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I’ve been knitting since childhood, knitting obsessively for about eight years, and embroidering for a couple years. When nonessential businesses aren’t closed, I work and teach part-time at a local yarn shop. I know I feel lucky to have crafts right now, to be able to lose myself in stitches, make something beautiful, and feel the satisfaction of finishing a project, no matter how small and personal.
Whenever I hear from someone who wants to try a new craft, I’m excited for them, too. The rabbit hole is deep and full of brilliant artists and techniques developed over time. This list is meant to give newcomers an idea of where to go to start learning the crafts I know and love best: knitting, crochet, sashiko, embroidery, cross stitch, and punch needle. It’s not exhaustive, but I hope it’s helpful and inspiring.
For materials, be sure to check the material list for the specific class, kit, or pattern you choose. I’ve just made these basic lists to give you a general idea of how many new things you’ll need to gather before you can start your first project. One reason why I like all these crafts is because they’re relatively portable and don’t require big, expensive equipment.
While I learned most of the crafts on this list as an adult through a mix of kits and online and in-person classes, my mom taught me how to knit when I was a kid. But if I were learning right now, I’d want to start with craft magazine Pom Pom Quarterly’s beautiful new book, Knit How (which you can find as an ebook, printed book, or kit). It teaches the basics and shows how you can gradually build new skills until you’re knitting sweaters and socks.
Basic materials needed: yarn, knitting needles, tapestry needle for weaving in ends
Knitting and crochet are both built on loops of yarn, but their different characteristics make them suited to different kinds of projects. Knitted fabric is stretchier and lighter-weight, making it perfect for sweaters and warm accessories. And although you can make amigurumi (knitted or crocheted dolls/stuffed animals) and lace with either craft, crocheted animals and granny squares just can’t be matched with knitting. I started learning crochet because I wanted to make both those things.
Cal Patch teaches a series of crochet classes on Creativebug that cover basic stitches, granny squares and hexagons, and more. (I mention Creativebug a lot in this post, not because I’m at all affiliated with the company but because I subscribed for a while and tried to squeeze as many classes as possible out of the $7.99 per month fee.) After finishing Patch’s classes, I was prepared to make an amigurumi avocado keychain with a Mollie Makes kit. I’m still aspiring to make Pica Pau animals.
Basic materials needed: yarn, crochet hook, tapestry needle for weaving in ends
When I learned embroidery, I started with sashiko, a Japanese style of embroidery that doesn’t involve an embroidery hoop, and only uses one color of thread and one kind of stitch. My first sashiko projects were samplers using pre-printed fabric, so all I had to do was follow the lines with my thread. You can find samplers like this (a common brand is Olympus), along with sashiko needles and thread, on Etsy shop Snuggly Monkey.
Basic materials needed: sashiko thread, sashiko needles, woven fabric
If you want to learn how to embroider with a variety of colors and stitch types, try Rebecca Ringquist’s original sampler and its accompanying class on Creativebug. She teaches one stitch at a time in a series of videos that are broken up so they’re easy to revisit as needed. In the end, your sampler will be both a decorative piece and a stitch dictionary.
You also don’t need the sampler to take the class. You can stitch along on any piece of fabric you have and label your stitches with a fabric marker or pen as you go. Once you’ve learned these basic stitches, you’ll be ready for most embroidery projects.
Basic materials needed: embroidery floss, embroidery hoop, embroidery needles, woven fabric
Cross stitching is arguably easier than freestyle embroidery because it’s made up of a series of crosses on a grid, and following a pattern is almost as straightforward as painting by number. I learned how to cross stitch with kits, starting with this tiny one from Etsy shop Red Bear Design, then moving up to a bigger one from Junebug and Darlin’. Both came with all the instructions I needed.
Basic materials needed: embroidery floss, embroidery hoop, tapestry needles (different from the kind you would use for knitting/crochet), evenweave fabric (Aida is easiest to start with because it has a large and very defined grid)
Of all these crafts, I’m newest to punch needle — in fact, I just finished my first project this weekend! That means I’m not an expert, but the main barrier for entry for me was that I was intimidated by the different types and sizes of punch needle tool and the fact that, for many projects, you assemble your own wooden frame and secure your fabric with a staple gun. It just sounded like a lot of new materials to buy and learn how to use at once.
In the end, I started because I found a simple kit on Etsy shop The Bee & The Bear, which used an embroidery hoop rather than a self-assembled wood frame. Between the instructions in the kit and Arounna Khounnoraj’s punch needle class on Creativebug, I had enough information to finish the project in a few hours. Khounnoraj also has a whole book on punch needle, and she now offers kits and tools in her shop, Bookhou.
Basic materials needed: monk’s cloth, punch needle tool, yarn, embroidery hoop or wood frame and staple gun