Start a New Hobby You’ll Actually Keep With a Crafter’s Box Subscription

Crafter's Box
Crafter's Box

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Three cookbooks, a pair of roller skates, and a box of colored pencils: These are some of the items I’ve accumulated since the COVID-19 lockdowns started in March. Like people holed up in their homes around the world, I thought a pandemic would be a great opportunity to start a new hobby. My sudden lack of commute and social life left me with a lot of free time, and I was desperate for new distractions. I pictured myself at the end of quarantine (which surely wouldn’t last more than a couple of months) with an apartment filled with crafts and baked goods.

Reality didn’t quite align with my expectations. Nearly eight months later, I still spend most of my time at home, and my early-quarantine impulse buys have been packed away. I had found an excuse to abandon each one: I didn’t have the right ingredients to make a new recipe, the park where I skated got too crowded, I forgot to buy a sharpener for my colored pencils. These may seem like minor setbacks, but in a world where the smallest tasks now seemed daunting, they were enough to keep me in my comfort zone.

That’s why I was so excited to test out The Crafter’s Box, a service that combines artist-led workshops with curated kits. With step-by-step video instructions and generous supply boxes, each project offered through their subscription and marketplace is designed to give crafters everything they need to create a piece from start to finish. In other words, they’re quitter-proof. As someone with a long history of half-finished projects, this sounded like my best shot at starting a new hobby and sticking to it.

Crafter's Box

Crafting for Dummies

Projects from Crafter’s Box include knit pillows, pressed flowers, crocheted scarves, and stained glass. For my first craft, I chose a kit called macramé landscape. I hadn’t done macramé since Girl Scouts, but it seemed like a safe entry point into the world of yarnwork. Plus, example images of the wall hanging made it look like something I may actually want to keep, unlike the keychains I made at sleepaway camp.

My optimism took a slight hit when I received the box. It was filled with yarn—lots of it—plus other random tools that I would apparently need to use. I couldn’t connect the supplies in front of me with the picture of the product I had seen on the website. Maybe someone with more talent could turn this into art, but someone who got a B- in art class? I was beginning to doubt myself.

Luckily, I didn’t have to navigate the venture alone. My kit came with access to a video workshop led by artist Rachel Breuklander, who conceived the macramé landscape design herself. Her authority made up for any confidence I lacked, and to my relief, she led the workshop as if her viewers were total beginners.

She didn’t leave any part of the process for crafters to figure out on their own. Each step was demonstrated and explained, and potential questions—like does this knot need to be perfect? or should I worry about this loose string?—were answered before I had a chance to think of them. The workshop also didn’t expect me to provide supplies of my own, even basic ones like scissors and tape. Whatever equipment Breuklander used on screen was waiting for me in my Crafter’s Box.

The whole workshop was just over 45 minutes long, but the project took me several hours to complete. Most of the work—like measuring string and tying knots—was repetitive, which allowed me to pause the video at points and move my hands mindlessly while blasting Folklore. When I fantasized about getting into crafting at the start of quarantine, this is what I pictured. The fact that my final product actually resembled the art in the picture was a nice bonus.

Michele Debczak, Mental Floss

The Value of a Crafter’s Box

Aspiring hobbyists interested in using Crafter’s Box have two options: the online marketplace, where customers can purchase products and workshops à la carte, or a subscription. Each month, subscribers receive a new curated craft kit and access to the video workshop that goes with it. The featured artist that month will also host a live, virtual chat for subscribers. Customers can sign up for a six-month plan for $360, a three-month subscription for $185, or a monthly subscription for $65 with the option to cancel any time.

While $65 may seem like a lot for one video and some crafting supplies, it may be worth it if you’re a chronic quitter like me. Though the boxes are designed for one craft, the skills taught in the lessons can help you with other projects down the line, and many of the supplies are reusable. Now that I know how to tie macramé knots, all I need is more yarn to make something new with my leftover equipment.

Unlike the many hobbies I tried picking up in 2020, this one may stick. I never had to worry about shopping for supplies or even finding the right how-to video to watch, so the familiar temptation to give up never came. Crafter’s Box made me realize that maybe I’m not allergic to new hobbies after all, because when there was nothing else to think about but the activity at hand, I found it hard to quit.

You can find out more about Crafter's Box here.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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7 Fascinating Facts About Henri Matisse

Alvin Langdon Coburn, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Alvin Langdon Coburn, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As one of the greatest colorists of the 20th century, Henri Matisse largely shaped modern art. He frequently experimented with different media, styles, and art movements throughout his career, influenced by the artists with whom he surrounded himself. One of his most famous works is Woman with a Hat (1905), a significant example of the Fauvist movement in French art. Aside from paintings, he produced drawings, sculptures, and graphic art as well. Here are seven interesting facts about Henri Matisse’s life as an artist.

1. Henri Matisse studied law and worked as a clerk.

Even though Matisse is known for his artistic mastery, he was originally set on becoming a lawyer. He studied law, passed the bar, and worked as a clerk for a law office. He attended drawing classes in the morning before going to the office. Matisse’s father wanted Henri, his eldest child, to eventually take over the family grain business—but Henri wasn’t interested.

2. While recovering from appendicitis, Henri Matisse found his passion.

Matisse suffered from appendicitis when he was young, and it changed the course of his life. After his surgery, he was confined to a bed for months. The long recovery period bored him so much that his mother gave him a paint box to lift his spirits. It was this pivotal moment that helped him discover his passion for art. He loved the freedom that it gave him, and once said it felt like "a kind of paradise." After leaving his job as a law clerk and defying his father's wish for him to take over the business, he moved to Paris to fully pursue art.

3. Henri Matisse had a rivalry with Pablo Picasso.

Matisse and Picasso first met at a gathering in the salon of American novelist and art collector Gertrude Stein, who supported both of their careers. Initially, they disliked each other, but they respected one other as artists and became lifelong friends despite their competitive natures. Matisse himself even compared their relationship to a boxing match. "No one has ever looked at Matisse's paintings more carefully than I; and no one has looked at mine more carefully than he,” Picasso once said.

4. Henri Matisse and his wife, Amélie, blended personal and professional interests.

Matisse married Amélie Parayre, the unconventional daughter of a liberal schoolteacher, in 1898. As Matisse’s reputation for wildly innovative painting developed, Amélie became his artistic muse, model, and business manager. In 1935, Matisse hired a Russian refugee named Lydia Delectorskaya as a model, and they shared a deep understanding of Matisse’s art. Amélie was jealous of that partnership, and the Matisses separated in July 1939. After a brief absence, Delectorskaya returned to Matisse and worked for him until his death.

5. Henri Matisse developed the technique of “painting with scissors.”

Matisse’s surgery for abdominal cancer in 1941 effected his mobility, and afterwards he couldn’t stand for long periods of time. But his art entered a new, brilliant phase during his recovery. Matisse developed the technique of “painting with scissors” in which he cut painted papers into shapes and arranged them on his walls. He recut, combined, and assembled until he was content with the outcome.

6. Henri Matisse’s final work was the design for a stained-glass window.

The last work that Matisse completed before his death in 1954 was La Rosace, a circular stained-glass window [PDF]. Future New York governor Nelson Rockefeller commissioned it as a memorial for his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, an art patron who was a great admirer of Matisse. “Nothing would have pleased mother more,” he wrote to a colleague. It was installed at the Union Church of Pocantico Hills in Tarrytown, New York, where it remains today.

7. Henri Matisse’s daughter compiled a comprehensive record of his work.

Marguerite Duthuit, Matisse’s daughter with model Caroline Joblaud, was born four years before he married Amélie and modeled for him over several decades. She also served as her father’s assistant and archivist. After his death, Marguerite compiled the definitive record of Matisse’s artistic process and a catalog of his paintings. She was working on the final stages of the catalog when she died of a heart attack at age 87.