Gift Guide: 8 DIY and crafting gifts to help your friends make more stuff and learn new skills
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Crafting and DIY tools are wonderful gifts right now. We’re all stuck inside and, for many of us, the days are sort of blurring together. Why not help your friends and family learn to make stuff? And if they already know how to make stuff, why not help them make more stuff?
It’ll help break up the monotony, maybe teach them a new skill, and give them something to point at and say “Hey! I made that!” Plus, making stuff just rules.
We’ve put together a wide variety of things that should be fun for the makers in your life. Some are super-focused kits that’ll help them explore a potential new hobby; others are broadly useful tools they’ll be able to take with them into every DIY project they take on moving forward. Enjoy!
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A Dremel kit
A Dremel is always practical to have around the home for DIY projects. Plus, there are tons of attachments and carving bits available for a huge range of uses. Lighter and more ergonomic than regular Dremels, the Dremel 2050 15 Stylo+ kit includes accessories to get started with wood carving, glass etching, leather burnishing and several other crafts so your recipient can customize almost anything.
Price: $49 on Amazon
Soap making kits
Making cold process soap is fun and rewarding, but as a newbie, it can be taunting to stare at an ingredient list that includes lye, oils, fragrances and pigments. Bramble Berry’s beginners kits are the perfect way to get started and include everything your recipient needs, including safety googles (EXTREMELY important when handling lye) and a digital scale. Beginner kits include lavender and orange or, for soap makers with a bit more experience, marble-like swirls.
Price: $60 to $150 from Brambleberry
Cricut Explore Air 2
Anyone who dabbles in crafting and DIY probably already knows what a Cricut is, but if not: it’s a robot with a friggin’ knife attached to it.
That oversimplifies things a bit, but the Cricut is a device capable of cutting incredibly intricate designs with high precision, fast. It can handle cuts in a few minutes that would take hours to do by hand (and would totally leave your hand cramping.)
Tired of cutting things out? Swap out the blade for a pen, and have it draw or write, instead, or a scoring tool to prep paper projects for any folding they might need. It’ll help you make greeting cards, or gift boxes, or custom t-shirts, or stickers, or a mountain of other things. Cricut loaned me (Greg) a machine to check out a few weeks ago and I don’t think it’s been turned off for a full day since.
The Explore Air 2 is the company’s latest mid-range device, and can handle cutting paper, vinyl, cardstock, poster board, various fabrics, and loads of other thin materials. The free design software that comes with it is way more capable than I expected, and they’ve got an add-on subscription service that can help you source ready-to-use art until you’re ready to bring your own. It’s got built-in Bluetooth for when you want to control it from your iOS or Android device, and can handle materials up to 12″ wide. If you know anyone who already has a Cricut up and running, mats (sticky sheets that hold your material in place while the machine is cutting) and things like vinyl/cardstock are probably welcome stocking stuffers.
(And for anyone who’s ever thought about getting into laser cutting, the fundamentals are incredibly similar. While I hesitate to recommend anyone randomly buy a laser cutter as a gift because they require training to use safely, a lot of the core knowledge you pick up here — working with vector art, efficiently arranging things on your cutting surface, dealing with different materials, etc — will translate quite easily.)
Price: $180 from Amazon
Electric Eel Wheel Nano
Do you know someone who loves knitting, crocheting or weaving? Chances are if they love working with yarn, they might want to level up to spinning their own yarn. If you have a friend who is curious about spinning, but not ready to commit to a full-sized spinning wheel yet, considering gifting them the compact Electric Eel Wheel Nano. Of course, they’ll need fiber to spin. The Woolery’s hand spinner bundle includes five different kinds of wool so they can decide which one they like best.
Caran D’Ache Neocolor II
Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble pastels are extremely satisfying to work with. First, you lay down a light or thick layer of pigment. Then you can smush it around, like with oil pastels. And then you can brush water over everything to turn it into a vibrant painting. Depending on how Neocolor II is used, it works on many different materials in addition to paper, including glass and textiles (cover designs with a piece of scrap fabric and then heat set it with an iron).
Price: Starts at $14.99 for a box of 10 colors on Amazon
This one really only works if they’ve already got a relatively recent iPad (or you’re looking to buy them one of those, too). But if they do, an Apple Pencil can really help them take things to the next level. From sketching out ideas in Procreate (also a great gift, if they don’t have it!), to jotting down measurements in the Notes app, to creating vector art for cutting/etching/t-shirt making, a really good stylus is leagues ahead of just poking at the screen with your finger. It can be a little tricky to determine which Pencil is compatible with which iPad, so you might have to do some sleuthing there.
Price: $99 to $129 from Apple, depending on which one you want.
Macrame plant hangers are in style and practical. It’s also really easy to learn. Modern Macrame’s beginner kit comes with everything your recipient needs, including rope, beads and a pattern. If they’re not into indoor flora or live with aggressive plant-loving cats, try a wall-hanging kit instead.
Price: Kits start at $36
Robotime puzzles and miniature houses
Know someone who loves jigsaw puzzles but is looking for a new challenge? Get them a kit from Robotime. The company is known for its elaborate wooden puzzle kits made out of lightweight plywood, and extremely detailed miniature house kits.