Have you ever made a purchase at a craft store in the dizzying height of optimism that you’ll redo everything in your home and your whole life will be prettier and more beautiful?
I have too!
And obviously it doesn’t always work out that way, does it? Before long, those tubs of paint and skeins of yarn or gorgeous scrapbook papers become something you avoid looking at. They pile up in a corner of your craft room or craft supplies cabinet silently accusing you of what you are not getting done.
At least that’s how I have felt. Sometimes I don’t use the craft supplies I’ve purchased because they’re just too pretty to use.
Sometimes I realize I have gotten in over my head with a craft idea that there’s no way I will be able to do.
Sometimes it’s just that I don’t have the time or the room to do it.
Sometimes I can’t even remember why I bought something!
But not all of my craft supply purchases have led to regret. There are essential craft tools I’ve used so many times over the years that they’ve just become a part of my home, my existence, and I would never even think to get rid of them. Other things maybe don’t get used as often, but they’re exactly what I need when I need them. They’re indispensable.
My Top Five Favorite Craft Tools
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X-Acto knife and cutting mat
A precision craft knife and a sturdy, durable cutting mat come in so handy for so many things. Of course, you really need to pair them with a ruler to get the most out of them.
Triangle grid ruler
This is the best ruler ever. I don’t remember when or where I bought this, but I didn’t know how much I would love it. Mine even came with a protective sleeve, which I still keep it in and I’m glad because it’s almost good as new. I probably bought this 18 or 20 years ago and I can’t imagine life without it.
A few simple things make this ruler better: it has a metal edge so you don’t accidentally cut into the ruler with your X-Acto blade. The triangle shape helps you get nice, square edges if you’re trying to cut a perfect rectangle (for cardmaking or other crafts). The grid lines are close enough that you can line it up on nearly any size project.
Spring-action sewing scissors
These are actually made for people with arthritis, but that’s not why I love them. My favorite thing about these sewing scissors is just that they look so different that family members cannot mistake them for ordinary scissors. Plus, there’s a lock that keeps them closed, so if someone (my husband) picks them up to cut paper or anything else he shouldn’t, the lock will slow him down long enough to remember he’s not supposed to use these.
I’m sure they’re also great for arthritic hands. The angle of the handles also makes it very easy to cut your fabric while it is laying flat, which is super helpful for accurate cutting around patterns.
Of course, if you don’t need the spring-action kind of fabric scissors, you can pick up a pair almost anywhere. Keep them sanctified – set apart – for just cutting fabric. That will ensure they stay sharp and cutting fabric can be a pleasure rather than a frustration.
A selection of good pens
These might be considered crafting “materials” rather than tools, because you do eventually use them up and have to replace them. But a good selection of pens is really helpful for almost any kind of crafting. If I had to pare it down to a minimalist list, I’d say I need at least a black fine-point Sharpie, a black Pigma Micron, and a black Bic Cristal pen. Nothing too fancy! But those are all great for their different purposes.
Must-have craft tools (the long list)
These craft and sewing tools are keepers. You’ll *never regret having them, and you should try to get the best quality you can reasonably afford.
The reason these are such good purchases to make is that they are handy for so many different purposes beyond crafting.
- Regular scissors (dollar store scissors are fine if you like them)
- Fabric Scissors Fabric scissors have a handle with a bend, or curve, that makes it easier to cut material lying on your work surface. You can find very expensive fabric scissors, but it’s okay to start with a simple pair of Fiskars or Singer scissors. The rule with any kind of fabric scissors is that, to keep them sharp, use them ONLY for cutting fabric. That’s why you need to keep a regular pair of scissors on hand (for cutting paper patterns, nylon coil zippers, plastic packaging, etc.).
- X-ACTO Knife (and blades) and/or utility knife
I have an X-Acto but the reviews on this Olfa knife got my attention. I haven’t tried it (yet), but if you want a cutting knife with a little more grip, it might be the way to go. And regular #11 blades fit in it.
- Large, self-healing cutting mat What size should you get? The best size cutting mat is the largest one that will fit on your table! I have the 18×24 and it is large enough for most things. I also have a smaller cutting mat for paper or other crafts besides sewing.
- Triangle ruler with a metal edge
The one I have and couldn’t live without is a Wescott Grid Triangle, 12″. It’s a little more expensive but I reach for this tool again and again when I need to cut things perfectly square.
- Straight ruler with metal edge
- Large grid ruler – aka “quilting ruler” This is for sewing, so if you don’t think you’ll ever sew a stitch then you don’t need it. If you do want to sew, pair the large ruler with a rotary cutter. You won’t regret it!
- Rotary cutter
- Hot glue gun
- Embossing stylus, double tipped – I bought a single stylus at a scrapbook store years ago and probably paid as much as this kit cost. These little tools are handy for so many things; obviously, you can use them for paper embossing, but also for nail art, polymer clay sculpting, etc.
- Paper cutter
- Small level
- Hole punch
There are so many kinds of hole punches. A single hole punch is versatile, but others save more time if you are putting printables in binders.
- Good pens
- Black fine-point Sharpie (or as many colors as you fancy!)
- Sewing Machine
- Tape measure
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand needles
- Sewing box
- Bobbins (that fit your model sewing machine)
- Transfer paper (one side is coated with chalk for marking pattern lines on your fabric)
- Good lighting
*Note: after writing that, I came across an article about a woman who had hoarded craft supplies to the point that she was deep in debt and almost lost her home. Her story is so painful and raw and difficult that it made me realize that glibly saying you’ll never regret these purchases might be debatable. So let me make this clearer: assuming you do not already have these basic supplies, and you are not deep in debt, and you reasonably expect to do some crafting this year, these are purchases you are likely not to regret.
However, if your story is also painful and you’re going through a difficult time, then obviously buying these things are not going to make you feel better or make your life better. My little bit of crafting regret pales in comparison to what this woman suffered. I feel for her. But it also reinforces my statement above: be choosy with what you buy, and resist the elation that comes when you’re browsing the craft store aisles.