Monday, 20 May 2013

Learning a new craft every month - Anna Simmonds of Crafting Fingers



Through Twitter I have recently come across the work and blog of Anna Simmonds of Crafting Fingers fame. Anna and I had been tweeting to each other about blogging and she had been really helpful in coming up with a few suggestions about idea generation for blog posts and also she has given me dome great feeedback about my own blog. Curious to find out a bit more about Anna and her very helpful ideas I visited her blog and discovered heaps of fab blog posts full of creative crafty tips, from social media to product reviews to her crafting challenge of learning a new craft a month throughout 2013. I think this is an amazing and inspiring idea so I asked Anna if she would tell us a little about where the idea came from and how she's getting along with it. This is what she had to say....

'At the end of 2012 I was in a creative rut. It’s natural to look back at the year when New Year’s rolls around, and I realised I hadn’t done anything creative. My creative life (and yarn stash) was uprooted when I moved to the United Kingdom in April 2012 from Finland. One year I was assisting my mother in her handmade business, building my photography portfolio, and making paper cuts and cards in my spare time. Crafting and design weren't things I got interested in in school, they were just always a part of my life. I took them for granted. Then I moved.

It was easy to get caught up in day-to-day adventures, and my crafting projects got put to the side. My works in progress gathered dust. I’d taken less than a hundred photos in 2012. I hadn’t even made a Happy Birthday card from scratch. New Year’s Resolutions were never my style, but I knew something had to change. Something drastic. Dreaming up beautiful projects and hoarding ideas on Pinterest didn’t mean anything if I never put my crafting skills to use. I’d gotten comfortable with thinking of ideas instead of taking action on them. I wanted to start a project that would support my love for handmade, that would keep me accountable, and would push my boundaries.

Crafting Fingers is that step beyond my comfort zone. In 2013 I’m learning a new craft a month. It’s not one craft a year. It’s twelve.

Creativity in Adversity

Jumping into a craft each month has its ups and downs. I’m not just picking one tutorial to follow every month; I want to truly grasp the craft I’m learning. Each craft is different, but the process for me each month is to first study the craft. What is it, who does it, what is its history and where is it going? I get a feel for a craft then I try a few techniques. There have been quite a few poorly made purchases and pricked fingers on the way, but those are little lessons, too.

Pushing boundaries isn’t easy. Every month so far I have chosen a craft I’ve wanted to learn for years. There are literally years of excuses to get over. I’m fighting against a backlog of preconceived ideas of what the craft will be like and what I’ll be able to achieve.

The first two months, as I learned crochet and embroidery, were especially difficult. It had been so long since I had tackled a new craft that I’d forgotten just how messy it gets. I had forgotten what it was like to be bad at crafting. But the truth is that creativity really flourishes in adversity. If you force yourself to make do with what you have, you’re narrowing down the scope of what’s possible. Instead of spreading your creative energy across a big open expanse of ideas, you can focus on smaller solutions with more impact.

In February I was close to giving up on embroidery. I had enjoyed studying the techniques and history of embroidery but it seemed like the thread and I just didn’t get along! I was left with ugly, tangled messes, broken threads and sore fingers. But that’s where Crafting Fingers comes in. The blog keeps me accountable, and I wasn’t going to back down on embroidery when I had publicly announced I was going to learn it. I ditched the expensive embroidery thread and decided to embroider with yarn, and the results were something I could be proud of. Without something to keep me accountable, I would have given up and probably never tried embroidery again.

We can all support handmade

Crafting Fingers started with an audience of two: my husband and my mother. I couldn’t have picked better people to support me as I got invested in a year long project. At the end of January, Simply Crochet magazine linked to my crochet tutorial on Twitter and overnight my project was a bit more public. It wasn’t fame, but suddenly people I hadn’t connected to before were supporting my project. It made me more determined to provide useful information on crafting as I went along. It felt like I wasn’t just learning crafts for me, anymore.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt as I’ve been working on Crafting Fingers is that validation is important for creative projects. We can all support handmade with more than just our time and money; encouraging and sharing the work of handmade crafters goes a long way, too. I’m working on a resource list for my blog of my favourite craft books and blogs because of this lesson!


As I’ve thrown myself into new crafts (crochet, embroidery, calligraphy, and stamping so far) I’ve been lucky enough to be mentioned on the Country Living magazine editor’s blog. Mollie Makes has mentioned me in their magazine as ‘one to follow’, too. Those have been big moments for me, but day-to-day I’ve gotten support through blog comments, emails, and even just seeing my Twitter following grow. We’re not all magazine editors, but we all have the time to say ‘I love this’ to a crafter we support. And if giving feedback makes you nervous, that’s a worthwhile boundary to push! The scariest, most exciting part about creative projects is that we don’t always know where they’re going to end up. Crafting Fingers started as a new hobby, with an audience of two. Now, inspired by the passion of my readers, I want to keep this project going beyond 2013. I want to keep showing people that learning new crafts is fun, and doable. I believe learning new crafts is the best way to appreciate the value of handmade. That respect is good for all of us, hobbyists and professionals alike'.

If you want to find out more about Anna and her project please visit her website here

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