When starting a new hobby it can be difficult to justify spending a lot of money – and for good reason. Why would you want to spend a lot on something you don’t know if you’re going to enjoy or continue doing? That usually means that when it comes to purchasing tools and materials for crafty hobbies like knitting and sewing, you go for the cheapest option…which unfortunately usually means a not very sustainable one. So how do you start a new hobby sustainably?
Defining what's sustainable for you
Firstly, there’s no shame in spending as little as you can on a new hobby. With living costs rising all the time, the last thing you want to be doing is paying for hobbies on your credit card – after all, I’m a strong advocate for ensuring your hobbies are just as financially sustainable as they are ecologically sustainable. The two aren’t complete opposites and it is possible to balance your ethics with what you can afford, it just takes a little determination.
Start by working out what your financial limit is: this is how much you reasonably want to spend getting started and how much you think you could afford each month if you decide you want to continue the hobby. It doesn’t need to be the same for each and this amount can change over time too – for example, you might decide £20 a month is sufficient for the first couple of months and then increase this as you develop your skills and become more interested in the hobby. It’s also worth thinking about the amount of time you’ll have to dedicate yourself to this new hobby, as it’s probably not worth spending a lot if you think you’re only going to do it once every few months. Don’t over stretch yourself here; it’s easy in the excitement of new things to try and do them all the time, but unless you’ve suddenly got a lot of time on your hands that this hobby can fill, the likelihood is you’ll need to fit it around your existing commitments and lifestyle.
Now that you’ve worked out how much you want to spend getting started, it’s worth thinking about what’s going to help you actually learn and enjoy your new hobby.
If you’re the kind of person to just jump straight in and work things out for yourself, there’s lots of great options. You can find plenty of free patterns online to start learning with and YouTube is a great place to learn as you go, as there’s a wealth of short tutorials on all sorts of specific crafty skills. There’s also a huge community online of crafters, particularly on Instagram, but also on Facebook and Reddit. Social media is great for finding inspiration, advice, feedback and support in learning your craft, so it can be a good place to start before you even buy any tools or materials.
If you perhaps learn better in a group or would feel more confident having hands-on support, you could take a beginner’s class in the craft you’re interested in. This is a super low commitment way of testing out whether you enjoy a craft before investing lots into it, as often beginner classes include all the tools, materials and patterns you need for the class. There’s no stupid questions in these classes and it can be helpful to be among others who are at the exact same stage in learning the craft as you are. Many crafts we do at home are often quite solitary too, so a class could be a good way to meet others interested in the same hobby as you.
It’s at this point, before you invest in any tools or materials, that you ought to consider your reasons for wanting to try this hobby. What does it offer you that you can’t get elsewhere? For example, this could be that you want to sew your own clothes because you struggle to find things on the high street that fit you. Now think about how you can undertake this new hobby in a way which is both financially and ecologically sustainable for you; sticking with the sewing example, you might decide to focus on using deadstock fabrics that would otherwise go to landfill. It might seem as though you’re placing a limitation on yourself at first, but it can actually be quite freeing to stick to your principals. Just don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t stick to them perfectly – no one is perfect and it’s better to be imperfectly sustainable than to reach for perfection.
Don't compare yourself to others
This is much easier said than done these days, particularly with the picture-perfect lives many people post online. However, it’s particularly important when you’re starting out to remember that things take time to learn. No-one is instantly amazing at anything the first time around – even Neo fell the first time he tried to jump in the Matrix, and he was ‘The One’. (Yes I’m quite pleased I managed to sneak a nerdy analogy in there!)
Give yourself time to learn and understand the very basics of your new hobby. This could be a few weeks, it could be a few months – we all learn differently and at different paces. At some point it should just click and you’ll realise you understand what you need to do without Googling or asking anyone. Remember that it can actually be really fun to be a complete beginner at something and the craft community as a whole is really supportive, so you have lots of opportunities to learn from others who are at a different stage in their learning journey.
Work out what tools and materials you need to get started
If you’re jumping straight into things and teaching yourself, this might be a little tricky to work out – but it can also be daunting if you’re choosing things to do after taking a class, so don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. You’ll be stepping outside of your comfort zone here, so it probably will be a little scary, but just remember that fear and excitement are the same thing, just interpreted differently by our brains.
Start by picking a free pattern or a tutorial for the craft you want to try, preferably something aimed at beginners. For those interested in sewing, good items to start with are t-shirts, simple bags and cushions, while for knitters and crocheters you might want to look at face scrubbies, dishcloths or scarves. Read through all of the instructions at least once before buying anything, as this way you’ll find out what tools the pattern or tutorial needs and how much material. Now that you have this information, you can start looking for things to buy. At this point, it might be worth considering bundle deals or gift sets if you can afford them, as there’s often a discount on them compared to buying the items separately. Some free patterns also have kits which contain everything you need to complete the pattern.
Choosing tools and materials is where you have the most impact in terms of sustainability. It can be tempting to spend 99p on a plastic seam ripper or £2 on a plastic crochet hook, but this is where your ethics and determination come in. Super cheap plastic items will inevitably break pretty quickly, so while it can be difficult to justify spending more on your tools at this stage, remember that if you buy cheap you always end up buying twice. It’s also worth considering that if you decide further down the line that this hobby isn’t for you, it’s generally far easier to sell or pass on quality tools and materials than it is cheap ones.
Don't be afraid to take more classes or learn new techniques
As you become more comfortable with your new hobby, it can be tempting to keep making things at the same level. It’s not to say this is a bad thing, but it can start to limit you if you become set in your ways. There’s never a time limit on when to take a new class or buy a slightly more advanced pattern with new techniques in – if anything you’ll naturally want to develop your skills and learn new techniques as you get more and more interested in and enjoyment from your new hobby.
Just keep in mind the same things as when you started this hobby – always assess what’s financially sustainable for you and what’s ethically acceptable for you in terms of ecological sustainability before deciding to take the plunge. These won’t necessarily be the same as when you started, but that’s okay. You might have less than you did previously because you’re situation’s changed, or if you’re lucky you might be able to afford more than when you started.
If you can’t quite afford something right now but you really want to do that class or buy that tool, there’s no harm in saving up for it or asking friends and family to put something towards it. In the mean time, just continue enjoying your hobby and working towards those classes or those tools you’re saving for. After all, your hobby shouldn’t be a source of stress or anxiety, so if you aren’t enjoying it for whatever reason, give yourself time to have a break too.