Voila! Another masterpiece finished! You step back from the table and admire your handiwork, noting that you could very well become the next Martha Stewart. Crafting, or the process of creating something, captures the imagination of many people because it can be a way to unlock some creative energy and make beautiful things. With so many options, such as jewelry making, woodworking, sewing, scrapbooking, and stitching, just about anyone can find something crafty to do.
However, crafting can also be a slippery slope. Each type often requires its own tools, and buying them can certainly add up. While you don't necessarily need to pick out the most expensive tools in the store, there are certainly areas where it's better to spend a few extra dollars and invest in some quality equipment. Check out these 10 tools that can help you take your projects to the next level.
Much like a chef's knife is an extension of his arm, a pair of scissors is the primary tool of most any crafter. It doesn't matter if you're stitching, sewing or scrapbooking -- you need a decent pair of scissors. Look for a pair that are hot-dropped forged from steel, meaning that the blade and handle are made from one piece of metal. A good pair should cost around $30.
Circular Knitting Needles
Knitting isn't just knits and purls; it's also needles. While you can start knitting with regular knitting needles, as you get into the hobby you'll soon find that many projects -- particularly circular ones like socks or sweaters -- can require several different sizes of needles.
Instead of buying a separate needle whenever you need a new size, you can get an interchangeable circular needle set that comes with cables and several different attachable tips. Kits can vary widely in price, but for a splurge-worthy set, consider spending $150 to $200.
Armed with a grommet press, even a novice seamstress can churn out shower curtains, fancy fabric totes and embellished jeans and jackets. Scrapbookers can add embellishments to liven up the pages of their photo albums. Home decorators can put fancy touches onto furniture covers and lamps.
A heavy-duty grommet press sits on or attaches to a table and works by pressing down on a lever to apply a grommet (a small, reinforced ring). While a good press doesn't come cheap, for those who use them often, they're indispensable tools. You'll likely spend between $150 to $200 for one.
Rotary Tool Kit
The sky's the limit when it comes to what you can do with a versatile rotary tool. Etch glass or sand; carve wood, or use the tool for jewelry-making. A rotary tool is strong enough to cut through terra-cotta and precise enough to make an intricate pumpkin carving.
You'll find rotary tools at your local hardware store, and a kit comes with multiple tips and attachments. Depending on how big of a kit you need, you could spend $65 to $175.
So many crafts involve fabric and sewing that it's worthwhile to have a reliable sewing machine. If you're a skilled seamstress or tailor, and will get good use out of your machine, it's worth spending a bit more for one that has advanced features.
Two of the big name brands are Singer and Brother, both of which carry a range of machines that vary in features and price. Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff manufacture higher-end machines that can do specialized tasks like embroidery. A good sewing machine will cost a few hundred dollars, while a more advanced model could easily cost $1,000 or more.
Cake Decorating Airbrushing Systems
Do you have dreams of becoming a local Cake Boss? Baking a delicious cake is only part of the equation -- it's got to look good too. Mastering frosting and fondant are two steps, but painting on color helps you create a more professional-looking cake. You can make your desserts look top-of-the-line with an airbrushing system that uses compressed air to force paint onto the frosted surface.
Even if you use an airbrush for other types of craft products, you'll need a separate one for cake decorating, because you don't want to run the risk of contaminating your dessert with paint that's not safe to eat. Many cake-airbrushing systems come with a collection of food-safe paints. They can typically be found in the $120 to $150 range.
Much like a good pair of scissors, having a good utility knife will give you an edge in trimming materials for your projects. Utility knives cut where scissors can't. For projects that involve trimming around tight corners, a utility knife can keep your edges smooth. Having a quality knife in your supply drawer will save you time -- and sanity -- on a variety of projects.
Of course, if you have a nice set of utility knives, you're also going to need a decent rotary cutter. A rotary cutter is similar to a utility knife, but it has a round blade that rotates as you pull it through the materials you want to cut. This allows you to cut paper, cardboard, mat board, cloth or fiberglass smoothly.
Plan on spending around $15 to $20 for a rotary cutter and each utility knife. We know, $15 or $20 likely won't break the bank, but depending on your hobby (and craftiness level) you may need multiple knives, and that can add up really quickly.
Fabric-based crafts and projects aren't finished unless the fabric is crisply pressed and wrinkle-free. Nothing does that better than a good steam iron.
When looking for a quality steam iron, you'll want to take into account how it performs on different kinds of fabrics. Vertical steaming capabilities are also necessary for getting out wrinkles on clothing hanging on mannequins and dress forms or curtains hanging on rods.
The Rowenta brand is known for its high quality, but Kenmore and Singer also make good steam irons. Plan to spend $60 to $150.
Japanese Screw Punch
A screw punch is used mainly for bookbinding, but it also translates well to other projects, including those involving leather or cardboard. This handheld tool has a bit on the end that punches through various materials to create small holes anywhere on an item's surface, rather than just along its edges. Bits come in different sizes ranging from 1 to 5 millimeters.
When looking for this tool -- which may also be called a Japanese book drill -- be sure to get one that's made in Japan, as the Japanese screw punches tend to be highest in quality. The handle should be made from maple and the shaft from brass.
This tool will cost around $40 to $50. With extra bits, it can cost $70 to $80.
If you really like to knit, you may want to take your hobby to the next level and spin your own wool into yarn. A spinning wheel is great for those who love fiber arts because you can control the thickness and ply of the yarn, and you can also dye it the exact color you want. Spinning can even be considered its own hobby or art form, since it takes time to learn how to do it properly.
Choosing a spinning wheel can be a complex process because you need to know what type of yarn you want to spin, and you also need to take into consideration the amount of space you have in your home. A good spinning wheel will likely set you back at least $200 to $300 dollars, with potential for much more, so do some research before purchasing one.
Chalk paint — no priming, no sanding and, though slightly more expensive, a great painting alternative. HowStuffWorks looks at this DIY superstar.
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- Consumer Reports. "Steam irons." 2012. (June 17, 2012) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/steam-irons.htm
- Craft & Hobby Association. "CHA Attitude & Usage Study Update." Dec. 31, 2010. (June 17, 2012) https://www.craftandhobby.org/eweb/docs/cha/2012TW/AbbreviatedResearchReport.pdf
- Dremel. "How-To Projects: Popular Projects." (June 17, 2012) http://www.dremel.com/en-us/videosandhowto/projects/Pages/default.aspx
- Grommet World. "One Grommet Press Machine Does Fit All." (June 17, 2012) http://grommetworld.com/grommet-press-machine.aspx
- The Joy of Handspinning. "Selecting the Right Spinning Wheel." (June 17, 2012) http://www.joyofhandspinning.com/select-a-wheel.shtml
- Martha Stewart Living. "Scissors: Choosing the Right Pair." June 1997. (June 17, 2012) http://www.marthastewart.com/268512/scissors-choosing-the-right-pair
- Morgan-Oakes, Melissa. "Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting." Wiley Publishing. 2011. http://www.wilton.com/blog/index.php/airbrushing-tips-and-techniques/
- Rappaport, Julia. "Reporter Spins Yarn (No, Real Yarn!) For First Fiber Festival Adventure." Vineyard Gazette. Apr. 18, 2008. (June 17, 2012) http://www.mvgazette.com/article.php?16159
- Somers, Beth. "Airbrushing Tips and Techniques." Wilton.com. Mar. 20, 2010. (June 17, 2012) http://www.wilton.com/blog/index.php/airbrushing-tips-and-techniques/