Crafty crafts?
June 30, 2008 10:46 AM   Subscribe

I need a craft that has tangible results!

I've been spending way too much time on a computer, making all these cool things which are neat, but have no tangible, lasting expression beyond some some electrons on a screen. I play music too, but similarly, this is a passing experience.

So my request, dear MeFi, is for some ideas of crafts which are enjoyable, don't have a huge learning curve or expense outlay (at least in the beginning, as much as i want to get into welding, it's not realistic at this time). I'd also like to avoid things which require excessive amounts of agility and looking at tiny things, because my eyes are strained enough already (not to mention clumsy fingers).

Thanks for your help and input!
posted by emptyinside to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
As Ratatouille says, "Anyone can cook." Grab a knife and get down with your bad self.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:52 AM on June 30, 2008

posted by PowerCat at 10:53 AM on June 30, 2008

Well papercraft can be pretty precise. Try it out to see if you're able to do it.
posted by PowerCat at 10:54 AM on June 30, 2008

To refine CPB's suggestion, if you want something that's a bit less ephemeral than a single meal, why not look into canning and other forms of food preservation? Pickles especially are quite easy to get the basics down (I'd suggest finding the Good Eats episode that talked about making them), but you have infinite variations of flavouring and so on. And homemade pickles (or jams or jellies or chutneys or what-have-you) always make spectacular gifts.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:55 AM on June 30, 2008

Ceramics, with some luck your work will still be around thousands of yours from now when people finally are ready to appreciate your aesthetic.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could make dioramas out of the stuff you design on the computer. In other words, if you design websites, you could make a diorama (or a Cornell Box) of a site you made with doors where the links are that open to reveal other rooms/pages beyond.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Knitting is good, and you can make it as simple or as difficult as you want: tiny needles, big needles, very fine yarn, very thick yarn, round, square, flat, three-dimensional, plain garter stitch or lace.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2008

Best answer: chain mail definetly produces a tangible product. It can be quite a workout on the forearms, during the winding/clipping phase.
posted by nomisxid at 11:02 AM on June 30, 2008

Best answer: We recently began our welding hobby with an outlay of around $150--a 70 amp welder, helmet, gloves, electrodes, and 20 or so pieces of rebar. We were successfully joining pieces together by the end of the first weekend, and built a grape arbor in short order. It's not really very hard or expensive.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:02 AM on June 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: wow, what a response! i'm so impressed by the variety and diversity! please keep em coming!

i like to cook, ceramics are also interesting, knitting and chainmail i've tried, and could pick up again. and i didn't know welding was so cheap to get into! (alas, i have no garage / workspace beyond a living room sofa and coffee table)
posted by emptyinside at 11:09 AM on June 30, 2008

Embroidery! Simple, fun, cheap, cute gifts!
posted by tristeza at 11:13 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Even though I've had no experience with it, woodworking always seemed appealing to me, though I hear it can get pretty expensive.
posted by chan.caro at 11:14 AM on June 30, 2008

posted by box at 11:14 AM on June 30, 2008

We did everything outside, in our 13-foot-wide rowhouse back yard. I mean, I don't want to harp on this; I just want to convey it's really a pretty easy hobby to pick up. And $150 is a generous estimate, really--the complete welding kit was $100, but I needed some Dremel cut-off disks and raw materials and such. No way you could do it on your coffee table, though--you do need outside space.

This is all associated with another hobby you may want to consider--wine making. There's a whole industry supporting home beer and wine making, and you can go pretty much as simple or complex as you like. Craftsy and tangible!
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:18 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've recently begun homebrewing. It's fun and in the end you get to get drunk!
posted by trbrts at 11:22 AM on June 30, 2008

wood-block carving. make stationary for yourself, or for someone else as a gift, print your own holiday cards to send to people...if you do digital artwork, you could make wood-block prints of those.
crocheting/knitting, as someone mentioned above, is also good.
posted by asras at 11:32 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm thinking of canning my salsa recipes (a mango/pepper salsa and a traditional tomato/cilantro salsa) and selling them at the local farmer's market.

Fun, easy and profitable.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 11:42 AM on June 30, 2008

chain mail tip: wind with a drill (carefuly), and rather than clip, use a dremel with a cutoff wheel.
posted by piedmont at 11:54 AM on June 30, 2008

Knitting is cool in that you can make stuff as simple or as complicated as you would like. And girls totally love knitted scarves as gifts. Some boys, too. It's like having little pieces of traveling art matched with your friends.
posted by troybob at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2008

Best answer: Have you considered turning your electronic crafts into tangible goods? Graphic art can be easily printed out onto iron-on sheets and then ironed on to tote bags or t-shirts. Tote bags make really good gifts (everyone needs to carry stuff!).

For more crafts inspiration, I suggest checking out Craftster. Go to each of the different categories (e.g. knitting, jewelry-making, glass crafts), and look at the "hot new projects" listed at the top -- this will give you a sense of all the different things people are doing, and perhaps one particular technique or genre will stick out to you as something you'd like to try.
posted by pluckemin at 12:10 PM on June 30, 2008

I like knitting too, especially when I stopped trying to make scarves (too long and boring!) and started making things like hats and fingerless gloves and socks. Plus if you buy nice yarn you can make simple things that look like a million bucks.

You may also like weaving. I've never done it but people seem to enjoy it. Look for a local weaver's guild to find someone who can tell you about it.

I am also getting ready to try my hand at cheesemaking. Simple mozzarella cheese can be done quickly (that site says 30 minutes), and then if you like it you can ramp up to the hard, aged cheeses, or soft cheese, or whatever. Note that you need a good source of milk for can be grocery store milk, just not the UHT Parmalat stuff.

Lastly, since it's either already berry/fruit season or it's soon to happen (in the Northern hemisphere, anyhow) you could try making jams/jellies/salsas and canning them.
posted by cabingirl at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2008

I would recommend crochet over knitting because recovering from mistakes is a breeze with crochet, and it takes a bit of work if you're knitting; especially when you're starting out it's not fun to spend lots of time fixing mistakes.
posted by bjrn at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2008

My favourite craft website, and I find it a bit more easy to navigate than craftster (though I love craftster) is
posted by Flying Squirrel at 12:41 PM on June 30, 2008

floor cloth/ floor paintings

Get your piece of canvas, apply coat of polycrylic or gesso to prime, with acrylic paint apply your design of any kind, coat again two times w/ polycrylic... voila, floor covering and art.
posted by mistsandrain at 12:45 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you like Beer? Brewing is fun.
posted by Good Brain at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2008

More importantly, do your friends like beer? Because if you brew your own, there is lots to drink (typical batches are 5gal)
posted by Good Brain at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2008

Cardmaking does it every time for me. There's always an occasion to give a card to someone - even if it's only just to say hello! The other advantage to card making is that you can incorporate other crafts onto them. Like making jewellery? Attach to cards, and you have instant gift. Teeny tiny knitted items look cute on baby cards; beadwork can look stunning on a card - especially if it doesn't have to go in the post. Lots of papercraft techniques to master as well.
posted by car01 at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

emptyinside: alas, i have no garage / workspace beyond a living room sofa and coffee table

Do you lack the space to build a workspace / shed somewhere on your property? If not, then that'd be tangible and useful.
posted by philomathoholic at 2:15 PM on June 30, 2008

Agreeing with all who have mentioned Craftster, it is always my source of inspiration when I'm looking for something new to take on.

You might enjoy screenprinting - a starter kit can come pretty cheap, and it's definitely tangible and lasting if you are printing on stuff you wear.
posted by vodkaboots at 2:40 PM on June 30, 2008

Whenever I'm needing a little inspiration for new stuff to make or crafts to try, I check out Craftster as pluckemin mentioned above, as well as Craft blog and Make blog.
posted by medeine at 2:46 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sew some stuffed animals! Here are a few things that my wife and I have made for my newborn son:

Both of these books were great:
Aranzi Aronzo Fun Dolls (Let's Make Cute Stuff)
Stupid Sock Creatures: Making Quirky, Lovable Figures from Cast-off Socks
posted by skwm at 3:17 PM on June 30, 2008

I just made my first quilt. My wife taught me how. The thing I really enjoyed about quilting is that is is a creative hobby, but the actual cutting, piecework and quilting is pretty mindless and easy. And the end result is nice.
posted by jayder at 3:19 PM on June 30, 2008

Response by poster: @philomathoholic lol... property! what a concept! i'm a perpetual renter.

thanks for the craftster reference that is certainly an excellent resource for learning new things and seeing what others are doing
posted by emptyinside at 3:29 PM on June 30, 2008

Ant farming. How-to instructions for that and many of the above suggestions can be found in Tina Barseghian's book Get a Hobby!: 101 All-Consuming Diversions for Any Lifestyle.
posted by boy detective at 3:40 PM on June 30, 2008

Leather working. I still find myself handling things I made ten years ago and marveling at how well they've held up. And it's pretty neat to have someone compliment you on your hat or wallet or whatever, and be able to say "Thanks, I made it."

Tandy has a lot of useful supplies. But don't go too crazy buying tools. The main things you need to get started are a sharp knife for cutting out the leather, a punch for making the stitch/ lacing holes, a needle and some waxed thread. With just those, you can make a lot of stuff.
posted by quin at 3:47 PM on June 30, 2008

learn how to make & bind books - lasting, tangible, & make great gifts for friends & loved ones (there's nothing like giving a handmade book to someone & have them look at you wide-eyed & ask "you made this?")
posted by jammy at 4:00 PM on June 30, 2008

How about papier mache? All you need is lots of newspaper, a glue made out of flour and water, and patience. You can mold small items around a base such as a plastic lid or a (drained) egg. Or you can really have fun and make papier mache animals, using a chicken-wire base that you shape out roughly before starting with the papier mache. The nice thing is that you can't mess it up - you just keep adding bits of paper to various parts of the sculpture until it looks the right shape. Then you paint it.
posted by Susurration at 5:05 PM on June 30, 2008

Good quality fabric paints aren't very expensive and with a somewhat steady hand you can make all kinds of cool stuff. This could be mixed with screen printing to make one off pieces that are just that wee bit cooler than straight printing.
posted by shelleycat at 5:52 PM on June 30, 2008

Along the lines of what tristeza recommended, I would say try cross-stitching. I find it's easier than hand-embroidery because you don't have to worry about your stitch size and doing neat little stitches. It's cheaper than needle-point. Also faster than needle-point because you generally only stitch the foreground design, you don't have to fill in the background. I highly recommend Subversive Cross-Stitch. Their kits are affordable and fun. Then when you get more comfortable, you can design your own snarky patterns!
posted by radioamy at 6:06 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I also recommend homebrewing.

You can start with a fairly small investment in equipment (most homebrew shops sell starter kits that provide all the essentials) and make good beer with little knowledge by following a recipe.

But like any craft/hobby you can also choose to go very in-depth, learn many complexities, subtleties, nuances, brew several different styles, formulate your own custom recipes, etc. The hobby can grow with you for a lifetime.

You can also make wine, mead, barleywine, cider, root beer, etc. with the same basic principles and gear. You can bottle your beer or keg it.

Homebrewers are a lively bunch and they love to share their knowledge. Chances are there's a homebrew shop near you -- stop by and start asking questions, I'm sure the shopkeeper will be glad to give you pointers or suggest a beginner book/kit. Some links to help you get started:
There are also several instructional videos on YouTube, some demonstrating advanced techniques and some demonstrating basic beginner stuff.
posted by Alabaster at 7:04 PM on June 30, 2008

I was really into baking, which was delicious and fun with great results. Then I realized how fat I was.

Serious answer: Knitting is awesome. The best part is being able to customize anything to exactly the way you want it. Always wanted fingerless gloves in a particular shade of teal with "THUG LIFE" in purple on the knuckles, but your hands are unusually small and you could just never find any that fit? Spend a couple hours and $10, and you've got the gloves of your dreams. Right now I'm making this, and all my friends are already jealous -- you won't find those scarves in any stores.

Knitting incorporates the best of all worlds: really creative when you're designing precisely what you want; social whenever you want to meander down to your local yarn store to drool or to get advice; thought-engaging when you're laying out how you're going to accomplish the pattern; and more or less mindless while watching TV (after you get some experience). There's also a lot of room to improve, but it's never necessary. You can have fun for years just making scarves and other easy rectangular things, or you can steadily push yourself to learn more difficult new techniques.
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:06 PM on June 30, 2008

Buy cheap wooden furniture at garage sales and paint it in bright colors and designs.
posted by Joleta at 8:34 PM on June 30, 2008

* Jewelry making. Tools are fairly inexpensive as are most beads, and you can keep them all together in little plastic containers in, say, a tool box.

* Photography. Digital is wayyy more forgiving (and less expensive) than 35mm, especially if you're just getting started. Take a crapload of shots, delete whatever you want. And if your camera's resolution is high enough, you can make prints to give as gifts or to decorate your own walls with.

* Tie-dying. Super fun and takes a fabulously small investment -- dyes, rubberbands, dunking buckets. I've purchased bulk t-shirts (Walgreens). You pick the colors, you pick the designs, and you can dye nearly anything. My blue, purple and white swirly socks are my very favorites. It helps to have a garage or basement or some place to spread things out a little.

* Jigsaw puzzles. Again, need a little space to spread out, but very simple and, if you're not one of those obsessive *must finish now no matter what* types, you can both walk away from and return to it whenever you want to.

* Gardening. Spending time digging in soil and prettifying your home can never be a bad thing. I also get nearly blissed-out pulling weeds. Not a craft but just sayin'.

Enjoy finding that whatever-it-is thing that works best for you!
posted by mcbeth at 9:40 PM on June 30, 2008

Nthing knitting. My suggestion - knit socks. They are infinitely more impressive and way better conversation starters than handwarmers.
posted by bilabial at 2:20 PM on July 1, 2008

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