American history in just five minutes. Touching, eye-opening, sometimes amazing. Like little gems. The Memory Palace is now part of the Maximum Fun network of podcasts, the empire of my radio hero, Jesse Thorn. Some day I’ll meet that guy.
8. PRX Remix – Okay, this one isn’t a podcast. It’s a radio channel. You download the app for free and then listen to a never ending curated mix of amazing shows. This is the best work from hundreds of indie radio producers from Public Radio International and beyond. Current curator is Roman Mars of 99% Invisible so you know it’s gonna be great.
9. The Good Life Project – A blog reader just turned me on to this show last week and I’m working my way through. This show is a web TV show, but the audio is also a podcast feed. Guess what? You can watch and listen to host Jonathan Fields chat with Jonah Berger talk about Contagious, and Lisa Condgon, and Seth Godin, and Chris Guillebeau who wrote The $100 Start Up. I know. AMAZING.
10. American Patchwork and Quilting Radio – I’m not a quilter, but as I said in #6 I’m a designer and I like to hear designers tell their stories. This show is hosted by well-known surface designer and quilter, Pat Sloan, and she talks with all the rising stars and big names in the industry. Annabel Wrigley, Jeni Baker, Alexia Abegg, Amy and David Butler, Tula Pink, Riley Blake, Denyse Schmidt, Valori Wells… you get the picture. If you’re curious about these people here’s your chance to hear their stories in their own voices.
Go get a project and settle in for some excellent audio. And again, please leave your show recommendations in the comments.
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There’s a new-to-me garment sewing podcast called Thread Cult. While it’s not all relevant to other sewing, there are episodes about types of fabric that are really interesting and informative.
Wow, I totally relate to you on this…I find myself taking a break from my mundane tasks about every 10-15 minutes and inevitably find myself walking to the fridge to look for a snack! haha. Can’t wait to try out podcasts as a way to keep my mind busy while I get stuff done around the house. Thanks for the recommendations!
And if you like audiobooks, check out CraftLit. Heather Ordover is a knitter and a designer and a former English teacher. She talks a bit about what’s going on in the craft world (she’s interviewed Franklin Habit and the Eucalan company) and then gets into book talk. She doesn’t talk about books, she ‘teaches to the joke’ and helps untangle classic literature. It’s like audio Cliffs Notes followed by a terrific reader. Each episode is a chapter or two from the book she’s covering. So it’s an audiobook but parceled out so you can listen at your leisure and know just *what* Lewis Carroll’s talking about in “Alice in Wonderland”.
And if you don’t want the craft talk, there’s the sister feed, Just the Books which is all of the book talk and none of the craft. The website is craftlit.com and it’s my favorite podcast ever.
Abby Glassenberg says
Thank you so much! Just listened to three episodes. I’m hooked!
Abby Glassenberg says
Oh, this sounds terrific!
Abby Glassenberg says
Happy listening, Stephanie!
Thanks for another list. While I don’t have much time to spend online these days I do love listening while I work. I am just like you in loving to listen while getting mundane tasks done.
If you don’t know about it already check out the Desert Island Discs Podcast from BBC Radio Four. It’s the most fantastic interview program where guests choose music that is significant to them and you hear about their lives in the process. The guests are famous and from all walks of life from scientists to entertainers, but not “celebrities”. It’s also one of the longest running radio programmes of all times. I’d love to give you some of my favourites but honestly, I love them all! A couple that stick out in my mind are author, Andrea Levy and hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, which gives you some idea of the variety; they aren’t two that I would have chosen to download if given a list but both were fascinating.
And don’t forget about “Craftcast” from Allison Lee!! Informative and inspirational across many artisanal disciplines.