I travel a lot, especially in the last year (five states and four countries!), so I’ve been mobile crafting. Now I have a real home, in San Francisco, and I can finally live the dream of building a craft room (sigh), but I will always have a special love for the tools that got me through a year on the road. Whether you are hitting the road or just cutting back on clutter, what tools are absolutely essential to your crafting kit? Here are my top seven, leave yours in the comments:
- The websites namesake: the hot glue gun. You can make anything, anything, with a hot glue gun. Sure there are sometimes better adhesives for this-or-that purpose, but nothing beats a glue gun for versatility and ease. For all the 2nd-degree burns I’ve received and the uncleanable glue drips I’ve dropped, the glue gun will always by my go-to. If you are in a strange city and you don’t have a fully stocked craft closet, you can make pretty cool stuff by just glue gun-ing whatever found items together, eg:
- Exacto knife: OK, so you can’t fly with this on your carry-on. But arriving with an Exacto knife, a pair of scissors, and a tube of Elmer’s is almost worth paying the (exorbitant) check-bag-fees. This is another tool where danger and versatility come together–I guess I’m a fan of the dangerous ones. But just try using Fiscars to cut as precisely in tight areas, with tough materials, and you will see that a sharp Exacto knife wins hands-down. Plus, how else am I going to cut stencils? (And don’t say box cutters. Been there, done that, and I’m never going back.)
- Pliers. I try to bring a pair of needle-nose and a pair of jeweler’s pliers with me everywhere I go. If you don’t work with wire often, you can probably skip the jeweler’s pliers. But a good set of needle-nose pliers is just what the doctor ordered for snapping things, twisting things, poking things, squeezing things, and grabbing things. If you don’t have a pair I highly recommend getting one, even if you never work with wire. And if you do work with wire, well, you need no other tools.
- A needle kit, with all the crazy needles. Okay, so you’ll probably never use that needle that looks like a saber-tooth tiger’s teeth, but here are a few reasons you need a whole kit: embroidery thread, poking big or little holes in things, working with leather or cardboard or plastic, reaming and stringing beads, sewing (of course), tatting (more on that later), and poking creepy strangers on the subway. Plus, everyone knows that needles go missing all the time, so it is nice to have a few replacements at-the-ready (pro-tip: use a magnet on a stick to find needles buried in your carpet or in/under furniture). If you crochet, felt, or knit (I do), consider those needles included here. Safety-pins too.
- Scissors. Okay, everyone knows that this is essential I don’t even really need to put it on here, because what sane person would pack crafting supplies and leave out the scissors? But I can’t leave it off either. Since everyone already knows how important they are and how to use them, here is a photo of a project made with scissors, rather than a project made with scissors.
- Paint brush, I always pack at least one. I paint, but even if you don’t, a paint brush can be a workhorse for cleaning tiny scraps, spreading glitter, varnishing, applying Elmer’s, and generally applying things to other things. And even if you aren’t a “painter,” almost every DIYer finds themselves using paint sooner or later.
- Tape. This one is on the border between tools and supplies, but I’ll mention it because it is essential Some people swear by duct-tape. An entire making-things-industry (set design) relies on rolls and rolls of gaffers tape. I personally love the clean look you get from using double-sided mounting tape. Whatever your crafting bent, there is a tape or two you should always keep in your craft kit.
I may be forgetting something, because my craft kit always seems to include more than these seven things. Of course I always pack based on which projects I have lined up, so sometimes I end up with a one-trick-pony in my bag, like a pair of tile-cutters. And here is a philosophical question: where is the line between supplies and tools? A question for the ages.