It’s a brand-new year, but it’s hard to get excited about it when we’re still stuck at home for the foreseeable future. One way to inspire a feeling of novelty and switch up your old routine is to experiment with new crafty hobbies. Making things with your hands can be meditative and soothing, which makes crafting excellent for stress relief. Ideal crafts to try are those that require just a few, inexpensive, readily available supplies. The following crafts are all easy for beginners and have a short learning curve, meaning you’ll go from those inevitably messy first attempts to impressive creations in no time.
How to Get Started with New Crafty Hobbies
Being a true beginner to a craft can be frustrating, especially when you can’t get in-person help. Fortunately, there is an enormous wealth of help out there online, on social media and at the library. You might prefer written instruction or videos – both are widely available. Perhaps a more experienced friend or family member can help you over a video call.
The internet and social media are also a great source for inspiration. Scrolling through gorgeous hand-made creations by more experienced crafters is excellent motivation to learn and master a new crafty hobby. Just don’t get discouraged when your first few projects don’t look like someone else’s 100th! We all start at the beginning, and there’s no better time than now to see what your hands can do.
Learning to Knit
Knitting is a cozy, enjoyable craft with limitless possibilities. It can feel truly magical to turn yarn into a soft, beautifully patterned textile that can take on any imaginable shape. Even the most complex patterns are much easier than they look. Master the basics and you can create scarves, hats, mittens, bags, sweaters, cardigans, cushions, blankets and countless other items.
How to get started: You only need knitting needles, yarn and a set of written or video instructions to get started with knitting. The first technique to learn is casting on, meaning getting the first row of stitches onto a needle (there are various ways to do this). Next learn the knit stitch, and how to cast off, which means creating a finished edge as you get the work off the needles. These three steps can be tricky at first, but become instinctive very quickly. Next up will be learning the purl stitch, which is really just the knit stitch backwards. Starter projects you can create while learning just those basic skills include potholders, coasters and scarves.
Beginner tip: Some knitting needles are better for beginners. Go for thicker needles and match them with a heavier yarn. Bamboo and wooden needles are less slippery than plastic or metal ones, making it easier to keep the stitches on them.
Pros: Learning to knit requires few materials, it’s easy to get started, and best of all you can do it while watching TV. Another great thing about knitting is that you can unravel and re-knit indefinitely with zero waste. Undo a few rows to fix a mistake or “frog” i.e. unravel, the whole thing and start over, without ever wasting your yarn.
Cons: Knitting is a relatively slow craft, and it can take weeks or even many months to finish a project. Working with larger needles and bulky yarn makes knitting go more quickly. Once you’ve mastered the basics you could knit a bulky hat or scarf in a weekend, but expect most projects to take a lot longer.
Resources: Ravelry.com is the internet’s most comprehensive site dedicated to knitting and crochet. Sign up for a free account to find over a million(!) patterns, connect with other crafters and keep a record of your own projects.
Hand Embroidery for Beginners
Hand embroidery seems to be having a moment. No hip gallery wall is complete without at least one mounted hoop showcasing stitched botanicals. It should come as no surprise, as this delightful handcraft is readily accessible to beginners. The basic supplies are inexpensive, you only need to learn a few stitches to get started, and even beginner-friendly patterns can look stunning. It’s best to start by stitching on woven fabric in a hoop, but you can also work embroidery stitches directly on garments and other textiles. Make wall art, which you can frame or keep in the hoop, or embellish a T-shirt, jacket, tote bag, makeup bag or the collar of a button-down shirt.
How to get started: Pick up plastic or wooden embroidery hoops in a few sizes, a set of embroidery needles, small scissors and embroidery floss in as many colors as you desire. Start with a non-stretch cotton or linen fabric, which you can probably salvage from old clothing or bedding. Find instructions for basic stitches including straight stitch, outline stitch, satin stitch, lazy daisy and French knots.
After a few practice sessions, once you understand the stitches and can work them evenly and neatly, move on to stitching a design. You can sketch your own or print a pattern, then trace it onto the fabric in the hoop using a disappearing fabric marker. Stitch using the lines as a guide, either closely following the pattern instructions or improvising with your own stitch and color combinations.
Beginner tip: Embroidery floss comprises six individual threads. Pattern instructions will tell you how many threads to use for each particular stitch. If you’re creating your own design, adjust the number of threads you use to determine the thickness of your stitches.
Pros: Embroidery is a very portable craft. Smaller hoops can fit inside your bag so you can work on your project while on the road, in a waiting room e.t.c.
Cons: You need to be very careful with embroidery needles! They are easy to drop and difficult to find when you do. Use a magnetic needle minder and make a habit of securing needles while not in use.
Useful link: D.M.C., the best-known embroidery floss brand, offers hundreds of free patterns on its website. Most are suitable for beginners.
Picking up Paper Cutting
Think of paper cutting, also known as kirigami, as drawing with a knife. Wield a sharp craft knife in the manner of a pencil, cut paper or cardstock along drawn or printed lines, pull out the excess bits and admire a beautiful design. Paper cut art usually features two or more layers of cut paper, which gives you countless options for color combinations and monochrome effects. Make paper cutting your new crafty hobby and create greetings cards, wall art, ornaments and scrapbook pages.
How to get started: You need a sharp craft knife, self-healing cutting board (or scrap cardboard in a pinch), heavy paper or cardstock and a design. Some projects require adhesives and might need a frame. It’s best for beginners to find a free printable design with clear instructions. Start in the middle of the page and work your way to the sides, cutting slowly and as smoothly as you can. Once you get the hang of it you can try more complex designs and perhaps draw your own.
Beginner tip: Knife blades get dull quite quickly and need to be replaced. As soon as you feel the blade dragging, it’s time to use a new one.
Pros: After buying a knife and mat, paper cutting is one of the cheapest hobbies around. Quality paper is worth the investment once you get into the craft, but even then, it doesn’t break the bank. Mistakes are annoying for other reasons, but the cost is low and discarded paper is recyclable.
Cons: It’s difficult, and often impossible, to fix paper cutting mistakes, so one wrong slip of the knife could potentially ruin your project. Patience and a willingness to start over again are key!
Useful link: The charming blog allaboutpapercutting.com features dozens of in-depth tutorials for paper cutting projects, as well as lots of free patterns.
Block Printing, or Potato Stamping for Grownups
Remember printing shapes with a cut potato stamp? That’s just a child-friendly version of block printing, a wonderful craft that’s just as enjoyable for adults. It’s super versatile, and can be practiced with a wide variety of tools and materials, both purchased and improvised from household items. Store-bought stamps are great, but creating your own is a big part of the fun of block printing. By switching up the type of paint, you can print on paper, textiles, even wood, walls, furniture and ceramics.
How to get started: The essential supplies for learning block printing are stamps, paint or ink, and something to print on. For your first attempts, paper is the best option. You can buy a rubber stamp or create your own by carving a potato with a knife, cutting shapes out of foam sheets and sticking them to a cardboard backing, or carving a rubber or linoleum block. Improvise with household objects, such as toilet paper cores to create circles, pencil erasers for dots, and rubber bands wrapped around a block to create stripes.
Apply ink or paint to the surface of the stamp with a brush or roller, and press it down firmly onto the paper with your palm. Be careful not to wiggle the stamp, and lift it straight back up. Play around with the placement of prints to create a design, whether it’s even spacing in a grid or a random arrangement.
Beginner tip: Start to research block printing on the internet and you might get overwhelmed by all the specialist tools, supplies and terminology. As a beginner, there’s no need to worry about those items. Start with inexpensive alternatives, for example a paper plate instead of an inking tray. If you discover that you love block printing, then look into specialist supplies and more advanced techniques.
Pros: With block printing, simple designs – those that are easy to achieve even by those of us with minimal artistic skill – are just as effective, often more so, than complicated designs. In a repeat pattern, the simplest shapes like circles, triangles and rectangles can become an eye-catching work of art.
Cons: As with any paint project, block printing can be messy. Printing on large sheets of paper or lengths of fabric might require a lot of free space.
Ready to Learn Macrame?
Macrame is the craft of artistic knotting, most commonly seen as hanging planters, hangers for those kitschy nautical glass orbs, hippie accessories and boho-style wall hangings. The friendship bracelets you made as a kid… those are macrame, too.
If you can tie shoelaces, you already have the necessary skills to complete a beginner macrame project. Learn some new knots and you’ll be on your way to more advanced creations in no time. Macrame is another crafty hobby that you can do sitting on your couch, and you can undo and re-do it as many times as needed until you learn the ropes.
How to get started: Special macrame cording is the best material for macrame, but you can use any kind of rope, string, yarn or other knot-able materials of your choice. Options vary by color, material and thickness. The only other things you need to get started are scissors and instructions, although many designs include wooden rings, beads, dowels and hanging hardware. The easiest beginner projects might require only a standard overhand knot. Learn a few more macrame knots, such as lark’s head, square, half, spiral and clove hitch knots, as well as some basic terminology, and you’ll be able to move on to more complex designs.
Beginner tip: For your first attempts at macrame, keep the knots somewhat loose. Tie them just tightly enough so that they stay in place, but not so much that you can’t easily undo them if necessary. You can tighten everything later, once you’re sure they’re correctly knotted and positioned.
Pros: Master macrame and you’ll never be short on home décor items or handmade gift ideas that you can create at very little cost.
Cons: Macrame is versatile and can suit many styles of décor and personal style. However, the majority of macrame projects fit with a 70s-inspired aesthetic (the hobby was big during that era). If you’re not enamored by that style, it can be difficult to find appealing project ideas.
Useful link: The Macrame for Beginners website has a wealth of information about the craft including tutorials, projects and supply guides.
A great way to start a new crafty hobby is by buying a kit. Check out the creative kits we recommended in last year’s holiday gift guide.