Walking into a restaurant near to my hometown recently, a leaflet advertising a local craft workshop caught my eye. It isn’t the first time I’ve noticed a craft class or meet-up in the town, but a sudden influx of leaflets, supported by social media, is a sign that these workshops aren’t the average ‘knitting club’. For a start, each one promoted a Facebook page or website on the leaflet and, it occurred to me that an important part of crafting these days is the community and, in a small Welsh town, there’s always a community to be found online.
Social media and blogging are important for today’s crafters. Facebook pages promote shops or meet-ups, crafters can discuss projects on Twitter, pick up ideas from Pinterest and Instagram their makes. Now, even the remotest makers can enjoy discussing ideas with others and social media has become a place dedicated to enabling crafters to build and maintain a community with one another.
Although blogging might not be considered social media, it is an add-on to this and is also vital in creating a community online. Bloggers such as Tilly and the Buttons and So Zo… What Do You Know? are able to build a network with their readers, set up collaborative projects, such as So Zo’s Me Made May, and promote and sell their work online.
A vital tool
Hannah Karim, who blogs at Dainty and Ivory, considers the online crafting community extremely beneficial for her blog and social media. As well as the blog, Hannah also runs a monthly handmade gift swap, under the hashtag #DICraftSwap.
Hannah started Dainty and Ivory in late 2011 but it didn’t become a craft blog until around two years ago. It was then that Hannah started experimenting with craft, inspired by the bloggers she followed online. One of the blogs she admired was A Beautiful Mess, but Hannah also credits Zoe from Ladybird Likes as a huge influence.
Hannah says, “I admire Zoe because she put all her energy and passion into a creative outlet, created wonderful jewellery pieces and turned her passion into a successful business. I can’t imagine it ever being easy but I’d love to be able to do that myself one day.”
In April this year, Hannah began the #DICraftSwap feature, where bloggers send each other handmade and bought gifts, according to a theme they are given. Hannah took part in a similar swap that she saw in a magazine but when the swaps ended, she had the idea of starting her own.
“I was contemplating starting my own but I was unsure whether there would be any interest,” she says. “One night I was taking part in a crafty chat on twitter and someone was asking if anyone knew of any craft swaps. I spoke to her and she ended up inspiring me to go through with the swaps.”
For Hannah, these craft swaps, as well as blogging about the swaps and sharing the posts through social media, are about forming a community and making friends.
She says, “For me it was a great way to learn and experiment with new crafts, whilst meeting new people with the same hobby.”
Although Hannah didn’t start the blog for the social aspect, she soon realised the importance of using social media to interact with other bloggers and crafters. Hannah says that once she began using her Twitter account to promote her blog, she saw an increase in blog traffic and began to talk to a lot of people with the same interests as her. Twitter was also a vital tool in making the craft swaps happen.
She continues, “Twitter is one of the best ways to promote and spread word about the swaps.”
Outside of social media I’ve never really met anyone who has been into crafts or making things
“So being able to interact with people on social media and talk about something we all have in common is fun.”
Asked why she thinks social media plays an important part in today’s crafting, Hannah thinks it enables people to share their interests with others that they might not know outside of social media. In turn, she says, they are setting up their own workshops and craft nights and getting other people involved.
She concludes, “It sounds cheesy but I think it has brought together lots of crafty people.”
Facebook pages are also a vital way of building and maintaining a community, especially for craft businesses such as mobile sewing studio Thimble, based in west Wales. Owner Camille Jacquemart uses Facebook to entice people to take her classes and often posts photos of projects to help spread the word.
Since there is currently no Thimble website, Facebook is the primary social media site that Camille uses and she says it has been extremely beneficial to her business and that people often find out about what she does through the site.
Camille says, “Social media has been a huge benefit, especially considering the fact that I don’t even have a website yet. When I ask people how they’ve heard about me, it’s mostly through Facebook.”
Camille also uses Pinterest and Instagram, but to a far lesser degree. She uses Instagram, she says, so that people can gain more of an insight into who is behind the business and she uses Pinterest for inspiration.
But, overall, Camille thinks that social media is a massive benefit to the crafting community as a whole and says she wouldn’t have enjoyed the same success had it not been for Facebook.
She says, “It’s been amazing to realise the amount of people who are interested in the classes and that has been through Facebook. Whereas if I did it with flyers, it would have probably taken twice the time.”
She concludes, “It’s been quite interesting to see that influence in the field that I’m working in.”
Helping each other
Another business that knows the importance of social media is Craft Hour, who have a Twitter account and Facebook page. Both are used to promote craft businesses and encourage crafters to display their work. They also run a Twitter based event, under the hashtag CraftHour, every Sunday evening at 7 until 8pm. Here, crafters can meet and share their latest creations and be inspired by other handmade talent.
Members from Craft Hour say the event is a good idea for anyone wanting to buy handmade, as it enables shoppers to find something special and to interact with the person making it.
CraftHour is a really busy and lively event, with people joining in from all over the globe.
“It’s like a weekly international exhibition, jam-packed with hundreds of crafters, customers, bloggers & businesses tweeting, retweeting, chatting, buying and selling.”
They continue, “What makes the event so exciting & friendly is the interaction between people. We’ve found the handmade craft community to be so upbeat & welcoming, supporting one another’s creative work, discussing techniques & ideas, and admiring other crafters’ creations. There’s always a fabulous sense of mutual support from like-minded friends.”
The Craft Hour Facebook page also supports this notion, and crafters are encouraged to post links to their work in the week. There are weekly features, such as Milestone Monday, where the spotlight is on Facebook pages who want to gain more followers, and Treasury Tuesday, a collection of favourite products from other shops.
Craft Hour says, “We like to keep our creative friends on their toes, and hope to inspire them to keep sharing their gorgeous makes with our enthusiastic community.”
Craft Hour has now been running for six months, having started at the end of January. There is also a Pinterest page and an Etsy team, which has provided the crafting community with even more ways to connect.
The team say, “We’ve been utterly bowled over by the enthusiasm with which the creatives and customers have engaged with our community and how quickly the Craft Hour crowd is growing.”
After seeing a real boom in interest for genuine handmade products, Craft Hour noticed the link between running a business successfully and social media and the difficulty that business often face in utilising social media correctly.
“We would see friends opening online shops full of gorgeous handmade products, but being disheartened because nobody seemed to be buying their work,” they say. “The customers are out there, but they couldn’t connect with them.”
Now Craft Hour has morphed into a community where crafters can also learn from one another, and help other, likeminded, businesses to connect more with their shoppers. Social media plays a huge part in this. The team say that social networks have given the project a sense of identity and have made it easier for contributors to discover them. Without social media, they say, it would have been much harder to attract creative crafters and grow the community.
“Social media enables your audience to see a little more of the person behind the brand, which is especially great for creative industries where the individual is often what makes the product really special.”
Social media shows that there is a wealth of crafters out there. Crafting is now much more about community building, as opposed to local gatherings, and has now evolved so that crafters from all over the world can get to know each other through social media. Through Facebook, Twitter and other sites, we are able to discover and share our passions with people with the same interests.