Lockdown Crafts

Arts, crafts, and other projects

Lockdown Crafts
Pyrography and Cross-stitch

Working, furloughed, out of work, home from school. We are all in different situations as a worldwide pandemic continues to impact our lives. While I am lucky enough to be able to work from home, I have also found time to get on with hobbies. Interested in many things - from arts to adventure - I do have a tendency to procrastinate. I will start something without finishing. I will decide that I want to practice another hobby when I have several unfinished projects awaiting completion.

While you might enjoy doing nothing or just be plodding along with life, some of you might have spent time on a hobby. Something, perhaps, that you would usually have little time to enjoy. Some of you might want to pick up a new hobby or skill but unsure where to start. Maybe you think you don't have the ability or you don't have the right equipment.

My own hobbies are many and varied. There are one or two that, while restricted to home, are not currently doable. There are others that require materials I can't get at the moment. In recent weeks, I decided to return to two of my previously neglected hobbies. While I enjoy several types of woodwork and a few needle-crafts, I did narrow it down to pyrography and cross-stitch.

When choosing a craft activity, there will likely be a number of considerations. My main ones were:

1) How messy is the activity, and is it easy/quick to clear up?

This might be less of an issue if you have a separate or large space to leave things for a while. You might not be too bothered about the time it takes to set up and put away.

2) What equipment is needed?

Once you have established the equipment needed, there are other questions to consider: do I have all the required equipment and materials? If not, can I obtain them?

If it is necessary to buy new equipment, there are other questions you will need to ask:

a) can I afford the equipment?

b) do I have somewhere safe to store it?

c) is it a good investment or is it going to be used once and then forgotten?

3) How much time will I need?

Again, there are other questions relating to this. If your time is unlimited, and you are happy to simply get on for however long it takes, then it is less of a concern. If, however, you have other commitments, time constraints or simply a shorter attention span, it is important to at least have an idea of the time needed.

The amount of time you will need will not only vary by the type of activity but also your own ability. Larger projects will, usually, take up more time. For example, if you choose woodwork then building a shelf is likely to be a much shorter and simpler project than making a table.

It is also worth considering what, exactly, is involved in any activity or project. Will there be any additional skills needed? A knitting project, for example, is likely to include some sewing. If you want to frame a piece of art, you will need to take that into account when choosing sizes or gathering tools and materials. Will you be making your own frames or will you need to buy them?

PYROGRAPHY

This is something I have done on and off for several years. In fact, my dad taught me this (which he called poker work) along with fretwork when I was around 12 years old. Over the years, I have done odd bits of fretwork but currently can't get into my shed to access the tools so treated myself to a new pyrography pen.

If you don't already have the equipment, the cost of tools can vary. Have a look at reviews before committing to any purchase. There are different types of pyrography pen, and the exact contents of kits will vary. My kit was around £17 and, although it's quite basic, contains several nibs and stencils.

Experimenting with my new pen and various nibs

Pyrography does require specialist tools, although some basics can be done with a soldering iron. One advantage of pyrography is that it doesn't have to take up a lot of space. You will need a safe, flat surface. The size of the surface depends on the size of your project but you will always need to make sure your surface is bigger than your project. It is also important to ensure there is enough space for you to move your arm/hand freely.

Another advantage, and one of the reasons I chose this, is that it can be done indoors. Make sure that your space is well ventilated and clear of hazards. My own projects have been small as space is limited. I am also having to re-learn the skills required while familiarising myself with new tools.

My husband and son have helped with some of the drawing. This is an example of where another skill is required! As you can see from the picture below, my hand is not particularly steady. The quality of materials is also something to think about. I am doing these for fun and practice, giving away one or two pieces to people who will like them because I made them. If you wish to create something more professional, not only will you need more practice but also put much more thought into the style, size, type, and quality of wood you intend to use.

Made as a gift. Husband did the drawing while I burned it.

While I have been doing various wood crafts for a long time, the inspiration to re-visit pyrography came from an amazing artist. For some professionally made art, including pyrography, shell art, and much more, take a look at Wadey Crafts. Offering a variety of handcrafted items and commissioned pieces, he is far more talented than I am!

Burn on a table. Image shared with permission from Wadey Crafts

CROSS-STITCH

Admittedly, while working on other things, several writing projects have been temporarily abandoned. I have, however, tried to complete one thing before starting another. To this end, I have chosen projects that I didn't think would take very long. Cross-stitch has proven to be something that takes much longer than you might expect. I have found it quite relaxing, though, so don't necessarily notice that several hours have passed.

The first finished design took around 16 hours to complete. The second, I stopped counting! A good estimate would be around 20 hours, not including the design.

My own design

Cross-stitch requires thread, needles, and aida (it is possible to stitch designs directly onto other materials but that would be better for other needlecrafts like embroidery). These materials can be bought quite cheaply, and many people already own needles and threads (although you might need/choose different ones for your craft).

Materials for cross-stitch are readily available from wool shops, hobby shops, and other online retailers. At the time of writing, many shops are closed to the public but still available online for delivery.

Patterns are available online. Many can be found and used for free (check any relevant copyright details, especially if you intend to distribute the work).

DRAWING AND PAINTING

Creating my own designs for some projects has meant it necessary to do some drawing. I really enjoy painting but, apart from it being rather messy, there is currently a make-shift office where my art space used to be. There is also a slight lack of paints, brushes, and suitable paper.

My son has been doing some drawing. He's much better at it than I am. He started off with some small drawings from memory. Then he found some YouTube videos that show you how to draw characters. Son found that he could do some good drawings with the help of those videos.

He drew this one, and others, which I used to illustrate an ebook.

"Princess Granddad"

The drawing below is one of several that son drew with help from videos. He is rather obsessed with computer games, especially anything to do with Nintendo or that might now be considered 'retro' in the gaming world.

Drawing is an activity that can be done by almost anyone. It doesn't require any specialist equipment, and the basic materials needed - pencil/pen and paper are items that many people already own and are easy and cheap to replace.

The great thing, in my opinion, about drawing is that it is a hobby that is both affordable and adaptable. It is something that can be self-taught, improving or adapting at your own pace. Depending on your talents and intentions, drawing can take up as much or as little time as you like. While drawing and painting can be done with cheap, easily accessible items, there can be so much more to it if you choose. A versatile activity, painting and drawing have plenty of options when it comes to choosing materials. You might simply wish to sketch with a pencil and plain paper or you may prefer to paint with oils on a canvas.

When drawing or painting, you can choose the materials that fit your budget, your space, and your skills (or the skills you wish to develop). Acrylic paints are some of the cheapest, and they work well on many different surfaces. If using paints with children (or clumsy/messy people), a washable paint such as watercolour or tempera. It is, however, always worth checking that the paint and the surface are compatible. Of course, painting and drawing can be combined with other hobbies from sketching to modelling to decorating.

MAKING VIDEOS

Speaking of YouTube and videos, son has also created a new YouTube channel. He had one already but made a new one because he wanted to change the name. So far, he has done some very silly short videos using some editing software that he downloaded. I wouldn't mind but he has commandeered my laptop to do it. He calls himself Galloping Sausage.

His sense of humour is rather strange. He has been teaching himself different effects, experimenting, and generally being very silly.

Making videos is quite an easy thing to do in itself. There are various ways to do it. You can make videos on some social media, such as Facebook, or use video-making/editing software. Son has been using a free Filmora account. The software is downloaded onto a laptop, and paid upgrades are available. It is also available to download on other devices but son recommends laptop or PC.

Son has also been learning to play the guitar. Music is another great hobby, if you have (or a willing/able to get) an instrument. Once son has learned a little more, he might include some of his own music in his videos.

A still from Galloping Sausage's 'I Cloned Myself' video

As well as arts and crafts, I've enjoyed puzzles. So many puzzles. Puzzle books are like pens - you buy one or two, lose them, buy some more, lose them, buy some more, find all the old ones that you'd kept in bags or left at the office, and end up with two drawers full of half-done puzzle books.

I've played some quizzes and the occasional board game (we have a very large collection of card and board table top games from classics like Chess and Monopoly to Catan, Colour Brain, and Chronology). I do miss board games. Husband and son don't play them often. I'd really been looking forward to my other son coming home for Easter. Sadly, that couldn't happen but he is now able to come over and socially distance in the garden so that's a start. Perhaps, I'll soon be able to invite him inside and even given him a hug.

Some of the hobbies listed above can be combined with others. Furthermore, there are plenty of other hobbies that can be done at home to suit your preferences, your budget, and your abilities. Lego and other building blocks are great. If you have other people around, there are so many games that can be played in real life or online. Don't forget to ensure there is enough space on any device before downloading anything. Also check that the site and software is safe.

Lego, with board games in the background

If you enjoy playing games like Warhammer, there are online versions. You could also spend some time building and painting figures and environments ready for a future game. If you enjoy that, you might also want to look at AirFix kits or other types of modelling.

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Sapphire Ravenclaw
Sapphire Ravenclaw
Sapphire Ravenclaw

I am, among other things, a freelance writer and mother. I enjoy writing poetry and articles. Currently, much of my spare time is spent working on a book about Paganism (one of many subjects which interests me).

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