Help me be more crafty!
February 10, 2012 6:35 AM   Subscribe

What office supplies can I re-purpose to use for crafts?

There is an office supply store near me that's going out of business. I love office supplies, and I'm definitely looking forward to stocking up on basics that I'll need for school, etc.

I've been wanting to work on more crafts, and I find that if I already have most of what I need, I'm a lot more likely to start a project. I also am not that creative, so these aren't craft projects I'll be coming up with on my own. I made this as a present last year, and besides that it turned out so pretty, I loved the use of note cards.

So what supplies that I could likely find at an office supply store could end up having alternative, crafty uses?

Bonus questions: What crafts of this nature would you recommend to someone who wants to start being more crafty?
posted by a red so deep to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I trace pattern pieces on manila folders. They seem to be a lot more sturdy than the ones I've cut out of cardstock. I happened to have some extras and sort of stumbled on the discovery.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:00 AM on February 10, 2012

Tons of things, practically the whole store, can be used for crafts. But I think the best bang for your buck would be to stock up on tools. Stuff like good, sharp scissors, rulers, hole punches... Things that will be used over and over again, instead of materials that get used up. Also snag up as many different types of glue as please you because different kinds of adhesive are good for different purposes, and it's very annoying to have a project ruined by the wrong glue. Honestly, glue sticks are probably some of the most useful things out there. In the realm of paper, look for labels like "acid free" and "archival quality".

Less obvious things:
-Rubber bands come in handy for loads of stuff, including tie-dye or batik, keeping other supplies tidy, building up and securing parts of sculptures, holding things together while glue dries, and so-on.
-Brads, paper clips, and staples can all be used decoratively.
-Lots of pens are just as useful for drawing with as they are for writing with, and often they are much more expensive in an art supply store.
-Big rolls of brown paper are great not just for covering work surfaces but as a material itself for paper mache, collage, even as a drawing or painting surface, or crumpling and building up texture, or using as a brush to apply paint to something else.
-Don't discount normal organizational stuff like binders, folders, envelopes, or whatever else the store has on offer. Not only are they good for actually organizing your ever-growing craft supply horde, they are also important for the final touch if you're giving someone something. The right box or envelope can be the cherry on top, or even the inspiration for the project, like in your linked present.

Bonus question:
I guess I don't know what you mean by "more crafty", because for me it's just a state of always making things out of other things. It's not like you say "oh I make little people out of paper clips and rubber bands" you know, you just make one thing, and then you have some other stuff for another thing, and play around with that, and so-on.

But I guess something that you might like would maybe be making paper flowers? You can look up tutorials on youtube, and mostly it involves cutting paper, using little bits of tape, and curling paper, but the end result is very pleasing. You might also like paper mache, which can get pretty messy but is really satisfying when you have a 3-d object in your hands. More traditionally you could check out scrapbooking, which is ridiculously involved and a major money-suck these days, but tends to charm the socks off of people when you give things as gifts. You might also like making dioramas, something that might strike you as kind of grade-school but is actually really creative, because you basically make your own tiny little self-contained world. You can find lots of things in an office supply store that can be taken for different things when presented at a different scale.
posted by Mizu at 7:06 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Packs of pencils + pretty paper = Pretty pencils (and pens, for that matter)

Image Transfers from a variety of things

Repackage items cutely as gifts for friends


Ink pads are always great to have - for fingerprint art (you can take an idea from one medium to another), like from paint to ink for something dramatic.

Paper and lables for printable crafts is always great! (And a good printer, if you don't have one!) and inks, of course. This is is the next type of craft I'll be playing with, using those items.

Bonus answers: There are some great sites for inspiration, like craftgawker and the Crafty Crow, for starters. As aggregates, they link to a kajillion other sites.

The crafts I've linked to are simple, and can be done in a sitting or two. Eventually you'll find what you like to produce consistently, and can focus on that. For example, I love doing linocuts, but I go through making them in fits and spurts. I only sew once every couple of months, cramming everything in over a couple of days because I don't have my machine set-up permanently. I needle- and wool-felt all the time though, and am learning crochet, because they're relatively contained, amenable to sitting on the sofa, and easy to pick up and put down without inks drying and such. And my kid is showing a gift for three-dimensional paper sculpture and collage. So, try everything until you find your niche(s).

It helps to have a dedicated area, however small (even just a TV table that you can move out of the way) with things at hand (in a basket or box), so you don't have to run around looking for everything, or need clean it up before you're done because you need that space for day-to-day stuff. It's a huge benefit to me to be able to get at a craft the minute I'm inspired, and to be able get back to it if I'm interrupted, without having to backtrack. I just created an area of my daughter for this reason too, and her output has at least tripled. Have fun - I wish I could stock up on a few things myself!
posted by peagood at 7:12 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh! And after reading Mizu's answer, I'll second brown craft paper or any sort of paper on a roll. You can make your own wrapping paper, using fancy tapes or strings and stamps or paint to make it interesting.

Sometimes office supply stores have maps and other interesting paper - graph paper and such. Folding origami boxes is fun, and makes even the tiniest token or a cash gift more fun and personal.

Another good investment, besides all that Mizu mentioned, is that sometimes office supply stores have cutting mats, and I use ours often, especially for card making. Hole punches in a variety of sizes are also good as she says, and any exacto knives or blades, for turning old cards into gift tags.

And don't forget, Martha's people are masters at using simple things creatively.
posted by peagood at 7:20 AM on February 10, 2012

Monotape (rolly double-sided tape) is great for any type of paper crafts, and they usually have that at office stores.
posted by radioamy at 8:21 AM on February 10, 2012

Have a google for PHiZZ units, sonobe module and its variations, and then stock up on as much colourful square post-its as u can. I imagine office supplies might also sell oversized sheets of different paper stocks in which case have a google for origami tesselations. On the off chance they sell varieties of tissue like paper, try crumpling.

I also adore this.
posted by joannqy at 8:59 AM on February 10, 2012

Wrapped paper clip necklaces (like so) could be fun and easy. There's a tutorial here.
posted by sugarbomb at 11:04 AM on February 10, 2012

I'm back with two things I thought of when I was cleaning up some stuff - memo boards, thumbtacks and magnets!
posted by peagood at 11:51 AM on February 10, 2012

I recently learned that you can use Elmer's blue school glue to do easy batik.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 3:08 PM on February 10, 2012

What office supplies can you use for crafts? Pretty much everything! Paperclips can make chains, which can be hung in rows to make curtains or --- straightened --- they can be rebent to make sculptures or chainmail. Paper..... heck, what CAN'T you do with paper?!? Drawing, painting, origami, paper shades, pleated, made into holiday paper hats.... Combine erasers and/or rubber bands into your straightened-paperclip sculpture: picture a wire tree growing from a sturdy eraser base! Tape is great too, and can be made into 'sheets' (by laying a row of strips face up, then staggering another row facedown on the first) letting you can do all sorts of things: I once made a small sailboat out of nothing more than repeated layers of masking tape. Think of sticks of staples as tiny little tunnels or channels. Glue and paste, like tape, can be used to attach stuff or made into sheets. CDs make great mobiles.

I wish I had photos from a couple years ago, when I held a contest at work: everyone was allowed to use any office supplies we had available to create any kind of artwork they chose --- the winner was a GORGEOUS rearing horse, about 9-10 inches tall, make entirely from paperclips. Picture wire wrapped around and around itself, so the horse was 3D and solid.
posted by easily confused at 5:18 PM on February 10, 2012

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