All posts by Abigail Cole

It’s the time of year again where thoughts turn to Christmas gifting… For the last two years I’ve written a blog post offering ideas for art and craft supplies that would make great gifts for any at-home craft lovers.

I started off focusing on the basics, with the idea of building up a good and varied supply of reasonable quality of materials over time (generally speaking, better quality materials result in less waste), and have gradually expanded the lists to include possibly more random, sometimes unexpected items, that in our experience have come in very handy over and over again and made a variety of crafting situations not only easier, but possible too (without having to dash to the shops, or buy yet more supplies!).

Previous lists can be found here and here and are still perfectly relevant, and I’ve kept a note throughout this year of anything we’ve found especially useful for a good variety of projects. I’ve divided the list into three parts; small and inexpensive items that you could find in a supermarket or high-street craft shop and use to put together your own art supplies bundle or hamper, mid-range (in terms of cost) items, and then at the end some items that might cost a little more, but can be worth investing in.

Small, inexpensive items

Split pins/Paper fasteners – a small tub of these is really very inexpensive, but they are so handy to have around; they have so many uses, and make so many projects possible; moving puppets, windmills, clocks, colour wheels, any simple craft with moving parts and even though they are such a simple little device, I find that kids love them, they seem to find them fascinating and fun at the same time!   

Paper Straws – these are something we find ourselves using a lot in our crafts… puppets, shadow puppets, crafting with clay (for making patterns and holes), ‘sticks’ to hang things from, paint blowing, windmills and many other crafts… one box will go a long way!

Blank Cards – even nice quality blank cards can be fairly inexpensive, and again, these are something we have found ourselves using a lot this year! They are great for making your own greetings cards (especially great if kids like making their own for friends’ birthdays, or teacher thank you cards etc and handy to have around to turn prints of your own/child’s art or photos into personal greetings cards), and if you do buy a slightly higher quality version, they are very versatile, in that it’s possible to collage, glue on buttons or other embellishments, and they will take paint or alcohol markers well. I’ve found card-making to be a very popular simple group activity this year too… again, the simplicity combined with versatility means that everyone can come up with something unique and useful with ease and flow 😊

Clipboard or Padfolio – this one seems kind of obvious, but it was actually something that one of my children’s nursery key workers recommended to me when my babies were small and to this day we are still using our clipboards! Young children often love to work on the floor, so a clip board helps, and lends portability to creativity and you can even take them outside for drawing/colouring with… but they also seem to add an ‘air of importance’ to an activity that many children seem to enjoy 😊

A bundle of art canvases in different sizes – in terms of creating your own art hamper, this one is a bit of a must, and they can be quite easily sourced from places like The Works. It is great for children to experiment with art making on different surfaces, and making art onto a canvas instantly elevates it into something that would be great to go on a wall, or prop on a desk and keep on display. As with any artwork, sometimes things don’t turn out as hoped, so it’s good to have a few to hand in order to have the freedom to try again and take the pressure off!  

White Acrylic Paint! – of all the paints we own, white is the one we seem to get through absolutely tons of! If you’re topping up paint supplies, a larger extra tube or two of white paint will go a long way… it is great for mixing into other colours to lighten them, and to use as a base layer for canvases or other objects you might want to cover before working on them.

Pipettes/craft droppers – again, these are a fairly inexpensive item that you might not already have in your mix of art supplies but are handy for a number of different crafts; we’ve used them this year for making batik and in the past, I’ve used these droppers in groups for sharpie tye-dyeing and painting. Kids seem to have fun using them too! They give a little more fine control over moving liquid materials about and it’s fun seeing what happens when you drop something onto a surface rather than using a paintbrush.

Picture Frames – these can include box frames from places like Hobbycraft, or they can be recycled frames found in charity shops. You can either use the frames to display favourite drawings or -paintings, or, they can be used as a starting-point for creativity. Making something that you know is specifically to go in a frame gives a different kind of intentionality to what you create, and you might make something that complements the frame, or something to give as a gift.

Cutting mat (and cutting knife – although this should only be for teenagers onwards, or for supervised use) – great for paper craft, but also for very simple things like neatly cutting a printed photo, or for taping yarn to when making things like friendship bracelets (a clipboard would work for this too), or for painting small items (make sure to clean between uses so that it is still a flat surface for cutting on!).

Air-Dry Clay – again, this is something we have used a lot this year – and I’ve found my own children did enjoy this clay more as they got a little older and were able to work with a bit more dexterity, especially when it comes to attaching/blending delicate parts together in such a way that they stay intact when they dry (there are plenty of simple projects that younger children can make with air-dry clay though, that don’t involve lots of joining!). The great thing about air-dry clay is the relatively low cost, and you don’t need an oven to bake/set it. There are some example projects using this material: Bunny’s Tea Party! Craft Tutorial using Air Drying Clay – PowerWood and Nature Exploration with Air-Dry Clay (Make your own Mushrooms!) – Tutorial.

Small sewing scissors – possibly for older children onwards, but very useful for greater detail/fine cutting work that requires a bit more control. 

Mid-range items (in terms of cost)

Fabric Bundle (Including Felt) – it depends where you source fabric in terms of the cost, but a variety of different fabrics are useful to have to hand for lots of different projects, and not exclusively sewing – fabric collage, making dolls’ clothes, flower-making, flags, wall hangings, teddy blankets… younger children can use a good clear-drying high-bond or fabric glue for their creations. You could use offcuts of recycled fabric to create your own bundle, or buy small pieces in different textures, patterns and colours from a craft or sewing shop.

Ribbons – handy for embellishing lots of projects and turning small makes into hanging crafts – a useful strategy for avid crafters, storing, keeping (and avoiding the erm, bin) all the wonderful things we make being a perpetual problem to solve! Again, you could buy ribbons including some beautiful special ones (and that can add up a bit), or collect and recycle from gifts etc throughout the year.

Corner cutter – my daughter has been absolutely fascinated with this handy little gadget this year! Great for turning small artworks into postcards, rounding the corners of handmade greetings cards, or scrapbooking.

Bullet Journal – this might be one more for older children, but this specific type of journal (with small dotted markings on the page) is great for art journaling, and practising different styles of letter making, and writing styles like calligraphy. Bullet Journaling is a whole movement (and you or your child might be interested in this) but it’s not necessary to only use a bullet journal in this style; you can put your own creativity into it, using it however you like and still find this particular layout/style of paper useful.

Washi-tape – complementing activities like art-journaling washi-tape is definitely a popular material… it is also quite versatile, it can be used instead of regular tape on all kinds of makes, but also be used for everyday things like sealing an envelope in a colourful way. I find it is worth investing in some better-quality tapes as the cheaper ones often don’t stick well, causing frustration and disappointment.

Investment Items

Mini-thermal printer/label-maker (or any thermal printer in size of your choice!) – both my daughter and I have had lots of fun this year with a mini-thermal printer that was a Christmas present last year. We’ve used it for printing photos and small notes etc, and the little print-outs are great for art-journaling, sticking into diaries as reminders, or even decorating your bedroom walls, scrap-book style! 😊

Drawing Tablet (& stylus) – I’m mentioning this because, again, this is something that both my daughter and I use a lot and create effective art with, yet we don’t have any fancy/expensive equipment! We have quite basic tablets and we use downloadable drawing apps. The one we use the most is MediBang Paint. If you are working at a more professional level, it is worth investing in the right equipment, but for getting started, this approach has worked very well for us! It’s worth experimenting to find the drawing apps you like the best and some may require parental guidance.

Die-cutting machine – I don’t actually own one of these, but there have been a number of situations this year in which owning one would have been useful! We wished we had one handy for cutting felt flowers on a big community art project we worked on this year, and for cutting flowers and shapes for hand-made cards, and we did use one (owned by another artist) for printmaking at a community event. Shops like Hobbycraft are a good place to start (they have machines ranging from very basic to more sophisticated), but you might also find one second hand, and only need to buy the accessories (dies etc) that you would like to use yourself.

And don’t forget the basics…

As mentioned in previous posts, Christmas can also be a perfect opportunity to re-fill on some of the staples such as, a range of sketch books, PVA glue (or other craft glues like Mod Podge), hot-glue sticks, good colouring pencils or markers, acrylic paints or paint pens, outlining pens, paintbrushes and cartridge paper/cardstock. In my experience, when it comes to unstoppable young artists and crafters – gifts don’t always have to be novelty-filled, something they love to use and are always running out of are just as exciting!

Wishing you plenty of calm for the Christmas shopping days and I hope a few things on this list might come in handy for some creative gifting inspiration! 

© 2022 Abigail Cole

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