Crafts for the Craftless
November 27, 2016 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Other than sketching, basic knitting and crocheting, we are not a family of crafters. I'd like to start giving gifts that will inspire family members to express themselves creatively. People have expressed interest in learning to do some type of craft. Assume I know nothing about the world of AC Moore, Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics. I don't know what to buy; let's try to stick to $25 per person.

Aromatherapy, jewelry making, candle making, embroidery -- give me all your ideas for crafty activities that are easy enough to learn and give one satisfaction in the process and the product. Bonus points for crafts that can done in bits and pieces, set aside, then picked up again without a lot of cleanup. Extra bonuses for things that smell good and feel therapeutic.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I am not that crafty but I do like to tinker. I've enjoyed growing plants from leaves of other plants and it's fun. A few other things I like

- making vanilla from beans and alcohol and making fun labels for them (which can be made out of internet templates)
- vanilla sugar, same general deal
- if people like drinking, there are some good limoncello recipes online
- epsom salt soaks, same general deal (scents + additives + salts + nice jar = nice salts!)
- candle making can be this way if you have a basically disposable double boiler that you melt the wax in, you can just melt, remelt, over and over. Add colors and scents, use some nice wicks. you can use a lot of different molds and it can be fun to experiment. Moreso if you actually use candles
- I've never gotten that into soapmaking but there are simple and complex ways of getting into it from the easy "Here is a soap, melt it and add something and put it in this mold" to really mixing up your own mixtures that are complex and adding a lot of external flair
- terrariums are nice if people have green thumbs, you can get decorative or not

All of these can be packages AS gifts but can also be a "make a gift" setup if that is what you are looking for.
posted by jessamyn at 3:19 PM on November 27, 2016

Counted cross stitch is pretty easy, portable, doable in short bursts, and a smallish kit would run about that. I'd recommend a kit at the scale of holiday ornaments over one at the scale of an 8x10 inch picture.

If there are knitters and crocheters around, spinning is a great hobby. A good basic spindle alone will be near that range, though. If there is someone that's more in the 40-50 range it would be more reasonable. It does hugely benefit from in person instruction though, but I love spinning too much to ignore it. :)

Coloring books for grownups are super popular right now; any craft shop will have a ton of choices. A good book and either a small selection of good quality markers/pencils, or a big selection of inexpensive ones, would be in that price range.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:21 PM on November 27, 2016

Decoupage was the slippery slope for me into the endless vortex of crafting. This blog is a great source of easy little projects.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:27 PM on November 27, 2016

DIY, 100% natural lip balms (or chap sticks) are simple and fun to make. You just need some oils, butters and waxes - some of which are regular pantry stuff - and a few different sorts of aromas or essential oils for scent and flavour.

Googling will turn up many different recepies, the simpler ones are just as good, IME. Add to that some tube containers or tiny tin cans or boxes, which can also be decorated with little prints or stickers as part of the project, or maybe even hand painted.
posted by sively at 3:29 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been getting into paint-by-number kits. They make them for kids and adults. I like them because they provide structure and materials but it's still a blank canvas and there's no rule that says you have to stay at in the lines. (I'm using them as collage backgrounds.)

I'd call the adult kits very advanced for the detail work so choose carefully, but ive done kids kits that were surprisingly challenging so there should be something for everyone.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:41 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another starter-level project I've been planning to do with one of my kids is making pendants (or other jewelry) and fridge magnets with cabochons. It's a quick & easy way to get neat looking results that will make you feel like a DIY boss.

All you need are cabochons, nice tiny prints you want to showcase, scissors, and either jewellery trays meant for cabochons, or small magnets. (It's also possible to make cabochon buttons, if you get the right trays.) And strong glue that dries clear - I've used Modpodge in my attempts - and a brush or sponge to spread the glue with. Again, lots of tutorials to be found on the internet, such as this one.
posted by sively at 3:46 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not Martha is great for this sort of thing. I've made marble magnets (similar to the cabochon magnets sively mentioned above) with this tutorial and they were easy and a lot of fun.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:08 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

And Purl Soho has good craft tutorials. I've also used several of their free general knitting patterns and they're great; here is their archive of small holiday knitting crafts.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:16 PM on November 27, 2016

Bath bombs are fantastic--super easy and made of incredibly cheap ingredients (baking soda and citric acid). You can fancy up the package with essential oils and colors and some cool molds. They are especially good as an activity with small children because they are very fun to make and then it is incredibly easy to persuade the little folks to take a bath afterwards. The basic instructions via the aforementioned Not Martha are a great way to start.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:40 PM on November 27, 2016

Canning is really easy and doesn't require a ton of time or money to start up. I made 2 dozen jars of chutney this year for about $2.50/jar. I invested in the setup kit with basic materials (about $15) and Ball's book (the Bible of canning) . All you need besides those two things are a stockpot and a silicone trivet for the bottom of the pot. I'm no expert but I've canned two things so far and both have been successful, inexpensive, and it seriously impresses friends and family which is always a plus. I was really nervous about trying this, but after watching Marisa McClellan's Google talk-and-demonstration, I was hooked. As Marisa explains, it's so easy, and pretty foolproof as long as you choose tested recipes (like Ball) and don't cut corners on processing (which she explains in detail).
posted by onecircleaday at 4:52 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Needle felting! Craft stores have kits to get you through a first project, and if your recipients have fun, additional supplies are fairly inexpensive and easy to buy in small quantities.
posted by juliapangolin at 5:30 PM on November 27, 2016

Definitely counted cross-stitch! If you have any family members with a cheeky sense of humor, the deluxe kits from Subversive Cross Stitch include everything you need, including instructions (plus many more tips on their website.

Agree that needle felting is also fun. I have done a Wool Pets kit. Make sure you get one that has the sponge in it.

As a kid I liked the kits from Creativity for Kids--I remember that they were very big on providing everything you needed, down to the scissors, which is great.
posted by radioamy at 7:56 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Take a look at the Craft Crush kits. They offer more interesting variety than some others, at least for fiber arts.

I think kits are a good way to introduce a craft because most will have all the supplies, instructions, & specialized tools or materials. More economical & easier on you, too. If you are giving this type of gift to multiple people, customizing & assembling all the parts, ingredients, fiber, tools, bottles/tubes, or whatever, plus adding instructions, will take time & can be expensive. You can buy kits for aromatherapy, bath products, fabric printing/dyeing, embroidery, cross stitch, painting--you name it, there is a kit for it.

Hope everyone is inspired to create--this is a cool idea!
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 10:01 PM on November 27, 2016

Porcelain paints/paint pens (Pebeo porcelaine is a good brand) that can be used to decorate outsides of mugs,bowls, etc and cured in your oven.

Stamp carving can be done w/ anything from a potato to purchased stamp blocks and used w/ paints or inks to decorate all sorts of things.

Polymer clay (such as fimo) can be made into beads, ornaments, etc and baked in your oven too.

Origami offers tons of possibility with just a paper square.

Any of the above can be started with a fairly small investment but offer lots of possibilities for expansion.
(P.S. I love Craftgawker.)
posted by gennessee at 2:26 AM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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