The original Arts and Crafts movement began more than a century ago in response to industrialized manufacturing and common reproductions. It has grown into a source of pride, of craftsmanship and of relaxed enjoyment. All ages, from school children to seniors, are thrilled at the prospect of creating one-of-a-kind projects and showcasing personal handiwork. Also, it is an inexpensive way to decorate your home or office, make personalized gifts and support charitable organizations.
Decorate your walls using unique stencils cut from poster board or other heavy paper. Sketch your design on a sheet and using an X-ACTO knife or retractable razor blade, carefully cut along your design lines (make sure you are cutting on a cutting board or another hard surface). Once you have your design cut out, use a sponge, stipple brush or spray paint and transfer the pattern to your wall, windowsill, door panels or where ever you want to add a touch of color to liven up a room; be sure not to overload your brush or sponge as the stencil may bleed and ruin the clean lines of your design.
For an inexpensive and attractive way to show off family or vacation photos, buy inexpensive photo frames from a dollar store and using a fine line paintbrush and colorful paint, accent the plain frame with lines, dots or other patterns. Fill mason jars with dried flowers and herbs, use your oven at low heat or microwave to dry the mix. Pour in essential or fragrant oils like lavender or peppermint and cover the jar for a few days to let the scents mingle. If you want you can add cinnamon sticks, cloves or dried lemon peels. To make the potpourri look as attractive as it smells, layer a few colored pebbles or glittered pine cones or tree bark in with the mix.
Recycle old T-shirts by making thin strips from the fabric and braiding them together. Wind them around in a circle or other geometric shape (a few stitches on the underside will hold them together) and you have a functional hot pad to put under hot dishes on a buffet table when you are entertaining. Or make coasters from a thin sheet of cork. Use a sharp blade to cut out shapes a little larger than the bottom of your tumbler glasses. Use a stencil or paint a design on the topside and then, if you want, glue a circle of felt to the underside and -- voila! -- no more moisture rings on your table. Paint a rock with a house number or monogram for an attractive welcome to visitors.
Find others to share your passion for crafts to make it even more fun. Pat Ottinger is the co-coordinator of a weekly Homeowners Association crafting group. Many of the participants are fans of knitting, sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking and more.
"Everyone brings their own craft such as knitting, crocheting, flower arrangements, tomato cage Christmas trees, felting. Everyone is willing to help and teach," says Ottinger.
They find the weekly clubhouse get-together is a great way to relax, share skills and enjoy each other's company. In addition to each doing their own private projects, they have also volunteered to do several community service projects including decorating paper liners for hospital food trays, crocheting red baby hats in honor of Heart Health Week and knitting baby booties for a maternity ward.
Freelance writer Tanja Cilia donates her time and crafts for "Beads for Babies," a program at a local convent which helps to care for babies and children in need. Tanja is one of several congregants that collect and repair broken jewelry for the convent, Ursuline Creche, to sell to raise funds. She enjoys the opportunity to create as well as the knowledge that her efforts are going for a great cause.
"We get jewelry donated from people or buy inexpensive pieces from charity shops," says Cilia. "It's a lot of fun to repair and recycle old jewelry and the Sisters use the proceeds to help the children."
Whether you are sprucing up your home, creating thoughtful gifts, making items to sell at a flea market, joining friends with a common passion or helping a worthwhile charity, do-it-yourself crafts are a lot of fun.