Crafting Without Spending Money

by Margaret Marquis

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When you haul out your cool-weather clothes every year, chances are that you're greeted by fashion disasters of days gone by. For nearly ten years, my personal monstrosity was an enormous teal sweater knitted up in a style that would make Bill Cosby weep with happiness. Over and over again, I'd unpack the sweater, never wear it throughout the cold season, and repack it. I refused to say goodbye to it because the color was so perfectly aquamarine.

An avid knitter, I finally hit on the ultimate way to recycle. I got up the nerve to unravel that blue whale of a sweater and discovered that after a good soak in gentle-wash detergent and a thorough drying-out, my thriftiness had yielded enough skeins of beautiful "new" yarn for a new sweater without me ever stepping foot inside a pricey yarn store.

For crafters of all kinds, creative thinking (and a tiny bit of pack-rat optimism) can yield supplies to furnish just about any kind of project without the expense of a trip to the craft supply store. After all, for crafters, the desire to create is often more regular than the spare change generally required to finance projects. A little imagination can keep your hands (but not your checkbook) busy through long winter months.

Worn-out clothes with sentimental value are prime candidates to be reworked into quilts that may only need a few square inches of usable fabric to create each piece. Baby clothes in particular are perfect for fashioning into baby quilts to be passed down to future generations. If the babies those clothes used to fit have grown up into big kids with rooms full of stuffed animals and dolls, scraps of old clothes are the perfect way to create a variety of costumes to keep teddy bears and fashion dolls warm on those cold winter nights, too. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can hand odds and ends of material and double-knotted thread and needles to your children and let them play fashion designer, too.

For amateur painters, unwanted painted canvases are a coat of paint away from a blank space on which to create. You can use either a white base coat to cover up the previous art or whatever background color you choose. The only rule of thumb is to stick to the same kind of paint that is already on the canvas. In the case of thickly-applied paint that has too much texture to be easily covered, gentle sanding down with ordinary sandpaper can bring a bumpy surface to readiness for repainting.

While the prospect of hanging on to old stuff to create new might be second nature to any mother who has looked at an empty cardboard paper towel roll and seen a craft project perfect for her three-year-old, many of us crafty types forget that grownups can use these items, too. From the functionality of re-knitting an old sweater to the aesthetic charms of a new painting in your living room, crafting on a budget can enhance your imagination and artistic life without breaking your bank.

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