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McCoy: Artisan fair has unique gifts you can bank on

Shop locally. It’s a common phrase in small towns, not only to keep funds in the community, but also because the shopkeepers are part of it.

This is the 18th year for the Holiday Artisan Fair, set to feature approximately 50 local and regional artisans, and is the only fair seamstress Kacie Sawatzky showcases in. (This will be her 8th year participating).

“It’s fun because it sort of kicks off the holidays and holiday shopping,” she said.

“I love chatting with everyone when they stop by my booth.”

This year’s Holiday Artisan Fair is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Grand Park Recreation Center in Fraser, with visits from Santa Claus 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

When Sawatzky isn’t working hard at being a senior personal banker at Centennial in Fraser (or out on the slopes skiing or in the woods hunting), she’s usually home with her family, and her sewing machine.

She and her husband moved here in September 2008 from the heat of southwest Kansas. She needed a hobby “during the long, cold winters,” “besides skiing,” and knew how to hand embroider. Sawatzky loved coloring contests as a kid, and says that why she enjoys hand embroidery so much. “It’s like coloring with thread.”

She received a few orders from her very first Holiday Artisan Fair booth at Fraser Valley Elementary School, and the next year bought a new sewing machine that could more easily sew thicker materials.

Her first face warmers, paisley bandanas lined with black fleece, caught the eye of Ski Broker owner Paul Jones. He saw them and offered to sell them in his store.

Sawatzky bounces creative ideas off friend / ski patroller Riley, who said anything with the Colorado flag sells. That design, she said, has been her biggest seller in local stores and on Etsy.

Kacie also started hunting, “and that’s when I created the mossy oak camouflage face warmer,” lined with blaze orange or fluorescent pink fleece.

With new baby boy Parker (who’ll be one in December), the guest room does double duty as the Sunnyslope Designs sewing room. While on maternity leave, Parker would sleep while Kacie filled orders. Now that he’s mobile, they’ve been having fun with little art projects using those little feet of his: corn on the cob footprints for fall, and footprint deer.

The original metal letters from the sign that hung on her maternal grandpa’s Sunnyslope Farm barn in southwest Kansas adorn the modest-but-flexible workspace. The letters are the inspiration behind the name Sunnyslope Designs; her grandpa the inspiration behind her love of quilting.

“It has very special meaning to me,” Sawatzky said. Her grandpa passed away a few years ago and she remembers him teasing her “he wanted royalties for the name.” The room also contains her paternal grandma’s sewing desk, which Sawatzky purchased at their estate auction when she was little.

Sawatzky’s paternal grandma-in-law taught her how to embroider when Kacie was in college. After she graduated, she made her first quilt, hand embroidering 21 squares with a custom design she created. Then her grandpa helped her quilt it.

“We did another quilt together and those are probably my most treasured pieces now that he has passed,” she said.

While living in a ski resort town, Sawatzky realized a need for items to cover the face from the elements.

“It’s freezing some days when skiing up here,” she said. “You gotta keep your face and neck covered.”

She made a warmer out of a friend’s favorite t-shirt that didn’t fit anymore, and has since come up with several other designs, including many paying tribute to the Colorado flag.

“It’s fun to be able to wear one-of-a-kind designs that not everyone else has,” Sawatzky said. She delights in stories like the time she was in a lift line at Winter Park Resort and saw a guy wearing one of her warmers, one his girlfriend had purchased at a “local craft show” for Christmas.

One of her biggest local clients uses the face warmers in the medical field — as a bib she wears on a daily basis. “She easily has over 100,” Sawatzky said, “in every color, to match her outfits.”

Sawatzky has also been hard at work filling in an order for snowmobile touring company Grand Adventures — bringing in her sewing machine to Centennial Bank so she can create them on her lunch hours.

This year’s Holiday Artisan Fair is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Grand Park Recreation Center in Fraser, with visits from Santa Claus 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Crafts range from “ski art”, crochet, knit, quilted, sewn, embroidery and woolen items; fiber arts, wood carvings, botanical medicines and body care (including soaps and lotions), holiday decorations, and homemade cards, pottery, candles, candies, jewelry, wood crafts. There’s also a chance to support several non-profits, which are set to feature children’s art and homemade crafts.

It’s a “great way to shop ‘local’ for the holiday season,” said Fraser Valley Rec District Program and Marketing Manager Michelle Seville-Lawrence, “with something for everyone on your list.”