A Himmeli mobile.

A Himmeli mobile. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove

If you love to create but find that most of your craft efforts end up bundled up in the bottom of a drawer or consigned to the ''great unfinished projects'' box, then these six simple projects may be just what you need to get re-inspired. We asked some of Melbourne's most creative artists and craftspeople to come up with easy projects that could be completed quickly using materials found around the home, with an eye to reusing everyday materials. Once you get started, you might even rediscover the pleasure of making home-made gifts, a tradition that's making a comeback among Melbourne's growing community of craft enthusiasts, artists and food lovers.

Himmeli mobiles and tree decorations

Skill level: Beginner.

Crochet monster by Julie Ramsden.

Crochet monster by Julie Ramsden.

Materials: Plastic straws, wool, scissors.

The word ''himmeli'' means sky, and these delicate Finnish decorations, traditionally made from straw, were originally hung above the dining table to encourage a good harvest. Now mostly used as decorations at Christmas, himmeli are pyramid-shaped sculptures that can be made as small or as elaborate as you wish.

Letterpress printer and conservator Carolyn Fraser began making himmeli only recently after she was captivated by their elegant structure. Using plastic straws and wool, Fraser enlisted a small group of preschoolers to help and says the children mastered the technique in minutes.

Mini pom poms make cute decorations.

Mini pom poms make cute decorations.

Method: Once you have cut the straws to the desired shape, thread them together using a series of knots until you have built a pyramid shape (or decahedron).

A good demonstration of the technique can be seen on Chicago craft blogger Aunt Peaches' website, auntpeaches.com. She links to a Finnish video that expertly explains the simple process (ignore the Finnish commentary - you don't need to understand it).

See more of Carolyn's work here.

Market purse by Pene Durston.

Market purse by Pene Durston. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove

Crochet monster

Skill level: Beginner to intermediate crochet skills.

Materials: About 50 grams each of two types of wool, one with a shaggy texture for the head. Scraps of other wools (try blue, white and black) for eyes. A small-medium crochet hook, medium-large crochet hook, tapestry needle, craft stuffing.

Market purse by Pene Durston.

Market purse by Pene Durston. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove

Julie Ramsden's soft sculptures are a creative outlet that she says is a natural extension of her graphic design practice. She started crocheting when her daughter, now 9, was born and she says her creatures are often inspired by those in children's story books including Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are. So impressive are her creative skills she was recently asked to crochet two giant quadrapi (giant squid) for an animated film clip for Wax Taylor and Aloe Blacc, as well as an anatomically correct human heart for Kate Miller-Heidke.

Method: Ramsden but she encourages people to simply start crocheting and see where their imagination takes them. Most of her creatures evolve using some basic crochet techniques. Only one crochet stitch is used, going around and around to create a tube, decreasing stitches towards the bottom few rows. Legs, arms, and whites of the eyes and horns are made using the same technique and begin by picking up stitches in a circle. The eye details, using simple embroidery stitches, are put on last and that's when the monster's personality really comes to life.

Instructions for the crochet monster are available here.

Upcycled duck by Jenny Collodetti.

Upcycled duck by Jenny Collodetti. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove

Ramsden's monsters are sold at online store georgielove.com or see more of her designs here.

Mini pom poms

Skill level: Beginner.

Paper garlands by Kim Hurley.

Paper garlands by Kim Hurley. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove

Materials: Wool, a four-pronged dinner fork, scissors.

Graphic designer Bec Albinson opened Little Shop in 2009 and has been selling local handmade and designer products since. These mini pom-poms are a cute way to decorate Christmas gifts and cards and when threaded make lovely ribbon for wrapping or a garland for your Christmas tree.

If you have leftover wool at home you can start straight away.

Method: Wrap a length of wool around your fork about 40-50 times (the number of loops will determine the size of the pom-pom) then snip off the end of the wool. Take another length of wool and wrap it through the fork tines a couple of times. Pull the end into a very tight knot. Slip the bundle off your fork, snip through the loops of wool and roll the pom-pom between your palms to fluff. To make a garland, thread wool through pom-poms to desired length.

Little Shop stocks a range of make-it-yourself kits for children, a great way to encourage crafty habits from a young age.

Little Shop, 2 Woorayl Street, Carnegie, 0416 636 702. littleshopof.bigcartel.com

Market purses

Skill level: Basic machine and hand-sewing skills.

Materials: A new tea towel, zip, thread, scissors and sewing machine.

If you've ever struggled to find your wallet while browsing at a market, these purses by Cottage Industry's Pene Durston are just what you need. Choose from the sunnyboy-inspired design or the wallet-style purse, both of which you can hang from your wrist. Made from a vintage tea towel, you'll also score brownie points for recycling.

Method: Enthusiastic sewers might think they could whip up one of these purses in a flash but with 20 years of experience in textiles, Durston's suggestion that you carefully follow the instructions is probably worth heeding.

A complete pattern for both market purses is here.

Cottage Industry, 67 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, 9419 2430. See cottage-industry.myshopify.com

Upcycled duck

Skill level: Basic machine and hand-sewing skills.

Materials: Old jumpers, scissors, needle and thread, craft stuffing.

Method: Jenny Collodetti loves turning unused fabric, wool and felt into craft projects. This gorgeous duck is made from old jumpers, all of which have been felted by using the hot cycle in the washing machine.

Cut to a simple hand-drawn pattern (use a child's drawing as inspiration if you want to involve little ones) and assemble with a sewing machine. Hand stitching secures the eyes.

A part-time administration assistant at Merri Creek Primary School in Fitzroy North, Collodetti runs the annual Made in Merri stall at the school's fete and meets with a group of other crafty parents once a month to build up stock.

Merri Creek Primary School fete, March 23, 2013. 175 Miller Street, Fitzroy North.

Paper garlands

Skill level: Beginner.

Materials: Double-sided tape, coloured twine, last year's Christmas cards or paper.

Kim Hurley's vintage haberdashery store, l'uccello, is filled with threads, buttons, cloth, paper and handmade, vintage-inspired products, and it's the kind of place that makes even the most fumbling fingers want to start creating.

Hurley's paper garland is the perfect starter project - use it to decorate your Christmas tree, as a mantelpiece decoration or to hang in bedrooms like bunting.

Method: Using the bottom of a wine glass, trace the shape of a circle on to your chosen paper. Cut out the circles, two for each side. On one half of the circles place a strip of double sided tape in the centre. Place your twine in the centre of the strip then carefully place another paper circle on top so the circles are evenly matched. Gently press on the tape to make the circles stick. Work your way down the twine until you have created a length of garland, using a range of colours and papers and different-size circles.

L'uccello, level 2, The Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, city, 9639 0088

 

HANDMADE TREASURE TROVES

Markets

Blender Lane 110 Franklin Street, city. Wednesdays 5-10pm, until February 27.

Rose Street Market 60 Rose Street, Fitzroy. Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm. rosestmarket.com.au

Northcote Town Hall Kris Kringle Night Market December 20, 189 High Street, Northcote, 5.30-10.30pm.

Shirt and Skirt Markets December 16, Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Helliers Street, Abbotsford, 10am-4pm. shirtandskirtmarkets.com.au

Indie Market Place December 16, Brighton Recreational Centre, 93 Outer Crescent Brighton, 10am-3pm.

Maribyrnong Makers Market - Twilight Market December 18, Seddon Uniting Church Hall, corner Gamon and Mackay streets, Seddon, 4.30-8.30pm. maribyrnongmakersmarket.com.au

Stores

Craft Victoria 31 Flinders Lane, city, 9650 7775, daily throughout December, 10am-5pm.

in.cube8r.com.au 321 Smith Street, Fitzroy, 8415 0321, Tuesday 11am-5pm, Wednesday-Saturday 11am-6pm, Sunday noon-4pm.

Maker Handmade 233 Park Street, South Melbourne, 9077 5460, Thurs-Sun 10am-5pm. makerhandmade.com.au

Post Industrial Design 638 Barkly Street, West Footscray, 9362 7703, Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5.30pm, Sunday noon-5pm. postindustrialdesign.com.au

Online

madeit.com.au

etsy.com

Hand-Made.com.au

georgielove.com