What's a good craft I could spend a weekend doing?
February 26, 2017 5:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm going on a crafting retreat with friends, and am looking for suggestions for what to bring along. I like the thought of learning something new before I go. Suggestions?

My go-to craft is knitting, which I'm pretty good at. I don't know how to crochet and am willing to learn, but would prefer to take a bigger step away from knitting.

I'm allergic to nickel, so nothing that involves handling nickel for long periods. We'll be in a cabin, so nothing too smelly or that involves a lot of cleanup. I tried cross-stitch but don't have the eyesight for it and I don't particularly like embroidery. I don't like decoupage or felt.

I prefer things that don't require tooooo much precision, as I do crafts to relax. I like the amount of creativity that's involved in knitting, as I love picking out yarn but don't like having to come up with the big picture.

I can sew a straight line (and make quilts) but am not particularly into sewing.

I know the rudiments of lashing and would like to improve that skill -- is there something I could do with that? Something transportable, so I don't have to take it apart when we leave the cabin?

I like knots. Macrame seems awful; what else is there? I have a monkey's fist keychain I was given, any suggestions along those lines?

I have no particular talent for drawing or painting, and would rather do something that involves following directions and not creating out of thin air.

I'm happy to spend money on supplies.
posted by The corpse in the library to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Origami encompasses a pretty wide spectrum; there are the usual birds and animals which can run from simple to amazingly complex, to modular/geometric origami. There is so much delicious paper out there.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2017

If you like knots, maybe you would like to try tatting? Tatting is a technique for handcrafting a particularly durable lace from a series of knots and loops.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Quilling has super pretty results with surprisingly low difficulty. You can get kits to make a predetermined image or objects, or find little DIY project ideas all over pinterest.

If you've got space to make a bit of a mess you might like customizing textiles using stencils and batik techniques. You apply wax to fabric in a design, then dye the fabric, and then remove the wax with an iron, leaving an undyed design behind. To make it more consistent and/or easier you can use any stencil you like to help you apply the wax resist. I've seen great placemat and napkin sets done this way. It's not really that much of a mess, especially if you're using a single color of dye and if you have some skill at being methodical about your crafts, which it sounds like you do.
posted by Mizu at 6:09 PM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Whittling? Weaving on a hand loom? Spinning yarn with a drop spindle?
posted by umwhat at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hooking small carpets?
posted by umwhat at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I was little we learned embroidery in art class but we used yarn and burlap. You can still make a nice sampler this way but you don't need such fine eyesight and it moves along a little more quickly. There wouldn't be much of an outlay of funds since you could use leftover yarn you already have. It's fun to learn all the different stitches and knots you can do.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:56 PM on February 26, 2017

(I used to work in a craft store.)

If you want to give embroidery another shot you could look at bargello or general needlepoint. Needlepoint can be as hard as you make it, but a lot of it is done in wool yarns on a pre-printed canvas with a single stitch type. Plastic canvas is much-maligned, but it's just needlepoint in a different way-- again, the holes and the yarn and the needle are larger, so it might be easier. You can come up with some fascinating 3D objects that way.

It depends on what you don't like about embroidery, I guess. Embroidery is so broad as a category, you can usually find something to enjoy that doesn't have the features you don't like-- make it bigger, or don't use cutesy happykittybunnypony patterns, or change up the colors, or something. Cutwork (basically just buttonhole stitch around edges in a design) might work for you, too, but might also be too small. Punch-needle might work for you, actually-- it's not too finicky. You stab a needle into the face of the fabric approximately a million times to make a fluffy surface. The only annoying part is threading the needle.

You could try rug-hooking, which is a way to use up scrap yarn. If you have fabric, you could make a braided or coiled-and-sewn rug from strips. Quilting with pre-designed blocks might work for you, but it's a lot of tiny sewing if you don't have a machine.

Macrame can be awful, but if you like knots, it's fun. A lot depends on the thing you're choosing to make, and if you don't like enormous glaring 70's owl hangings, don't make one of those-- make a nice netted bag or something. You could look into paracord tying, which is just macrame, but re-marketed and with a different material. Making hemp jewelry has a lot of knots. Tatting is pretty much just half-hitches, but it takes forEVER to get any quantity done.

There are a lot of options, and I would look at the website of your local county fair to see what they offer prizes for that might speak to you.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:16 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Google "punch needle embroidery" and see how that sounds to you. Despite the name, it's more like hooking a rug than embroidery.
posted by she's not there at 7:41 PM on February 26, 2017

I love all varieties of hand-quilting-piecing, appliqué, quirking. It's meditative, it's much easier for me to be precise than with machine, and the results can be stunning. If your experience quoting had been by machine, I highly recommend.
posted by purenitrous at 8:38 PM on February 26, 2017

Spinning's a pretty natural progression for a knitter. If you love picking out yarn picking fleece is likely to hit all the same buttons. It's fairly meditative, takes a steady hand, but is something you can comfortably do while chatting with friends over a glass of something nice. I don't spin myself but a lot of my knitting friends do and I've contemplated it as a crocheter. I went on a similar crafting weekend with my knitting circle last year and the spinners had rather a productive weekend.
posted by Jilder at 8:59 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a few ideas (but I don't practice any of these so you'd have to investigate more):
- Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding discipline. There's some infrastructure (a marudai), but it's all portable.
-Split ply braiding is another technique you could try.
-Card weaving is usually done for narrow bands, and usually (?) done with the warp tied off to a static support/backstrap-like
-Inkle weaving is another narrow band weaving method -- an inkle loom (even a giant one) is very portable.
posted by janell at 9:06 PM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd totally use this as an opportunity to try a few new things and make some presents. A few from my when-I-have-a-free-weekend list:
Pom pom animals
Braided rug
Sashiko placemats
posted by superfish at 9:34 PM on February 26, 2017

Needle felting!

Portable, easy, very different skill than knitting even though it's fibre-related.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:06 PM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I know you said macrame seems awful, but if you haven't seen modern macrame, it's gorgeous.
posted by third word on a random page at 12:28 AM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

CARVING WOOD. Super fun and it makes the time go by so fast.
posted by hellomina at 4:13 AM on February 27, 2017

There's a lot of knot-related stuff using Chinese knotting cord like these bracelets.

If seed beads aren't too fiddly for you, you could make simple, non-metal jewelry like this.

Paper flowers can be rewarding to make, and this book has very lovely photos (though the directions are only just okay). I've made some from it, and though I had to do some guessing about the instructions, they came out great and look really lovely. Note that a hot glue gun is needed to assemble many (most?) of them.

If origami is at all appealing, modular origami (kusudama) takes it up a notch and is very impressive. Plus you can play with color patterns.

Small weaving on a loom is also fun, as mentioned above. You can do very small things like a bracelet, slightly larger things like a belt or sash, or fairly large things like a scarf on small portable looms. Generally the smaller the quicker the setup.

Have a great weekend!
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 6:03 AM on February 27, 2017

Depending on the amenities of the cabin, I think I might bake bread. Baking French bread the original way involves 2 rises before shaping, and one after. The entire process can easily go over 6 hours, especially if you have to let the rises go longer because of cold conditions. Anyway, two batches of bread with staggered rise times should keep you pretty busy. And by bread, I would also include yeast rolls. Hot Cross Buns would be seasonal right now. Any aroma will be welcomed, as will home-baked bread at dinner and/or breakfast. If you are really ambitious, you can try croissants.

There are kits for all sorts of wood projects. You can pick something that would be enjoyed by a child, grandchild, niece or nephew according to your circumstances. My wife and I built a doll house from a kit for a Christmas present. Maybe someone wants a small building for a model train layout. My mother-in-law carved several birds.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:20 AM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd actually not dismiss crochet as too similar to knitting. Once you know crochet it can really complement your knitting nicely. There are some things that are far easier in crochet, and some beautiful crochet edgings you can use on your knitted garments.

If you want to carve, get some bars of Ivory soap as well as wood. Soap carving is super fun and satisfying.

Knots are fun!

If you like sassy, there's some great Subversive Cross-Stitch kits out there with everything you need.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:18 AM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've done a little bit of weaving using a rigid heddle loom and it's very enjoyable. It's table sized so you can travel with it. Takes a little bit to learn but gets easier.

Purl Soho has a lot of really beautiful craft kits - most of them seem like a weekend project. I made one once and it came out well.

English paper pieced hexies? I haven't tried these myself but I hear from friends they are super addicting and easy once you get started. They have that same pick-out-fabric creativity but following a pattern thing.

You mentioned you don't like sewing, but if you might like hand quilting, Haptic Lab's quilt kits (city or star maps) are really fun.
posted by john_snow at 7:20 AM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh! I meant to add, too: if you have long hair, you could learn some new ways to braid it! That's super in right now. I am planning to learn the fishtail braid and learn to do that crown french braid.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:25 AM on February 27, 2017

I like to hand carve my own designs onto a printing block, for use in printing onto fabric or paper. Some people use linoleum blocks, but I like to use a softer medium, more like a gummy eraser. I think Speedball and Moo Carve are the brands I buy.

I also like to buy styrofoam balls and stick sequins all over them, using small silk pins to hold them on. I stick a piece of ribbon on the end, and voila...a new holiday ornament, or just a small jazzy disco ball for everyday enjoyment.
posted by medeine at 12:53 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK, maybe macrame. If people have suggestions for interesting macrame, I'd like to see them.

I'll have access to a microwave but that's it, so nothing requiring a real kitchen -- I can use a camp stove outside, but I want projects I can do in the cabin in case of rain, and I probably shouldn't use the microwave for crafting projects.

I'm a Girl Scout leader, so things I can teach my troop are cool (we've done soap carving and enjoyed it, and only two girls got injured). So, Scouty, camp-crafty things are interesting... but so are less Scouty activities.

All these ideas are helpful. Thank you!
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:14 PM on February 27, 2017

Yes it is technically knitting, but...loom knitting? Fun, easy, mindless.
posted by tristeza at 4:45 PM on February 27, 2017

You could do linoleum block prints (or the cheaper, smaller alternative: eraser stamp carving.) If you use erasers (try those giant ones from the dollar store) or the EZ-Kut soft blocks, it's easier and a little safer because you're not using so much force. You can get a brayer and paper and everything but you can also ink small blocks with ink and a sponge dauber.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:21 AM on February 28, 2017

I have interesting suggestions for macrame!! I actually just started yesterday, after about a week of obsessive blog-reading about it. It requires minimal supplies (just some rope) and with your knitting background, you understand knot placement and tension and all the other things that will make this easier and look nicer.

ReformFibers on etsy sells patterns for about $4. A lot of their patterns are very easy. These are not instructions though, you'll have to either google or youtube how to do specific knots to follow along. I am doing my own version of this, and it only requires one knot, which is the most basic knot.

If you'd like to extend the craft further, there are circular tapestries, as well as you can dye your own cord, which seems really fun to me and I'm excited about doing it.

I spent a couple hours last night just listening to my favorite albums and drinking sweet tea, while learning the basics and then drafting my own pattern (I dive in the deep end always). I highly recommend it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:11 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, to piggy-back on how to expand the macrame, you can make your own paper beads that can be strung in the tapestry
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:15 AM on February 28, 2017

I don't know if you're still looking, but I was reminded recently that I've been meaning to look into net making — I've always wanted to learn how to make a net shopping bag, maybe even a hammock, etc. There don't seem to be a lot of books or even websites on the topic, but this one looks like it might be OK.

Peripherally related, are also lots of paracord and similar knotty/crafty projects around, which might appeal to your scouts.
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 6:18 AM on March 3, 2017

Response by poster: Yup, still looking, thank you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:33 AM on March 3, 2017

There's also natural yarn dying. You can simmer it in a pot on the stove, but the article also has a cold dye method in jars.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:56 AM on March 11, 2017

Here are all her posts showing various natural things she used to dye the yarn, and what the colours turned out to be.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:00 AM on March 11, 2017

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