Crafting on a Budgetcomments (3) August 5th, 2008
I first learned to knit with a pencil and a chopstick; I had just graduated college and had no cash to expend on a hobby that wasn’t going to catch on for me (it did!). It wasn’t until much later that I could afford to build my stash—and build it I have—but I am still reluctant to jump in feet first on new crafts that will take up space and cost beaucoup bucks. If you’re curious to try new crafts on a limited time, space, and cash budget, try these tips.
- Kits: Evaluate these based on whether they have exactly what you need to do a whole project, or more than you really need. The price point usually isn't that much better than buying your items individually, but it can help you walk out of the store without loading up on "just one more" ball of yarn, embroidery floss color or string of flashy beads. The bonus is many kits will have instructions included and just asking the store staff about the kit can get you a little early education. The kit pictured is designed to use in a beginning knitting class, but it comes with a cute hat pattern and everything you need to knit it.
- Free patterns: Oh, the Internet! The original dedicated online knitting magazine is Knitty.com, and it's 100% free. This site is full of inspiration, but some other highlights include the Sew Mama Sew blog, primarily for seamstresses; Purl Soho blog for all kinds of crafty goodness; and Flickr for embroidery patterns. Check out the Hoop Love group—maybe you'll be inspired to add a pattern or draw your own.
- Internet instruction: If there's a project out there, someone's probably blogged about it. Search the word "tutorial" with your project—use general words such as "sock tutorial" or "binding tutorial" to get really extensive search results. Again, CraftStylish.com and the other sites mentioned above are great resources.
- Pick up a project that just doesn't require many tools. Freezer paper stenciling and hand embroidery can be done with just a few inexpensive tools apiece.
- Sewing machine rental: The Quilting Loft in Seattle rents sewing machine time by the hour, and they're certainly not unique. If your machine is not up to the task, or you don't think a serger is really in your budget, call or e-mail the sewing or fabric shops in your area and ask if they offer rental services.
- Craft stores: Sign up for mailing lists and points schemes, but don't be suckered into spending more with the scheme as your justification. Many quilt shops even have a "block of the month club," where the materials are free or reduced-cost if you show up at the right time and finish each step on time.
- Use the library: This may be my favorite tip of all. I love the library and it shows—sadly, it shows in late fines occasionally, too. My library, The Seattle Public Library, has an online request system, as many do these days. Manage your queue to make sure you don't get them all at once, or just go to the stacks and visit the 746.4 (and beyond) shelves—I dare you to walk out with just one book. I do have a book-buying habit still, but the library lets me weed out ahead of time what I really want to own and gives me access to hundreds of craft books without my ever having to pay a cent—or commit to an entirely new hobby!
- DIY: Knitting needles are expensive to accumulate, although good tools will last and pay for themselves in time. However, if you're doing a group project or knitting with kids, or you just like to make your own, it's pretty easy to get dowels at the hardware store, sand and seal them, and get knitting. This is a tip for those with time on their hands.
- Sales, online stores, and thrift stores: Just what it sounds like: Be patient, keep a list of what you're looking for, and don't hesitate when you find the perfect cut at the best price. Be careful not to get carried away by low prices, though; a bag of Prince yarn at half off is still, sadly, a bag of yarn that's been in my stash for two years.
- The old-fashioned cash-only approach. Just like the experts recommend, set aside a certain amount of money and take only that much into the craft store with you. If you walk into the sewing shop with only $20, it’s a lot more likely you’re going to walk out with an embroidery hoop, your favorite iron-on patterns and floss colors, and perhaps a cut of fabric or a ready-made dish towel than with $100 in new fabric that you just can't leave in the store—in spite of the fact you really aren't sure if it's destined for a quilt, a dress, or a tablecloth. That, my friends, is stash, and it is antithetic to our budget craft lifestyle.
Have fun and be careful out there—I can’t promise you won’t get addicted to a new craft. Good luck!