How to get better at ANY craft!

It's New Year's Resolution time! How many of you have a crafting-related resolution on your list? I do! This year, I want to learn lace tatting.

Whether you're hoping to complete a specific project, learn a new craft or just improve your current skills, looking at how far you have to go can be pretty depressing--or it can inspire you to learn and grow! So here's a quick guide on how to get better at your craft of choice, no matter what it is!

Seek out inspiration
You probably already have this down, but when you're looking to get better at a craft, look for inspiration. Pinterest is a perennial source, as well as craft blogs and aggregating sites like Ravelry (it's like an index of knitting & crochet patterns!). Your inspiration might depend on your craft--a piece of clothing or a pretty scene or an awesome colorscape might inspire you.

For knitting, I'm often inspired by clothing I see on TV, on the Internet or out and about. For example, I was at a children's museum and saw a woman in an orange peacoat made from what looked like really fat corduroy, cut on the bias so the welts ran diagonally. I immediately sketched out a rough design and started theorizing what yarn weights and fibers and patterns might best replicate that look.

Now, if only I really wanted to devote my time to learning knitwear design . . . but that does bring us to our next point:

Look for something new and challenging to try
This is probably the biggest key to improving your skills. Mom recently talked about doing this with her first wonky quilt. With every knit gift or craft I make, I specifically try to seek out patterns that have something I've never done before.

Of course, you want to balance this--tackling something that is too far above your current skill level is often a sink-or-swim proposition. If you're in over your head, don't let yourself drown: get help or step back from the project for a while until you try some of the challenging components in other projects, learning them one at a time.

UPDATE: a great way to do this is through classes. I've really enjoyed the online classes at Craftsy. They offer classes in knitting, sewing, cooking, cake decorating, papercrafting, jewelry making, fine art and more! (WGC is a Craftsy affiliate and happy customer!)


Give it time and practice
All improvement takes those two things: time and practice. Keep working on the skills you have (don't want to forget those!) and don't chart yourself on a daily basis. Look at how far you come over weeks or months. BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF!

Go back to the basics
Don't be afraid or think you can't learn anything from a class. Even if you already have all the skills the teacher does, sometimes it's the bond with her or other students that helps you learn more. I'm told that even just visiting a local yarn store often leads to learning new skills--but you have to do the next step to really learn.

For an even lower-commitment, check out a basic book on your craft from the library and review the most basic principles of design and form in your craft. Look at beginners' scrapbook layouts or sewing patterns: have you mastered what makes them work? How would you change them to suit your tastes now?

Ask for help
There is no shame in admitting you don't know something! And these days, there are resources to help with almost anything at your fingertips. There are a wealth of craft videos on YouTube and on craft-specific sites, just waiting for you.

Even better, of course, is getting help from a real live person. They can walk you through each step in the process and correct you if you get off course. It can be intimidating to ask someone for help, but in general crafters are very nice. The creative mindset of crafting--and possibly the compulsive hoarding of supplies and potential craft fodder--create a common bond, and most of the time, there's no competition to discourage people from helping one another out.

Go your own way
Yes, ask for help, but don't be afraid to try things on your own. If you have another way of doing something, give it a shot!

I taught myself to knit from reading a book. Apparently I wasn't so good at reading the pictures, though, because several years later, I realized I was knitting the "wrong" way. I contemplated learning to knit the "right" way so that my stitches would all face right, I could follow patterns more easily without having to adapt them to my "special" stitches, etc.

Fortunately, before I went to all that trouble, I discovered that I wasn't wrong after all! There is a small minority out there that knit in my special style. It even has a name: "combination style knitting." I do still have to make notes in almost all my patterns about how I have to "fix" things for increases and decreases, but there's a special pride about doing things my own way in knitting.

Added from contributors

It's okay to fail—Just Jaime
We're not working with  nuclear core reactors! It's okay not to live up to our own high expectations every once in a while. And how many crafts really turn out like the image in our head. I often hear variations on this saying:

(If you can't see that, it's a lovely way of saying the only way to never fail is to never try.)

The same thing goes for living as for crafting. If you're not failing, you're probably not putting yourself out there enough. And, hey, when you fail, come on over and tell us about it. We know exactly how you feel.

It doesn't have to be perfect—Smallgood
She says: "If I like what I made, then it's great. I try not to become unhappy because of comparison." And whether that's comparing yourself to another crafter or to just how you envisioned your own project, just don't!

Have you noticed some messages repeated over and over in this post? Like maybe "just try" and "don't be afraid"? If I had to put those another way, it would be:


You can do it!

How did you learn to do your favorite crafts? How did you get better?

updated from Feb 2012

Christmas Parade of Homes 2013: Day 5

Here we are the on the last day of our Christmas parade of homes! Hasn't it been great?! Today is my house and I have a surprise at the end for you!

 In our kitchen we have cozy ornaments on all of the knobs. 

 The banner says "Happy Holidays, y'all!"

Dining room table. 
 See? I told you mine was on my piano!
PB always lays the people down and says they are going "night-night"

A new addition this year. I LOVE these :)
 The garland and wreath are both lit in the evening. Do you see our little stocking for the cat? We also have two play nativities for PB. Do you see what the one in the middle is missing? Try baby Jesus. We're on the hunt for where PB has him hidden. 

I decided to sprig my tree this year. Do you sprig?
This is my favorite ornament. This was my first Christmas ornament. 

Here is the surprise I have for you!!!! 
It's pictures from where I learned to do Christmas decorating! From my parents and grandparents!
My parents house:
 This is a new nativity given to my dad by his congregation (he is the bishop). It is made of BONE!

 This nativity for as long as I can remember has had four wise men. PB saw it and said "MONSTER!" A fan of Yoda she is not. 
 Hey that's me on my parent's tree!
This is a piece by Liz Lemon Swindle. I love her artwork! 

 My grandparent's house
 Village part one. Note the detail of the fallen snow, the real gravel roads, the street lights (which were not on but do turn on), the ice skating rink, and the trees. 
 Village part two
Village part three: that is a rive flowing through the village.

 These are my favorite ornaments on her tree. We may have played with them a little too much as kids. They were fragile and we were not careful!


 This is a whole cabinet full of santas. I wish you could see the huge number of santas my grandparents have in their home. These pictures are only a small taste of what they have! 

I hope you have enjoyed this parade of homes! I sure have enjoyed taking this pictures and sharing them with you! 
What was your favorite part?

Christmas Parade of Homes: Day 4

My friend Kathy is the next one up in our parade of homes. Her home was warm and inviting and her decorations are gorgeous!

 I loved the mailbox flag!
 Aren't their outdoor lights great?


 I think this is the most inviting entryway I've ever seen!

I love the stable in this nativity!
Living room:
Look at that fireplace screen!
She told me she made this! I love it!

Their tree was so full and great!
She said her favorite ornaments are the ones her son made her. 
Dining room and kitchen:
 That lantern and all the greenery are so pretty!
 Beautiful place settings! The napkin holders are so pretty!

She had candles and stings of light all over the house and included in the decorations- I think that's what made her home so warm and inviting- not to mention she was so wonderful with PB. PB surprised me by instantly warming up to Kathy and playing with their big dog "Bannit" (Bandit). It was so fun to photograph this house!

Come back tomorrow for the last day of our parade of homes- MY house! I also have a surprise in store for you!
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