Crafting Ideas: Finding Creative Time

Even women who craft for a living find it hard to carve out time for personal projects. Here, five pros share their tips and tricks for fitting creative time into busy work- and family-filled lives. by Jolène M. Bouchon; originally published on myLifetime.com

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Organize your projects.

Hip homemaker, mother of two and author of "Get Crafty: Hip Home Ec" Jean Railla keeps a craft notebook with details of each potential project: "I make lists of things I want to do and the materials I need to do it," she says. "Then I look at my calendar and consider what activities I have that will allow me to multitask."

She also keeps art materials organized into small canvas boxes that are easy for her sons to access. "That way, if we have an afternoon free, we usually work on something easy. We make a lot of cards and paintings for our family members and seasonal decorations for the house."

Dedicate a space.

Brett Bara, editor-in-chief of Crochet Today! and multi-crafter (besides crochet, she also knits, embroiders, sews, does paper crafts and decorates cakes) finds that keeping a space specifically for craft projects makes it easy to pick them up and start working. "I declare my craft table off-limits to anything else and have a huge bulletin board where I organize my ideas," says Bara. She also has a bin system for keeping all her works-in-progress visible and ready to pick up at a moment's notice. "I'm convinced that I'll soon be crafting at superhuman speed. Watch out, Martha Stewart."

Take advantage of dead time.

While others might view an interminable line at the post office as a waste of time, our pros see it as an opportunity to craft. Structural-engineer-by-day and crochet-designer-by-night Robyn Chachula says, "I always carry a project with me, so that whenever I'm waiting, I'm crocheting — on long grocery lines, at the bank, at baseball games or while commuting on the bus or subway. It makes me a much nicer person, because I never look at waiting as a waste of time."

Allison Whitlock, host of DIY channel's "Uncommon Threads," makes sure her craft projects are portable: "I find the less you have to cart around, the more likely you are to take your craft along for the ride. I have a great little yarn pouch (from knowknits.com) that's great for crochet. I have a pendant-style thread cutter tied to the inside of it so that I don't even need scissors."

Take the show on the road.

Similarly, both Whitlock and Bara see traveling as the perfect opportunity to pick up and stitch. Says Whitlock, "Crochet is a favorite for me on long-haul flights. It's amazing what you can get done between Sydney, Australia, (where she's from) and L.A. (where she lives). And if you use a wooden hook, you're unlikely to be mistaken for a terrorist!"

Bara takes things a step further: "When I go on a trip it's absolutely comical — I bring at least four projects with me." She brings the one she most wants to work on, a second for backup (in the event of a pattern snafu with the first, for example), a third really easy project in case she feels fried and a fourth in case she gets stranded at the airport. "It's a bit crazy and makes for heavy carry-on bags," she admits, "but whenever there are delays at the airport, everyone else is freaking out but I'm happy as a clam stitching away."

Integrate craft and family time.

Though she's best known as Blair Cramer from "One Life to Live," Kassie DePaiva is also an inveterate crocheter (and now host of "Knit and Crochet Today" on PBS). She works on her Happy Hats (which she sells to benefit The League of Hard of Hearing — her son JQ is hearing-impaired) while spending time with her kids. "I think that it is important to show your kids that handwork and crafts are better and more interesting than playing video games or watching TV," she says.

Railla does the same: "I try to get my kids involved so that I am multitasking. Last week I made eye pillows for my son's preschool yoga class. While I sewed the pouches, my eldest added essential oils to flax seed and then filled each pouch. It was a family affair." Also, Railla finds the craft in the commonplace: "I cook for my family every night, which keeps me in the daily practice of being creative."