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Hobbies for Your Health

Those who do crafts are quick to advocate them to others. "A." says, "Any hobby that makes you feel good about yourself is good for you because it gives you a sense of accomplishment." Melissa also feels that completing a project gives one a sense of accomplishment. "You can also always feel excited about trying something new, or learning a new step. Each time you create something, the results get better and better. What you create may be a reflection of you, such as your artistic talent or interests. Crafts give us something we can do and accomplish, right inside the home. Sometimes when I'm sick and don't feel like doing anything else, I'm still able to work on a small craft, like knitting."
Anna Marie also finds crafts therapeutic. "Sometimes I feel I get obsessed about allergies. Crafting takes just enough brain power that I can shut that off for a little while. It's also led to some online friendships with other crafters. I was quite surprised when I discovered that a lot of the people on a site I go to have health difficulties--allergies or other things. But, our main conversations are not about those problems. They're about a new stitch, or new colors, or what craft store just opened or closed."
Doing crafts can help get your mind off your troubles and help you feel a sense of accomplishment. But they can also be something you can give away to others. In fact, if you become a voracious crafter, you may find that you need to start giving away your creations!

Hobbies for Gifts

"A." gives away some of the things she makes. "Recipients like them and often keep them always. I once made scrapbooks and gave pages to my friends. Now, each year I give additional pages. One year I was a little late and they all moaned. I think they look forward to them. I think handmade gifts are special because you took the time to make them yourself and they are personalized. I like receiving handmade gifts myself. My mother, also a crafter, has made quilts and Christmas ornaments for me and other members of the family, sometimes for memorable events like graduations. They are things I will treasure forever."
Melissa has also given away some things that she has made. "I do worry here a bit, though, because it takes so long and often costs about as much money, or sometimes more, as purchasing something. Once I made something for someone, and by the time I had finished it had cost about six times what it would have cost already made--and then I was informed the item wouldn't be used. My family did the same with sweaters we received from a relative, because they didn't fit. Sometimes you may not get as positive a response from homemade items as you'd like to receive for all the hard work and thought that go into them. If you do give a homemade gift, go into it knowing that this might happen. Make sure that making the gift is something fun for you to do, since that is sometimes the only reward."
Anna Marie likes making "useful gifts for people. Baby sweaters, blankets, things like that. When experienced enough, knitting doesn't take a lot of thinking to do. There are really only two stitches--knit and purl--but what you do with those two stitches can make so many things. It's easy to do while watching TV--but not so easy to hold a conversation, as sometimes you do have to count. When you make a gift for someone, they almost always appreciate the time and effort even more then the cost or just the gift."
Anna Marie has even found that the gift ideas work both ways. "It means my kids always know what they can buy me for birthdays and Christmas--craft supplies or patterns!"

What We Do

FAST members do a variety of crafts. "A." enjoys making scrapbooks, using digital photography and prints. "I once made scrapbooks and gave pages to my friends. Now each year I give additional pages." She enjoys making wedding cakes as well. "I call it a legend cake. Each layer has a legend or tradition with the stuff to go with it such as bridesmaid charms and a sixpence."
"A." finds that "I also feel good about making something for my home. This way it is personalized and just what I want. I also make window treatments and decor for my home. I used to paint all the lawn furniture and flower pots. I gave them designs of triangles and circles in many colors. All my neighbors used to walk by when they saw me working on them and compliment me." Seamstresses have the ability to go into a store and find exactly what fabric they'd like for such items as throw pillows, drapes, and chair coverings, and change them seasonally if desired.
Melissa has tried all sorts of crafts. "I've learned how to create jewelry, crochet, gimp, make art dolls, origami, paint, quilt, scrapbook, sew, etc. For me, part of the fun of being a 'crafter' is trying to learn how to do as many different crafts as I can! I especially enjoy doll-making, because it encompasses so many crafts. Making one doll can use a combination of such other crafting skills as jewelry-making, knitting, crocheting, sewing, sculpting, painting, wig-making, and more. The possibilities are limitless and up to you!"
Aside from knitting, Anna also enjoys cross-stitch. "I make not only useful things, but some very pretty ones. I especially like making things for Christmas--all those bright colors. I can choose a project that can be done in one evening, or one that takes a year or more to complete. And cross-stitch travels well, if it's a small piece. It's very simple to start with, but can lead to some very complex patterns if, like me, you enjoy doing them. I have even designed a few patterns myself."

Don't Get Discouraged

Doing crafts may result in becoming discouraged, especially when first starting out, but there are ways to counter this.
"A lot of times new crafters look at instructions for how to do a craft," says Melissa, "and become discouraged when it doesn't resemble the one in the photos. You have to remember that the person who wrote the instructions is an expert."
Sometimes you have to get creative and be content with the results. Just remember that each time you make something, it's one step toward you becoming an expert yourself!
"A." says she goes through craft phases. One phase was fabric-covered boxes and albums. "I get into making something, make a few or a lot, then move on to another craft."
Melissa has found certain things that keep her from getting discouraged. "One is to do a craft that only takes a day. You get the results immediately. Always start small if you can. For example, if you decide to make a quilt, don't opt for a full-sized quilt as your first try. I tried that many times, and never finished one! But once I went to a smaller size, which is a lap or baby quilt, I was able to make three in only about a month's time! Second, if you want to take on a big craft, try one that can be done in tiny sections, which gives a sense of accomplishment even before finished. For example, a knitting project done in pieces allows you to complete a portion one day, then put it away. Third, it helps to have a craft that packs away and comes out easily. If you have to clean up and spend a long time setting up for a craft and putting it away, you will be less likely to turn to the craft due to all the extra work involved."
"A." has found that it helps her not to put a project away. "I picked this up from my mother, who often had a project on the table for days at a time. This way every time you walk by you feel like doing a little more or, as she says, 'feel crafty.'"
"A." additionally says, "Don't be discouraged if you start something and never finish it or finish it years later. My mother, who is a crafter too, says you aren't a real crafter if you don't have an unfinished project tucked away somewhere."

Special Considerations

Don't jump into doing a craft without considering your food allergies carefully. Many craft supplies unfortunately do contain common allergens. One example of this is children's clay doughs. Candle kits and crayons may be made from soy. These are, sadly, only a few examples.
Unfortunately, many craft supply companies opt not to disclose the ingredients of their products. Nevertheless, the most common place to find ingredient disclosures at this time is not on the product label or packaging itself, but rather on the manufacturer's website. Take the time to write down manufacturer names and contact information, and check with them first before using their products. This is especially important for those who react to their allergens through simple contact or by inhaling them.

Family Crafts and Projects

Crafts are often an individual pursuit, but you shouldn't rule out trying them with your family or friends. Doing crafts together can provide time to talk and a sense of family togetherness. Craft stores are capitalizing on this and offering tutorial sessions to those who sign up, usually for a fee.
Melissa used to mentor, and she and her "little sister" made the doll at right. "What I found really helped with sewing projects was to make them into a kit. I would pre-cut all of the pieces (pattern from www.morrisseydolls.com) and have everything set up. Kids may like to stuff things, but they find sewing curved lines difficult, and so it may help to even have something pre-sewn and ready to stuff. Another trick is to make the clothing first, if making something like a doll or teddy bear. You can make it ahead of time if you'd like, or help the child sew it. For kids, it's more fun to have the clothing done first and do the doll or bear last." Expect children to do their own thing and be happy with their own decisions, even if the final product doesn't look as pictured in the instructions. Being free at crafts helps them express themselves and shouldn't be looked down upon.
While you can do the same craft, and help youngsters in the process, with older children you can choose a larger project where each person can do one of the crafts. For example, National Wildlife Federation has a program (with more information at http://www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat/) where you can make your yard an official wildlife habitat.
Why not have one child build a birdhouse, and another build a birdfeeder? All you need can be found in kit form at your local craft store.
Be sure children do not have allergies to any of the animals or plants you will be inviting into your yard.
There is something you "create" when you make crafts with others--and that's a special bond! You may even find that doing crafts brings you together for special events, holidays, or occasions. "A." and her mother "made everything for my wedding: the programs, rice bags, favors, and the centerpieces. For the decor I enlisted all my friends and made 1,000 origami cranes. My mother made my dress embellishments and even the flower girl's dress. I got everything I wanted and special memories too."
"Knitting for me was an interesting combination," says Melissa. "My mom taught me how to cast on, my friend taught me how to knit, and I read a book to learn how to purl! Now when I knit, I always remember that I learned how to from others. In fact, I hold my needles and yarn incorrectly when knitting, and have my friend to thank for that!"
Once you and other family members are interested in doing crafts, you may enjoy swapping ideas. Says "A.," "I learned to be a crafter from my mother. While we don't make the same types of things (she prefers sewing crafts, I prefer the building, gluing type) we enjoy shopping with each other for supplies and give each other opinions and ideas."
"I never got to know my grandparents," says Melissa, "but I still feel a connection to my grandmothers when I hear about how much they enjoyed doing crafts." Crafts you do today may one day become family heirlooms.

Beginning

Getting started can be overwhelming; there are so many options to choose from! One idea is to set aside an hour or more to walk into a craft store and go down the rows, looking for things that might interest you. Most, if not all, craft stores carry free project sheets. These are mixed throughout the store, near the supplies they will require. Best of all, these are often projects meant for beginners.
The library is also a great place to check to see if a craft is to your liking. You might try looking at an in depth book that tells basic information on many crafts. Or ask your friends what they enjoy--they may have some extra materials (especially if they're knitters or scrapbookers, for instance) so that you can get started and receive instruction.
Says Melissa, "I really wanted to try needle felting--a dangerous craft where you repeatedly stab wool felt with a barbed needle! This seemed intimidating, so I watched people do the craft at least three times on television and read a tutorial and an instruction sheet about it to become familiar and confident with the process, even though it's supposed to be quite basic and straightforward. The 2"-seated panda bear at left was my very first try at needle-felting, and my own design! I give a lot of credit to seeing people felt other objects before trying this on my own."
The start-up costs for some crafts can be prohibitive, so it's important to make sure a craft will "take" before you start, or stick to crafts that have small start-up costs if you've never done a craft before. A beginner's crafting kit from the craft store may help you out in this regard.
The websites here are offered in no particular order other than alphabetical. The participants have found these websites helpful for craft instruction, free projects, and patterns. While some are commercial websites, listing does not imply endorsement, and the links are for the free instruction that the sites offer.

Cross-stitch
Cross Stitching.com www.cross-stitching.com/

General
Jo-Ann Fabrics and Craft (Click on: Project Ideas) www.jo-ann.com
Michael's (Click on links across the top.) www.michaels.com

Knitting
KnittingHelp.com www.knittinghelp.com

Paper Projects/Scrapbooking
Computer Scrapbooking www.computerscrapbooking.com/pages/funstuff/funmain.htm
Digital Design Essentials www.digitaldesignessentials.com/files/Free_Downloads.html
House of Lime www.houseoflime.com
HP Activity center h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/activityCenterHome?lc=en&cc=us
Original Cute Graphics www.cuddlybuddly.com

Polymer Clay
Sculpey www.sculpey.com/

Quilting
Children and Babies' Quilts www.womenfolk.com/baby_quilts/
Free Quilting Patterns and Blocks www.craftown.com/quilt.htm
Olde Southern Quiltings www.oldesouthernquiltings.com/
Quilting Insider www.quiltinginsider.com/

In Closing

We hope you will discover the magic of being a "crafter." "Recently," says Anna Marie, "I found something I made about 10 years ago. It was funny the memories it brought back, such as making it and remembering my son wearing it. Crafting is such a part of me. I'd go crazy without it."


This article was contributed to by "A.," Anna Marie, and Melissa Taylor.

Image credits: Anna Marie (stocking (Candamar), scissors fob, knitted blanket); Melissa Taylor (art dolls).

This website is for personal support information only. Nothing should be construed as medical advice.