Including a mini art craft tutorial

All posts by Abigail Cole

Last November’s blog in the PowerWood Creative Corner was all about putting together and growing your collection of good craft supplies over time, with Christmas and the festive season a great opportunity to both buy craft supplies as thoughtful gifts, or even to pop a request on your own Christmas wish-list!

Over the last year I’ve had plenty more ideas to add to the list – of things we have found useful and used over and over, as well as being very versatile for a number of different activities. As before, I’ve tried to focus on items that are durable, versatile, can be used and applied to many different crafts and activities, are handy to have around, and support your art and crafting at home activities to make them as doable and easeful as possible! Focusing on things that can be used for a long time and in many different ways is also great for both your budget overall, and the environment with less waste created if not buying so many throw-away items.

Useful & Practical Creative Gifts

The following list offers some suggestions for handy creative tools that can be useful to have around and applied to lots of different creative scenarios:

Light box – our daughter received something similar to this basic kids light-box for Christmas many years ago and it is still in active use to this day! It’s from a well known children’s craft brand, meaning it is super-child friendly and pretty much indestructible! It makes tracing possible, which is a great way to practice drawing skills and experimenting with different styles of drawing and art. I have used it myself, and think it’s a super-handy item to have around for quick use in different projects – for example making shadow puppets – use the lightbox to trace outlines of animals/characters on printed pictures to then cut out into silhouette form…

Apron – of course, you can use an old shirt or t-shirt as a basic apron to protect clothing during crafting. You could also use a kitchen apron if you have one in your home. But if you craft a lot, it can be handy to have specially dedicated aprons for this purpose, and depending on the ages of your crafters, it can just be lovely to have your own apron that becomes like your favourite comfy jumper or favourite coat and becomes a part of your practice. You could choose a beautiful hand-made artists’ apron that you look forward to wearing, adapt a bold-patterned kitchen apron, or even sew your own!? Tip: an apron with pockets is amazingly handy! 

Tape Measure – I bought a tape measure in a local gift shop for £5 when I first moved to our home town, and I am still using it to this day over 10 years later! It was such a good investment! It lives on a shelf near my workspace and I use it for every kind of crafting and plenty of everyday tasks too. My husband is always using it as well and has learned that it always has to go back to its handy spot on the shelf as we’re all using it so much!  

Stylus – we’ve been exploring digital art apps a lot more this year and as a result I would say a good stylus is a must-have. It doesn’t have to be an expensive brand, and it’s a good idea to choose one that can be used with a variety of different devices since the devices you use will change as you explore. It also means you can use very accessible art apps on a phone, and means your digital art explorations can be very portable. We found this to be a good starter stylus. 

Mechanical Pencil – perhaps better for slightly older children, teenagers or adults but with a view to cutting down waste, having one well-made mechanical pencil that is always to hand can be a good investment.

Skin Tone Marker Pens – if you have anyone amongst your family or friends who is keen on character art such as drawing people, portraits, cartoons or anime-influenced art, these markers can greatly enhance their practice, giving plenty of options for a broad range of skin tones as well as for shading. This is a good quality brand with a great range of colours (but there are plenty of other options too). 

Drawing/Outlining Pens – again, if you have keen artists into drawing in your household, a set of black outlining pens in a variety of sizes are super useful to have around. They can really bring drawings to life with depth, shading, and different line-work. They are great for lettering work and doodling/zentangling too, but these are also just useful to have around for every day general purpose as well they can be handy for anything from crafts to letter/note writing and card-making.   

Cookie-cutters – this one might sound obvious, and many family homes have at least a basic set from baking when the children are small. However I think it’s also worth investing in some nice quality cutters in a variety of different sizes and shapes, as you can incorporate them into other crafts – salt-dough & playdough and any other kind of clay work, they can be used to draw around – both for general drawing and with a view to making cut-out shapes for a variety of projects including sewing & fabric craft, you can use them to needle-felt basic shapes. You could even use them to create silhouette shapes for shadow puppets – and of course, they can be used for your baking too!  

Pliers/Basic Tool Kit – There are so many times when crafting when I reach for the pliers! I used to borrow my husbands’ tools so often that in the end he gifted me my own tool kit! Pliers can come in handy for wire bending or any craft using wire & beads, jewellery making, and generally securing fiddly things!

Bumper box of buttons & beads – you could even curate this yourself by looking out for different buttons and beads in charity shops, markets and fairs, collect them together in a beautiful vintage tin and give them as a beautiful hand-crafted gift. You could also buy old inexpensive costume jewellery from charity shops and dismantle to collect the beads.  Buttons & beads are so versatile and can be used in so many different craft activities and don’t have to be expensive! They are also a delight to rummage through and to small children can be like inheriting their own pot of treasure!  

A tin of chalk-board paint and some good chalk pens – when I asked my daughter what she would add to this post, this was top of her list! Chalks in general are great to have around as they can be used in many craft activities but also outdoors on a sunny day on a patch of patio or pavement. However, I’ve also found that children are always fascinated by chalks and chalk-pens and always want to write on blackboards at any given opportunity. You could use chalk-board paint (easy to find in your local DIY shop) both on your walls, and on other surfaces of your choice to create your own re-useable art surfaces. Playing with chalks is a great natural motivator for mark & art making, and handy as an easy, reasonably mess-free, repeatable activity. As the children get older and less into drawing on the walls, they can use the chalk-board space for organising their homework or play dates and so on instead!  You can get chalk-board paint in a variety of colours and the pens don’t have to be expensive!

Pom-Pom Makers – it’s always fun to make pompoms the old-fashioned way with recycled card-board, but if you are likely to be making a number of pompoms to incorporate into other craft projects (crochet, pompom garlands & wreaths, hanging decorations, poppom creatures or accessories) – pompom makers can be handy to have around as they make the process quicker and easier to start and do last a long time!

Paper Punch Stampsthese are also great to have around because they can be used for so many different crafts. You can use them to decorate paper or cards, to make stencils that you can then use in journaling or card making, and you can even make your own confetti from the shapes – see my easy recipe below 😊

Origami/Patterned Craft Papers – decorative papers can be used in plenty of different crafts and you could also paper-punch some of these to make pretty confetti for your gifts… beautiful papers can also be used for collage, paper folding, art-journaling, card-making, and for younger children, they can be used for a variety of paper-plate crafts. Plenty of paper craft ideas are explored in this post.

Pinking Shearsthese are handy for fabric and sewing crafts of course, but they can also be used for paper crafts and card-making. You could use them to make your own labels for your Christmas gifts too.   

Topping up the basics

Buying a creative gift doesn’t just have to focus on new and novel items – for any keen crafter or young artist, a top-up of the basic supplies and materials that they use a lot of can also be really appreciated and valued. Refills of favoured paints, pens, or particular types of good quality watercolour or other art papers can be very meaningful to any avid makers of all ages.

Some art items are naturally more consumable and might need replacing once every few years – good quality colouring pencils, pastels, watercolour paints or pencils, acrylic paints (especially black and white!), marker pens, scissors, glue or glue sticks (and occasionally, hot glue guns might need to be replaced too) & PVA, paint brushes, decorative papers and of course, even A4 paper and cartridge paper. For plenty more ideas, do have a look at the original post, here.

You could turn a top-up of the basics into a special gift by investing in a beautiful storage or presentation box and filling it with a number of crafty refills of favourite basics – this way you are thoughtfully curating your own gift of the creative essentials that you really need, and saving anything from potential waste.   

I hope this list might come in handy for a bit of creative gifting inspiration in the coming weeks!

Here is a super-mini and quick craft idea as an example of a craft using paper-punch shapes as mentioned above – if you happen to already have some paper-punch stamps, you could use this to make some confetti to decorate your Christmas gifts with. You can paint your papers in any colours you like – feel free to make them as festive as you like! As well as being quick, the painting part of this activity can be soothing and relaxing as the goal is just to make a wash of colours rather than a specific image – it could be a lovely bit of simple crafting before the busy festive season begins!?

Wishing you all the warmth of the festive season to come and,

Happy Crafting!

© 2021 Abigail Cole

For more creative ideas visit

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