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Young indie vendors sell handmade crafts at show

When Julie Meredith dyes her handmade hats, she swears by Kool-Aid.

Meredith, 29, dyes wool yarn in a solution of unsweetened Kool-Aid powder and boiling water. She then creates solid and striped hats from a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. Her work will be for sale at today's Handmade Arcade, an indie crafts show at Construction Junction in Point Breeze.

"I just start knitting the hat and then figure out what it's going to look like as it goes on," says Meredith, of Lawrenceville. "I knit compulsively -- in bars, coffeeshops -- you name it, I knit."

Meredith's knitted and sewed products -- which also include scarves, and vinyl wallets and bags -- will join the work of nearly 40 other crafters who specialize in quirkiness at the inaugural show. The mostly 20-something crafters will showcase one-of-a-kind products to visitors, who also can enjoy a DJ for entertainment and a raffle as they browse.

Items for sale include plastic canvas cross-stich decorations, collages with pictures from vintage magazines, dolls shaped like doughnuts, and mittens with an extra finger that has a flap, so that hands can easily poke buttons.

"A lot of them are traditional types of crafts, like knitting and scrapbooking, but they're done in kind of a different way," says crafter Elizabeth Clare Prince, 29, of Oakland.

Prince is a spokeswoman for Cool Hand Crafts, a group of about half a dozen Pittsburgh-area young artists who are promoting avant-garde art and sponsoring Handmade Arcade.

"I think the appeal is that it gives people a different aesthetic," says Prince, who makes decoupage crafts with paper. "If you're not as interested in traditional crafts, you still have this outlet. "

A subculture of enthusiasts for the type of art sold at Handmade Arcade has sprung up in Pittsburgh, but fans need to become more organized and active, Prince says. Support is evident from the Cool Hand Crafts members, and from the Sprout Fund Seed Award program, which provided the group with an almost $6,000 grant to fund Handmade Arcade. The Sprout Fund supports innovative ideas of young people throughout the Pittsburgh area.

"There are more and more people who are coming to appreciate things that aren't mass produced: things that are a little whimsy or have a sense of humor," Meredith says.

Sue Eggen, a crafter who moved to Bloomfield from Portland, Ore., in July, says enthusiasm for quirky creations is more widespread in her old home than it is in Pittsburgh. But that can and should change, she says, and Handmade Arcade can help.

"I think that Pittsburgh is definitely in need of a face-lift, as far as the young community getting together and showing Pittsburgh what they can actually make," says Eggen, 28, who makes vintage hats and leg warmers out of recycled sweaters. "I think that ... there could be a strong community for do-it-yourself, handmade arts and crafts."

Additional Information:

Details

Handmade Arcade

When : Noon to 9 p.m. today

Admission : Free. Bring a good supply of cash for purchases: vendors do not take credit cards, and only a few take personal checks.

Where : Construction Junction, 214 N. Lexington St., Point Breeze

Details : (412) 621-4390 or www.handmadearcade.com

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