Welcome to the another installment of Make A Thing, where we make handmade gifts for people. Or ourselves. Who doesn’t need something special in their life? Join in on the DIY fun and avoid the unnecessary consumerism of the world (and I promise you’ll save a few dollars while you’re at it).
Header by Rory Midhani
This week on Make A Thing, we’re not gonna make a thing. Instead, we’re going to have a chat about the tools that make thing-making easier. If you craft, there are some things that are going to make the job so much easier. These things will multi-task through a bunch of different crafts, like how I use my self-healing mat for basically every craft there ever was and my rotary cutter is great for paper as well as fabric. Here are the basic necessities that every crafty person should have in their bag o’ tricks:
I was so anti-rotary cutter (scissors 4 life!) until I made these scarves and broke down and bought one. This thing changed my life. I am not even being dramatic. I get to the point where my scissors are so dull I have to find the sweet spot where they actually work. When you’re cutting paper or fabric and that sweet spot means you have to take twenty minutes to cut six inches, it’s enough to make me not want to make any more things ever. Enter: the rotary cutter. Holy shit. It’s so sharp, it just glides along, cutting anything you want. It’s the best ever for felt, because my scissors never want to cut that shit. You can cut around things easier, like when you want to skip the tracing with a pen step. It also makes cutting in straight lines easier, trust me. You can buy them in all sizes, but I find that my medium one does almost any job well.
It’s science. It just goes back together. I don’t know how. I thought they were a waste of time until I inherited mine by way of dating a girl and then moving into her apartment where she had one and I haven’t looked back. You can see my mat in basically every tutorial I do because it is THAT HANDY. You never have to worry about cutting your desk or table or Mom’s dining table (sorry!) ever again! It has a ruler along every side and a grid pattern all over which makes straight lines and squares and general life a lot faster/easier.
Mod Podge. I don’t even need to really convince you of the magic of Mod Podge. We’ve used it in a ton of DIY tutorials and for good reason. This shit lasts forever. Like fo-re-ver Sandlot style. And it makes everything really nice and finished-looking. You can try making your own for cheap, but honestly, with a coupon, a big bottle of Mod Podge is going to run you $3.
I fucking hate hot glue guns because I burn myself so much, and yet, they’re so useful. I bought mine for super cheap and accidentally broke one of the legs off of it upon busting it out of its packaging and it still works great. You can use hot glue guns to duh, glue things, but you can also use the glue to fill in things like you would with clay or resin, like bottle cap magnets or these cute earrings made from clay molds. I am a big fan of using it on canvas, bottles or jars before painting them for some nice texture.
Do you hate sewing? Do you still want fabric to stick together? Then fusible interfacing might be right up your alley. You can buy it by the bolt or in little packages. I use it to make things more sturdy, such as collars or waists of skirts, but I also use it when I want things to super-stick together, like a patch onto a shirt. Maybe you just want to make your dog a tie. Fusible interfacing is involved in that. You just iron it onto your fabric and then peel off the back, stick your fabrics together, and iron again. It glues them together without the time of a sewing machine and with more precision than fabric glue. It does wear out when you wash it a million times, so it’s best used as a back up.
Okay, I know your eyes just glazed over, but hear me out. Sewing machines are really, really simple to use and so satisfying once you get used to them. My friend Leigh just had a major epiphany about how to sew their own shirts and make them fit properly and you should have seen their face at dinner the other night. Sewing machines open up a lot of opportunities for you. You can sew your own clothes, sew crafts, sew quilts (if you’re crazy motivated). You could make cute cards. You could make paper garlands. Sewing machines aren’t just for Nanas. And you can even get a beginner-friendly little one for around $20.
Two other things I want to talk to you guys about. Coupons! Are you using them? You should always use coupons. Michaels and Joanns both have apps where you can just use the coupon right off your phone because technology is magical. You can also go to the Michaels and Joanns websites and print off 40%-50% off one item or 25% off your entire purchase coupons. I use them every single time I shop at a craft store because I am a cheapskate.
Last thing: Don’t shop at Hobby Lobby. They are crazy people. They are trying to sue the federal government over religious freedom because of ObamaCare’s crazy pro-choice ways. They very openly support pro-life organizations. Mike Huckabee just organized Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day akin to the vomit-inducing Chik-Fil-A bigotry. Don’t shop at Hobby Lobby. It’s a waste of your money.
Now, what awesome things did I forget or not know about?
What do you use to keep all your craft supplies organized? I always end up with paper/fabric/glitter jars all over my apartment.
I second the self-healing mat and rotary cutter. Those tools are amazing.
One of those clear plastic rolling set of drawers will do the trick. And try to get one with varied sizes of drawers.
Cheap plastic bins lined up in a bookshelf! It works so well. I had one of those clear plastic rolling set of drawers and that worked great, too, but just make sure your drawers are different sizes or you’ll get lazy and throw everything in one drawer where it will fit and you’ll never find it again.
I have a cheap toolbox that works very well as long as you don’t have anything too large to store.
I get those clear tackle boxes from bass pro shops or Wal-Mart or wherever and use those for pretty much everything. The compartments are all adjustable so you can make them whatever size you need, and unless you get the really cheap ones you can carry them on their side without everything spilling everywhere. Awesome for pretty much anything – beads, spools of thread, buttons, clasps, bottlecaps, studs, spikes, small fabric remnants, wire, and of course, all your tools!
Something I’ve found pretty useful is sturdy (but still quite thin and bendy) plastic on a roll, because you can cut out your own stencils and then use them for screen printing or whatever. At least in Sweden you can find the rolls of plastic in a hobby store. The advantage (in comparison to cardboard, for example) is that you can see through your stencil and also wash it and use it again.
I discovered this thing on the day that my girlfriend and I first hung out, when we spent the day printing 38 rainbow t-shirts on my living room floor.
One thing I could never have lived without back in the days where I was arty fatty and crafty… A huge metal 1m ruler.
Still using a regular plastic ruler? Pfft!! I once broke one of those ‘unbreakable’ rulers in half so don’t believe the hype guys.
Metal rulers for life.
Omg… Arty FARTY…. Not ARTY FATTY!!!
my wife has a sewing machine like the one in the pic! i swear it sounds like she is driving a Harley Davidson while sewing!!!! it is sooooo super sexy!!!!!
OH NO! I didn’t know Hobby Lobby was cray! My gf and I totes just spent a lot of money there buying a little compressor and airbrush(with the 40% of coupon of course)!
Ahhhhh!!! Y’all I feel like a horrible person. I just clicked on the Hobby Lobby article…and guess what day my gf and I decided to go to Hobby Lobby? ON HOBBY LOBBY APPRECIATION DAY. I remember my gf asking me why it was so crowded. :'( I’m just gonna go crawl into a hole now.
No crawling into a hole! You know now, which is half the battle. You have to decide what places are not worth your money and which are. :)
Thanks! It’s just one of those ‘duh!’ moments I guess.
I was just telling my girlfriend last night about how much I love my glue gun. It’s a very close second to her of the things I appreciate on a daily basis.
A rotary cutter is now going to be the first thing I buy when I get my next paycheck. AND, endless love for those self-healing cutting boards. Cutting cover boards for my bookbinding projects really puts them to the test. And speaking of bookbinding, it’s REALLY upsetting to me that Hobby Lobby is a bunch of assmunchers because they carry more niche bookbinding supplies than Michael’s or Ben Franklin’s or JoAnn’s. Oh well. Fuckers.
I tend to go to art supply stores for the book binding stuff rather than arts and craft stores like JoAnn/Micheals/ACMoore since I never see anything. I live near philadelphia, PA which has Blick and Utrecht though. And then I would hop over to paper source to get paper…. but i need to find another paper place with more options.
BUT. I really want to get to talas in NYC.
My self-healing board took a beating in the past day from me cutting boards… oh and my poor fingers…
I am looking to invest in a quality sewing machine. I bought the cheap singer Pixie machine for $45 and it broke after my second use…. sometimes you do get what you pay for. Does anyone have any recommendations for a quality machine?
I have a Singer Simple (this one: http://www.amazon.com/SINGER-3116-Simple-Stich-Sewing/dp/B0014MBN5E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1357670387&sr=8-3&) and it works beautifully. I really like Singer and Brother sewing machines, but Singers are usually more affordable.
Really, an old Singer is the best thing ever. Find an old mechanical one that’s all metal on craigslist and get it fixed up. You can find zig-zag attachments on ebay. I have a Singer from the 50s that hasn’t failed me yet.
Try thrifting a sewing machine – older is better in the sewing department, and try to go with a Singer. Those have always been my fave.
Also, having worked in a University costume shop, sometimes university costume shops have sales of old machines/supplies/etc if they’re updating. Keep your eye out.
When I was shopping for a sewing machine recently I read in several sewing forums that old school Singers are really amazing, but the new models aren’t as great anymore. I would say read reviews for the model you’re looking at specifically if you want to get another Singer.
I ended up getting a Janome 2212 and I lurve it, about $170 on Amazon.
Seconded. Get an old Huskie, Singer or Janome and you will not regret it. My main sewing machine is a 15 year old Janome and when it eventually replace it, I’ll be getting an old machine. Older machines tend to be very solid and easily serviced/repaired. By old I mean 1970-1990, I have a 1950’s baby blue Singer and although it runs perfectly it is totally gutless. Get a machine that does a button, zig zag and straight stitch and it will cover most of your needs.
Also, be sure to get plenty of needles (and the the right kind too- a packet of denim needles is super handy). Needles blunt faster than you’d think and blunt needles require more energy to pass through the fabric, which can stress the motor. Happy crafting :)
Super great article but I’m still a little disappointed we’re not actually learning how to cross stich ‘crafty like a fox’. Any cross stitch experts out there?
It’s really easy! There was a pretty good guide on Jezebel recently: http://jezebel.com/cross-stitch-diy/
Keep an eye out for when they use Autostraddle’s tag line!
You’re the best Hansen!
but but… hobby lobby has felt! Four sheets for a dollar! And more colors than JoAnn’s…
It’s a good thing I only go in there when I run out of felt.
I have one thing to add: Alene’s Tacky Glue. That shit saves lives. And blue painters tape – it’s really great for painting lines and shapes.
If only you had some kind of adhesive so you could stick the leg back on your hot glue gun!
I have a slight issue with craft supplies, which is to say they have consumed a sizable portion of my living space, like some sort of sequin-speckled amoeba. Aggressive implementation of storage solutions helps a bit, anything stackable with a lid works great but clear containers are best.
– Good scissors. Hide them, don’t use them for anything but craft.
– A good assortment of needles.
– A quilting ruler. Great for measuring & cutting everything.
– Needle-nose pliers. Just handy for everything.
– White interfacing- it’s the best material for making patterns. It’s transparent enough to trace stuff, flexible and durable.
– Decent lighting. No point in going blind :)
-Big ziploc bags (or similar) for storing craft projects in progress. I have wasted so much time searching for errant pattern pieces and haberdashery when I could have been crafting. learn from my mistakes.
– Glass jars to fill with things like buttons, bobbins, pom poms, ribbon, oddments etc. Pretty and organized!
All but the mod podge are essential in my life.
Anyone know where in Australia you can get that?
Then Hansen and I can be craft twins.
Spotlight should have it.