Portable complicated craft project to do sporadically and angrily?
June 14, 2015 11:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm stuck and hoping for an unusual suggestion. Making things is very helpful as a stress-coping method for me, but my usual go-to crafts are either overloaded with memories or impractical. I want a big project I can make with my hands while I'm furiously angry and sad, and after 40-60 hours of rage over a couple of months, have a beautiful and useful thing to come out of that energy.

My ex has access to our house, so I don't have much space that's truly private to leave complex work out that won't get messed up. I've been debating a needlepoint cushion, a hexagon quilt, hardbound poetry journals, but it all feels blah.

Caveats: it can't primarily involve a knife, e.g. whittling, and it has to be something I can pack up in a box on weekends and fit on a table or lap. I don't want to make anything for babies or children because of sadness stuff, and nothing as a gift for other people this time. Assume I can do basic Martha-skills.
posted by dorothyisunderwood to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (32 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Knitting or crocheting! I especially like crocheting. Both are highly portable, easy to learn, and great ways to de-stress. If you want a more time intensive thing, crocheting a cozy throw blanket is a great project.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:33 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Make a complex piece of origami? I'm thinking like an origami wreath or a peacock with intricate details. Depending on how big a box you get, you can store your work on weekends.

I've also done 3-D puzzles/models before, which are pretty intensive and keep your mind busy.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 11:37 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Breaking things. Forcing them to fit together OR ELSE.

It is much more portable than you would expect. A tray would be a good first project.

Check out the images on google.
posted by moonlily at 11:47 PM on June 14, 2015 [16 favorites]

Crochet an afghan of different squares and then use this continuous join-as-you-go technique to put them all together. You can do just basic granny squares but you can also combine those with more interesting and involved squares as you get better at crochet. Just make all the squares the same size. Ravelry pattern browser results for '6" square' + crochet.
posted by Mizu at 11:47 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Leatherworking? Not sure how long I spent on my last project between design, carving, tooling, molding, and dying/painting, but it was probably in that neighborhood. (You get to hammer it, which might work well for frustration relief; if you opt to do carving/tooling, it does involve a swivel knife, but you spend way more time banging away than cutting.)
posted by tautological at 11:50 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another origami suggestion - 1000 cranes, hung together on threads to make a curtain. Repetition can be meditative. Can leave most of them in a box at home for storage and carry around a smaller box and stack of paper for travel. Probably at least 40 hours, and you can stop at any time (or go longer and make more.)
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 11:51 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

A cross stitch with lots of angry colours, red, black etc.

All the counting really distracts me from whatever I was thinking about.
posted by Youremyworld at 12:19 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tatting is the most compactly-stored craft in the world, although it mostly results in doilies. Soothing and repetitive and not difficult to learn.

Hardanger embroidery goes faster than cross stitch and results in gorgeous pieces, along the needlepoint cushion idea. I like doing table runners.

Swedish Huck weaving you can actually finish tea towel size projects in a couple of focused hours; 40 hours will give you a whole matched set.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:28 AM on June 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

Doesn't felting involve stabbing fluff repeatedly with a needle? That seems like it would be satisfying! Ok I Googled... It's called needle felting! You could make all manner of sarcastic things (a penis? A voodoo doll), or cartoon characters or whatever pleases you!
posted by jrobin276 at 1:02 AM on June 15, 2015 [20 favorites]

Coloring books for adults such as those by Johanna Basford and Millie Marotta are very portable, and coloring them can fill a lot of time. You can remove finished pages and use them as wall decor.
posted by neushoorn at 3:02 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

A beaded bed canopy? I tried once but did not have 40-60 hours. It's pretty portable as you can just work on small parts at a time and do the assembly at the end.
posted by kmennie at 3:06 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Punch needle embroidery involves jabbing a needle into fabric over and over, rather than pulling it through. Satisfying, quick results, and even has "punch" right in the name!
Another idea is a small weaving loom. There's something about slamming that shuttle home over and over. Not sure how much force you can use with a very small loom, but it does look like fun. (I think I want one of those now!)
posted by hiker U. at 3:53 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Knit a blanket or rug, but with mathematically inspired patterns - e.g. Curve of Pursuit, Data Log, Penrose.

Or look around their companion site for illusion knitting patterns: "When you look straight on to a piece of illusion knitting you see only stripes. A picture or pattern can be seen when you look from a different angle. "
posted by needled at 4:10 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

N-thing knitting as one of the more efficient ways I know to snap myself out of an ugly headspace. That said, I've always wanted to try nuno felting (a technique that involves felting thin layers of wool into silk fabric to make lovely scarves/wearables/textiles/etc), and it seems like it would have a great blend of meditative-precise-calm (placing the wool fibers) and meditative-physical-cathartic (rolling and whacking the crap out of the assembled sandwich to make the felting magic happen). Lots of tutorials and inspiration on YouTube and Pinterest.
posted by shelbaroo at 5:04 AM on June 15, 2015

How about a latch hook rug? Yeah, a lot of the designs here are horrid but there are a few gems in there and you can also easily design your own. I've made a few of these and they're fun and quite satisfying.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:46 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am gonna nth knitting, but suggest this project

It just uses yarn scraps--I'm making my second one now and change the color every row or two. You can make a super huge one that'll take a long time, or a smaller one, but either way the pattern is really easy if you're a beginner knitter. And it's really satisfying.
posted by leesh at 6:08 AM on June 15, 2015

Jewelry making!
posted by Aranquis at 6:20 AM on June 15, 2015

To go in a completely bizarre direction: flint knapping, if there's a place where you can sit outside. Requires careful application of pressure, so might be enjoyable on that front.

Drawback: you end up with arrowheads and knives, but you can just toss them into the yard to confound future archaeologists if you don't want to save them. You can make tidy pieces from the bottoms of beer bottles.
posted by aramaic at 6:28 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe you could take a small camera or your phone on long, complicated runs (ideally on trails in parks, if you have access), stopping periodically to take pictures that you could later compile into a book. It would get you out of the house, and more importantly, give you a bigger outlet than some smaller activity with your hands-- when I read "furiously angry or sad" the first thing I thought of was intense aerobic exercise. I think it could help your body deal with emotions better than a smaller hobby.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:15 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Paper mache. It's not just for kids. Very tactile which I find great when I'm angry. Tearing up paper, slapping in onto your project is great when you are angry. All you need is the glue mix and paper or the paper pulp mix stuff. Greek none of it would even look crafty to the unsuspecting eye.

If you can get into pottery classes even better, slapping clay around is better than therapy and all supplies etc will stay at the studio until finished so nothing for the ex to find., and you might find the d slightly social aspect helpful too.
posted by wwax at 7:15 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Dame Judi Dench is known for whiling away the hours on filmsets by painstakingly creating beautiful cross stitches that say things like: "You are a fucking shit".
posted by penguin pie at 7:34 AM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Along the lines of mosaics and ceramic repair, my first thought was kintsugi: "As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise." You can find DIY kintsugi kits online.

Finger knitting or weaving might be another option -- it's very tactile, fidgety, and satisfying. All you need is some yarn/loops/string, your hands, and a small wooden dowel or two to store your project in between sessions.
posted by divined by radio at 8:26 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding needle felting. It is easily the most cathartic craft I've ever done (basically you have special needles with barbs on them that as you stab through loose wool, it firms up into forms that can be joined to each other by-- you guessed it-- stabbing) and it is really accessible. You can go really simple or really complex, and it's very forgiving-- you can change the shape of a form by adding more wool, and you can make linear details and more complex forms so long as you have a basic sense of geometry-- thinking in terms of balls, tubes, cones, sheets, etc and attaching them to each other. You can even attach other materials like paper or sculpey into it or give it a wire armature! (Here's a more complex example of something I made recently to give you a sense of what can be done with it)

Another friend who gets really stressed just started whittling-- maybe that would help too?
posted by actionpact at 8:43 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Cross stitch is great! There are some gorgeous kits out there. Check out the Dimensions Gold Collection.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:13 AM on June 15, 2015

Hand Lettering and Calligraphy can be exceptionally portable and, as Penguin Pie noted you can be awfully creative with the messages (providing, much needed humor and psychic relief).
posted by cleroy at 11:22 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Actually, can I make a suggestion? Don't pick a single huge project, especially if it requires a skill that's new to you. Pick something very, very small and fiddly, that requires focus while you're doing it but results in a completed project in a single afternoon. Large-scale projects can be great if you already know what you're doing, but for me nothing is more disheartening than botching a project I've already invested a ton of time in. Whereas small fiddly projects have a shorter learning curve, and even if your first few tries turn out wonky you won't feel like you've wasted your time. Also, you can fit a small project in a smaller amount of space-- I usually use those Rubbermaid shoeboxes for project storage, and can fit supplies for a single project in each box.

Some of the projects I have done lately that take a few hours apiece, and that were relatively quick to master:

--Tiny hand-bound books (I made mine about an inch tall and put them on necklaces; I can make half a dozen in 2-3 hours now)
--Small hand-sewn soft toys (I can make a bird in under 3 hours; I also make jointed dolls that take a lot longer in aggregate, but each body part/item of clothing takes under an hour)
--Wire-wrapped jewelry (scales up well-- you can make a simple bracelet in an hour or two or an endless elaborate necklace, as desired)
--Flower crowns (yes, I know, but they take half an hour apiece and then you feel like the Queen of Elfland)
--Shrinky Dink jewelry (encourages your sense of whimsy and makes for good art therapy; I had particular fun making a FEMINIST KILLJOY pin that hangs by chains from a pink felt bow)

Basically, make stuff that you can wear and use yourself, that makes you feel pretty and confident, and that won't give you a rage stroke if you screw up halfway through. If you can pick up a new skill while you're at it, so much the better. Good luck!
posted by nonasuch at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

It can be dusty but soapstone carving (which uses chisels and other tools but not knives). I once worked my way through a very stressful time by carving a 12# chunk of soapstone into 11.5 pounds of rock chips and a half-pound tchotchke. Very satisfying and cathartic.
posted by jamaro at 1:54 PM on June 15, 2015

Best answer: I just took a folded book art workshop and the naughty feeling of mangling a book combined with the meditative aspect of repetitive folding was quite delightful.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:55 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

For doing something at a furious and fast clip, crochet is ideal. It is faster and easier than knitting, and there's only one loop to worry about.

I highly disagree that tatting is easy to learn! You really need a person to show you or at least a video. I did have a person help me, and it was still hard. Once you get it, though, you can roll along well. Bookmarks are a great way to start. No need to stick to white or ecru thread, either, for any project. Do some wild colors!
posted by jgirl at 4:48 AM on June 16, 2015

Thirding needle felting. I do this with teens and boy howdy do they every take their frustrations out on the felt! Even more fun is using a needle felt punch to felt larger objects.

Also, the AntiCraft hasn't put out issues for ages, but their archives are still available and have some amusingly dark and angry and complicated crafting ideas. For instance:
Fiery Death cross stitch
Las Calacas Danzantes knitted socks
Beaded Pendant of Blindness and Insanity
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:08 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I did punch needling which was great fun because I am so so bad at it, and usually I find handcrafts pretty easy, so being inept at a stabbing-violent embroidery ended up being relaxing and freeing in a fun and encouraging way - I would turn it over and swear and stab-stab-stab, then swear again but I didn't care how bad it was, just stabbed some more. I made two tiny loopy hearts and the kids I was travelling with took the yarn and made loops everywhere and it was fun. Being bad at that let me come back and pick up my neglected knitting needles and now I have several small projects going again. Yay for punch needles! So fun and HARD in a weird way because you can't control the needle like you can with regular embroidery, you just have to flooooow with it. And accept it will look weird.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:38 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

No one here has mentioned Zentangle. The supplies are minimal, it is extremely portable. Anyone can do it. I started with the Zentangle Basics #1 book. After you get started it is easy to find additional patterns and ideas online.
posted by Altomentis at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2015

« Older How do I deal with silverfish in a move/storage...   |   Help me become an Australian news junkie Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.