Smarts & Crafts

Tried, true and new approaches to crafting

A multitude of craft supplies

Crafts for the not-so-crafty hobbyist

Creativity lends a lot to everyday life. School parties are made that much better by intricate dessert designs. Handmade blankets tend to be more inspiring and cherished than mass-produced alternatives. Because of that, many people find hobbies that inspire their creativity to be incredibly rewarding.

While crafting is a hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skillsets, some people are more craft-inclined than others. That doesn’t mean those with little arts-and-crafts experience cannot make items they can be proud of. The following are a handful of projects for inexperienced crafters who may feel as though they have two left thumbs.

Dress-up premade items

Sandra Lee made a career of teaching people how to blend some prepackaged food items with other ingredients to create semi-homemade menus. Anyone can use the same mentality to put together craft projects without having to start from scratch. Search the hobby stores or department stores for items that can be paired together. For example, why not glue a 4-by-6-inch picture frame to the top of candlestick holder for an ornate and interesting design element at home? Mason jars can be embellished with just about anything — from ribbon to fabric to glitter — giving them a decorative touch. Simply giving an item a new coat of paint or adding some decorative tacks or hooks can easily change its look and give it a crafty feel.

Circle pattern of colored pencils

Grow comfortable with a computer printer

Homespun graphic arts can be mastered by just about anyone with access to some clip art, fonts and basic design software. You may also be able to find free apps or shareware online providing ready-made templates. Print out cute labels or tags that match party themes and put them on favor bags or prizes. Print catchy slogans on cardstock and staple them to small plastic baggies filled with goodies to serve as classroom or Valentine’s gifts. Make a collage of different images and print them out to frame. Or snap a picture of a particular pattern or design element that fits with a room’s theme and then frame that image for matching artwork.

Make soaps or candles

Thanks to the bevy of kits available at craft stores, it’s easier than ever to make your own soaps or candles at home. All it usually takes is melting down the medium, adding the desired scents and colors and then allowing them to set in a mold or container. The result may seem like you worked for hours when really it was a relatively easy task. These handmade products can make great hostess gifts or nice touches when guests stay over at your home.

Personalize clothing

Hand stitching a 3 dimensional craft

You do not have to be an artist to create t-shirts, aprons or other items that have that personalized touch. If you do not want to hassle with the mess of fabric paints or pens, use iron-on stencils or letters. Another idea is to create your own stencil (fire up that printer again), cut out your design or letters and then use a bleach pen sold in the laundry or cleaning aisle to color in the design. Let it sit and then launder for a faded and fun project.

Crafting doesn’t have to be difficult. Projects exist for people of varying skill levels.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Combine creativity with practicality

Broadening one’s horizons through crafting can be a worthwhile pursuit. Crafting can serve as a relaxing pastime and provide an opportunity to learn rewarding skills. Learning to crochet is one way for men and women to combine creativity and practicality.

For some, 3D printers are the future wave of crafting. -- Photo courtesy

Crochet is a form of handwork using yarn and a crochet hook. According to the Crochet Guild of America, there’s no way to know just how old the art of crochet is. However, crochet expert Annie Potter has said the modern form of the art originated in the 16th century, primarily in France and England. Others surmise crocheting traces its origins to Arabia before it spread westward through various Mediterranean trade routes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Coloring in and outside of the lines

Coloring books are no longer just child’s play. In recent years, adult coloring books have flown off of the shelves at craft retailers and bookstores, turning what was once a niche hobby into a popular and lucrative trend.

Studies show that coloring can have calming and therapeutic effects. In fact, researchers at Johns Hopkins University suggest coloring as an alternative to meditation. This form of art therapy can relax the mind and help a person learn more about oneself in the process.

All types of coloring can stimulate a person’s creative juices while simultaneously strengthening his or her mental well-being. Experts who study the impact coloring has on adults have found coloring involves both logic and creativity. This activates the areas of the cerebral cortex in the brain involved in vision and fine motor skills. The relaxation that coloring provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotions.

Participants who color can find tranquility quite easily. Marygrace Berberian, a certified art therapist and Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Graduate Art Therapy Program at New York University, has said, “Coloring definitely has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus or bring about more mindfulness.”

Adults interested in coloring have a substantial catalog of adult coloring books at their disposal. Start with something relatively easily by coloring mandalas or circles filled with other geometric shapes before moving on to the more intricate designs of adult coloring books.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How 3D printing is changing the craft world

The technology behind 3D printing has changed the world in various ways. Such technology has impacted scientific discovery and contributed to advancements in medicine.

Three-dimension printing has also influenced how many people, including crafts enthusiasts, approach their favorite hobbies. Crafting enthusiasts already are seeing the myriad designs and possibilities available with 3D printing that have appeared on popular crafting and retail sites like Pinterest and Etsy. While 3D printing may not feel like the crafting of yesteryear, it can require the same intricacy and skill as other forms of art.

“It [3D printing] takes the lid off of what’s possible, and provides a really good bridge between technology and hands-on crafting,” said Andrej Suskavcevic, president and CEO of the Craft and Hobby Association in Elmwood Park, N.J.

While there has always been a marriage of sorts between art and science, 3D printing takes that relationship even further and can be even more relevant in a world now being shaped by a focus on STEM.

The 3D printing process starts with a virtual design of the object to be made, which serves as a blueprint, or a computer aided design, or CAD, file. The CAD file is made using a 3D modeling application or with a scanner that will copy an existing object into a digital format. The model is then divided into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers utilizing slicing software in a process commonly referred to as “slicing.” The slices are read by the printer and are recreated, layer by layer, so that a 3D object is ultimately formed. The printing media can be any number of materials. Plastic resins, metal, plastic filaments, and other substances are used, depending on the printer.

Desktop printers can now produce figurines, small gears, doll parts, mobile phone covers — just about anything a person’s imagination can dream up. Hobbyists can explore the depths of their design abilities and produce finished materials in real time.

Those who need a little help finding inspiration need only go online for do-it-yourself project ideas and tutorials on how to get started with 3D printing. While many at-home 3D printers don’t produce high-quality pieces, the technology is changing and there are companies that will print 3D artwork or objects for a fee.