Stocking up for The Long Winter
August 7, 2020 5:24 AM   Subscribe

I am anticipating another full shutdown in my area in late fall due to the plan for our schools. Where I live, parts of the fall and winter are icy and gross, so although we will have all the gear, we may feel trapped inside. In the first shutdown, thanks to Zoom crafts, we ran out of tape. What items are you stocking? After reading the snowflakes below, what would you add to our stores?

This is not a food question but food can be included as an activity. We already bake quite a bit. I have a 14 year old and a 9 year old. My total games/craft budget is $459 due to a camp refund cheque, so smaller items are better (I.e. no Peleton.) Thanks to our fav game store we are pretty well stocked for board and role playing games, but will take recommendations. We are also well stocked for LEGO. There’s a local model shop I am going to visit as well after a trial model was enjoyed by all, although I am a bit concerned about price vs.time spent for kind of one-offs. We have a neighbourhood puzzle swap going.

We have guitars and a piano, and a reasonably well-stocked art cupboard (Paints, canvases, glue, paper, etc.), polymer clay, and soap carving. Hit me with all your ideas, especially those that have been awesomely enjoyed.
posted by warriorqueen to Shopping (17 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Cross stitching is relatively inexpensive as crafts go - startup you'll need needles, a hoop or frame, some floss, some aida cloth - or you can get a starter kit to see if any of you like it before you get all of that stuff. I have a cheap organizer for my floss, cardboard bobbins are also super cheap, you probably already have craft scissors. The real money I spend on it is for frames and matting for finished projects but that's extraneous - you can even sew projects straight into cheap wooden or bamboo hoops for gifts if you like your results. There are tons of ideas and patterns on Pinterest, and places where you can print grids to design your own projects. I learned it all on my own online. Disregarding framing, over the last two and a half years I've probably spent about $150 altogether including several hoops, and I have made a number of large items and have a huge stock of floss and a bunch of cloth right now.

I like it because I can do most of it while I watch Netflix AND it is time consuming AND the result is extremely satisfying to me.
posted by wellred at 5:45 AM on August 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer:
  • Ream of white printer paper
  • Take an inventory of your scissors
  • Sticker assortment if your kids are into that for decorating letters and envelopes
  • Postage
  • If you are a glitter house, there are assortments with different sizes of glitters and color palettes. You might experiment with different glues.
  • Paperback books from Abe or Powells or your local, especially if there's an option to buy previously owned books. Not sure where the intersection of books for 9, 14, and adult is, but I would bet it exists. This gives you stuff to talk about after you've all read it. Or read a chapter of something together each night.
  • If you've been in the habit of buying one off holiday decor every year, this might be the year to make/build/decorate your own. If you have space, you can save for future years. If no space, make for beloved family/friends who like to decorate (could be window signs, tree ornaments, centerpieces)
  • 9 and 14 are good ages for cross stitch and embroidery. Start with a very small project so they get a sense of gratification at being done and you don't sink a lot of money into a 1/4 finished space hog. Splurge and send their first completed pieces to a finisher.
  • If you have good windows for bird watching, consider getting a metal "suet feeder" and making suet cake with peanut butter and seeds/nuts to give neighborhood birds plenty of fat through the winter. You'll probably also end up feeding squirrels.
  • Surfaces. If there is a constant shuffle to move stuff and make room for new activities, consider extra small table(s) for activities like letter writing that require some space but not the relocation of a whole puzzle. Also, you can use a puzzle board on a table and move the whole puzzle in one go if adding tables is a nonstarter. Maybe also lap desks for the kids if they want to work on the couch or in bed for a change of scenery.

posted by bilabial at 5:49 AM on August 7, 2020

Best answer: Also, there are online resources for "open box" items if there is a purchase that you would make if it was just a little less spendy. This can be good for things like models and craft kits where someone else bought it, and realized it wasn't what they were expecting. (Also good places to look for things like warm boots for growing feet.)
posted by bilabial at 5:52 AM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a bit off-cycle for heading into winter because it's wet and messy and better suited for outdoors if possible, but papermaking is one of my favorite crafts. It's very eco-friendly because you recycle old paper - tear it up, put it in a blender with water to make a slurry, then re-form sheets using a mould and deckle, which you can easily make yourself using old picture frames and screening. You can add dried flowers, confetti, etc. Really fun and satisfying as you learn and improve at technique.

Arnold Grummer (he was a master papermaker; now his children run this site) has kits for sale, although you can source all this stuff yourself; you can also find his books on various websites or your local library.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:55 AM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if there will be shortages of holiday items but if there are special foods or decorations that are really important you could buy them when you see them. LED string lights, cranberry jelly. And make sure you're stocked on hot cocoa mix. You could start planning for a homemade holiday. I'd suggest tucking the money away for when you need it; put it in a gift card if it's too tempting. There will be something you really want in October or whenever.

Or read a chapter of something together each night is a great idea.
posted by theora55 at 5:56 AM on August 7, 2020

Best answer: Making edible or non edible seasonal gifts. Things like truffles or candied nuts or baking. Or crafty gifts or handmade cards. This will take you from September through December between planning what you’ll do, learning how to do it, doing enough of it, packaging and dispatching. Making some for your own consumption because yummy...pick wisely as some recipes can become expensive if you scale up.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:18 AM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: -A big roll of twine or something similar can expand craft options. Also crafting or gardening wire.
-Baking cookies that need to be rolled out and decorated.
-More paper than you think you'll need.
-Homemade christmas/holiday ornaments.
-Supplies for growing plants indoors.
-Kinda niche and it might not fit your budget but a functional basic microscope is fun for looking at all sorts of household things.
-Some way to get access to new books or ebooks (maybe a new e-reader if it fits your budget, renew your library card if it needs it)
posted by randomnity at 6:50 AM on August 7, 2020

Best answer: Is a covered fire pit (even if the cover is just a canopy) an option some of the time with your weather? Being able to get out of the house might be nice.

A pair of noise cancelling headphones might be useful for creating some extra "space" inside.

Do you have pets? I wouldn't necessarily recommend running out and getting a quarantine dog or cat but my sister and I adored our guinea pigs at your kids' ages.

Is there music that the entire family enjoys to the point you could have band nights playing together?
posted by Candleman at 8:14 AM on August 7, 2020

Best answer: Electronic soldering kits from Chinese sites cost quite little and can be great fun. Blinking Christmas decorations, a weather station, a radio, a burglar alarm or lie detector, sky is the limit. Learn to solder from YouTube, fun and easy.
posted by J.R. Hartley at 8:21 AM on August 7, 2020

Best answer: If you can code (and possibly even if you can't because you can copy and paste code found online), a kit like this can be endlessly fun:

If you are not horrified by the tiny plastic bits (I am but it's too late; I already bought one) the small diamond painting projects are cool -

Cool silicone molds, you can cast plaster of paris in them and then paint the outcomes:

Macrame is very in right now. Sorry no links, I don't understand what kind of rope you're supposed to buy and I know Amazon is not the best source.

Stuff for embroidery. There are tons of cool, pretty or sassy things that can be done that aren't cross stitch. I bought these transfers:

Your budget is large enough to purchase a Silhouette or Cricut machine - those machines that cut vinyl and paper. The things you can do with it are freaking endless. Endless. Make your own t-shirts, dishtowels. Cut nice stickers for the wall. Use them as stencils for painting stuff. Make etched glass stuff. Make labels for jars.

It could seriously entertain you all winter, plus you can use it to make everyone's christmas gifts. I haven't touched mine for quite a while but it's still the most entertaining toy I've even owned. If you have questions, just me-mail me. Don't buy the machine or supplies from Michael's.
posted by kitcat at 11:14 AM on August 7, 2020

Response by poster: These are all great, thank you. Happy to read more! We do read together and we have two cats and both those things are awesome.:) Once I start buying I will report back.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:49 AM on August 7, 2020

Best answer: Needle felting. You probably have a local source for cheap roving wool which you can dye youself. It's not that hard to make very cute animals, etc.

Alcohol ink painting is very fun, and can go from very simple to very complex. My daughter is entranced by it. You just need some cheap tiles from home depot, isopropyl alcohol, and the inks. Your local art store is probably a cheaper source than Amazon.
posted by kitcat at 11:53 AM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: if you have a garden, or some outdoor space for plants, you can start seeds indoors and coddle them through the winter until it's warm enough to plant them outside. Tomatoes and peppers both like being started in February/March for planting out in May where I am, but there are other plants you can start early as well.

Origami? The paper is inexpensive, and there are lots of sites that show you how fold things. You can use printer paper, or you can make your own with the alcohol ink painting method kitcat suggested.

Knitting? You can get basic needles and enough wool for a scarf or hat, or another beginner project, and it's possible to do while watching a movie, for instance.
posted by Lycaste at 12:16 PM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might enjoy making and furnishing a dolls house. If your family considers dolls houses too girly for them the house you build can be anything else on the same scale, from a military bunker, a castle, a shop, a haunted house, enchanter's laboratory or an inn as found in Skyrim.

One of my dolls' houses was a bark long house made out of birch bark and curved twigs that I furnished with baskets made from grass and pottery leather and such. In retrospect hanging real beef jerky from the roof was a mistake, as the cats found it... I set up my camps among dish gardens so the dolls had real plants in their own scale to wander among.

Hours can be spent making lots of different sorts of items to furnish a house out of many different materials, but only small quantities of materials are necessary to make the items. Examples of the sort of things you can make: Household sponge + cloth can be turned into a mattress. Miniature books out of white paper with a coloured paper cover. Polymer clay to create dishes. Wooden coffee stirrer sticks to be the floor boards. There are a ton of videos on YouTube showing how to make things. Many items can be made from materials scrounged from the house. Instead of polymer clay you can make your own self hardening clay from baking soda.

If you start with a simple room box you'll be able to figure out if the family enjoys the project without having to spend a lot of money. If they are enthusiastic you can expand to more rooms and an actual multi-room building.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:59 PM on August 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Infused salts are inexpensive and easy to make and are nice gifts for the holidays. Infused oils and vinegars are also pretty easy but have some good safety issues to be aware of.
posted by Candleman at 3:14 PM on August 7, 2020

Best answer: You will want to spend some time outdoors even if it is cold and snowy. Knitting and crocheting hats, scarves, mittens, etc. could be fun. Have you ever considered making your own snowshoes? (I have not tried this, I live in snow-free land but raised my kids in the cold north and I think they would have been into this, will have to send link to grandkids.) And make sure you have a couple of blank journals for each person should they want them to write or draw or collage in. A few more simple musical instruments could be fun, tambourines, small hand drums, recorders.
posted by mareli at 4:35 PM on August 7, 2020

It can become an expensive hobby, but handspinning is easy to start with! A drop spindle and some inexpensive roving can be easily got for affordable prices. It's pretty simple to make a spindle too -- technically all you need it a stick and a potato, but I'd recommend buying an inexpensive wooden one that's well-balanced. Bluefaced Leicester (also called BFL) is a wonderful wool breed to start with; you want roving, which is the easiest to start spinning. (There are tons of kits on Etsy, to make it even easier.) And there are a plethora of tutorials on YouTube, of course.

(This suggestion bought to you by my getting a very fancy spinning wheel for winter....)
posted by kalimac at 6:46 PM on August 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

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