If you are worried about long winter evenings indoors, then fear no more. Taking up a new crafting project is both rewarding and creative. Not only that, but you might be able to smuggle some hand made, inexpensive, gifts under the tree this year.
There is a resurgence of popularity with home made crafts and goods. I believe that people are reacting to the mass market and fast fashion brands that churn out items in their multitudes. Upcycling, the buzz word of the moment, is part of this reaction to overbuying. Moreover, for many who are on computer screens all day, creative projects contrast for a balanced lifestyle. As we are now mostly working from home, having breaks from your laptop can easily be filled with crafts.
Before we dive into five fun projects, I want to briefly explore the rise of crafts in the History of Art:
The Arts and Crafts movement of late 19th century England was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. It re-evaluated the importance of hand crafts in a growing machine-based society, where mass production and industrial making were on the rise. The movement aimed at slowing down and rediscovering the joy craftsmanship, where imperfections and irregularities were praised. The textile, decorative designer, writer and poet William Morris was a key figure in this movement. He is remembered by many for his botanical wallpapers and textiles that are still popular today. Morris, and other leaders of the movement such as John Ruskin, were fed up with the impersonal merchanised society, seeking a more fulfilling way of living.
I believe that we can learn from the Arts and Crafts movement going forward, by making changes to our lifestyles as we leave this pandemic behind us.
So, why don’t we start by trying some fulfilling creative projects. There are now hundreds of free online tutorials by crafters for people to do at home. Easy-to-follow videos, articles and images guide you towards a fun and finished piece.
I have chosen five crafts that are varied in their materials, technique and time. They are rewarding and meditative, making your autumnal evenings indoors more meaningful.
Who knew that potatoes could be so versatile? Not only can you eat them in multiple delicious ways, but you can also print with them. As a beginner the printing may not be precise, but what you have to remember is that mistakes are characterful.
All you need are potatoes cut in half, a knife to cut your design, paper/fabric and paint. I tried potato printing at home by using biscuit cutters in different shapes, a tip for also printing with children.
Here you can follow the basics of potato printing by Molly Mahon :
Molly Mahon is an English textile designer focused on block printing. She designs fabrics with bright colour ways, which are hand printed in India. She runs block printing workshops around the UK, but since lockdown has been posting videos online showing the ease of printing at home.
When finished the printing, you can use your fabric or paper to make custom pieces. For example, paper prints could be used as wrapping paper, wall art, cards, or invitations.
From your fabric prints you can create tea towels, cushion covers, table cloths, tote bags, aprons and more. (Tip: make sure you use fabric paint so it doesn’t wash out)
I would really recommend potato printing, as its especially fun with a group of friends.
DIY Macramé bag
Macramé is a textile that uses knotting techniques with string or rope. It is believed to have started in the Arab world, and travelling through Spain and Italy, reaching the UK in the 17th century. It was long and widely used by sailors on ships for many purposes. This technique is now having a resurgence, from soft bohemian home furnishings to accessories.
With macramé, the more practice the better you get. This bag is definitely worth it, and makes a very chic and jealous-making shopping accessory. Also, macramé bags are being sold on Etsy for £20+, so this could even be a meditative side hustle.
String, needle and thread, scissors, and two jump rings are all the materials needed for this bag. The only skill is knotting.
I found a perfect step-by-step guide on Collective Gen, which is a community for ‘style, home and life makers’ , and ‘women who make things’. Based in Australia, creatives share their ideas and experiences on this collective site. Have a look, there are many more DIY projects available.
For the fabulous macramé bag click here:
Crochet ‘Granny’ Squares
Crochet is a technique using a crochet hook to interlock thread or yarn. The name comes from the French word ‘small hook’, and was used in 17th century lace making.
This technique has also grown in popularity recently. I believe that it is easier than knitting, and also very meditative. There are endless free patterns online, from coasters to blankets, teddy bears to hats.
If you manage to master the basic crochet stitches, a whole new world will be opened up to you. Concentration is needed at the beginning, but you will soon find your hands start to move themselves.
What are known as ‘Granny Squares’, are an easy pattern to start with. These squares can be added together and adapted into amazing contemporary fashionable pieces. Your choice of thread colour is important, as this could make the squares look outdated. Choose rightly, and you are on to a winner.
Granny squares are crocheted in a concentric manner – starting from a middle point and working outwards. A full step-by-step guide by Matt Spiers is found here:
I recently discovered a young brand called Stahl Knit, based in Pennsylvania, that show what you could achieve with these squares – bright, fresh and eye catching designs. Stahl has made colourful sweaters, hats and tote bags, now for sale in Urban Outfitters. It just shows where your granny squares could end up.
This is a project a little different to the rest. These small spoons, made out of clay, can be shaped into any shape or size you want. Having small homemade details in your kitchen, like these spoons, really bring the place to life.
They are decoratively painted and oven baked, and only take an afternoon.
I remember making oven baked beads for necklaces as a child, and giving them out to friends in the playground. All you need to do is roll out the clay into little balls and, using a toothpick, make a hole through the centre for your chain, ribbon or string to thread through.
For the miniature clay spoons click here:
Origami is the art of paper folding from Japan. Originally, Japanese paper folding was only for ceremonial purposes, and handmade paper was a luxury. This technique is rich in history, and today has become intertwined with complex mathematics to make modern folding phenomenons.
The lampshade that we are going to try has a graphic and clean look, which would suit any home office environment. Moreover, this origami lampshade is fool-proof if you follow the simple folding instructions.
What I love about this project, is that it needs the most basic of materials to create a lampshade that really adds to a room.
For the origami lampshade:
So, think of this autumn as a time to learn a new craft, take up a hobby, or give handmade gifts.
The five crafts that I have shown are all sustainable, use natural materials and are easy to finish. You can change any part of these designs to give your own personal touch, and feel free to make mistakes, because often mistakes end up being the best part.
When the world starts to turn again after this pandemic, lets re-enter it in a more craft-driven, sustainable way.