Ponderings: What to buy for your craft room?

(Warning: another long post ahead)

As a crafter, I think all of us are to some extent, obsessed with supplies and buying stuff that we can use in our craft room. Not too surprising actually, seeing that the craft industry does so much marketing, and new products are released more than once a year. So amidst all these new release of products and all, how do you know what is the right thing for you to buy? For me, I always want to get the most out of my money, be it spending the least money on what I buy, or making the item I buy worth it through the amount of usage. Here, I’ll share some tips that I have as I reflect from my own experience in crafty shopping.

1. Invest in tools 
I believe that tools are essentials in any craft room. They have a long life span and they make your life easier, especially if it is something that you find yourself doing often. Really basic tools aside (scissors, rulers, adhesives, etc.), here are some tools that I use that make my life easier – saving time and energy, thereby also saving myself from unnecessary stress.

Here’s an example: I work with paper a lot, so a trimmer is a must-have supply. Before that, I simply use my scissor or a ruler and penknife to cut my papers. While these methods definitely work, I found that I wasn’t very satisfied with how they worked. The edges end up wonky or not perpendicular, and sometimes I will cut the paper to the wrong size (measurement error). Once I got my trimmer, everything became must easier, I make less measurements mistakes and I get a clean and perpendicular cut edge. The process of trimming down paper also became much faster when I work on projects like book making or mass card making. A related product is a scoreboard, which is helpful if you need to fold your papers. I find that the folds end up looking cleaner and they are always straight/perpendicular. (Obsession with perpendicular here, I know.) I like to make my own card base, because I don’t send too many cards to require bulk card base purchase, and I also use the scoreboard to score my pages for bookbinding, as well as the occasional boxes and gift bags. As a side note though, you can score papers with just your trimmer (search google for it), which I didn’t know back when I bought my scoreboard. Buying multiple-function tools also stretches the money you paid for it.

Other tools that I also use regularly are: envelope punch board, hole punch, crop-a-dile.

2. Know what you want and need 
It’s important to differentiate between the things that you want and the things that you need to use in your craft room. Here’s how I differentiate them: “wants” are things that will be nice/cool to have but “needs” are stuff that will make your life easier. “Needs” are items that ought to be invested in, while “wants” are the optional items don’t need to. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get anything just because you want them, but to weigh if you should get them: price, how often you will use them, how much you want them. Something I like to say is whether I will dream of the item if I don’t buy them – does it constantly stay on my mind or do I forget about it after a while (a short-lived infatuation/want). Another useful measure I use if what I call unit price, or the price per usage, which is to take the price of the object divided by the amount of time you envision using it.

Here’s an example. Stamps for me are considered a “want”, though I use them quite a lot. I like the ease of usage and the replicability of stamped images. But I am also picky as to what stamp set that I buy. I would never buy themed stamp sets (e.g. seasons, holidays, school) because that limits when I can use those stamp sets. A Christmas stamp set for example, means once a year usage, as the images and sentiments are usually not usable at any other time of the year. Another reason is that I don’t send such cards often, so really, there is no need for me to get the stamp that I would only use sporadically. I do however, invest in basic stamps that can be used in a variety of occasion. I have one of various flower images, a little girl and boy set, stamps that are useful for memory keeping. These are stamp sets that I reach for all the time, so their unit price is very very low. To put it simply, the more times you will use the stuff you buy, the cheaper they become over time and hence the more worth it your investment become. 

If you have problems differentiating your wants and needs, you can try this method I use. I have a list of items that I keep where I write down the things that I want to buy. Each time I’m working on something and I think “Oh how I wish I have xxx”, I will note that down. If such thoughts happen often, it is a sign that the item is something that I would use often and/or an item that you need in your craft room. The list helps me too when I am ready to buy stuff so I do not forget what I need to buy, and also stops me from succumbing to buying stuff that are outside of the list.

3. Buy supplies that you use often 
Something that has already been mentioned, but I feel this deserve a section on its own. What you use often is dependent on your art/crafting style so take that in mind. For my art journal, I like to have a lot of colours. Hence I have many coloured pens, markers and paints that I will use. For scrapbooking, I use a lot of papers (cardstock, patterned papers) so I have a stash of them ready to go whenever I scrapbook. As mentioned, I like to do stamping so I have a collection of stamps that I use repeatedly.

If you have the supplies that matches your art/crafting style, you will find that it becomes easier to create, because you are not constrained by supplies you lack. I know this because it happened before. When I started on art journaling, I only had very basic supplies and limited colour palette. It was a little frustrating then because there would be colours that I want but can never mix it up, or that I’m missing colours that will match my page/tell my mood. When I expanded on my colour palette, I became frustrated less often, and the art flows more naturally.

4. Know what you can make, instead of buying
Making your own supplies can sometimes be more economical than buying them, with the added bonus of being able to personalise what you make according to what you want. This is especially true for supplies that you only want to use for a single project and that you already have the things you need to make them. Flowers embellishments for example, are one thing that I would make myself if I need one. There are plenty of diy flowers tutorials online, and you can pick whichever is the most suitable for your project. I also find that store bought flower embellishments don’t always look as nice too. My advice here will be to search online for tutorials and try your hands at making them. If it works viola, you got yourself a useful new skill, but if not, then you can always go back to store bought supplies.

Do note thought that sometimes that isn’t true, but for some reason I keep doing it anyway because I like the idea of handmade better. For instance, buying envelopes is definitely much cheaper (and easier) than making your own. A 20-pack of envelope for cards comes in $2, and they come in a variety of colours. But I still do like to make my own envelopes, because I think it adds a little bit of personal flair, and it’s just feels nice to have put in the effort making the envelope in addition to the card, if you know what I mean. Personal quirk I guess.

5. Buy stuff to keep things organised 
I cannot stress how important I think it is to keep your craft room organised. It not only makes everything neater (reducing clutter, headaches and stress), but it also makes it easy to find the things you want to find. Don’t be stingy on organising tools and supplies if you have to! It is also good to plan how you want to organise things before you go out and buy the things so that you won’t end up buying something that doesn’t work for you.

A lot of my organising system is actually made from upcycled/recycled materials: shoe boxes, old files but I also buy storage units to house some of my supplies: small drawers for paper bits, plastic trays/baskets, stackable plastic boxes for paints and other art materials. Such storage units are useful if I need to bring them to my craft table as I can just carry everything at one go.

Well, that’s all that I can think of to add to this list, hope you found this helpful! If you have any tips to share on how you decide to buy things for your craft room, let me know in the comments section because I will love to hear from you!

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