Craft Like a Beginner

Have you ever had a craft/hobby that got completely out of control. Not so much the making of items but the accumulation of crafting supplies. I most certainly have. Through that experience I have learned a few things and here is my advice on avoiding this problem.

Always supply your craft hobby as though you are a beginner.

Any wise person who starts a new hobby generally begins with the minimum of supplies in order to try it out to see if they are really going to enjoy it. They buy or better still borrow the basic equipment or perhaps even take a class where the equipment is provided. Then they buy only the materials that they need for the project and give it a try.

Sometimes this hobby goes nowhere because they discover they didn’t enjoy it or didn’t have the aptitude necessary. Nothing lost here because they only bought the minimum of supplies. On the other hand sometimes the person finds they really enjoy the hobby and delve in enthusiastically. Hobbies can be so satisfying and are a wonderful way to reduce stress and fill your time doing something better than just sitting around watching TV in your spare time.

Where we then go wrong is to become overenthusiastic about buying up materials for our hobbies. Seeking out and buying materials in advance of even having a project in mine. This is so easy to do when you see that cute piece of fabric, that gorgeous piece of paper, that lusciously grained piece of timber… . You must have it now because you may never see anything like it again. Sound familiar? It certainly does to me. Then of course there are tempting sales and hobby show that also draw you in. Temptation is everywhere.

So I repeat again ~ Always supply your hobby as though you are a beginner. Only buy materials for the project you are doing this moment. Only buy the tools that you a sure you will use over and over again and always finish one project before you begin the next. This comment sense approach will ensure your hobby supplies don’t get out of hand and you end up giving away hundreds of dollars worth of supplies should the time come that you tire of it.

Today’s Mini Mission

Choose a few items to declutter prior to tomorrows mission that is delivering your donations to the thrift store.

Eco Tip for the Day

Share and borrow between friends and family rather than everyone owning/buying everything.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Well, I am still fairly new to a quite expensive hobby. It is even so bad, that I started buying wool by the kilogram. My last order was 2 kilogram. I am doing something wrong here, I guess.

    To my defense, I first bought a kilogram of wool on April, and I’m afraid it’s almost gone. Terrible hobby, I say, is weaving.

    • You aren’t doing anything wrong is you are using up those supplies and have an outlet the creative results. If however you have woven items piling up all around the house with no purpose then that could be an issue. 😉

      • Well, actually, I have use for it. I’m sewing it on clothes as decoration and use it with making bags. A friend of my started to sell her excess, which might be an option for me when I have finally completed all my projects.

        I ask always make sure that I will do the project before buying something. I usually avoid shops as much as possible!

  2. I was fortunate to be able to take three one-week courses – fused glass, silver jewelry making and pottery. Each of these hobbies would take a huge investment in $$ and equipment so it was good to be able to take a holiday, learn some skills, come home with a couple of things and be done with it. I had to buy some supplies for each course but have only kept the ones that could be used for other purposes and have sold or given away what I don’t need.

    One of the biggest problems with projects is what to do with the scraps and leftovers. There’s never enough to make another whole whats-it, but too much to simply throw away without guilt. So you keep it forever, waiting to use it up…. I am slowly weaning myself of some of it but also recognize that I will always be a crafty person and these are things I can justify keeping while releasing the other things I KNOW I won’t ever use.

    • Well, actually, I had some linnen left overs, and I volunteered to make a first aid bag out of it for my group. Otherwise, I just sew scraps together to make something usefull out of it!

    • Ooh, Wendy, I’m worried about the glass fusing. We’re going on vacation in a couple of weeks, and my mother-in-law called to see if I wanted to take a glass-fusing class up in the mountains. Of course, I said that I’d love to. I have problems when I take a class because then I think I’ll be as great doing it on my own as I was in the class. That’s how I ended up with so much rubber stamping stuff that I don’t use (my kids like to use it, though). Every year, I convince myself that I’ll make my own Christmas cards and never do. Deb J, I don’t know how you got so many cards made. My finished works never looked as good as whatever I made in a class.

      I already have lots of cross-stitch, hardanger, beading, and other needle-art supplies. I use them, but not at the rate I’d like. I also convinced myself I’d love to do quilling, and other than a small project I did a couple of years ago, I haven’t touched it. I think my daughter will like it when she gets a little older. I also have quite a few pairs of knitting needles, but the yarn in under control.

      Less frequently used are scrapbook supplies and jewelry-making items. I also have dabbled in paper-making and candle-making and have some of those leftovers. I keep telling myself that when I get everything under control, I’ll have more time to do these things, and some of them are things my kids will like. My daughter just finished her first needlepoint project and enjoyed working on it.

      I did just bag up lots of extra floss, fabric, buttons, and sequins, as well as a few kits I’d gotten for free. I’ll donate to a woman who gives them to people who make items to sell to earn some Christmas present money. I hope to have more for her soon, but it’s so hard to get rid of (darn aspirational clutter!).

      • Donna B, I really understand where you are coming from. We have had all sorts of supplies for all sorts of hobbies over the years. Many of them we never did. Some because we didn’t really enjoy them as much as we thought once we tried them and others because they just were too expensive to do very often. Whatever the reason, we have finally over the years gotten rid of it all. The scrapbook stuff was the last. When I do cards i do them like an assembly line. I first cut out the fronts to put on the card blanks. Later I will put those on the actual cards. Then later still I will decorate the fronts. I may do ten of one type but usually not more than that.

        • How nice, though, that you had something handmade to give people. I love handmade items. I do think I’ll follow your lead and get rid of some scrapbook items (I’d like to have them out for Friday’s pickup). I’m sure I have some embellishments that are no-brainers to pass on, and if I were honest with myself, I’d get rid of all of it. However, my kids dip into my paper and stickers for some of their projects, so while the items are not being used as intended, the supply slowly is dwindling.

          • If your kids are using them at least they are being used.

          • Hi Donna, I am lucky that I have form several connections to people who are happy to buy or take my scrapbook supplies off me when I am ready to let go of some. It makes the decision easier because I know the items will be going to someone who will use and enjoy them.

      • Hi Donna B, I think you might need to come to terms with the fact that there are only so many hours in the day to do craft activities and I think you have more possibilities than hours in the day to cater to all of yours. I have my beading and paper craft supplies and tools which do get used on a reasonably regular basis but not as much as I like. And I most certainly still have way more supplies than I need for the time I spend on it. I also have kept a few knitting needles and crochet hooks (but have no yarn). You however might have just a few too many irons in the fire so to speak. As you say “darn aspirational clutter!”. If you feel like it is all dragging you down just let some of it go. Even if it is just the inexpensive supplies that could be easily replaced if you decide to take it up again. If you donate them, as you have already been doing, to someone who will use them that will save them having to buy new which negates the ecological effect if you decide to take up the craft again and buy new supplies.

        • You’re right, of course. I do have too many irons in the fire (I also love to read) and have little free time these days. But my unwillingness to let go also is a result of not wanting to admit how much money I spent on certain items, as Deb mentioned, as well as not wanting to admit that I’m not as creative as I’d like to be. I’m so envious of truly creative people.

          I can follow patterns and improvise to a certain degree (a small degree), but I found that scrapbooking, card-making and jewelry-making require more design talent than I have. While I realize you can follow a general pattern or idea, the options for those crafts are mindblowing, and I just can’t sort through all of it and get overloaded. Even if scrapbooking were must stickers and paper, the choices would be endless. But there are brads and strings and bags to put things in to save and so on. Boom! There goes my brain.

          It’s not as though I have an entire room devoted to these items as they’re tucked away here and there, but still . . . I want to be more creative than I am, and I never will be. It’s admitting defeat.

          • I told myself that I couldn’t start a new project until I finished the one I was working on. It drove me crazy, but I got it done knowing I had something else in the works!

          • Donna, I believe everyone is creative in their own way; and definitely being overwhelmed by product choices doesn’t help. Get back to basics, keep it simple, and have fun.

            I do something similar to Marianne: self-imposed limits. I do a lot of patchwork and quilting, now mostly for charity. I allow myself to work on up to three projects at a time (there’s always something new to try). However, after that if I want to start anything else I make myself finish all three projects before I start another new one. This ensures I have no UFO’s (unfinished objects) and I finish lots which is very satisfying.

    • Hi Wendy B, I would like to try glass lamp work, a class I will finally have easy access to at my next location. I have done silver soldering which here is very inexpensive because there is a lapidary club near by that for a yearly fee of $20 will teach you everything you want to know. The only equipment I bought with a jump ring former. I already had the blow torch from my creme brulee set and the jump ring former I use for my costume jewellery making. Both of which I am not parting with at this point. I would like to try ceramics next.

      As for leftovers ~ scrapbooking leftovers are great for making greeting cards. Wool can be used to make crocheted rugs (great fro donating to charity. Fabric squares are good for crazy patchwork quilts. So I suppose for most crafts there is an outlet for those leftovers if one can be bothered to do something about it. I am sure Schools would love all sorts of little bits and pieces for children’s crafts.

      • Schools do LOVE scraps for the kids to use. I have given card and a lot of small fabric scraps and pieces I won’t use to my son’s primary school. The art teacher loves it. They can be very creative how they use them too! I just asked if they wanted them and they said ‘Yes please!’

  3. Colleen, I soooo agree with you. If I had it to do over again I would have had a few things to use for spur of the moment needs but bought everything else only as I needed it. When I look back on all of the things I have sold or given away I know that I spent $100’s on supplies I never used or use rarely. I could kick myself for it now. But that is a lesson well learned and I will advise others to be more frugal about their hobbies.

  4. Good advice. When my husband was in graduate school, I had a friend who had a whole room full of craft stuff. Her husband made good money and told her he would buy her anything she wanted when she wanted to do crafts if she would sell her stuff so they could have the space for living. She wouldn’t do. I couldn’t believe it. But, she was a great resource when I needed a little bit of paint for a project and didn’t want to get a whole bottle!

  5. When I began quilting, I could see how fabric buying could become addicting, so was pretty careful with not going overboard. However, I have a couple of fabric pieces that I haven’t used and will donate to the cat charity. They will use the fabric to make beds and toys to sell in their store for fundraising. The gal contacted me yesterday and they would love to take my donations. We just need to schedule a pickup or delivery time. This is good news because, Colleen, this is the stack o’ stuff I have been accumulating ever since I first e-mailed you that picture of the Christmas declutter session! They are going to get a BIG stack o’ stuff for me! =^..^= Half my attic will be open space – what will I do with all that space??!!

    Deb J, hope you don’t cringe when I say that I am also giving them all of my scrapbooking supplies. I did just three books over 4 years ago. This stuff needs to find a new home and be useful. The cat folks should be able to do something with those goodies, I’d think. 🙂

    • Michelle, I am not cringing. I think it is great that you are giving it away since you are not using it. Good for you.

      • LOL @ Deb J. Ok and thanks! What I’m afraid of (or it could be a good thing) is that the lady will come over and I’ll just start chucking stuff at her saying, “TAKE IT! TAKE IT ALL!” hee hee.

    • Hi Michelle, good for you, I had my fingers crossed and it worked. As for that space in the attic ~ I know what you can do with it, just vacuum it occasionally. 😉 And good for you giving away the scrapbook supplies you aren’t using. No point clinging on out of guilt or some other wrong reason.

  6. Excellent and balanced approach to the topic, Colleen. I am always dismayed when a student comes in with an expensive instrument and at home has 500 picks, 3 amps, and two more guitars. Having more stuff will never improve their skills of course, and the parents wasted a boatload of money, because most students last a year or two. Then we have lots of stuff sitting in closets and under beds.

    • I have to admit to the fact of buying instruments for my kids over the years. Although my daughter used her flute in the school orchestra for four years and my son did the same with his clarinet (if I remember correctly). They were hire/to buy instruments which we hired for so long they became ours. But we bought two keyboards along the way (one sold and the other made a dear coworker very happy when I gave it to her. It was worth having been bought just for the joy it gave her.) and two guitars (which my son taught himself to play and still uses). Oh, and a scare drum (total waste of money) but sold it on eBay. Yikes.

      • Buying kids instruments is fantastic! I am all for it and then some. But not really expensive ones unless they have proven their commitment over the course of several years. Excellent music can be made on a $150 guitar;)

        • I am with you on that. I bought inexpensive instruments for the kids to give them the opportunity to try things out. One doesn’t know if they have an aptitude for something if they never tried. I like that in 5th grade in Washington state that playing an instrument was compulsory.

    • CJ – the same thing happens in the dancing world.

      • Moni, one of my guitar students has just purchased toe stretchers or are they called foot stretchers? Can’t recall. The mom just rolled her eyes. I can imagine dance has its share of expensive odds and ends too;)

  7. That is good advice Colleen. I have a minimum amount of supplies for a few different hobbies-beading, general crafts, and stickers for the outer envelopes of purchased cards. Each hobby fits in one or two lunch box sized containers, with the exception of the afghan I began working on 5 years ago. I only have the yarn for that one project, but it fits in a rather large bag because the blanket I was working on is very large. I haven’t decluttered the project yet. I may decide to in time, or I might start working on it again. I haven’t been working on that project because I find it very annoying to work on a crochet project with two cats that attack my yarn as I work and get their nails caught in the blanket threatening to rip it.

    • Hi Melissa, you have been very controlled with your craft supplies, well done you. As for that rug ~ There are many groups out there that crochet for charity who would gladly take that off your hands in the even that you actually decide to give up on it altogether. Go you your local yarn supplier and I am sure they will know of such a group or person.

      • Thanks Colleen. I didn’t realize that there were groups that crocheted for charity. I don’t know where our local yarn supplier is (I purchased mine at a big box store), but i’m sure it would be easy enough to look up. We’ll see. I’m not ready to scrap the project all together just yet. For now it’s tucked away in a bag in my spare bedroom closet. When we move we may not have a spare bedroom closet in which case it has to go then!

  8. Good post Colleen – I managed to avoid a lot of crafts, I remember a friend telling me about scrapbooking and knowing that I would turn it into an addiction. However, I had a tendancy to overstock with sewing supplies, so its the same thing, but I’m glad I didn’t branch into quilting or scrapbooking as well. I have made big inroads into what I have/had and as my girls slowly finish up with ballet/jazz/tap more will be going. Last night I was in the ceiling storage and my eyes fell on my boxes of patterns – as I no longer sew for the junior school, it would probably be a good time to weed out all the child size patterns.

    • Moni,

      You were smart not to branch out into quilting! It is a wonderful, satisfying, craft, but way too easy to collect tools and especially fabric. (I have a room full as evidence…) Quilters think of fabric as their paints, and collect as each season passes because this season’s fabrics will never be available again. I have finally broken the habit, and anything I sew must be made from my existing supplies. The good news is, as I’ve decluttered other items in my sewing room, I enjoy being there more and hope to get inspired to bust out the sewing machine soon.

    • Sticking to one craft is a good idea Moni. My mum always had fabric in nooks and crannies in our house because she did private dressmaking from home. I don’t remember her having much other craft stuff though.

      Yep, get those patterns out of there someone else might be able to use them.

  9. Colleen,
    This is excellent advice! I have been a serial crafter all my life – stained glass, cake decorating, jewelry making, painting, drawing, crochet, quilting… Even my list of crafts looks cluttered! I have become obsessed with each in turn, and then dropped it to move on to my next obsession. Finally, I wised up and stopped buying more supplies.

    In the 80s I took a knitting class. I knitted the front, back, and sleeves, but then never joined the pieces. You can just imagine how ugly that 80s style sweater was! Magenta synthetic yarn, with huge batwing sleeves, and shoulder pads to be added after it was finished. Remember my problem holding onto things I’ve had for ages? Well, you guessed it, that monstrosity followed me on three moves. Recently, I mentioned the sweater to my SIL (a fabulous knitter who makes lovely sweaters). I told her I didn’t know what to do with it. She took one look and said “Get rid of it!” So, the UFO (unfinished object) has left the building! Sometimes, all it takes is a little help from a friend.

    • Hi June, you sound like me, I did crochet, macramé, latch hook rugs, crochet, knitting, sewing, a short half hearted stint of quilting, scrapbooking, cardmaking, beading, cross stitch, painting, even did a class on flower arranging once. I would still like to try a few more things and that is OK too. This time however I will not be overstocking.

      Loved you knitted sweater story. I think you made the right choice. Your SIL had good advice. Don’t forget you can always deconstruct a knitted garment and donate the yarn to charity.

  10. Enjoyed this post and all the comments. My hobby is crochet and I admit to falling for the yarn sales and ending up with a frightening amount. As they call it on the forums, SABLE (stash accumulation beyond life expectancy). I am now happily crocheting my way through it and have projects in mind for most of it. I can see how the clutter principles that I have learned really apply to hobbies – in the case of more expensive yarns, I have felt afraid to use them because they are too nice, or I buy too much just because it is on sale. One of my friends is an avid scrapbooker and has an entire room devoted to her hobby. Everything is perfectly organized but the sheer volume of it all is overwhelming to me so while I love to admire it, it also reminds me to keep my own hobby under control.

    • Hi Christine, I like that title SABLE. I will try to remember that one for future reference. I am glad you have stopped applying the too-good-to-use principle to your yarn stash. Use what you like and have fun with it.

      • SABLE is a good acroynm. I made my sister a pillow a few years ago that says something like “She who dies with the most patterns isn’t stitching fast enough.”

        We both laugh at ourselves when we look at a pattern and say, “Maybe I’ll get that. It won’t take too long to finish.”
        At least we usually don’t buy the fabric, etc., to go along with the pattern until we’re ready to make it. That counts for something, I guess.

  11. Great idea for a post, Colleen. I have become a card maker, and found there is some latent creativity there! But I have also learned that buying supplies is addictive! My advice is don’t rush in too quickly when you first start. That wonderful tool that you think you must have, you probably may not need or particularly enjoy. Take time to learn what aspect of the craft you enjoy, and then your buying can be geared to that. Recently, I was so tempted to spend $20 to buy chalks, but when I thought enough about it, I realised I was unlikely to use them, I was just impressed by the video online that I watched, but it was an aspect of card making that I probably wouldn’t develop, as I enjoy other areas better . A few weeks later on, I can bypass the chalks with barely a thought…! A small example, but a helpful one I hope. Susan from Melbourne

    • Hi Susan and welcome to 365 Less Things. I very much agree with your point of not rushing in too quickly. When I first started scrapbooking a bought a lot of stuff. Then after a while I came to realise what was really my style. I discovered I was happy creating most of my own decoration on a page and was no really much into stickers and other shop bought faff. This left me with a lot of stuff I didn’t really use. This proves the point that one really needs to develop their own style before catering too much to suppling their craft. Your chalk story is a good example. That is why, although I enjoy them, craft shows can be a bit of a trap. You watch the demos and thing how clever they are, buy up the gear and realise later that you either aren’t so good with the technique or have limited use for it.

      Thank you for your comment, you had some very good advice there.

  12. PS: Love the SABLE acronym too! I know someone who is a clearcut SABLER, and no, it is not me!

  13. As a magician, one of my previous jobs, all I really needed was a pack of cards, a few coins and some sponge balls and I could entertain people for hours. Sadly, that turned into collecting thousands of dollars of ‘tricks’ that were going to make me a better magician. All that stuff didn’t make me any better: practice and getting out and having fun with people is what did that.

    Jess, my fiancé, also fell into the collecting habit with her art. She has so many different art supplies for all of these ‘potential’ art projects she wants to work on, but just never got around to it. Once she took the focus off the stuff, the quality and quantity of the work she produced just skyrocketed.

    I like your idea: Think like a beginner