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  1. reasons to craft

    I love crafting.  I have also made a business out of it, but that is not why I started. I studied History of Art at University but, while I appreciate the beautiful art created by others, I cannot draw or paint at all.  What I see in front of me just doesn't translate into what my pencil puts on the paper.  However, I have always wanted a creative outlet.  I've tried a number of different crafts and I have to admit to having lots of balls of wool and several unfinished cross-stitches in my home.  I am now collecting fabric like mad - although I am trying to use it to make lampshades and cushion covers rather than hoard it.


    1. Express yourself

    My number one reason for why you should take up crafting, therefore, is to express yourself creatively.  You have the opportunity to make something beautiful and to say at the end 'I made that.'  It could be your first knitted scarf, a crochet flower, a cross-stitch teddy bear, a decoupage box, a handmade skirt.......... the choice is yours.  If the first thing you try is not for you, try something else.

    crafts to try

    Images courtesy of Feelart (mosaic flower pot), sattva (felt flower) and artur84 (woolly hat)  at


    2. Relieve stress and take a bit of ‘me’ time

    Most of us work in high pressure jobs, have too much to fit into our days, and have too much to do when we get home.  I cross stitch in front of the TV in the evening, but sew and make my lampshades at the kitchen table.  When I am concentrating on my crafting, I am not thinking about all the chores that need doing, the accounts I have been putting off, or the other stresses in my life; I am concentrating on my creativity.

    Women, in particular, are often not good at taking ‘me’ time.  It is, however, extremely important for our health and wellbeing that we do.  It may be that all you want to do is get in a hot bath or curl up with a good book, but if you want to do a little more, taking up a new craft may be for you.

    sewing kit

    Image courtesy of Surachai at


    3.  Learn a new skill (or relearn an old one)

    There are many ways you can learn a new skill.  You can pick up a book (of which there are hundreds now), look on Pinterest for projects, or watch a tutorial on YouTube.  If you want to get more out of it, I highly recommend doing a few classes.  Simply google classes for your chosen craft in your area.  I recently attended sewing classes in St Albans, having not used a sewing machine since I was at school and I am so excited about the possibilities it has opened up for me.  Over three lessons I made a cushion cover, a tote bag and an apron. I can’t quite believe that I made them myself as they look pretty professional (as long as you don’t look too closely at the wavy lines).  I have bought some dress material and plan to make a summer skirt next.  I will go back for more lessons when I have found a project that needs a little extra help. 

    If you are near St Albans or Redbourn, I can highly recommend Nicky at Sew Enjoyable (

    sewing tools

    Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich at


    4.  Meet new people

    One of the added benefits of joining a class is that it gives you the opportunity to meet new people. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a class.  You could join a crafting group (my cousin is the member of a group who meets weekly to knit… in the pub). You could search for a regular evening class or a one-off day course at the weekend.  Not only might you learn a new skill, you could also make some like-minded new friends – you know you have something in common already.

    women chatting

    Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at


    5.  Time out from ‘screen’ time

    More and more our lives seem to be dominated by screens – computers, tablets, mobile phones.  Concentrating on something creative away from a screen (even if you use a screen to discover your inspiration), can give you some down-time to refocus and relax.

    stop using computer

    Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

     6.  Make something useful

    If you have seen something in a magazine or on Pinterest that you love, why not try making it yourself?  You know that whatever you make will be totally original. You might create a really clever (and cheap) storage solution, turn an ugly dressing table into something you want in your bedroom or make pair of slippers. Once you have made one thing you might find you can’t stop and have house full of original hand crafted objects.   Alternatively, you might want to make costumes for your children, giving them something reasonably priced and totally original for those class projects or school plays.

    girl in costume

    Image courtesy of varandah at


    7.  For gifts

    We all have times when finances are stretched and, even if they are not, you can create wonderful gifts for friends or family.  As long as your gift is of reasonable quality (not something which is going to go straight in a drawer or, worse, the bin), it will be all the more treasured, because of the effort you have put into it.


    Image courtesy of Master isolated images at


    8.  Recycle or upcycle

    We live in a throw-away culture and too much of the earth’s resources are wasted.  I make lampshades and cushion covers and am looking for smaller things to make so I don’t waste any scraps of material.   I love tables made from washing machine drums (although they wouldn’t fit the style of my house) and rather ugly 1930s furniture can be made prettier with a lick of paint and some new drawer handles (and will be made of solid wood rather than mdf). On a smaller scale you could use cardboard packaging to make greetings cards.

    recycled elephants

    Image courtesy of Nirutfdp at


    9.  Do it for charity

    Would you like to do a little more for charity, but can’t make a regular time commitment and don’t have much spare cash to donate?  There may be a charity which can use your crafting skills.  I know a wonderful small charity called Sands, which is a stillbirth and neonatal death charity.   They provide memory boxes for parents who lose a child during pregnancy or childbirth and they supported a good friend of mine.  Each box contains two small white blankets, each knitted or crocheted by a volunteer (to a specific pattern).  Check out their page to see more and download the pattern:

    Other charities need sewers and knitters too – if Sands is not the charity for you, why not find one that means something special to you – just half an hour could make a difference and think of the satisfaction.

    patchwork heart

    Image courtesy of dan at


    10.  Make a little money

    I am not going to tell you to give up your job and start crafting as a business.  However, if you are at home looking after children, or are retired and with time on your hands, you might be able to turn your hobby into a small business.  Most crafters are never going to make a fortune, but creating something beautiful to sell may bring in a little extra for treats or a luxury or two.


    Image courtesy of twobee at

    Finally, I would say, whatever your reason, give a craft a go.  There are so many benefits one can get out of crafting.  I would love to hear if you have other reasons for taking up a craft.

    There will be more posts on crafts and crafting.  If you would like to see more, please sign up to my blog at the bottom of this page.

  2. mirror title

    Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at, text added by me


    I used to be an auctioneer and valuer for Lyon & Turnbull, a wonderful fine art auction house in Edinburgh and I love auctions.

    Going to your first auction can be daunting, so I wanted to do a short article on why you really should think about buying at auction.  It can be a rewarding experience in many different ways and is well worth giving a go.

    There are lots of auction houses out there, selling all sorts of things from boxes of basic household items to the most valuable of Old Master paintings.  I suggest googling to find your nearest auction house and going along to find out what it is all about.  Auctions are open to all and you don't need to register if you don't plan to bid. A general sale will sell all sorts of different things, from furniture to jewellery to pictures.  You may also be able to look at the catalogue online before you go to find out what to expect.


    furniture auction

    Image courtesy of Supertrooper at


    A future article will cover how to go about buying at auction, but I wanted to start with why?


    1. Buy real wood for the price of mdf

    We know that the past 20 or so years have heralded the rise and rise of Ikea and similar stores, with their modern clean lines and fresh design styles.   At the same time, auction houses and antique dealers have seen the fall and fall in the price of what is known in the trade as ‘brown furniture’, particularly at the lower end of the market.  This now means that a 19th century mahogany chest of drawers can be picked up for the same price (or less) than something made of mdf.  The first benefit of this will be that it is not flat-packed for construction at home (hooray).  It will also withstand moving with you when you move house.  It has lasted several lifetimes already and so will last your whole lifetime, not just a few years.  There is a strong trend for ‘retro’ at the moment and you might be able to pick up an original mid-20th century piece for less than a modern piece designed to look like a retro piece, so it is not all antiques.  An added benefit is that flat-packed furniture drops in value as soon as it is pulled out of its box.  Antique furniture has decreased in price so much recently that it should hold its value if you came to sell it.

    table against pink wall

    Image courtesy of scottchan at


    2. Find something you can customise

    I love a beautiful piece of wood, but it may not be your thing.  Furniture can be painted in any number of colours and finishes to bring it up-to-date.  When you are looking round, look at the shape of the piece of furniture, rather than its colour.  You can then paint it any colour you want, from sophisticated dove grey to statement electric blue.  You will be creating your own totally unique piece of furniture.  If you have upholstery skills you could even recover an old sofa or armchair to bring it bang up-to-date.


    Image courtesy of tungphoto at


    3. Furnish your house on a budget

    If you have a very limited budget for furnishing your house, a general auction sale may be the place for you.  You can pick up everything from sofas to wardrobes to chests of drawers and chairs and tables; even a reasonably priced dinner service and pictures. If they are not exactly to your taste, you can then gradually replace them over time when you have saved a little money.

    vintage bedroom

    Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at


    4. Retail versus wholesale

    Auctions were traditionally wholesalers for trade buyers who would then sell on to the public at retail prices.  With the popularity of programmes like Flog It! And Bargain Hunt and the closure of a lot of traditional antiques shops, as well as internet bidding on auction lots, the gap has closed a lot.  There is, however, an area where it is still very pronounced and that is jewellery.  You will be amazed at the price you can pick up both antique and modern jewellery in comparison with high street retailers. 


    Images courtesy of Boykung (ring) and Arvind Balaraman (gold pendant and wrist watch) at


    5. Find an ancient treasure to enhance your modern living environment

    You may not think that antiques are your thing, but you might find a stunningly beautiful antique piece that fits into your ultra-modern environment because of its shape or colour.  I have a conical Chinese bowl which is several hundred years old, but has a very modern aesthetic and would look very stylish in a modern setting. If you start to get into auctions, your knowledge will grow and there is nothing like finding a special something that nobody else has spotted.


    Images courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at


    If this is not enough, do it for the buzz!  If you have ever taken part in an ebay auction, waiting to see if your bid has been accepted as the auction is ending, you will know what I am talking about.  Bidding live at an auction is even more fun - just be careful not to get carried away!  I will be posting another article soon on how to buy at auction, so watch this space.

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