A pair of mittens. A painting. A necklace. A quilt. Most of us own crafts that we treasure. Although they may not be perfect, we treasure them because they tell a story and are more meaningful than mass-produced goods.
The popularity of crafts is evidenced by the profusion of craft shows around the country, of specialty craft stores and of online communities dedicated to arts and crafts. Crafting is a great way to explore artistry, nurture friendships, and feel the pride of creating. And fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to develop a new craft talent.
Thanks to the internet, it’s really easy to join a craft community that offers tips, tutorials, and patterns. For instance, craft sites such as Ravelry, Craftsy, and Woolery have thousands of patterns and projects (some for free, others for a fee). They also have suggestions on where to buy materials, as well as message boards where you can post questions or search for classes in your area. You can also search for classes or informal craft groups on sites such as Meetup.com.
Although the internet is often the best place to start a crafts search, local craft classes are also plentiful. Local specialty craft stores also often have classes on a variety of craft topics, including knitting, spinning, quilting, beading, and crocheting.
Ideas for Crafts
Arts and crafts encompass hundreds of craft projects and media — just walk into any craft store and you’ll get a sense of the breadth of materials and projects. This article will give you an overview of just a handful of craft ideas. It will also explain what materials you’ll need and where to get them.
Paper is one of the most versatile and inexpensive craft mediums around. Furthermore, you don’t need a lot of specialized equipment or knowledge to create really cool paper craft projects!
Papercraft projects can include paper mache, origami, or even bookbinding. The following list is arranged in order of easiest to more complicated. The easier projects can be great rainy day options for kids. The more complex projects can evolve into side gigs for extra money.
Paper mache is super easy to do! Even better, the main materials you need are newspaper, flour, and water. If you want, you can use Elmer’s glue instead of flour. You’ll also need an object you can use for a mold, as well as decorating materials like paint, glitter, feathers, etc. I like to make masks, so I bought a styrofoam mannequin head to use as a mold. But people use cardboard, water bottles, and lots of other materials as molds depending on the shape they want.
You can also use Mod Podge or another clear shellac to preserve your paper mache creations. You can get that and Elmer’s glue and decorating materials at specialty or craft stores. This site has some great ideas for paper mache projects for kids.
Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. It’s great for beginners and kids, but also challenging enough for advanced paper folders. The only material you need is origami paper, which you can get any craft store.
Origami items range from the simple:
To the complex:
This is one of the more complex paper crafts and requires more materials than most others. However, it is extremely rewarding because you can use what you make every day! Specialized materials you’ll need include waxed hemp thread, a tapestry needle, and an awl. The easiest book to bind is called a pamphlet book.
If you want to make a hardcover notebook with more pages, you’ll need some more specialized materials that you can find at Blick art stores or other craft stores. These materials include matte board for the front, back, and spine; book cloth for the covers and spine, and a mesh material called “super” to keep the signatures (groups of pages) together.
There are lots of great YouTube videos of bookbinding, a series by Sea Lemon that emphasizes using materials you have around the house.
Wool crafts projects have made a serious comeback. This may be partly because they’re pretty portable, and also because they make things you can use every day. The most popular wool projects include knitting, spinning and felting and roving. Materials are pretty simple but can get expensive, especially if you’re using high-quality wool. Specialty knitting or wool stores are great sources for materials, but almost any craft store will carry the basics for knitting, crocheting, felting, and roving.
Knitting is actually pretty simple once you get the hang of the basics. For the simplest projects, like a scarf, all you’ll need is a pair of needles and some wool.
The amount of wool (“skeins”) you need depends on the length of the scarf. For instance, instructions may say two skeins for a shorter scarf and four skeins for a longer scarf. Because knitting is so popular, there are literally thousands of videos on YouTube and explanations online for all types of projects. Ravelry is a knitting and crocheting community that is a fantastic source of information and ideas.
Spinning is one of the oldest crafts in the world. There are clay and bone spindles from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
There are lots of different types of spindles. Some spindles are weighted at the top, middle or bottom of the rod by a whorl (a disc). Some don’t have a whorl and just shape the rod with added thickness. And then there are supported spindles. These spin on a surface, usually a bowl, and are meant for spinning extremely fine threads that wouldn’t support the weight of a drop spindle.
You can also spin on a wheel, but wheels are expensive, and that’s typically something expert spinners choose to invest in.
Woolery is a great resource for all crafts wool-related. You’ll probably need to go to a specialty knitting/wool store to find wool roving (wool that hasn’t been spun into yarn). Additionally, Amazon is a great resource for wool roving.
Felting is also a pretty portable and popular craft, depending on what you want to achieve. For instance, needle felting is a way to create animals, flowers or balls out of wool without sewing or gluing. As YouTube user, Maqaroon explains,“You use a felting needle poke a ball of fibres with a felting needle until it forms a desired shape. Different pieces or colours can be attached to each other using frayed fibres.”
Needle felt supplies are pretty affordable and can be found at major craft chains or on Etsy or Amazon.
Another felting craft is making felt cloth. You take knitted articles and agitate them in hot water, either by hand or on the heavy cycle in a washing machine, so that the fibers start to adhere to each other.
Here’s a good explanation of felting a knitted item with step-by-step instructions. Just remember that whatever you felt will shrink in the hot water!
Although roving is basically just an unspun strand of wool fiber, it has other uses beyond spinning. You can use it for needle felting or wet felting. You can also make beautiful woven tapestries with roving.
I’ve done a number of sewing craft projects without a sewing machine. However, if you want more professional-looking end results or are doing a big project (like a quilt), you really need a sewing machine. You can get decent ones at craft stores or general stores like Target. You’ll probably want to avoid handheld sewing machines, as they tend to be cheap and don’t work well. Sewing, like knitting and crocheting, can be pretty portable depending on what you’re making.
Embroidery is one of the more portable sewing crafts. Materials are also pretty simple: embroidery thread, needle, and cloth. You can get all of these at craft stores or online. An embroidery hoop is also often a good investment. They aren’t expensive and hold the cloth taut and stationary while you embroider.
Crewel embroidery, or Crewelwork, is another type of embroidery. A wide variety of different embroidery stitches are used to follow a design outline applied to the fabric. You can buy crewel kits online.
Lastly, needle punching, or punch needle crafts, is a type of needle art that uses special needles to loop fabric and yarn through patterns and designs. Many craft stores carry punch needle kits.
Quilting is a craft that has a lot of meaning for many practitioners. For instance, a lot of people pick fabrics with sentimental value. In addition, quilts were traditionally an important part of a woman’s dowry.
The only downside is that quilting requires a lot of materials compared to other crafts. Also, much of the process needs a lot of space to lay out squares and patterns.
Miscellaneous Crafting Materials
You can make craft projects out of basically any material. These are just a couple of ideas.
Beading is yet another portable craft. Depending on the types of beads you use, it can also be a very expensive craft. That said, it’s also a versatile craft. You can make necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and all manner of crafts. Materials are readily available at most craft stores, and in major urban areas, there are often specialty bead stores.
This is a great craft activity if you live near a beach because you can get the main material for free! If you don’t live near a beach, you can buy sea glass on sites like Etsy and eBay and Amazon. Sea glass mobiles are beautiful, as is sea glass jewelry.
This is a more esoteric craft, but really fun and great for making Christmas ornaments or for decorating around Easter. It requires some specialized equipment, such as beeswax, dye, and a kistka, or wax writing stylus, which you can get on Etsy or Amazon or at many major craft stores.
You begin by blowing the yolks out of eggs by making two little holes on each end of the egg with a tapestry needle, so you’re left with hollow, intact eggshells. Then, you melt some beeswax in the stylus and draw patterns on the egg with the wax. Next, you dip the waxed egg into dye. When it’s dry, you hold the egg near a candle and wipe off the wax as it melts, leaving beautiful white designs on the dyed egg. Just be careful not to hold the egg over the candle or it will get sooty.
There are hundreds of craft shows all across the U.S. These range from high-end exhibitions of professional crafts (West Coast Craft, for instance) to more amateur events (such as county fairs). For true craft connoisseurs, the annual Smithsonian Arts and Crafts Show is one of the biggest shows with one of the most impressive collections.
Crafts Are Awesome
Arts and crafts are rewarding, fun and easy to learn. It’s easy to start crafting, and most crafts do not require significant materials to make great projects. There are plenty of resources online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Furthermore, online communities are full of people who are eager to share their knowledge and passion. Anyone can craft. So take time to make something!