Arts & Crafts for Artless Clutzes
April 15, 2015 8:02 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to start doing some creative hands-on arts and crafts projects, but I'm pretty clueless and no good with my hands. What are some good, easy ideas for a beginner on a budget with too many popsicle sticks? List of "But"s inside!

So I enjoy origami and I'm not terrible at it, and I'd like to start doing more arts and crafts things for the sake of a productive hobby. The trouble is, I have virtually zero artistic talent, terrible coordination and weird cognitive issues that make my aesthetic perception awesome and my aesthetic ability awful. I've never really attempted any arts and crafts projects outside beginner level origami (and a misadventure in ceramics I shan't recount) before, and I'd like to dip my toes a bit more.

I'm open to any ideas or recommendations, really. Materials should be ubiquitous and the cost very low; I'm working on a budget of essentially zilch. It should be something that doesn't require super precise fine motor skills. Online resources (minimal video, please) would be preferred, but books are fine, too. Ideally, I'd like to be able to make things I can sell if I get good at it, but that's a tertiary goal. More immediately, I'm looking for things to help me relax and get that warm fuzzy "I made this!" feeling.

Ceramics are absolutely, absolutely off the table, and I'm kidding about the popsicle sticks. My collection is in reality quite average. I do have tons of glass soda bottles, for what that's worth.
posted by byanyothername to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
With the knowledge that you like origami and don't want to spend much: recycled magazine crafts? Those baskets are pretty cool!

You could also try braided rag rugs.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:31 PM on April 15, 2015

Crocheting and/or knitting? If you follow a pattern, the only real "artistic" part is color choice - and from your description, it sounds like you might be good at that. All it really takes is laying the skeins of yarn next to each other to get an idea of how they balance... (To do this *really* cheaply, scrap yarns from the thrift store, yard sales, or Freecycle can be combined with a "main" color, often black.)
posted by stormyteal at 9:41 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd recommend a visit to Pinterest - every craft-type thing ever done is represented there, all skill levels, all interests. If you were overloaded with popsicle sticks, you'd just enter "popsicle stick crafts" and you'd be surprised at the number of ideas that pop up. Paper crafts, scrapbooking, stamping, painting, calligraphy, paper folding, decoupage, clay, paper clay, design and illustration, bookbinding, gourds, costume, steampunk ideas, watercolor, jewelry, beadwork, sewing, knitting, crochet, patchwork, quilting, upholstery, doll making, baby and puppy toys, mobiles, soft sculpture, dremel projects, painting flowerpots, woodworking, making birdhouses and butterfly houses - those are just a few of the ones I can think of - all under DIY and Crafts. The best part is that the material is all contributed by everyday people all over the planet, so it's practically unlimited in variety. There are tips and templates and patterns and tutorials - all free.

There are many other categories besides DIY and Crafts, of course, like recipes and travel and philosophy and parenting and camping, etc.

I live there. It's my 2nd home - after Metafilter, of course.

Have fun!
posted by aryma at 11:33 PM on April 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

What about some kind of simple weaving, with cardboard and yarn? Seems like you could make little things, like potholders or small pouches pretty easily.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 2:05 AM on April 16, 2015

As well as Pinterest, take a look at Instructables which is more than craft (look in the "living" section) but has many practical applications as well as step-by-step instructions.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:42 AM on April 16, 2015

Best answer: Seconding all the ideas above, especially magazine crafts and using Pinterest for ideas. And if you try weaving and like it, it's currently trendy with the home decor crowd so could be sold.

I'm a knitter and it can use some fine motor skills if you're using small needles and fine yarn. But if you like chunky styles, then pick a pattern with a bulky yarn and choose a colour and you're good to go! Cheap needles work the same as expensive ones, and it's easy to recycle yarn from knitted items you already own or have thrifted.

And a little encouragement: my Nana was *terrible* at arts and crafts. But she loved trying it all anyway, and had a big laugh over her lopsided creations. I still treasure a "blanket" she crocheted for me that looks like a multicoloured frilly lettuce and wouldn't keep a toddler warm, because she made it with laughter and love and I'm just enough of a hippy to believe in good vibes. Who cares if the final product is Martha Stewart approved? If you're having a good time, that's what counts. Making things brings joy - don't miss out on that! Just try a bunch of things until you find what works for you.
posted by harriet vane at 6:05 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

For the soda bottles: how about glass etching? You can buy etching acid in a craft store, and the rest is exacto knives and contact paper.
posted by Liesl at 7:35 AM on April 16, 2015

Best answer: Yeah, this may seem off since you mention coordination issues, but I think you should consider knitting or crocheting. As mentioned above, using thick yarn and larger needles or hooks makes it a lot easier, especially when you're getting started. I really like it because it gives me an "artsy" outlet, but it's more structured then a lot of other artistic/creative projects, and I find more open ended things like painting or whatever to be kind of stressful.

Bonus: It's a great thing to do while you're watching TV or movies, and there's a great community of knitters online(aka Ravelry), and I'm sure you could find a local knitting group wherever you live. (If you join ravelry, you should join the metafilter group!) There are also plenty of people who sell their projects, although it's not much of a money maker unless you're super quick, and even then, you'll usually need to buy nicer yarn, which is pretty expensive. However, once you get some practice, you can definitely give knitted/crocheted scarves or whatever as presents, and I know there are places that accept scarves and what not as donations.

I personally like crocheting better because it's faster (for me at least), and it's more forgiving of small mistakes. The fact that it only requires one hook, as opposed to two needles, might also make it less challenging if you have some coordination issues.

If you do a google or youtube search, I'm sure you could find a million how to videos to get you started. That's how I learned to do it, although I picked it up so long ago that I don't remember what resources I used.

One helpful hint to get you started: If you pick a thick yarn that you like, it should have a guide on the label which tells you which needle or hook side you should use. I would recommend a yarn like Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick, which is the yarn that I used when I first learned to knit. If you want something even cheaper, there is definitely cheap yarn that you can get for a couple dollars, and I bet you could find a pair of needles or a crochet hook for $5 or less at a local craft store.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:09 AM on April 16, 2015

Here is a perhaps-too-specific idea, but I've been doing a lot of geometric shrinky dink necklaces lately and they are dead easy and look amazing. Mine are kind of like this or this. Shrinky dink is available at craft stores or amazon for $6 a pack or so and apparently you can even use #6 plastic. Just trace shapes onto a piece, color with permanent marker, punch holes to hang, then bake to shrink.
posted by LeeLanded at 9:00 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Paper mache?
posted by Gneisskate at 9:05 AM on April 16, 2015

You could try out glass painting with all those bottles: get a picture you like, print and pop in the bottle, then trace with an outliner and fill in the spaces with colours. Or just free-hand some shapes! And then you can either wash off the whole thing, if you don't like it, or put it in the oven to set the colours. Voila!

Less creative, but you might also enjoy kits for card-making silk painting; you just need to add a drop or two of paint in the correct spaces and watch the magic flow. They are fairly cheap and there is usually enough paint in there to allow you to do a few other projects of your own if you want to.
posted by tweemy at 2:45 PM on April 16, 2015

Best answer: There are good answers in this recent AskMe, including one from me extolling web sites for kids' craft projects.

For instance, these hydrangea prints are amazing, and just use a little paint and dish soap.

From the same site, detailed instructions on watercolor flowers.

(I'm in a springy mood.)

I used this tutorial to make all my Christmas cards this past year, people loved them, and didn't know it was a Kinder-second grade art project. Other lesson plans from that site.

Basically, I just see projects/techniques on these sites that appeal to me, and try them out. Sometimes I get great results.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:54 PM on April 16, 2015

This is starting small, and since you're already doing origami: card making! It's productive - you can give them to your friends and family on special occasions, and you can sell them (i don't think they're worth selling but YMMV).

At the most basic you can just stick your (flattish) origami creation on the front of a card. Next step up, stick a coloured square or other shape of paper onto the card then glue the origami on top of that. Voilà! A card. There are tons of ideas out there for things fancier than that which you can copy, and most of them will be just sticking things on top of other things. All the $2 shops in my area sell scrap booking stuff which you can use. Scrap booking is something else you could do but IMHO it requires more creativity than cards.
posted by pianissimo at 4:59 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll also throw in a link to my craft board on Pinterest. Some of the project are complicated (like the knitting projects), but most are ones that seemed both simple and high-impact.

If you have any dollar stores in your area (my favorite is Dollar Tree), they can be good sources for pom poms, craft foam, dyed feathers, season holiday stuff, picture frames, markers, notebooks.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:06 PM on April 16, 2015

Cross-stitching is very easy, inexpensive, and requires zero artistic talent. I recommend starting with a deluxe kit from Subversive Cross-Stitch. They're $20 and include everything you need (except scissors). She has lots of instructions and resources on her site too.
posted by radioamy at 6:32 PM on April 16, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone! Your suggestions and links are giving me some fun ideas (and if I can get rid of some junk lying around and make something pretty, hey! bonus!). NO idea why I didn't think of Pinterest, but that's a great idea.

I appreciate the encouragement, too. Whatever I make will probably be a glorious disaster, but the idea is to have fun so who cares?
posted by byanyothername at 7:38 PM on April 16, 2015

Have you seen this origami wall art craft? It's lovely.
posted by luckyveronica at 11:07 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

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