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Whether it was something you received as a gift, it was part of a resolution, or you're starting 2018 with something you've never done before, you might be ready to try out a new craft. I'm right there with you, and I find my shiny embroidery machine both exciting and a little intimidating. As a serial crafter I've become pretty proficient at starting a new craft though, and I know that with planning and patience it can be a fun experience rather than a scary one. Let me share some of my tips for getting started with your latest hobby!
Learn the basics. I know how it feels to decide you’re going to learn something new. You want to go out and buy all the things and, within a couple of hours, have yourself something you’re ready for all the world to see and admire. Sorry, but that’s almost never how it works. And unless you have an unlimited craft budget, that’s a pretty expensive risk. You’re likely to buy things you don’t need, while leaving out some you do. I know what I’m talking about here, because I’ve done this more times than I can count. It makes for a really full craft room, but your crafting dollars could probably be spent more effectively by learning a little about what you want to do before you go shopping. As much as you want to get started, you won't regret making the decision to research first.
There are several ways you can do that research without even leaving home. Check out some YouTube videos or Pinterest, but I’d suggest some caution here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked through a pin only to find that someone saw a pretty picture and took a wild guess at how the project was made. Make sure what you’re looking at includes actually step-by-step instructions with photos or video throughout. Of course, I also highly recommend checking out your favorite trusty craft blog! ;-)
Another way to learn from home (or in your favorite coffee shop) is by using an online “school,” like Craftsy, CreativeLive or CreativeBug. If there’s something you want to master, one or more of these sites probably has a class that focuses on it. I currently have Product Photography at Home from Craftsy just sitting in my library waiting for me to watch it. I've had really good luck with the online courses I've taken so far, and I'd probably be taking one all the time if it weren't for my rural internet.
When you’re ready to venture out, check out a local craft shop. Smaller shops are usually great about answering questions. Try not to visit during peak times (say, Black Friday) so you can get more face time with an employee. You might even be able to schedule some time for someone to help you, but don’t expect a complete one-on-one class. After I purchased my embroidery machine, I walked into my local sewing machine shop and asked what I needed to get started. I’ve shopped there many times and knew the employees were very knowledgeable. She sent me out with all the things I needed, and steered me away from some I thought I did. Don’t shy away from buying the tools you need though. Sometimes having the right tool for the job makes the difference between success and failure.
Those same shops probably offer full-fledged classes. You may find them at the big box stores as well. If there’s a local artist you admire, you could try getting in touch to find out if they teach anywhere near you. By taking a class you get the added benefits of having classmates to bounce ideas off of and the ability to buy your supplies conveniently.
Buying a kit is a great way to test your skill and interest level, and I’ve noticed these have become very popular over the last few years. They usually contain everything you need to get started, along with instructions. There are some made for those taking the next steps in a craft, so make sure you’re choosing something at your skill level. I’ve noticed lots of crafters are selling these at craft shows and bazaars, next to their finished items. I've tried one to make farmers cheese, which was lots of fun, and I still have the felting kit shown above that I haven't tackled yet. In fact, those kits are where the idea for my coffee cozy kits originally came from!
Once you’ve tried a craft and have decided it’s going to be a part of your life, you can look around for a guild, club or other group to join. You typically don’t need to be an expert, and in fact, beginners are welcomed. There is a wealth of knowledge in a group like that, and they’re usually very willing to share. When we still had a bookstore in town, there was a group of knitters that met there regularly. It was clear from the conversation that the skill levels varied wildly, but no one was judging. I belong to a quilt guild, and while I’m pretty low on skills compared to some of the pros, I’ve learned a lot from other members and I enjoy having a sewing support group.
Throw a craft party! It’s possible to hire an instructor for these, but I’d suggest inviting the guests to share a craft. You can either give each a few minutes to share something simple, or hold a monthly party where one person teaches and the other guests follow along making. Most people would be happy to shell out a few bucks for supplies each month to learn something new and take home a great craft. Make it a brown-bag event, or have each guest bring a dish to share potluck style.
You might reach a point with a new craft where you want to start veering off the path and adding your own spin on it. Learn the rules first so you know which ones you can break. I’m all for being a craft renegade, but without the basics you don’t know which is a crucial step. Kind of like on all those home improvement shows where the contractor steps in and explains a wall can’t come down because it’s load-bearing. You need to know what’s holding your project together so you can decide what you’re going to play around with.
Don’t expect an Instagram-worthy project on your first try. Just like learning anything else, crafts take patience and practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and know that some time and materials are just for getting it down. If you stick with it, you’ll have something you’re proud of in no time, and you’ll be ready to try the next thing!