How To Get Crafty When, In Actuality, You Are Garbage At Crafts

Ask any artisan how they became so experienced at their work, and they will all tell you the same thing—practice. They might even go full Pablo Picasso and tell you that you were born an artist only to be convinced otherwise by a cruel world. And they’re correct. Problem is, you’re a college student and time to practice gets fewer and further between with every passing day, and your blank dorm walls needed to be decorated, like, yesterday. And putting up crummily-folded origami and a painting you should have left behind at your Bob Ross paint night might make you feel worse than better. So—how do the unartistic get into crafting? How do you personalize your world when you don’t know your way around a pair of scissors and have spent more time nursing burns than using your glue gun (if it isn’t too bold of me to assume that you even own one to begin with). Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way to answer that very question.


1) Start small


So you’re not the Leonardo DaVinchi of cake pops, and your Coachella-styled floral headband looks like you’ve sat on it. Truth is, you get to designate what is and what isn’t “crafty,” and maybe instead of dedicating yourself to a project—like building a planner from scratch, or making a two-tiered cake—you should take baby steps. For example, in the course of writing this article, I stopped and slapped a sticker of the words “enjoy” onto my Her Campus article planning journal, and I feel like goddamn Henri Matisse. It fits really perfectly into the margins of my notes, and it’s a good message. Done! I crafted. You can do something that small too! Draw a happy smiley face on something. Pin a nice looking piece of paper to the corkstrip every college dorm room has. Hell, organize your closet by color. You don’t have to do something big to start off, or even something traditionally considered as “crafty.” It’s a big confidence booster when you make something look nice—even if it’s as simple as a single sticker.


I, personally, see no difference.


2) Be realistic, and accept that


I know you’re already plenty realistic about your artistic ability, and that’s why you clicked on this article. You already know that thirty-pound quilted blankets and fondant masterpieces are not in your future. But I also know that deep down, in all of us non-crafters, there’s a burning desire to be really, really good at something. We’ve all stared with jealousy at a stranger’s cart in Michael's, full of supplies that we could never even dream of holding properly, no less actually using. We want to make massive woodworks, paintings for mom’s birthday and perfectly personalized birthday cards. You’ve got to let go of that desire. If you continue to hold onto it, you will never be satisfied with what you create—which is especially hard when you’re not very good at crafting and what you create might end up being a pile of garbage, no matter how hard you worked on it. Of course, this is much easier said than done. But it’s good to remind yourself of that every once in a while.


3) Don’t refer to your creations as “garbage”


I know, I know, I just did that. But I really shouldn’t. Truth is, whatever craft it is you make, whether it’s a lopsided crochet heart or a bookmark that keeps disappearing within the pages of the book, is another step on learning how to get better, even if only marginally. No matter how bad it comes out, there’s a sense of pride to admire in putting forward effort into making something, and that isn’t a quality of yours that you should dismiss! Remember how I said before that college doesn’t afford you a lot of time to practice? Congrats, by creating something, you just allotted a little time to practice! And that’s nothing to snuff at.


4) Think out of the box


Okay, so you’re not good at drawing, but you want art on the walls of your room. Why not turn to magazine clippings to decorate the blank spaces? Why not hang up some of those birthday cards you’ve had in a box under your childhood bed for ages? Why not make a stop at Goodwill to see what their painting section has to offer? The saying “work smarter, not harder” applies in full force here. If you’re looking to achieve a certain effect in one of your crafts—perfect cake rosettes, maybe, or a certain type of knot to tie together your loom scarf—and find it difficult to do what you’re “supposed” to be doing, consider if there’s an alternate way to do it. A lot of time in crafting, people get tied up in rules and steps. And while those give you a structure by which to begin your craft, a craft should be about experimenting. So experiment!


5) Mistakes will happen


Okay, so you thought outside of the box and now your pom-pom hat is an unwoven yarn ball mess. Deep breaths. You know who else makes mistakes? “Expert” crafters (or your friend who’s really unnaturally good at making lanyards, your choice). That’s part of the process! It’s not a sign of your incompetence—it’s a sign you’re going in the same direction as anyone else who’s put string to needle, oil to canvas. So congrats! You’re doing just fine.


6) Try not to invest too much money in supplies right off of the bat


It’s really tempting to decide that you would like to dedicate yourself to a single craft, run off to Michael's, and buy $50 worth of supplies as an “investment.” But unless you’ve been doing the same craft for a while and have decided you’ve got a rhythm for it (which means that you, in some capacity, are not unartistic, so you might not need this article as much as you might think you do!), your art supplies should be coming from Goodwill, or the clearance bin. You don’t need high-quality materials off of the bat—you need things you can practice with and feel comfortable making mistakes with. Not only will your wallet thank you, and not only are you giving yourself room to abandon the craft without feeling bad about your investment (we’ll get to that next step) but there’s a certain comfort to drawing the world’s shittiest stick figure with some Rose Art colored pencils, not full salary-worth copic markers. Then you’re not failing your supplies!


7) It’s okay to walk away from a craft, but ask yourself why you’re doing it


If you’re walking away because you’re just too frustrated, that’s completely understandable. Maybe you need a break so you can reapproach the project under a different angle. But if you’re going to stop because you think the craft is going to come out really crappy—maybe finish it anyway. Maybe it’ll come out better than you think. Maybe it will be really crappy, but you can learn from it. Maybe, just maybe…


8) ...not everything you make has to look Etsy-ready.


You’re presumably doing this for fun, or to learn something new, or to decorate the space around you. Not for profit. So why does it matter if what you make isn’t incredibly presentable? It just gives you room to explore the craft a little more comfortably and at your own leisure. You ever hear the story of the ceramics professor that separated his class into two groups at the begin of the semester? One group was going to submit one vase at the end of the semester and be judged solely on its craftsmanship. The other group would be graded only on how many vases they made, not their craftsmanship. Guess which group had the better-made vases? The last group—because they were given room to fail. Give yourself the same privilege.


I hope my hints help you. Happy crafting—and here’s a step-by-step guide on how to remove Krazy Glue from your fingers. You’re welcome in advance.


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