From basket weaving to fabric printing, ceramics to embroidery, there is no end to the range of craft activities that you can take up to enjoy at your leisure. Be inspired by the stories of these makers and artisans and find out how they started on their creative paths. They also offer advice for anyone wanting to try their craft as a new hobby, should you fancy a new career or money-earning opportunity, too.
Cathy’s artisan textile business began as a craft hobby and gradually grew into a successful small business called Dear Emma Designs (opens in new tab). From her converted stone and slate outbuilding in the garden of her home in the Yorkshire Dales, she designs and embroiders home accessories – pictures, lampshades, tea cosies and textile bowls – which are sold at makers fairs and online. Each item is individually handmade using fabric offcuts, and reflects Cathy’s lifelong passion for making, mending and creating.
If you wish to try your hand at embroidery there are many beginners' kits (opens in new tab) on the market which will provide written guidance on stitches and effects as well as beginners' guides to embroidery on YouTube (opens in new tab).
2. Block printing
Fabric designer Jenny Stringer (opens in new tab) creates beautiful and intricate block-printed fabrics, finding inspiration in antique textiles to displays of nature in the surrounding countryside.
The tools for block printing are everyday objects, cleverly recycled – everything from carved wood, textured tiles or even carved potatoes can be used to create beautiful effects. Skill, not expense, is the key to this process and it is easy for anyone to try as a new craft at home.
Find block printing kits and supplies (opens in new tab) at Amazon.
Potter Louise Darby (opens in new tab) creates a range of decorative white stoneware and porcelain ceramics from her converted barn home and studio in Warwickshire. Over the last 30 years, she has developed a range of work, perfecting her own technique of carving animated images of animals, including cats, frogs, and hares, freehand on to the leather-hard clay of plates and vases. This work is complemented by her simpler satin glazed pieces, and Art Deco style pierced vases.
If you want to try your hand at stoneware and ceramics, have a look at your local college or check out Craft Courses (opens in new tab) for a local workshops.
4. Handcrafted soft toys
Manda McGrory’s handmade cast of colourful, whimsical characters, from anthropomorphic badgers and foxes wrapped up against the cold, to regal swans, travel to homes far and wide, destined as nostalgic Christmas gifts.
‘The animal toys are richly detailed and use high-quality classic fabrics with provenance,’ says Manda. ‘Dark fabrics and classic prints are used to make each animal, with clothing specifically tailored to each one.’
To see more of Manda’s designs and soft toys visit treefalldesign.com (opens in new tab)
5. Lino prints
Amanda Hillier (opens in new tab) creates lino prints from her illustrations of architecture, flora and fauna. Having worked as an illustrator and graphic designer for more than 20 years, she started to produce lino prints about six years ago. ‘I enjoyed the process so much that I continued to explore printmaking. I realised that I had struck on something — that traditional, hands-on skills and crafts were being appreciated again,’ she says ‘Lino printing is so accessible as you don’t need any expensive equipment,’ she says
Amanda even runs her own printmaking workshops from her studio in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire. A place on the workshop costs £65 and includes focused tuition, course materials, morning and afternoon tea and a light lunch from the Green Wood Centre cafe.
6. Willow weaving
A former theatre designer, Victoria Westaway (opens in new tab) crafts garden sculptures from woven willow. Complementing the natural environment in which they sit, her pieces range from whimsical figures to abstract forms.
Through workshops, Victoria teaches people of all ages and abilities how to master the basics of her craft of willow weaving.
7. Screen printing
A former English teacher, Helen Round (opens in new tab) creates linen homewares using a combination of traditional hand screen printing and making techniques. Having always loved fabrics and made all sorts of things from a young age she wanted a bit of a change, so about 14 years ago did a course in art textiles and print making at Cornwall College, Camborne.
‘That’s when I found out that I had a natural feeling for screen printing. I did a number of summer schools at Falmouth University to hone my skills, and ended up running adult craft workshops and art weeks at schools,’ she says.
Find out more about Helen's workshops (opens in new tab) which she offers in screen printing as well as willow weaving and silver jewellery making.
8. Glass art
The kiln-formed fused glass pieces of glass artist Moria White (opens in new tab) often feature abstract representations of the surrounding landscape and wildlife by her home in Carmarthenshire.
At first decorating recycled glass vases, goblets and dishes with what she describes as ‘intense, Celtic designs’, after a while she tired of what she felt was turning into a production line. ‘I also realised that I wanted to work with the glass itself, rather than just using someone else’s and painting on it.’ A friend of hers nearby had a kiln for sale, so Moira slowly taught herself all she now knows. ‘I read a lot of books – this was before the days of the internet.’
Glass craft courses can be found at local colleges or at specialised workshop centres, such as The Glass Hub (opens in new tab)
9. Mixed media craft sculptures
Kirsty Elson (opens in new tab) uses the flotsam and jetsam that she finds washed up on the Cornish coast to create her coastal scenes and sculptures crafted from found objects and driftwood. Her simple styledraws on the naïve seascapes of St Ives artist and fisherman Alfred Wallis (1855-1942).
The coastline is a fabulous source of materials for upcycling. Taking something unloved and turning it into something beautiful is also an easy way to try your hand at crafts with minimal investment.
10. Basket making
Basket maker Jenny Crisp (opens in new tab) grows the crop of her craft, maintaining a centuries old link between maker and material. She uses a variety of techniques to make the many items in her range, including baskets, trays and racks in various shapes and sizes.
Having perfected her craft over the course of more than 25 years, she also runs courses throughout the year, teaching others her skills. She offers private tuition or as part of larger classes (opens in new tab), ranging from beginners to higher-levels, to create everything from boarder supports to laundry baskets and shopping totes.