Crafty Folks

Looks … complicated.

I’m not super-crafty and I’m always interested in / amazed by folks who can make things, including really complex things, and how they wound up there.  Did they watch a show about glass-blowing on TV and decide to heed an irresistible calling?  Did they start off knitting a scarf in a single DIY class at the rec center, and now they can knit a blanket in their sleep?

Some things seem relatively low-stakes to try your hand at – e.g., baking, cross-stitch, stringing some beads for a one-off necklace.  You can watch GBBO and decide you want to give scone-making a whirl, or go buy one of those pot-holder kits and see how you feel about it.  Other crafts seem so complicated or challenging that I always wonder: where do people start?  Home Ec sewing, or a shop class in eighth grade?  How do you find out whether you want to weave your own cloth or do soap-making or pottery without spending a bunch of money on supplies and equipment first?  Do people buy all the stuff for, say, making an entire quilt and find out they hate it?  Are there unfinished quilts tucked away in closets everywhere?  (Probably.)

The idea of having a sewing room or basement woodworking shop set up and never using it gives me hives, although I can’t really say why – it’s not like I haven’t “wasted” a small fortune on perfume.  I’m kind of a crafting dilettante – I’ll do a single embroidery kit for fun, and then I’m on to something else, but I never go all in on stained-glass-making, or buy a loom, or build a darkroom.  I’d love to have that kind of commitment to a craft, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Could I make macarons? Possibly!

Years ago, my daughter who (up to that point) had baked nothing other than brownie mix from a box decided to make some of those fancy French macarons.  This was before you could buy macarons everywhere; they were rare and exotic, and she wanted to try them, I think, or maybe she’d had one from a patisserie and wanted more.  We went and bought whatever macaron-making supplies you need, and I privately predicted disaster – I don’t think they’re hugely complicated in terms of ingredients, so much as you need to get the chemistry/technique/timing exactly right.  She whipped them up in various flavors and outlandish pastel shades and … they were perfect, and delicious.  She made them until she got bored with them.

I never learned how to use a sewing machine; I can do basic bits by hand (like buttons and hemming and repairing a seam) and I keep telling myself that one of these months, probably post-pandemic, I’m going to take a machine-sewing class so I can decide whether I want to buy my own machine to make a skirt and other things.  My “hobby” right now is what I refer to as tragic tailoring; I take thrifted garments and remake them slightly to suit me – add darts, replace buttons, take in waists, add or change trim.  Stuff like that.  I find it incredibly soothing and fairly low-pressure.  It’s all by hand and I’m probably doing it “wrong,” but having repaired/remade various vintage garments of sometimes-dubious craftsmanship, I’m okay with that.  Right now I’m adding (vintage) lace to a not-particularly-well-executed Edwardian shirtwaist, and I just did pintucks to shorten a too-long skirt. It’s funny, though: a friend saw the blouse and said, I could never do that.  I thought to myself, yes you can, it’s literally a needle and thread!  But here I am, thinking about a bunch of other hobbies the same way — like, I could never.

I really understand the desire to hand-make something, though, especially as our lives move more and more online and everything is virtual.  No wonder the cool kids are baking focaccia and crocheting shawls.  When I’m done with a project, whether it’s an embroidery kit or mending a blouse, I’ve had the satisfaction of doing a thing, as well as the tangible enjoyment of the thing itself.

Do you have a craft or a hobby that involves making something?  How did you get interested in it?  How did you start doing it?

  • uday says:

    Hello Guys, This is My Ultimate Guide to Perfumery Blog
    It’s one of the India’s Ultimate and Complete Guide to Use Perfume

  • sunnlitt says:

    I learned to knit when I was 7 years old. A woman down the street had a little shop in her home.
    My mother taught me to hand and machine sew when I was about 8 or 9. I also learned sewing in 4-H and in junior high and high school. I learned to embroider and crochet during my teens. We were little hippies–we needed flowers on our jeans!
    I love crafts!! Any and all.
    I’ve taken classes in batik, bead-stringing, papermaking, watercolors, quilting and more.
    These days, it’s mainly quilting. I like combining colors and shapes to make something cozy and war.
    But, I am happy with paper and glue, too!
    Thanks for this question!

  • Dina C. says:

    I have sewn since I was in my twenties, and one of my kids’ former bedrooms is now even designated as “the sewing room,” but I don’t consider it my hobby at all. The last time I tried to sew myself a nice dress, it ended up a disaster, and I donated it to charity. I never even wore it. It didn’t fit me well, and it made me look 30 years older than I am. What I really am is a musician, an actor, and a reader. These are my life-long passions.

    • March says:

      Ooooof so sorry about the dress! I think that’s one of the things holding me back from even trying to attempt a full garment lol rather than alter an existing one, at least I know the thing is already something I like and can wear!

  • ElizaC says:

    Wow. I can’t sew a straight hem so I am always impressed by people who can sew and adjust clothes. Cooking has always been a love (though I have to say we got burnt out on meal and grocery planning during the last year or so). I started working with straw marquetry a few years ago. Guerlain in Paris had straw marquetry walls and it is so beautiful and art deco. Look up Lison de Caunes if you want to see beautiful work. However, once you’ve covered your perfume containers with straw marquetry – what do you do next? The furniture work would need a much bigger craft/workspace then we have right now!

    • March says:

      I will google that, thanks! I think straw marquetry is soooo beautiful, but I hear you on the space and scale commitment. Straw inlay (making images) is actually a thing here in Santa Fe in the historical Spanish Market (crosses, etc.)

  • Musette says:

    Welp! Where do I start?

    Long-term hobbies came from… I dunno. I’ve always worked with weaponry, especially edge weapons – can’t remember a time when I haven’t done so. However, since I don’t do it for a living I’m sure it’s still a hobby, right? I am interested in ramping up my handgun skills, something I’ve not really focused on. We’ll see..

    Motorcycling remains a… hobby? I guess. I kinda suck at timelines but I rode in my mid-teens, then busted my vertebra on a Ducati, which put paid to that for at least a decade.. then I fell madly for a Total Jackanapes who was an avid motorcyclist, so I got back into it, which is how I met El O. I do have to thank him (El O) for ramping up my skills exponentially. But that’s all I’m thanking him for 😉

    Short (as in Ridiculously Short) hobby – knitting. O.M.G. I cannot knit to save my everlasting SOUL! I made a scarf for the dog – and it was so ugly even he wouldn’t wear it! I simply can’t sit still long enough to focus on knitting anything.

    I did try a bit of jewelry making…
    See Knitting Above. Except even shorter. So FIDDLY!


    • March says:

      I remember you mentioning the dog-scarf lol! And with the jewelry-making, I get it — I’ve made a couple of necklaces because I found some beads I liked, but there wasn’t anything complicated about the design or execution. It sounds like you’re more of a “skills” person than a “craft” person.

      • Musette says:

        Yep. I think you’re right! Though I never thought of it that way – I am mos’ def a ‘skills’ person, though I definitely admire those who excel at crafts, as well!


  • Alityke says:

    I knitted my sons layette & clothing til they really couldn’t wear knitted trousers! My knitwear was always unique & I always had a knitting project or two on the go until arthritis struck. I had a go at a blanket kit during lockdown but it’s languishing 3/4 done in the trunk table. My dad used to complain cos I used to knit, read & watch TV. Said it would use up all my brain space ?
    I did sew too. I could knock up an outfit in an afternoon & wear it that evening as a teen & made curtains & blinds for our house back in the 90’s. Nan taught me to crochet as a kid too.
    My kitchen in my happy place now. I cook, it’s never been a chore to me. Baking was much more challenging but I started sourdough bread making a year ago & I make all our bread now!

    • March says:

      Yummmmm, sourdough bread! The macaron-making daughter got really good at cooking / baking and makes a mean sourdough. I love all the different things you’ve made, and how lovely that you made your sons’ clothes!

      • Alityke says:

        It’s was needs, must. DH was still a student nurse. I was the breadwinner & had to return to work as soon as the paid leave ran out. It was “unravel & remake” of my own jumpers too sometimes. I always thought they looked well dressed, even if the youngest had to be hidden.
        I should mention eldest looked like his dad & was beautiful. He did some modelling. Youngest looked like me but with orange hair, pale skin so fair his veins showed, had a sever bilateral squint even worse than mine & he was enormously long. He had brains & charm though! Still has & the rest righted itself, other than being 6’ 3” as a grown up ?

  • cinnamon says:

    I have long aspired to be crafty but have never really been great at things. I owned a sewing machine for a bit but decided someone else would benefit more from having it. My mother tried to teach me to crochet (the only thing of this sort she excelled at) but no go. I can sew by hand when required and enjoy that. I made jewellery in classes in secondary school … I guess I enjoy the idea more than the doing.

    • March says:

      “Aspire to be crafty” could be my motto lol. I’d love a passion project (I think?) but one has not revealed itself… jewelry making maybe. And I assume everyone with hands/eyes “can” sew but my own kids were allergic to my efforts to show them the basic sewing life skills (like re-sewing a button.)

    • Alityke says:

      But Cinnamon, you garden! That’s a valuable craft!

  • Sarah says:

    Hi March!
    Like your garment reconstruction—I remake earrings. I do not have pierced ears, so creating nice looking screw backs has been a hobby for years. Using everything from arrowheads, beautiful old coins, little old fuses etc from my Dad’s inventory, inexpensive pierced earrings to tear apart, etc. I create a new screw back/clip that suits my fancy. Since masks I make very few at present.

    • March says:

      This is fantastic — it’s a small thing you CAN do that’s based in a logical need, and I love the items you use! And yes, ugh, the mask issue … I went from danglies and hoops to small posts after one too many “incidents.” I miss big earrings. And lipstick.

  • Maggiecat says:

    I enjoyed making candles as a teenager, and did needlepoint through my 20s. I occasionally think of taking up either or both again. I have a good eye, but limited talent. And patience.

    • March says:

      Candle-making! I did that at summer camp, eons ago, and loved it. That seems like a fun hobby to have as an adult. I think I have more patience than talent, honestly …

  • Pam says:

    I’ve done many crafts over the years, but quilting is my main love. I’ve loved quilts since I was very young. Both grandmothers quilted. So a few decades ago I made a quilt and loved it and am still making quilts. Most are given to family and friends, some are donated to hospitals and shelters. I also love cooking. The baking I leave to my daughters.

    • March says:

      I admire quilts so much, and have owned a few, but never had the drive or desire to try to make one myself. What a wonderful gift to send out into the world.

  • Tara C says:

    I’ve tried various things over the years and I have a bunch of quilting materials stuffed in a closet, but I did do a lot of stained glass for several years and still have all the equipment, just lost the drive/interest to do it. But I did enough of it to pay for the equipment. 🙂 I signed up for a class at the rec center and liked it enough to continue.

    • March says:

      Stained glass seems so COOL to me. I like the way it looks like a puzzle to solve. And a class is probably a great way to try such a thing out.

  • Filomena says:

    I just loved your post today, it made me laugh a lot but every word was so very true.

    Besides perfume collecting, I always was into cooking. I rarely ever have followed a recipe but when baking I did follow a recipe.

    • March says:

      Cooking is so much easier to improvise. I’m a decent cook (LOTS of practice) although I wouldn’t say a particularly inspired one … baking is alchemy and I follow the recipe if I want it to work!

  • Portia says:

    Hey there March,
    Our childhoods were chock full of arts and crafts. My Mum could sew (made her own wedding dress & loads of our gear) and so when I thought the Barbie dresses we had were shit she showed me the very basics of using a sewing machine. It was one of those metal Elna multi stitch jobs, sadly it was stolen because I was still using it for stuff 20+ years later. I studied Fashion Technology after school. That’s where you become a design proficient sample creator with the ability to run a garments life from design to merchandising. Then worked in the rag trade for a little while, then theatres, then drag.
    Mum was a very boring cook but proficient and she made us learn stuff with her and sent us together to a youth cooking course one summer. One sentence that would always bring a smile as bright as the sun from her was “I’m cooking tomorrow night Mum.”
    Dad was a jeweller/watchmaker and together we made a bunch of wooden things together in the backyard shed.
    We also did knitting, crochet, macrame, painting, photography and anything else that took our fancy at local evening colleges. VERY little of which I remember now but I’m sure a quick refresher would have me going at most of them again.
    Nothing is easy till you know how to do it. We are programmed to learn new skills, you may not be shop quality at anything you try but having a rudimentary skill is a good thing. In really unexpected ways.
    Learning things is also a fab way to meet people.
    OMG! This could have been a post it’s so long. SOZ.
    Portia x

    • March says:

      See, I love all of this. You had a “maker” family of origin … my parents were bright, curious people who read a lot of books, etc., but they didn’t “do” things, if that makes sense. I want the world to open back up so I can try some new things, doing-things, making-things, not just thinking-things.

      • Portia says:

        Yes, I completely understand the love of books too. My refuge at all times in my childhood was laying on my tummy with a book. If I wasn’t DOING stuff that’s where you’d find me. It also meant sending me to my room was a pleasurable experience.
        Portia xx

  • Carolyn says:

    I tried needlepoint and embroidery and did a hooked rug/wall hanging 40 years or so ago but those things never really interested me enough to delve into them deeply. I bought a kit a couple of years ago to learn crochet but just unsnarling the ball of yarn led to tears so that was a no go. The only thing I’ve spent time and money on AND gotten enjoyment out of is doing watercolor paintings. Bought a few kits from Let’s Make Art and then purchased some supplies from Blick, started doing some YouTube tutorials and then hired a personal online teacher through a Facebook group. Haven’t had much energy to paint lately though so may be starting over from scratch soon as it really is something you need to practice all the time in order to see progress.

    • March says:

      OMG hooked rugs! I feel like that was all the rage for awhile, never tried it but it looked like fun. And watercolors are SO much fun, I took lessons when I was younger, I still dabble. And BLICK. There was a Blick around the corner from my office in DC and I used to go in there and buy little things. Like a kid in a candy shop.

  • MMKinPA says:

    I spent several years working on wire wrapped jewelry designs (still occasionally design pieces but doing more photography now). It started with wanting to make a pair of earrings to match an expensive necklace I bought for my mom. Even opened an Etsy shop but i didn’t have enough time to make it truly successful. I was better at that than I have been at sewing or knitting – I have only the most basic skills with those and have to reteach myself each time because I go years in between using the skills. Going forward I expect to expand tbe photography and let the others languish…

    • March says:

      Your making the earrings makes total sense to me, and I bet you had a huge sense of accomplishment with that. You sound like a really creative person!