If you're a fan of Bravo TV shows, it's likely you know the name Craig Conover. But what you may not realize is that the Southern Charm reality star has rediscovered his passion for sewing in a big way, launching his own Sewing Down South business and sharing his love of the craft through pillows, totes, T-shirts and hats.
While the catchphrases on Craig's home goods suit his punchy personality, this southern gent wants you to know he's more than serious about his dedication to sewing. Whether he's encouraging more men to get behind the machine, giving back through the philanthropy arm of his business (he turns pillow scraps into blankets for homeless shelters), or hosting super fun pillow parties across the country, Craig has embraced the sewing community in full-force. We chatted with the star to learn more about how he got hooked on the craft, and what project he recommends first-timers take on, stat.
How did you get into sewing? What do you love about it?
I started sewing when I was in eighth grade, in my home economics class. Part of the year was dedicated to developing cooking skills, and the other section was an introduction to basic sewing skills . That's why I think it's so important to keep arts in school — otherwise I probably wouldn't have ever been introduced to sewing.
As I’ve grown, I’ve been able to recognize that my personality thrives when it’s able to craft and create. Whether through sewing, gardening or building in a workshop , for me it’s all about the process and the satisfaction of creating something tangible.
What's it like being a male sewer in an industry that's saturated with women?
I’ve developed some tough skin over the years. Growing up, I had to self-validate because of being bullied, so I’ve always tried to not really let what other people think affect me. These days though, I honestly think it’s been an advantage, and I'm seeing other people embrace sewing and what I’m doing. That's super rewarding. So what if I’m the only guy sewing — my mom loves me even more for it!
How would you encourage more males to start sewing? What's a smart first-timer project someone could try?
Actually, a pillow was the first thing I ever made. I think it’s a great place to start and after you try it once or twice, you’ll be hooked. The cost of entry isn’t that high, and it’s easy to access the materials and tools needed . I bought my first machine off of Amazon!
What is your favorite part of creating a new project?
When I turn a pillow right side out for the first time, even if its not entirely complete, and seeing what it’s going to become. That's when I get the biggest amount of satisfaction.
You have a lot of fun catchphrases on your products , like "What's Wrong With My Sewing?" and "On Sundays We Sew." How do you come up with them?
Honestly, at the end of the day it’s about making other people laugh and having fun with it. I’ll sit down with a pad and paper and think through things we’ve said on Southern Charm, or try to come up with funny takes on sewing lingo . You could also think about pop culture, current events, or even inside jokes with your group of friends to come up with them. For me, I just like to think that someone who is wearing a shirt or hat of ours is going to smile every time they put it on. It's been a really fun process.
What tips do you have for people who want to experiment with sewing but don't have a ton of time to practice?
That’s the joy of activities like sewing — you can do it in your spare time, or whenever you get a free moment. Once you start a project, it’s comforting to know that it’s not going anywhere, and you can always continue to add to it each and every day. It’s important to keep in mind that no one is judging you or your ability; there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Trust in yourself and enjoy the process.
You raised $20,000 for those affected by Hurricane Dorian, donating all the proceeds from your Bahamian Pillow to disaster relief. What motivated you to do so?
The time I spent in the Abaco Islands (in the northern Bahamas) really changed my life and brought me out of a dark hole when I couldn’t figure out where to go next. It transitioned my direction into a more positive light, fueled my creativity and gave me a path to get to where I am today. If it wasn't for the community there, who knows where I'd be today. So I'm going to do whatever I can to help and give back to those people who essentially became my family. They were there for me when I needed someone, so I'm certainly going to be there for them.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos courtesy of NBC and Bravo