Novice Crafter? There's a Project for That!

Lifestyle and Budget Associated Press

Inspired by that colorful homemade gingerbread on Instagram or the hand-painted coasters on Pinterest, but worried about your skills?

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Don't fret. Craft stores and websites are targeting novice crafters this holiday season and beyond with how-to online videos and projects that don't take hours to make.

Part of the push is an attempt to cater to millennials, those who were born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. Many in this generation feel inspired by what they see online but don't have the time, skills or money for complicated projects.

Take Michaels, the nation's largest arts and crafts chain. It's changed its online video strategy to better appeal to beginners and is offering tips to make holiday decorating easy.

It's also expanding its class offering to include such areas as holiday decor and cake decorating.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores Inc. created a new page last month called www.joann.com/holiday-gifts , to make it easier to shop for projects. It's also highlighting projects that take less than an hour.

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"People want to be creative. We just have to help them realize their dream," said Steve Carlotti, Michaels' executive vice president of marketing.

Meanwhile, Nicole Farb, a former investment banker, launched Darby Smart in January 2013 to create kits that take Pinterest dreams and make them an attainable reality.

Darby Smart finds craft creators on Pinterest and elsewhere on the Web and then packages their ideas into kits so anyone can make the projects. The designers get a cut of the sale.

For the holidays, you can order a gingerbread house kit for $29 or stocking kits for $19. Projects range in price from $19 to $49.

Farb says her biggest customers are those in the 29-to-35 age group.

Here are some tips to get you started:

GET INSPIRATION: To get into the holiday craft spirit, seek ideas at stores, on social sites such as Pinterest and YouTube, and in magazines.

On Nov. 20, Jo-Ann is launching a holiday hub called share.joann.com that will feature projects from some of the most influential bloggers, a social media feed of projects its customers have created, and inspiration developed by its internal team based on the season's trends.

To share your projects, just hashtag them with #makeitgiveit on Instagram, says Nicole Long, manager of inspiration at Jo-Ann.

For more inspiration, click on Cre8time.org, which was started by the CHA Foundation, an arm of the Craft & Hobby Association trade group. It provides a forum to share crafting experiences.

STICK TO THE LIST: Make a list of supplies and buy just those, says Nadine Schwartz, director of sales at the Craft & Hobby Association, because impulse items can be tempting.

Another good rule: Buy tools you'll use on more than one project.

Darby Smart's Farb says she has learned that the more popular do-it-yourself kits have been those that offered tools that can be used again. This season, Darby Smart has a $29 rust wood ornament kit that includes a wood burning hot pen.

ENROLL IN CLASS: Check out classes on the websites of Michaels and Jo-Ann.

Jo-Ann's beginner classes cost $35 and last 2 1/2 hours.Michaels' Carlotti says that its classes at the stores are increasingly catering to the entire family. Classes feature such topics as paper crafting and crocheting.

Michaels is also starting to offer classes online and making its YouTube videos more instructive.

"We are a big believer in education," Chuck Rubin, Michaels CEO told investors in September. "It's good for the enthusiast. It's critical for the novice customer."

SEARCH FOR BARGAINS ONLINE: This year, you have more options to compare prices online. Michaels expanded into e-commerce this year for the first time. Meanwhile, Amazon.com has increased its craft selection by more than 25 percent.

TURN CRAFTING INTO FAMILY TIME: Kiwi Crate, usually a subscription service, offers craft projects for the kids. For the holidays, it sells kits you can buy without a subscription, ranging from $9.95 to $17.95. Holiday kits include a cardboard gingerbread house that comes with such materials as felt sheets, glue, pipe cleaners and tissue paper squares.

RECYCLE WHAT YOU HAVE: Michael Londrigan, dean of academic affairs at LIM College, a fashion college in New York, says to look around your house and garage for scraps of wood, yarn or other items to come up with materials for projects. Or go to flea markets.

Last year, Londrigan said he made 12 birdhouses for friends featuring roofs made of folded license plates that transformed into roofs when folded. Each license plate he used was from a state where his friends lived.

"It's about personalizing the gift so there's a memory attached to it," he said.

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