So I have this crafting dilemma
January 11, 2016 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I like crafting, but I don't really have the ambition to sell stuff, I have no one to give it to, and I don't know what to do with the finished products.

For example. I like making shawls. Crocheting & knitting them. I just like shawls as a general rule and for some reason I have this need to crank them out right now. Don't ask me why, I can't explain it. I have about five or six of them laying about my house at the moment... just because. I've given a couple away, (Note: I made two specifically to give away so they're not counted in this) and I use one because shawls are cool. But that leaves the rest of them just sitting around... doing nothing but looking pretty.

I suppose I could donate them... But where? To whom? I dunno. I live in a small town and I just moved here. I don't know anyone.

A while back, when I first started knitting, a friend of mine suggested I make things specifically for charity, like premmie hats or baby blankets. And I tried that. But I don't have any interest in making premmie hats or baby blankets. So instead of a pile of finished products with no home, I have a lot of WIPs in my box of shame because even though they're small projects, I have no desire to work on them. I like making shawls. For now. My interests change. But whatever my interests are, there's always this end product that's not always particularly useful to me nor is it necessarily worth selling. For example, many years ago I spent hours and hours making collages. Because that's what interested me at the time. There's no market in selling collages and I had no use for them after they were done. They were made then basically tossed in the trash. But I still spent the better part of two years creating collage after collage because that's what interested me. Then it was hats. I sewed them, I knitted them, I crocheted them... I spent a lot of time making hats. I can't even tell y'all what happened with all of those hats... I gave a few of them away, and that's all I remember. I know I don't have them anymore. That's all I know. I mean, anyone who knows anything about selling crafts knows that it's a hassle. I don't even want to go there. I don't have the fortitude.

This dilemma is what stopped me from doing things like plastic canvas, cross stitching, any kind of craft really that gives me a finished product that's not necessarily useful nor worth the effort to sell. I just don't have the mentality to deal with people when it comes to selling. I can't do it. I've tried. Everyone has their own suggestions about how I can improve my product when all I want to do is just sell what I have. It makes me twitch just thinking about it.

So, I guess my question is this... I need suggestions on what to do with, um, any finished product that comes from my random hobbies? Right now I'm basically a recluse so I can't just go about giving things away. And one can only decorate with shawls so much before it gets weird. Besides, today it's shawls, tomorrow it might be afghans (I have quite a few afghans lying about my house just so's you know). I mean, what do people do who have the urge to create but don't have a salesperson's personality? I'm sure I can't be the only person with this problem.
posted by patheral to Society & Culture (45 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:50 PM on January 11, 2016

Women's shelter? Cancer support groups will also take such things. Maybe you could work something out with someone who did sell things, or donate your shawls to a Goodwill or charitable thrift shop to sell?
posted by honeybee413 at 6:53 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Church bazaars sell donated knitted goods and often other kinds of crafts, too. If you're ok with donating to a church, there's probably one nearby. I know someone who just puts things on facebook with a picture: "I made these mittens. Free to the first taker."
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:57 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Donating them is a great idea, I am sure that there are a lot of people who wouldn't mind getting things like that. If you want to you could also make little tags that say "It's cold outside, take me." or "I'm not lost, just looking for a new home, please take me if you like me." Things like that and then wrap the shawls around lamp posts, trees, somewhere, anywhere. You could take a walk a week and find a place to wrap them around. I had a roommate who did things like that and every now and again she'd see someone wearing one, it's really cool.
posted by Neronomius at 6:58 PM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

I paint and nobody wants my weird paintings. You get used to it. It's permission to make things that nobody else likes. Also, it's more about the journey. I dealt with this by shrinking the size and only keeping those I'm totally happy with.

Cat shelters can use blankets and shawls, as can people shelters sometimes.

You could also choose a craft that's inherently useful, like canning. But seriously-- the point is to make yourself happy. It's OK if it goes to waste.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:59 PM on January 11, 2016 [14 favorites]

Local schools frequently have fundraising auctions. My kids' school would LOVE to have a handmade shawl to auction off.
posted by bq at 7:01 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I make quilts the same way you describe making...a lot of things. It takes me a long time so I don't have quite the scale of things that I don't know what to do with, but I do have that same feeling of not knowing what to do with the things when they are done, so I'm eager to see what other people say here.


I have also decided that part of the purpose of these things is the process of making them. It makes my brain feel better. Even if they just get discarded.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:02 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

You know...mefits like shawls (and quilts). I'm almost tempted to risk the wrath of the mods and suggest you post to Meta with "I made this thing who wants it?" and a pic. We're not nearly as worthy as shelters, charities, or other good causes, but if this is causing you problems, I bet there would be people happy to provide a solution by taking things off your hands.

* Also, Quonsmas.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:07 PM on January 11, 2016 [20 favorites]

I can empathize, and the myriad projects from each new craft I learn just pile up around me. At least the cross-stitch you can hang up. I've become at peace with the fact that it's the act of creation, and learning a new craft, I get the most pleasure out of, and that the act of crafting helps my mental health.

I just discovered the cat shelter near me has a blanket program where you can crochet or knit a blanket for a shelter cat and when they are adopted the blanket goes with them to their new home. That might be a better charitable option if you like crocheting flat things instead of clothes. You can find similar programs near you online, perhaps, and just ship the blankets to the shelters.

Even if you don't find something interesting to craft towards, I say just crank out the shawls. Take pictures of each one, make a Ravelry account and share them if that adds a little fun. It's like a hunger, or a craving, you have to satisfy what your mind and body need.
posted by Sayuri. at 7:11 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

Old ladies love shawls. My mom used to knit them to donate and called them 'prayer shawls.' Try hospitals, churches, or nursing homes. There are lots of elderly people in nursing homes who are indigent and lack families who would love something homemade.
posted by arrmatie at 7:11 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

I made a special shawl for Quonsmas. ^_^
posted by patheral at 7:11 PM on January 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

I would start on facebook for groups dedicated to your hobby. Then, I might move to groups dedicated to other things you like, and make things related to those (a shawl the color of this movie / a trivet with the Bodum logo on it). Then, offer to mail them for free to anybody who wanted them. That is my advice.
posted by rebent at 7:16 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's fine to waste! I'm the same way, I make stupid shit just for myself. It feels weird at first but after awhile I'm fine with keeping it around or I throw it out or it finds a home (e.g., someone comes over and admires it and it becomes theirs).

I would think that shelters and homeless people would appreciate shawls, though.
posted by easter queen at 7:22 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nursing homes for sure. Hospital ICUs (NICU, PICU, SICU, all of them) -- not necessarily for the patients but for their parents/caregivers who are there 24/7. If you go back to hats and mittens at some point, elementary and middle schools often keep a stock to discreetly give to kids who don't have adequate cold-weather gear. Keep an eye open over the course of the next year for a big charity sale or charity auction in your new town; they will often take ALL KINDS of crafts to sell or auction or raffle.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:35 PM on January 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you have a sales-oriented friend, you could ask them to take care of selling your stuff on Etsy in exchange for a % of the profit.

As you get to know people in your new town, you might find a craft fair which is happy to take on a bunch of shawls. Several churches in my area have craft fairs, for example, to raise funds for one cause or another.
posted by bunderful at 7:39 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

What about selling them on Etsy or Ebay? If you want to sell to people in your town or neighboring community, you can get a card reader from Square or Paypal. Here's a link to the reader. I know you said it's a hassle selling crafts but have you sold them since the advent of the card readers? My wife makes crafts and we're now set up to sell on-line and to take credit cards via these readers that fit on your smart phone.

Good luck! Even if you don't sell them, it sounds like a good hobby for you! Nothing wrong with that.
posted by gilast at 7:45 PM on January 11, 2016

speaking as a person who has a 2014 quonsmas scarf made by patheral, it's gorgeous!

you can often donate these items to a thrift store too. you never know who might want a shawl for a wedding or prom that can't necessarily afford one. or if you have one in your town, a local women's shelter. scarves and hats and afghans work well for this too, when you eventually get bored of scarves :)
posted by kerning at 7:49 PM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you're on Ravelry, there are threads in various groups that people use to rehome their knitted things to other knitters who will love and treasure them. For example, on LSG, the thread is called 'FP's Unloved Your On Pass' for reasons that don't quite defy explanation but which are probably not actually worth explaining.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

I vote for finding a home for your (I bet) gorgeous shawls. How about you find a local nonprofit doing something you support. Ask them if they could use a supply of shawls to auction as a fundraiser. Do it again with the next craft obsession. Fill the world with your beautiful creations, add tags to them, make a website, put up pictures, raise even more for the cause you support. Everybody wins!
posted by acridrabbit at 7:56 PM on January 11, 2016

OK, I'm going to come down _lightly_ against gratuitous waste, but only because I think there are audiences/recipients that haven't been considered, and practical uses that maybe haven't been discovered. That said, I just knitted two large hats since Christmas (my first non-woodworking project of any crafty kind since I was a kid), and I sympathize. They look weird and I can only wear one.

I hear you on the baby blankets/chemo caps. If you wanted to come up with a more beautiful item for either of those audiences, it might be more inspiring for you as an artist.

Have you already tried looking at local -- or even not-so-local -- non-profits you approve of and considering if they have auctions, giveaways, etc., that might accept these? They're very time and labor intensive, I know, so they should be welcome gifts.

Also, you could broaden your donation base by thinking of other charities that could give away shawls - Red Cross? Soup kitchen? Non-fancy assisted nursing facility/retirement home?

If I were feeling especially saucy (and had your problem -- and who knows, I might soon), I might consider wrapping one up as a gift, writing a note (explaining that they deserve something nice), and just dropping it on someone's doorstep. In the dead of night. Or the middle of the day. Possibly someone older who might be cold.

Here's one final weird answer - maybe try giving stuff away on the "free" section of Craigslist. If you can post a photo, and maybe ask for interested parties to explain what they'll do with it, you can give away almost anything on Craigslist. If it were me, I'd want to take steps to make sure the recipient wasn't just looking for anything free they could resell, and also wasn't a hoarder (hence the requested explanation). You may get >1 request per posting, so prepare yourself.

(also: I get really cold sitting at my desk, and now you've given me an idea of how to solve that problem. The comforter I've been wearing is too large and in danger of catching fire from the space heater.)

If this were a cat question, we'd be asking for photos. You don't _have_ to show photos of your knitting, but after the reference to your scarf, I'm really curious!
posted by amtho at 8:04 PM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

What about leaving them in areas with homeless people, along with an I'm not lost -- take me if you need me tag? There's even a Facebook page for a group that does this sorta thing.
posted by Ostara at 8:06 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Another option: there are probably a few 'freecycle' groups in your area to take these items off your doorstep.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:47 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Maybe you could do a mefi swap? I'm sure there's someone here who would love an afghan (me!) or knitted product in exchange for some cookies. I would absolutely do a cookie/craft swap except I'm in Australia and I'm pretty sure baked goods don't taste great after three weeks in transit.
posted by Jubey at 9:21 PM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

The plastic canvas can be turned into sturdy and useful boxes. I mean they're basic, but you can end up with a stack of nested plastic canvas boxes that you can use to organise a kitchen cupboard or bathroom drawer or something practical that no-one else will see, but that you will have fond memories of. I have a couple of small handmade things that I use for containers for myself for that reason, in drawers out of sight. They don't have to be publicly displayed so they can be just for your personal amusement or pleasure.

The shawls are tricky if you like working with expensive materials. It's one thing to make a shawl out of acrylic or cheapish wool, another to work in silk-angora something that costs like $300 in material alone and then just have it disappear. Ravelry is a good place to find someone who will treasure the shawl if you don't have someone in your immediate circle.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:38 PM on January 11, 2016

The 'what to do when it's done' dilemma kept me out of crafting for a LONG time. What I eventually ended up doing was cross stich (I find counted cross stich a good way to wind down in the evening, away from a screen, so I'm never doing more than about 30-45 mins a day). I simply bought the most egregiously complicated and large pattern I could find.
It took me a year.
It was a Christmas pattern (this one), so I have framed it, and now, once a year, I intend to take it out and put it up. Right now I have just started another, perhaps not quite so ambitous pattern, which should take me half a year, maybe? My eventual aim is to have 5 large cross-stiches - one for spring, summer, autumn, winter, and xmas, and to put them in frames, and hang them in a specific place, seasonally. They'll need just a large cardboard box for storage, they're good enough to hang, they are periodically on show rather than hidden away somewhere. And in total, that will take me at least 3-5 years to complete.

After that? I'm not sure. Perhaps I'll up my game to Easter, Solstice and Birthday cross stiches as well!
posted by AFII at 11:47 PM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

There are sites where you can sell your items for charity - would that be any better or would it fall under "no ambition to sell"? Loving Hands (UK), Making for Charity (UK), Made4Aid (not sure where that one is based). I haven't had anything to do with these organisations, just found out about them the other day. I think you still have to do the work of photographing and describing the items and posting them so it might be quite a bit of hassle.

Also, you'd probably get good responses if you asked the same question on Ravelry.
posted by paduasoy at 2:17 AM on January 12, 2016

My local hospice definitely accepts shawls for the patients. I expect nursing homes and Age Concern would too. Contact a few more charities locally, they may not want a one-off but if there's a steady stream of these shawls they're more likely to be interested (for example my local hospice has a selection of hand knitted stuff in each room, including shawls, blankets and throws).
posted by tinkletown at 4:43 AM on January 12, 2016

And actually clicking through paduasoy's links, I recognise the Loving Hands logo. That's where we get them from.
posted by tinkletown at 4:48 AM on January 12, 2016

We live in a small town and I see fundraisers (somebody has cancer/library needs new books/school needs new playground equipment) asking for donations at least monthly. I think that donating to these and then going to the associated event (spaghetti night, pig roast) would be a good way to get more involved with your new community.
posted by belladonna at 5:34 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite] has mailing lists all over the country connecting items to people who want them. Also, your local
posted by theora55 at 6:09 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

N'thing giving to the various charities/shelters. They don't require you to donate a set amount ("no, you can't give us any mittens unless you give us one dozen every month!"), they're happy to share what you have --- they need mittens, sure, but also hats or afghans or shawls or pretty much anything you care to make.

As for the plastic canvas: I do that; I make a variety of toys and stuff --- plastic canvas can take a kid playing with it and bounce right back. I've made 3D birds to hang in Christmas trees, I've made fully-furnished dollhouses and animal-filled barns, all of which I've passed on to a family shelter near me. I'm currently working (hah! three years and counting...) on a 3ft. tall/4ft. wide Barbie-sized plastic canvas castle, complete with turrents and drawbridge.... if this thing ever gets finished it'll go to the family shelter too; if not, well, it's the creation that's the fun part.
posted by easily confused at 6:13 AM on January 12, 2016

Donate them to Goodwill?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:43 AM on January 12, 2016

I do the same thing you do: I knit without an end purpose in mind. What I wind up doing is unraveling the knitted item once done and making something new with it. It's kind of like playing with Lego for me. I've knit and frogged and re-knit the same variegated orange/red yarn so many times that it has gone from bulky to nearly fingering weight.

I mainly knit to keep my hands busy while watching movies with my husband...otherwise I tend to fall asleep. I am half-assedly looking for a similar hobby that is more...useful, I guess? It needs to keep my hands busy, keep me awake, but not demand any brainpower or attention.

I have about 5,000 blankets in the house so I don't need any more. Otherwise I'd knit blocks and sew them into a blanket.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:31 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

A search for shawl charity in Ravelry groups gets this list. A friend of mine frequently knits for Wool-Aid (most of her knitting is for charity) and I know she gets a lot out of being in their Ravelry group (they don't take shawls, though).
posted by camyram at 7:35 AM on January 12, 2016

How about your local chapter of a booster club like Kiwanis or Rotary? My mother is involved in Kiwanis, and they support many local charities and gain much needed funds by holding events where donated items are bid on/raffled off.
posted by k8oglyph at 8:02 AM on January 12, 2016

Thanks, y'all. I'll definitely give donating some thought. I think what I want to avoid with posting online is the whole, "Can you make...?" thing. It drives me nuts. I get into these creative moods and just go where the muse takes me, and whenever I've tried to sell anything I always get, "Oh, that's pretty, can you make...?" which gets under my skin and makes me want to scream. It's why I've stopped even trying to sell stuff, and why I've been hesitant to even give them away. Also, have you see how low handmade things are priced in thrift stores??? All that time and effort, sold for a dollar! Like yesterday's trash. I know, I know, I'm giving it away anyway, but it's just sad. I think I'd be, I dunno... heartbroken if I donated a shawl to the goodwill and go in to see it marked for a dollar in the bins. I didn't have a problem with the collages getting tossed because they're made to be ephemeral (okay I felt a little guilty about it which is why I stopped making them), but something like shawls... yeah, that's different I think.

But it's really the fear of, "Can you make this...?" that keeps me from posting things online. I'm not doing these things for the purpose of selling (or even giving away) but for the sake of... I dunno, creating something and because my mind drives me to see if I can create whatever it is that I'm creating at the moment. I see, say a pattern for a shawl, and say, "Oh that's pretty, I must see if I can make that" and have no thought of what to do with it once it's done. So to have someone come up to me and say, "I like that, can you make it in green?" or smaller, or whatever! takes all the fun out of the process for me. If that makes any sense.

But I'll start looking around for nearby hospitals or charities that might like some shawls. I tried taking a picture of the latest but it's hard to get a good picture of shawls because they're so big. I'll have to wait for the hubs to get home or something. Here are pictures to a few that I finished a while ago and still don't know what to do with... The blue-green one still needs to be blocked and then it will be awesome. I just don't have the room to block it properly... and I'm thinking of taking that sad fringe off of it -- I ran out of yarn, and it's a discontinued color. So... yeah. I guess I haven't done anything with it because it's not finished yet. ^_^ The one I just finished is knitted rather than crocheted and not lacy at all.
posted by patheral at 12:05 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

It makes perfect sense. You're an artist.

One thing that a little light reading of behavioral economics taught me is that, as soon as you put a dollar value on something, that grows in people's minds and seems to be the _actual_ value. Having your work seen as low-valued is of course demotivating (another behavioral economics idea). So, presenting the work as not valued in dollars is probably a good way to avoid this.

Giving it as gifts, and making sure the ultimate recipient knows that it is an intentional, meaningful, and effortful gift, will increase it's perceived value to the recipient -- the recipient will actually enjoy the gift _more_ than if they got something wadded up with someone saying "here, I picked this up for a dollar at the thrift store.".

Imagine them receiving the same item folded inside fresh lovely tissue paper, in a clean box, maybe with a small lavender sachet, and a note saying "This was made with love and passion by someone who only crochets when moved by the spirit of art. It was something I wanted to make, and now I want you to have it -- or pass it on to someone else who would appreciate something made with love and intention." Think how good you'd feel for weeks after receiving something like that.
posted by amtho at 12:55 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also - your work is lovely. Thank you so much for the photos!
posted by amtho at 1:28 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

"its" not "it's"
posted by amtho at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2016

I just read this article calling out for yarn crafters. There are people out there who need your stuff. Good Luck. At the end of the article there is another link for even more charities looking for yarn crafters.
posted by Ella Megalast at 1:51 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am sitting at my desk feeling chilly and wishing I had one of your shawls right now!

I totally feel you. My house and my mother's house are full of the phases of my crafting history- from crochet to tatting to ceramics to quilting to knitting to embroidery. Lately I've gotten into making decorated cupcakes, because they are made to be eaten! I totally feel you on the sales thing too. People will see something I've done - a cupcake or a pair of socks or whatever - and say "oh you should sell that on the side". But the truth is, handmade stuff just won't sell for a fair price, and selling too low makes you feel bad about yourself.

So, what do I do when the fun of making is what I really want but all my friends and relatives have all the crafts they'll ever need?

A few strategies I have tried:

1) make something that is either smaller, more functional, or disposable/consumable so they are easier to store. This one likely won't help the OP but may help someone else who searches, so I include it.
2) find a club/charity/other organization that needs what you make. I played in the SCA pretty heavily for a while, and there was ALWAYS some project that needed embroidery or weaving or illumination done. And any garb you made that you didn't need would generally find a home with a newbie who was eager to get something to wear. There are a lot of good options listed above. I would especially consider places like nursing homes, as a handmade shawl would be both practical and appreciated by people there.
3) Do some kind of craft swap. Ravelry or other forums would be good here, or you could think about fandom swaps of various kinds. Other artists or crafters would also be more likely to appreciate your hard work and artistry!
4) Do NOT donate to a thrift shop, Goodwill, etc. They will sell it for a dollar and you will feel sad. Much better to give it to someone who needs it and/or will appreciate it.
5) Consider expanding the circle of who you would ordinarily give a handmade gift to. I was out on sick leave for a while once, and my work sent me a basket that contained, among other things, a scarf that my boss had knit. I love that thing!
posted by oblique red at 1:59 PM on January 12, 2016

Mental Floss had a list the other day you might be interested in.
posted by SarahElizaP at 4:13 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a box of things I've made that I just can't use. When a friend needs a good pick-me-up or I need a gift for someone, I can go into the box and see if anything works.

That said, I love the idea of a nursing home, and might have to do that with some of my bin. Thanks, MeFi.
posted by freezer cake at 10:04 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just want to say one thing about donating to specific charities... It's the same as my friend who suggested I make premmie hats and blankets. Many charities are looking for specific items, like hats, or squares of knitted cloth (8X8 squares to be exact). I have no interest at this time in creating hats nor do I want to knit square after square of cloth, even if it's for a good cause. Right now, my mind is only interested in cranking out shawls. I know that your intentions are good in pointing towards charities, but that's like saying, "Oh, you paint and don't know what to do with your paintings? Habitats for Humanities needs painters. You could paint walls for them." It really is the same thing.
posted by patheral at 5:48 PM on January 13, 2016

Homeless and women's shelters, nursing homes, refugee centres, hospitals, veterinary clinics, and pet shelters will all love your shawls, and will probably not have any specific requirements.
posted by rpfields at 8:00 AM on January 15, 2016

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