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The word craft gives some people the ick. Maybe they don’t have the patience, don’t see themselves as creative, or simply can’t be arsed. It’s can be a lot of effort sometimes, sure – but not all the time.
Either way, craft kit searches are up – and it’s no wonder given we’re stuck indoors all the time with little to do. Spotting a trend for “mindful craft”, John Lewis found sales of embroidery kits were up 1527% (!) compared to last year, cross stitch kits were up 261%, and craft kits sales, in general, are up 206%.
We decided to get in on the crafting – how hard can it be? Some of us on the HuffPost UK Life team enjoy craft, others are quite craft-adverse. Either way, we put these kits to the test to review – honestly – what they were like.
Are they confusing and complicated? Is the process more stressful than the result? Are the instructions long-winded? Does the product end up looking anything like it’s meant to? Or is it plain-sailing and easy? Here are our reviews, with a rating out of five of how easy they are to complete.
The Rainbow Banner Kit
“Embarrassingly, I still take clothes home to my mum for her to sew on buttons. At 33, I haven’t cracked sewing (as you’ll tell if you zoom in on my abhorrent stitching below). I have a couple of sewing kits, gifted by my mum, but I clearly haven’t taken the hint.
“The main picture of this kit on the website shows pretty pins and stylish sewing scissors – but you’ll need to get your own. I can’t find any pins in my flat, so I try making the banner without them. As I start, I enjoy the chance to be mindful and creative and can see why people turn to these projects in lockdown. I live alone, and I’m always looking for new ways to stay occupied.
“It’s challenging enough, yet achievable as a sewing novice. I’d say the hardest thing is cutting the felt into the rainbow shapes. If you mess that up (which I do) the rainbow isn’t even. But hey, we’re going for a unique wonkiness here, right? The instructions say to use any stitch you like, but I don’t know any stitches. That doesn’t seem to matter, though, and – as a novice – I still manage to complete it. It feels really satisfying to make something.
“For £16, it’s quite a pricey kit, but it keeps me occupied for three or four hours. It’s achievable and I now have something to keep, albeit uniquely wonky. Oh, and with my new-found skills, I’d say I could probably sew on a button now!” Becky Barnes, Audience editor
The Soap Kit
“I’ve never made soap before, nor thought much about making it to be honest – but it turns out it’s a therapeutic evening activity for these last lockdown nights (and beyond, when we get to actually choose which nights we spend at home).
“There are two ‘base’ blocks, argan oil and shea butter – both of which smell dreamily like natural oils. You slice them up, following instructions, then microwave to melt, adding drops of citrus scent to the soapy-smelling potion, then poppy seeds and spirulina powder, mixed into an olive oil paste, to exfoliate.
“You then pour into the provided moulds, chill out for a bit and a few hours later you have shiny, shop-ready bars that smell delicious but aren’t overpowering. Easy! Plus, there’s enough material to make plenty of bars. It’s a social and challenging, but not too challenging, hour’s fun.”
The Candle Kit
“I love how this kit comes packaged – it’s eco-friendly and covered in inspiring quotes. I’m pleased to see there are only a few ‘components’ to the kit, as too many ‘bits’ stress me out. When I read the card, my heart sinks at the first point: ‘Pour your soy wax into a double boiler’. I don’t have a double boiler (what is that?) As I read further, I see ‘what happens if you don’t have a double boiler’ – put a smaller pot inside a larger pot with boiling water (like when you melt chocolate). I use a smaller saucepan inside a larger one. Hey presto, it’s sorted.
“10 minutes later I have two soy candles inside two glass jars, waiting to set. It’s so simple: melt the soy wax, mix in the the essential oil to make it smell nice, pour into the two glass jars, and stabilise the wick with a peg. Wait 24 hours for it to set completely and voilà: you have two homemade soy candles.
“After I’ve proudly made them, I see they have a short YouTube tutorial to help if you don’t fancy reading instructions, as well as tips on the back of the card. The end result is brilliant if you always buy candles (like me) and will definitely be used. One for yourself, and one for a gift. It might be a little on the pricier side, but I’d say this is down to its eco-credentials.” Amy Packham, Life editor
The Pottery Kit
“I’ve always wanted to have a go at making my own fancy ceramics and attend a pottery class, so this at-home kit is the perfect solution! The box comes with all the tools, easy-to-follow instructions and two bags of air-dry clay, which is more than enough material to shape some wonderful handmade creations.
“My partner and I manage to make one large plant pot and two smaller pinch pots. My advice would be to sketch out what you want to make beforehand, or take a look at Sculpd’s Instagram, rather than dive in blindly. It’ll save a lot of mindlessly moulding and confused shaping. (I had to start again several times out of frustration – due to my bad planning and over sculpting). Once you get the hang of it, it’s so much fun and takes your mind off things.
“It’s something you can keep fiddling around with and tweaking until you’re happy. One piece of advice: don’t expect to be done in one night. It’s a long process of waiting for the clay to dry completely then painting, another paint coat, more waiting and sealing everything in. But I’d definitely buy this again for myself or gift this to a friend. It’s the perfect lockdown activity to keep hands busy and beat the boredom blues.” Angela Hui, Life reporter
The Scrunchie Kit
“I have a lot of hair right now. Like, a lot. But thankfully, I have some new scrunchies to tame it with until salons reopen. There are a ton of ‘make your own scrunchie’ kits available on Etsy right now. I opt for one of the cheaper options, offering a choice of fabrics for a bargain price of £6.75.
“The set comes with three pre-cut fabrics, coordinating thread, elastic, a needle, pins, paperclips and step-by-step instructions that are ridiculously easy to follow. The first scrunchie takes me 45 minutes to make. By scrunchie number two, I’m sewing while watching TV and have it down to a sweet half hour.
“I’m usually too impatient for crafting, but to my surprise I enjoy the process – probably because it’s fast, and I’m genuinely excited to get my hands on the end product. I’ve recommended this kit to several bored friends and now have fun 90s hair in every other Zoom call. If you can’t try out new styles in lockdown, when can you?” Rachel Moss, Life reporter
The Kintsugi Kit
Rating: easy, 5/5
“I break a lot of stuff. A combination of my frenetic energy and lack of fine motor skills has, in my life, led to far too many fractured mugs and chipped plates. In normal times, I chuck the things out – usually wrapped in newspaper to avoid my wife seeing – and replace them. But now we can’t go anywhere, I resolved to repair my lockdown victims (a cute little catch-all bowl from a San Diego ceramic stall and a cute whale mug gifted to me by my niece) as best I could.
“Enter the Sandy Leaf Farms Kintsugi kit. Sometimes labelled as the Japanese art of putting broken things back together, the idea of kintsugi is to faithfully repair pottery and the like with a visible, bright gold glue as a means of embracing life’s imperfections and accepting mistakes as part of life.
“At a pretty reasonable price of £15, I get a healthy-sized capsule of beautiful gold pigment and enough tubes of potent-smelling glue to keep me going. There are also two ‘practice’ bowls to smash and practice on – an unexpectedly cathartic treat. The process is quick, easy to get right, and, crucially, works.
“I know what you’re thinking, though: what about the terrible clumsiness? Well, yes, to someone like me, with reception-grade crafting skills, kintsugi proved to be the art of making a shiny mess and gluing your hands together. But it does the job. More importantly, it’s a genuinely relaxing escape and an opportunity for even the least crafty person to create.” Charlie Lindlar, Opinion commissioning editor