Crafts & Hobbies A-Z


Acrylic paint – made from the combination of pigment and acrylic polymer emulsion, which contains acrylic resin and water.  The resin used in acrylic paints was first patented in 1915.  They became more widely used in the 1920s and 1940s and were more commercially available by the 1950s.  It is a practical paint when cleaning as it is water-soluble making it generally easily removed with water.  It can dry in a matter of hours.  Yet once it has dried on canvas, it can prove difficult to remove.  Acrylic can often resemble oil or water paint and are often used in schools as they can be produced with non-toxic ingredients.  They were popular during the pop art and abstract art periods.  Artists such as Andy Warhol and David Hockney used acrylics on some of their key works.


Basket weaving or basketry is the process of weaving pliable materials in to a basket or other similar form.  Made from a variety of fibrous, natural or pliable materials – anything that will bend and form a shape.  There are plenty of courses available to learn the craft and these can be found via The Basketmakers’ Association.


Cross Stitch – A form of embroidery, has been around for hundreds of years.  All that determines the finished size of a cross-stitch design is the number of stitches up and down and the thread count of the fabric.  This is a relatively affordable hobby where you will only need paper and thread and a pair of craft scissors. The Cross Stitch Guild is a worldwide organization with a committed and enthusiastic body of members.


Darning is a sewing technique for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric or knitting.  It is normally done by hand yet can still be done via a machine.  It’s considered a sewing technique because it uses stitches with a needle and thread, although it is best suggested to use a blunt needle.  It is not recommended that you knot the thread as the stitching should be taught enough to hold the thread.


Egg decorating – It doesn’t need to be Easter to decorate an egg.  Decorating eggs goes back tens of thousands of years ago.  Some eggs like Emu, Ostrich are so large and strong that the shells may be carved without breaking.  However the norm is to use goose, duck and hens’ eggs.  Make a hole in either end and blow out the contents (“blowing”).  The egg can then either be carved, dyed, painted, appliquéd or decorated.  Eastern European countries have a strong tradition of decorating eggs.


Fine threads – these threads have a much finer fibre and where size numbers are applied are categorised by the letter A.  Silk is often a strong fine thread and also some nylons.


Glitter – believe it or not, glitter dates back to ancient times when our ancestors used crushed beetle shells, crushed minerals and ground crystals for paintings and cosmetics.  It then developed in to glass and metal to what it is today which is layers of copolymer plastic, colouring and reflective material which is then fused together before being cut into tiny, hexagonal shapes.


Home decoration – see the Homes and Gardens section for some great ideas, information and inspiration.


Ink – a liquid or paste containing pigments or dyes used to colour a surface.  That much you know.  However did you know that it was first used around 2,500 BC most notably by the Chinese and Egyptians for writing purposes.  It was originally made from ash or soot, a liquid such as water or oil and animal gelatin.  It was Johannes Gutenberg who invented a special oil-based ink in the 1400s.  Interestingly Indian Ink was first made in China, although some of the ingredients were usually sourced from India hence its name.


Jewellery wire – Jewellery wire can be aluminium, brass, copper, silver, gold, silver-plated, gold-plated or gold-filled wire.  It is sold in several sizes, which are called Gauges.  The larger gauge wire being smaller in diameter. You can also buy coated wires.  These come in a variety of colours.


K2tog – A knitting stitch whereby you knit two stitches together. In other words knit two together.  This is a basic way to decrease stitches, which slants slightly to the right on the knit side of the work.


Left handed scissors – These have the blades reversed so you can see your cutting line and then get a clean cut.  The top blade must be on the left for them to be left handed scissors.  This enables the cutting action to be on the left side giving the left hander a clear view of the cutting line.  If you are left handed and use right handed scissors not only will you potentially end up with marks on your thumb, the blades will be pushed apart by the left handed squeezing movement and the paper bends instead of allowing the scissors to cleanly cut.


Mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the Universe.  The basic form is a square with four gates containing a circle with a centre point yet a mandala design is usually in circular form.  It is a complex abstract design containing both geometric and organic forms containing recognisable images that carry meaning for the person who is creating it.  Designing your own mandalas is seen to be extremely therapeutic and inspiring.


Natural light – Using natural light lamps can not just be energy saving as the bulbs tend to last up to ten times as long as ordinary bulbs, they are also proven to lessen eye strain and make close up work much easier.


Oil pastels – Otherwise known as wax oil crayons were first produced back in the 1920s.  It is recommended that if you want to start using oil pastels you start with the best set you can find.  If you have yet to try them make sure you have some paper towels to hand as your hands can get rather messy.  The paper towels also help to wipe off excess colour from each crayon after you’ve used them to blend colours together.  Oil pastels are great for still life.  Some of the greatest artists known to have used oil pastels include Degas, Millet and Chardin.


Pattern drafting – To make clothes you need a pattern.  To make a pattern you need to have a design and draft the pattern from the design.  The process includes taking body measurements, and adapting an initial template otherwise known as a block.  The finished template will have a number of markings to show how the garment will be fitted together and where.  The pattern is then then cut according to the finished pattern block.  Quite often the first draft of clothing is creating using muslin.


Quilt making – The Quilt Association promotes quilting and patchwork throughout the UK and beyond.  Predominantly used for decorative bed covers, quilting is the stitching which holds layers of fabric already joined together in a sort of sandwich, whilst forming a design.  It can be done by hand or machine.  The word ‘quilt’ comes from the Latin culcita meaning stuffed sack.  Possibly the oldest find to date was possibly 100 BC.


Rock Art – So simple yet a lot of fun and really easy for kids to also do.  Rock Art is as it states and using paint, glue, even clay stones or rocks can be transformed in to beautiful works of art.   Rock Art can create some wonderfully personalised paper weights or even fridge magnets.


Suncatcher – Otherwise known as a light catcher, which can be hung inside or out to catch and radiate a light source.  It’s like the optical version of a wind chime and possibly why it is thought they too originated from Southwest American Indians.  As well as looking beautiful they can also be a great lesson in teaching children about the light spectrum.


Tone – Lighter or darker variations of a specific colour.


Universal needle – A universal needle has a slightly rounded tip and can be used for woven and knitted fabrics.


Velcro – Invented in 1948 by a Swiss electrical engineer, Velcro is a fastener used for clothes or other items and consists of two strips of thin plastic sheet.  One is covered with tiny loops and the other is covered with tiny flexible hooks.  They stick together when pressed together and when pulled apart can be separated.  Velcro is the name of the brand.


Wood art – A contemporary form of art, wood art encompasses sculpture, craft and decoration including chip carving, wood burning and marquetry.   The challenge begins when you learn to work with the fiber and grain of the wood as well as the hardness.  Certain types of wood are associated with wood art and these include: balsa, birch, elm and maple.


Xyron – This is a machine that applies adhesive to pages and which can also laminate.


Yuzen – A colour Japanese hand-dying technique that dates back to the 15th century, where each pattern is drawn by hand, often creating unique designs or very limited series.  It has been used to make very high class Kimonos.


Zigzag stitch – The zigzag stitch is a stitch that goes diagonally side to side to produce a decorative finish to a seam or to join two layers.  It is a back and forth stitch.  Normally seen on seams, button holes and on temporary joins. Most commonly used via a sewing machine.