What craft supplies do you keep on hand regularly?
August 30, 2013 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a list of any and all "standard" craft supplies that you keep around. What are some great things to have on hand in case you want to make someone a gift?

My best friend's birthday is next week. She doesn't have a lot of money and often makes gifts for people. She's struggled in the past with just being able to afford the supplies to make the gifts. I want to take $25-$30 into Michael/Joann's and make up a "basic craft supplies kit" for her. I think she'll love this, especially with Christmas looming. It would let her use what money she does have to buy the project supplies of the gifts she might make.

I already have a nice Sterilite box to put the crafts in , but I was hoping mefi could give me some ideas of what to put in it!

For what it's worth, she's in her 30's and would be making gifts that range from teenagers to the elderly. She doesn't know how to knit or crochet (Tried to teach her). If she has any sewing skills, I'm not aware of them. She is an artist with a focus on cartoons and traditional media like watercolors. I want to buy her crafting supplies though, not art supplies.
posted by royalsong to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Hot glue gun, sharp scissors, sharpies in a variety of colors, heavy white or ivory paper or cardstock.
posted by Night_owl at 6:15 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Supplies for marble magnets -- flat marbles, glue, and strong magnets. They make great gifts!

Maybe some craft paint, clear glass ornaments, and glitter as well. Everyone needs glitter.
posted by Ostara at 6:21 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a couple boxes of these things. I like making my own cards, and those blanks are really nice. They're sturdy and thick enough to stand up to sharpies (which I use) and obviously watercolors, which would be great for your friend.

I keep about a bazillion craft supplies on hand regularly because I've flitted from hobby to hobby my whole life and CAN'T. STOP. ACQUIRING. It's tough to guess what things your friend enjoys making without a little more detail, but as a can't-knit-can't-sew person myself, here's what I generally have on hand:
    Fabric paint (Jacquard), freezer paper (to make my own iron on stencils), a stenciling brush, and nice quality blank white shirts in a variety of sizes (including baby onesies), along with primary colors of Rit dye so I can dye the shirt to whatever color I want.
    Polymer clay and earring findings to make my own earrings.
    Basic acrylic colors, basic paintbrushes.
    Blank canvases (cheap ones from Blick) in a variety of sizes (none larger than 8"x8").
    Full array of cake decorating implements.
Not that I ever actually make any of these things with any regularity, mind you, they're just all things I was really into for about 15 seconds and so still have. However, it is nice to be able to just whip something up on a moment's notice for those times when you need a gift like immediately.
posted by phunniemee at 6:21 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jewelry stuff? Wire (for stringing and shaping), beads, findings, nice pliers, maybe some links to simple instructions?

(They also make little canvases and easels in various shapes -- for what it's worth, I would love getting a tiny painting from an artist.)
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:22 AM on August 30, 2013

Lots of good things already but add some fancy scissors that cut different patterns, various types of glue, pretty ribbon, a few pieces of felt, strong thread, wire cutters, Modge Podge.
posted by maxg94 at 6:30 AM on August 30, 2013

Oh, what about nice gift bags, tissue paper, and wrapping paper?

When I was poor I made almost all my gifts, and it was always kind of a bummer having to wrap them in the cheapest wrappings.
posted by phunniemee at 6:32 AM on August 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would include one of the cheapie sponge painting packs, where there's a round one and a little roller and a flat one with an angled edge. They're handy for a variety of projects and it's nice to have cheaper paint applicators available in case it gets wrecked in the crafting process. Oh and Mod Podge! That stuff is amazing.
posted by brilliantine at 6:34 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Good tools are expensive, but often work better than cheap tools (or no tools). Nice pliers for jewelry, hot glue gun, good sharp scissors, fancy brushes, a cutting tool like a utility knife or something similar, a scoring board... think about the crafts you know she makes, and buy the tools or accessories she could use for doing that over the long term. This way you're also not choosing projects for her via materials, just making it easier for her to do what she likes.
posted by snorkmaiden at 6:35 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Instead of getting a random box of craft supplies, can you take your friend out for a mini-shopping spree? If she's an artist, she probably has things like hot glue guns lying around, and any number of potential craft projects in her head, so it would be nice to select supplies based on what she is planning to do next.
posted by florencetnoa at 6:41 AM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

I craft a lot, and love the idea of a mini shopping spree somewhere since I'm particular about my stuff. Look for small craft shops too -- the big chains are great but I've always loved the small places for their character and ideas.

Otherwise, a really great pair of scissors or other basic tools, maybe some really high quality gouache or water colors? A pack of fantastic paper?
posted by mamabear at 6:48 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would trawl local for-sale groups, even posting 'wanted' ads -- crafting inspires lots of hoarding and people often 'de-stash.' Some thrift stores have loads of craft supplies. With $25+ you could get enormous bang for your buck if you have some time to sink into this and don't mind giving gently used presents. Our 'art cupboard' here has terrific high-quality papers and other fun stuff bought at 50c a go from thrifts. The other week I scored a big bag of assorted bricks of Fimo for free because I think the store thought it should be soft like plasticine, and chucked it thinking it was too hard. A freecycle request would probably fetch up some goodies. The amount you have in mind would get a raft of dollar store-level stuff but not so much of the nicer quality, and used would up your odds of creating a stash with unique and higher-end items.

Alternatively: if you don't mind giving it a bit late, tell her it's in the mail and bombard her with a slew of little shipments from China. Washi tape, $3. 100 random organza gift bags, $5.98. Owl pendant, $1.51. 12 colours of polymer clay, $13.40. Etc, etc. (Look for free shipping and sellers with high feedback.)
posted by kmennie at 6:53 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Things I tend to keep around:

-Acrylic rhinestones in various shapes and sizes.
-Various bits of fabric and ribbon
-Black acrylic paint
-Sponge brushes
-Black cardstock
-Mod Podge
-Water-based polyurethane
-Unfinished wood or papier-mâché boxes generally small
-Unfinished wood frames (IKEA used to sell 4x6 frames in 3-packs -- I don't know if they still do).

But I keep these things around because I like decoupage/paper crafts and such. I guess it depends on what your friend likes to make.
posted by darksong at 6:54 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here are the things I find myself reaching for again and again:

-Assorted glues: hot glue gun (tiny cheap kind ok), superglue (for infrequent use, I like the brush-on kind or the tiny tiny tubes, because they can dry out), and a good paper glue (here are some recommendations)
-DMC embroidery floss and plastic spools to wind them around
-An embroidery hoop and Aida fabric
-Tiny, nice sharp scissors for cutting thread, yarn, etc. (I have Ginghers - pricey but worth it) and larger scissors for cutting paper
-Seed beads in smaller and larger sizes
-Needles: tiny ones for beading, medium ones for hand-sewing and embroidery
-Fat quarters of fabric
-Seconding felt. Wool felt if you can get it; it's way way nicer than the cheapy craft store stuff.
-Polymer clay (Sculpey or Fimo)
-Colored pencils
-Gelly Roll pens, especially the metallic, stardust, and moonlight collections
-If she's an artist, she may already have some Pigma Micron pens, but it never hurts to have more
-Sharpies in multiple widths (medium, fine, extra fine)
-Jewelry findings: earring hooks, jump rings, head pins and eye pins, clasps, bails, beading string/wire, chains/necklaces for pendants
-Packaging: Jewelry gift boxes, tissue paper, organza bags
-Glass tiles for pendants and magnets
-Ribbon, usually between 1/8" and 1/2" width

For some of these things (jewelry findings, fabric, and felt in particular) it's best to have higher-quality stuff, which you can't get at big-box craft stores. For most of the other stuff, the selection at Michael's/Jo-Ann is fine.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:57 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whatever you get her, I would include a gift receipt in case she doesn't know how to use the stuff and would prefer something else.

Maybe a book on making homemade crafts might be useful. You could give her lots of jars (can be used for make it yourself cookie/lentil soup/pancake kits, or different homemade cosmetics, amongst other things)
posted by cacao at 7:02 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Things I can use in a variety of crafts but never want to spend my tiny craft budget on include ribbon, felt, fancy papers (from the scrapbooking section, though I am not a scrapbooker), beads, cardstock, patterned/colorful duct tape or washi tape, various sizes of wire, and rhinestones or other embellishments. I do a lot of crafting for and with kids, which uses an entirely different set of supplies, so if kids are involved, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, craft sticks, stickers, and even more felt, beads, and ribbons are must-haves.
posted by Dojie at 7:12 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

For the absolute basics I'd go

Various cardstocks in different weights and colours.

Different ways of cutting it, be it scissors, punches, exacto knife whatever.

Various adhesives. Scrapbooking tape, glues, glue guns, washi tape etc.

I would then either add the following or give a gift card so she can add what she likes of the following

Things to decorate it with be it stickers, ribbon glitter, beads and pens.

Other good, crafts that don't take a lot to get into include fimo/polymer clays, jewellry making supplies.

Fancy papers.
posted by wwax at 7:13 AM on August 30, 2013

I agree with snorkmaiden which, frankly, is just fun to say that a selection of good tools is a good idea. Although your budget is small for a large assortment of good tools, you can get one or two good ones. Consider a dual temp glue gun or a good stand up magnifying glass. An assortment of nice shears or tweezers/hemostats. Fabric marking pens, floral tape, craft gloves, coin thimble, finger shield (index finger thimbles), grid ruler. Also, cutting boards with grid lines are great, or just flexible cutting mats (like they sell in kitchen stores) for protecting her desk or floor while she's cutting things with a rotary could be useful.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:18 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

(Hah! I have been planning this as my next Ask Me for a while!)

Spray glue, florists's wire, some screw posts (a.k.a. Chicago screws), those foam dots with adhesive on both sides that let you make your papercrafts 3-D, a few t-shirts in white or simple colors (for bleaching, tie-dyeing, or painting), glow-in-the-dark paint, simple wooden shapes (e.g., circles, cylinders, dowels), sheets of clear plastic Mylar, some Sugru, and sheets of white plastic or polystyrene, and Zap-A-Gap CA+ glue.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:18 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely excited that other posters have suggested a shopping trip or including the receipt - this sounds perfect for someone who will know exactly what sorts of things she'd like to make or branch out into making.

These are the contents of my personal craft-box/making-stuff-kit. I use everything here (i.e. it's not a stash!) for drawing/writing/paper constructions/book making.
  • good quality paper and card including rag paper, tissue, lokta etc (my favourite, hence my name)
  • large sharp scissors
  • precision craft knife and spare blades
  • Stanley/utility knife/box cutter and spare blades
  • rulers (one with a rubber or cork non-slip base is a great luxury, as is one made of steel or tough plastic), compass, set-squares (small/medium/enormous)
  • cutting mat
  • bone folders
  • PVA glue and spreaders
  • paper glue
  • double-sided tape and masking tape
  • ribbon, raffia and string for wrapping
  • hole punches (single and double)
  • box of pan watercolours with good-ish brushes
  • pencils of varying hardnesses
  • good erasers (rubber, plastic, putty for different purposes)
  • block print ink, a smooth surface for spreading the ink on (I forget what these are called; glass and tile work, but I've got a square of perspex which is alright in a pinch), sponge roller and brayer
  • calligraphy pens and nib pens, coloured inks, Indian ink
  • archival ink black fineliner pens (current favourites = Sakura Pigma Micron) and Pilot G-tec C4s (gel ink, so can be used in a hurry/on damp surfaces without bleeding)
  • some Tombow ABT dual brush markers
  • coloured pencils, both standard and watercolour
and larger tools are
  • old swing-arm guillotine
  • large rotary paper cutter
  • big flower/paper press
Somewhere I've got a lino cutting set but it's gone missing; I've not used it as lino is quite low on my priorities list when buying supplies and quite tricky to salvage (easier if you know where to get it in your area). I've also mislaid my awl (for bookbinding) and would love some waxed string for the same, which is quite expensive.

Mounting is important to illustrators etc. A good supply of mountboard and a good mount cutter are both things I've not really looked into for price and fiddliness reasons, but would be delighted to receive, especially if I produced a lot of things which make great mounted gifts. I think mounting tape is the final thing you need in that process, but experienced mounters please correct me!

Last note for gifting - I don't like card-making, so I also keep a supply of simple small cards and envelopes to slip in with my gifts, or hand-make a label. I love this sort of thing.
posted by lokta at 7:19 AM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would include a gift card as part of whatever you get, because Michael's and Joann's often have INSANE clearance sales where you can really clean up. Like, after Christmas the Christmas-branded acrylic paints might be marked down to something like 25 cents a tube, even though you need red, green, black, white, and gold all year. Or on a holiday weekend they'll take an extra 50% off the clearance wall.

For your kit, I'm thinking maybe special papers and/or cardstock, GOOD scissors, cutting mat and knives, one of these in some form or another (they come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and price points)*, basic glue gun and sticks. And as said above, a lot depends on what she's already got. If you have a couple of dollars left in your budget, but not enough for anything significant, you can grab a bunch of embellishments out of the clearance bin to fill it up.

*This may be the single most important item. I've recently misplaced mine, and I'm a bit lost without it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:26 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Spending less on supplies -- which vary by the project -- and more on tools -- which you keep for years -- might be a good plan.

For example, they now make an Xacto knife that has a loop for your finger, and the head swivels as you go around corners and curves. Blew my mind when I saw it, and again when I used it: I did paste-up for my college newspaper, and the thought of having this back then makes me mist up. It's awesome and mine gets used every week or two for something or other:

Fiskars Fingertip Swivel Knife
posted by wenestvedt at 7:42 AM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mostly just agreeing with other people here. I have two craft boxes, one is for paper-ish stuff and one is for tool-ish stuff. I also have a drawer of pens.

paperish stuff box
card stock
blank postcards
extra stamps (I am into postcards)
some of those fancy background paper books
transfer paper
iron-on paper that goes through your printer (inkjet only!)
photo paper
nice cards and envelopes

tool box
glue gun
rubber cement in the BIG container
oil paints
mineral spirits
ink pads
rubber stamps
make-your-own rubber stamp stuff
roller thing (for pressing down stuff you've glued)
some fancy tapes

pen drawer
every colored sharpie
gel pens
pens that write on dark colored paper
metallic pens
highlighter pens
glitter pens
exacto knives

Your friend might like some really nice thin black pens for cartooning stuff. Also a cutting matt is indispensable. And maybe some stickers to go on the box if she's into that sort of thing.
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I craft a lot, and love the idea of a mini shopping spree somewhere since I'm particular about my stuff.

I also craft a lot with paper, jewelry, wire, fabric, and other materials, and in most situations, I am the least likely person to say "Get a gift card."

But in this situation, I'm going to say it. Get a gift card. Or a gift certificate. Or take her shopping. You have the great storage box, and you could add some good card stock (does she use card stock?) and glue, but I would be hesitant to buy more elaborate craft supplies for someone without knowing precisely what they like to use.

Rarely does someone buy me crafting supplies or tools that I find really useful; I have to pick them out because I know what I need for planned projects and I can intuit what unexpected item I might find useful. More than half of the craft supplies friends and family give me hang around until I accept that I'm not going to use them and give it away to someone who will.

If you don't know what tools she does and does have, otherwise great equipment suggestions like shaped-edge scissors or bone folders or cutting mats don't really make a lot of sense here. You run the risk of duplicating what she has or spending your budget on tools she won't find useful.

Caveat: if you've seen and heard her repeatedly say "I wish I had [______]," then get [______]. Those have been the rare successful crafting gifts I've received: when someone (usually my partner, who is around a lot when I'm working on a project) noticed that I repeatedly got slowed down or frustrated because I didn't have the proper tool and he found it for me.
posted by Elsa at 9:10 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

You've gotten a lot of good suggestions so far. I worked at a scrapbooking store for years and I dabble in a lot of crafts. My suggestions would be:

1.Nice pair of scissors
2. Pinking shears
3. Cheap hot glue gun
4. At least one black micron pen

Those are tools that are great for a ton of different crafts. If you don't have an idea for what specific crafts she's into, then maybe just get her a great storage or carrying case for her basic tools? If you do know what specific crafts she's into, then get items for that.
posted by shesbookish at 9:38 AM on August 30, 2013

Mostly agreeing with other folks by nthing these:

Smooth scissors for paper, a different pair for fabric
Good craft knife with different kinds of blades
Super-strong craft glue that dries clear
Small lightboard
Self-healing mat
Sewing needles (even if she doesn't sew, she probably has the ability to figure it out for something cool)
Black, white, grey, and beige hand-sewing thread
Needlenose pliars
Dremel (or whatever's better right now)
White string
Mod Podge
Jewelry glue
Bead stringing medium
Jewelry wire

Fat quarters
Nifty buttons
Blank wooden/reinforced paper boxes & things to make them more awesome (cutouts, peg feet, hasp & lock kits)
Cardstock in various colours
Printer-weight paper in various colours and patterns
Handmade paper sheets
Balloons that blow up into various shapes - great for modeling papier mache, string, or fabric art
Ribbon, especially paintable silk or cotton or highly textured
Coloured ink pots
Jewelry findings: jump rings in various sizes, lobster claw & barrel clasps, crimp beads in various sizes, earring hooks &/or hoops, pin backs
Natural beads on strings (polished stones, wood, horn)
Acrylic paint in novel finishes and colours

...I could go on and on and on, clearly! The idea of throwing in a gift card for the sales is a very good one.
posted by batmonkey at 9:41 AM on August 30, 2013

Candle wax and wicks, because personalised candles make great last-minute gifts.
posted by fix at 10:09 AM on August 30, 2013

Do you have any idea what she has? so you don't duplicate existing tools or supplies. Do you know her tastes well, for buying beads (color, size, shape, style), papers, fabric, etc. Many creative people have strong preferences, and choosing colors and designs is part of their artistic expression and fun.

I do collages* and other crafts with paper. I cut or tear out pages from catalogs and magazines, save wrapping paper, beads, various ribbons and wires, etc., and have a box of paper and stuff for crafting that was no cost except for time and effort. If someone went through their magazines, catalogs, stamps, broken jewelry, gift paper, etc., and gave me more, it would be a thoughtful gift. *I like to make small pins with a mat board back, a collage and maybe some glitter, metal things, beads, etc. Most everything is recycled, which is important to me.

Hot glue gun and refills; sharp small scissors; sturdy big scissors; exacto knives & blades; sharpies; cardstock & envelopes; pin backs; glue assortment - white, carpenter's, gorilla, paper; needlenose and small regular pliers; a variety of clamps - from office clamps to wood clamps; are all things I find useful pretty often.

People tend to answer straightforward questions. Ask her what craft projects she's seen lately and wanted to do, then buy her all the tool and basic supplies. If she's on Pinterest, she might have a Projects I Want To Try board. Marble magnets, by the way, are fun to make and welcome as gifts.

Freecycle is a good resource for crafters, who often buy supplies and don't use them, and are then happy to pass them on. Posting a request for craft supplies, and running around town gathering them, would probably be darn productive. In fact, a craft supply swap would be a blast.
posted by theora55 at 10:56 AM on August 30, 2013

Origami paper.

I'm often transient with little room for stuff but I always keep a little kit that includes 6" origami papers, a small tube of cheap plastic beads (the bigger sort, like 1/4"), scraps of embroidery thread and a needle. Then when I'm invited to dinner, faced with a sudden birthday gathering, or someone has moved into a new home or bought a new car or whatever--I (sometimes in addition to wine) fold a crane or several and string one or more on colorful thread with a knot and bead under each crane to hold it in place. It makes an ornament of sorts, fun to hang in a plant, on a hook, on a rearview mirror, what have you.

Definitely sub ten bucks, much much less if you know she already has the auxiliary supplies on hand.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:30 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Really, without knowing what sort of crafts she does, buying a bunch of stuff that other people like for their crafts is likely to be just a bunch of random junk to her.

Tools are more general, but she might already have them, and if she wants nicer ones she probably has particular preferences.

What sort of crafts does your friend do?
posted by yohko at 1:19 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

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