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There’s nothing like cozying up on a cold day with a cup of tea and a craft project—whether your discipline of choice be embroidery, painting, macrame, or (like me) hand quilting. After discovering modern hand quilting—sewing layers of fabric together with running stitches—I was hooked, and have since snuggled up for many a night with a quilt on my lap, sewing until my fingers are calloused and I’m buried under a new handmade blanket.
And I’m not the only Denverite looking for something to make. Interest in handcraft spiked during the COVID-19 shutdowns and continues to grow. Revenue at Etsy doubled in 2020 and saw a 9.1 percent revenue increase from 2021 to 2022. According to a 2020 study, the global creative manufacturing and handmade sector is predicted to grow by 20 percent every year, reaching $1 trillion by 2024.
Here in the Mile High City, it’s no different. Kristen Dussault, a co-op member of Fancy Tiger Crafts says that the popular craft shop saw a surge in online orders during the pandemic, and in 2022 has been adding more knitting and sewing classes—which often sell out—to its lineup of events. “We have a lot of customers that come in and say that they learned how to knit when everything shut down, and [now] they’re really expanding,” she says.
Six-year-old Adults & Crafts, a Denver-based craft kit subscription company has similar anecdotes. “At the peak of the pandemic, that was an incredible boost for the business because people were at home,” says Stephanie Kim, director of marketing for the company. “It was something different and creative [that you could do while] taking your break from work.”
And the benefits to picking up an embroidery hoop or a pair of knitting needles offer more than just fighting boredom. Health experts say that the repetitive motions commonly found in handcraft can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which quiets the fight-or-flight response that results from stressful situations. Studies have shown that making art can help people heal from illness or injury by allowing them to express their emotions visually, reducing depression and negative thoughts.
But it can be tough to start from scratch. That’s where using a subscription service or taking a class can help, Kim says. “We kind of lose our creativity a little bit as we grow up, and that’s mainly because, unless you’re just an artsy person, a lot of people—teachers, parents, whoever—will kind of handle that for you,” she says.
As a crafty person in her youth, Kim says something was missing in her life when she started a nine-to-five job post college. She would relax over dinner with friends, but didn’t have time or energy to be creative. “You go home, maybe you scroll a little bit, veg out, and go to sleep and do the whole thing all over again,” she says. “For me, it felt like there was a hidden, tucked-away side of me that I just never gave love to. So when I [rediscovered crafts], it really felt reigniting, like my spark just came alive again.”
Adults & Crafts offers beginner-friendly kits for activities like wood burning, metal stamping, candle-making, and tie-dying—many for under $40 a pop. Kits come with everything you need (and can be customized with your favorite designs or color palettes), plus simple instructions. Also available: monthly subscriptions and “craft parties,” where you can gather friends and family around a shared making session, with the option to hire an instructor (virtual or in person) for $100 per hour.
Kim says that while crafting is a great way to relax and unplug solo, social crafting is especially great for the holidays, when families want a group activity that doesn’t involve a screen. “In a time that can kind of be high stress around the holidays, [a craft kit] is the most fun and convenient thing that can be sent to you,” Kim says. “It’s something that you can do with your family that’s really hands-on.”
So whether you’re gifting something handmade this season, staving off post-Thanksgiving political chatter, or just interested in busting out the hot glue gun, here are three ways to pick up a creative hobby this fall.
Take a Handcrafting Class
Denver Art Museum
Adult programs abound at the Denver Art Museum, where students can enroll in daylong, four-week, or six-week workshops spanning oil painting, embroidery, bookmaking, block printing, and more. Tickets for the spring 2023 semester go on sale November 11 for the public (and earlier for museum friends and members).
Art Students League of Denver
The Art Students League of Denver has been inspiring Denverites for 35 years from its headquarters at 200 Grant Street. Enrollment is ongoing for fall and winter classes, which include ceramics, hat making, and watercolor painting. Become a member for $59 per year to enjoy discounted class prices and open studio sessions.
Rosy Rings Studio
Stop into Congress Park’s Rosy Rings Studio not only to shop for handmade candles and home goods, but also to learn to make them yourself. Classes for making candles, fall wreaths, and sachets start at $55. And don’t leave without arranging a bouquet of botanicals from the dried flower bar for $0.50–$9 per stem.
Spend a weekend learning to make a table or bookshelf at Woodworks Studio in the Overland neighborhood (the next session starts November 12). Intermediate classes—which include instruction for projects such as coffee tables, butcher blocks, and jewelry boxes—are held Monday and Wednesday evenings.
Head to LambShoppe in Congress Park to learn everything you need to know about knitting and crochet—and of course, shop for yarn. Beginners can learn to cast on for free with the purchase of a baby blanket kit, and more seasoned needle bearers can attend a series of “Christmas Crunch” events this month to make gifts for the holidays.
Craft With Friends
Happy hour includes more than just wine and beer at LoDo’s Upstairs Circus, where you can sip on local craft suds, seasonal cocktails, and bubbles while you choose a craft from the menu of home and lifestyle goods, wearables, and art projects. Visit Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. for $10 off kits ($32 per person).
Fancy Tiger Open Craft Nights
In addition to its impressive class lineup, South Broadway darling Fancy Tiger Crafts offers an open craft night every Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m. Just bring a work in progress (or come early to shop for one) and connect with the creative community.
Adults & Crafts Kits
Perfect for roommates or families who want an activity that doesn’t revolve around political bickering, a craft kit from Adults & Crafts can be an easy and convenient way to make something for any skill level. Kits start at $29.
Modern Quilt Guild Chapters
Chat about modern quilting and participate in challenges, classes, and community sewing days by joining a Colorado chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild (Denver Metro, Boulder, or Fort Collins). Membership to the Denver chapter is $45 per year.
Local Knitting Groups
Bring your knitting needles to Berkeley’s airplane-adorned FlyteCo Brewing on Monday nights to meet up with fiber lovers and enjoy $1 off beers. Or sip coffee with fellow enthusiasts in North Denver on Sunday mornings at Waldschänke Ciders & Coffee.
Shop for Sustainable Art Supplies
Lincoln Park’s Recreative Denver is a community art center and nonprofit organization that gathers donations of clean and usable craft supplies and sells them at more affordable prices than what you might find at a commercial shop. Browse for yarn, fabric, sewing notions, paper, frames, wood, metal, and fine-art supplies to fuel your next project.
The Craft Box
The Craft Box in Wheat Ridge is a thrift store that deals strictly in gently used craft supplies. Here, you can buy and sell anything from flannel to styrofoam to faux florals. You’ll need an appointment to sell your scraps, but you’re doing it for a good cause: Anything that doesn’t sell gets donated to local charities.