Not Your Granny’s Stitches: A Crafting Guide for Beginners

Photo: Pretty Little San Francisco by Satsuma Street, via Etsy

By Maria Judnick

Everyone has them – those '70s throwback pastel colored blankets painstakingly knitted or crocheted by your grandma, the type of woman who plays Bingo every Tuesday afternoon, listens to Nat King Cole as she dusts her cat figurines, and wears holiday sweaters non-ironically because they are just so sweet. But there’s no denying the power of those blankets; nestle under one of them while sipping a cup of hot cocoa on a rainy Sunday afternoon and you’ll feel as if you’ve been engulfed in a warm hug.

Photo: Renegade Craft Fair
Photo: Renegade Craft Fair

Luckily, as more and more Millennials are discovering, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, quilting, and other crafts no longer need to feel “old-lady-like.” From yarn bombing to knitting in public, everything that seemed staid about handmade and homemade is quickly becoming the du jour for trendy urbanites. San Francisco, for instance, embraced its inner artisan this past weekend with the return of the popular Renegade Craft Fair, a two day event celebrating all things indie, trendy, and do-it-yourself. And while the Craft Fair features amazing inspiration, food, music, and a vibe that makes crafting feel like a fabulous party for fabulous people, it can be intimidating for a first timer.

So, what’s a Millennial to do? Go to the internet, of course!

Thanks to the proliferation of crafters on the internet, there’s a wide variety of websites ready to welcome the newbie with tons of great projects and, more importantly, tutorials and support. Here’s just a sampling to get you started:

Photo: Honey Poodle Handbag by Basia Zarzycka, via Etsy
Photo: Honey Poodle Handbag by Basia Zarzycka, via Etsy

For General Craft Advice:

  • Pinterest: While Pinterest sometimes gets a bad rap for featuring Mommy bloggers trying to one up each other, it’s a great way to see what finished projects are out there. Often, if you follow the trail of links, you’ll also find useful tutorials to help you see your project into fruition. If not, there’s always posting on CraftFail!
  • Etsy: Sure, you can buy just about anything on Etsy – including a limited edition $16,276.04 Poodle Handbag – but most crafters know to go there for the patterns. You can find all sorts of cool designs for almost any type of craft and usually for reasonable prices.
  • Craftsy: Want to learn how to make something? Go to Craftsy, the home of tons of indie designers because it’s far easier to be published online than to make it into a craft book. This website offers classes, patterns, projects, and supplies. Fair warning: be prepared to spend a ton of time on this site.

For Knitting and Crochet:

    • Ravelry: The knitting community is a large, funny, and generous group of people. You realize this quickly as you spend time on Ravelry, a social-media-like website for yarn enthusiasts to help keep track of projects, look for additional ideas, and interact with friends. While I don’t get to spend much time on the site anymore, I have several dozen knitting projects like these amazing birds just waiting to be crocheted!
Photo: Barbara Gregory, via Knitty
Photo: Barbara Gregory, via Knitty
  • Online Magazines: My best friend is a self-proclaimed craft addict and, for years, it’s been a mini holiday for us each time the latest Knitty issue comes out. Each pattern lists the level of difficulty and, with their detailed instructions and helpful descriptions, Knitty is an ideal site for any knitter. But more than just a pattern emporium, Knitty offers some great feature articles to help readers learn about the wonderful world of knitting. I love Knitty for many reasons, but most importantly, it inspired said best friend to make me this amazing sweater a few years ago. Also check out another favorite website called Twist Collective.
  • Podcasts: Of course, any self-respecting Millennial needs to have a cool podcast to talk about, knitters included. While there’s a huge assortment of podcasts available for knitters, the Knitmore Girls are a local mother-daughter duo based out of San Jose, CA. As their website proclaims, they’re “knitting with attitude.”
Photo: Pretty Little San Francisco by Satsuma Street, via Etsy
Photo: Pretty Little San Francisco by Satsuma Street, via Etsy

For Cross-Stitch:

  • Designers: While cross-stitch hasn’t quite seemed to make as much of a trend resurgence as other needle-based crafts, there are some great artists and websites out there. One such example is tiny modernist, which features all sorts of patterns and tutorials for all levels. Most importantly, their charts include a special section on Rockabilly designs! Satsuma Street, designed by LA artist Jody Rice, also features this awesome San Francisco landscape.
  • 123stitch: A one-stop shop for all things patterns (including those for beginners), 123 stitch is a great option to start your holiday craft projects like this “Merry Kiss-Moose.”
Photo: The Stag by jamiemgodfrey, via Spoonflower
Photo: The Stag by jamiemgodfrey, via Spoonflower

For Quilters:

  • Spoonflower: As a new quilter, there’s nothing more depressing than going into a promising little local quilting shop, only to discover that the fabrics they keep in stock look like bad castoffs from The Sound of Music. Websites like Spoonflower that let you design your own fabrics, are thus revolutionary. Want to make use of some quilting squares of white stags wearing hipster frames? Look no further, my friend.
  • Communities: Finally, the most important aspect of the crafting world is finding a great community who can cheer you on through long projects, especially in the quilting world. I’ve tried a few different Bay Area quilting bees, with wildly mixed results. While I’ve never attended the Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild meetings, the wide assortment of projects and meetings seems appealing. Of course, there’s always Facebook groups and meetups to find other people who share your fabric affinities!

Happy crafting!

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