17 December 2010

how-to host a craft party

by jessica of Living the Swell Life

I had such a fine + fabulous experience hosting my first craft party, or more creatively entitled a Christmas Crafternoon, that I'd like to dedicate a post to sharing my thoughts and tips for anyone up to the challenge of hosting her own in the future! Although I could probably talk your ear off on this subject, I will try to simplify the matter into a brief, handy list. Also, if you are interested in examples of some of the crafts we made you can check them out right here!

1. If you build it, they will come. It's true. When I first posted an invitation for this party, I was a nervous wreck, thinking no one would show. But I learned that girls love a chance to get together, and they double love a chance to get creative when everything is spread out in front of them. So many of my friends say they wish they could be more crafty but don't have the time or inspiration. I shared a public invite both on facebook and this blog, hoping to meet some new crafty girls in the area and also share my love of crafting with some of my old in-real-life friends. In the end, I had such an overwhelming response that I had to turn some girls away. Stab me in the heart.

2. Plan, plan, plan. Even before sending out invites, plan what crafts you will to make. Not only will this step provide for a great teaser in the invite ("We'll be making X, Y, and Zs!!"), you'll also have more time to fine tune everything as the party approaches. Take inventory of the supplies you already have and make lists of the supplies you need to gather.

3. Time it. Be realistic about time frame. One project may take the entire duration of the party. Or teach your guests a smattering of techniques with 3-5 simple projects to fill the afternoon. Whatever you do, time yourself as you make each sample in order to guesstimate how long to schedule the party or when to quit coming up with more and more projects. (Ahem, super guilty here.)

4. Details. Don't forget about tools. This was an afterthought for me and I scrambled the day before asking people to bring extra scissors and paper punches. At the last minute, I was buying needles and tape and asking guests to sharpen their own pencils. Tools are just as important as the craft supplies themselves and although we're all grown-ups, let's face it; in this case, the less sharing the better!

Do double duty with party favors and set out bags labeled with each guest's name so there is a space for her to put finished crafts throughout the party and a handy way to tote home her spoils.

5. Don't break the bank. Don't be afraid to ask your guests to bring a small amount of cash to share in the cost of supplies. I've never known a craft party without a supply fee (at least when the hostess is providing supplies). Another reason it's so important to determine the projects before sending out the invite is so that you can set a realistic budget and a realistic amount to pass on to each guest. I'll be completely honest here and say that my party did cost more than $10/person. But my intention was not to break even, it was only to avoid breaking the bank and to bless my friends with a wonderful get-together.

6. Be firm on numbers. I cannot, repeat, cannot stress this enough. Can I be frank with you? I had a lot of unnecessary anxiety over the guest list. Here's why: I specifically asked everyone to RSVP asap, but received a ton of maybes. When planning this sort of party, it's really difficult to work with all of the maybes in the crowd. I 100% understand that life is unpredictable, but I urge you to make it a clear expectation that your guests commit. Tell them you need to have a firm number in order to buy the proper amount of supplies. Next time I am seriously considering collecting everyone's supply fee in advance via Paypal, just so that they are less likely to flake.

Also in this vein,
7. Know your limits. Have a maximum number of guests your home/venue can hold and don't go over it. If the party is too crowded to craft the fun factor will go down. I set my magic number at 20 and had to start a waiting list at this point. After a bunch of last minute cancellations, I believe the final head count was 16. I think that was a perfect number for my house. Why did I invite so many people that I ended up saying no?? Because I didn't want to be exclusive. I wanted to open it up to anyone and everyone who was interested in this sort of thing. The best part about craft parties is that they can be big or small--for a close circle of friends or for everyone in your social network. Know what is manageable for you and your life!

8. Map out your house. This is also key. Each separate craft should have a designated station. What rooms/areas would make good work spaces? Plan which crafts can be done on laps and which crafts require tables and chairs. Keep messy projects near a sink. Put projects that may take the most time in a large room and smaller-scale projects in a smaller area. If there is a two-step project, keep both stations adjacent to one another. This is one huge mistake I made. We made yarn wreaths, decorated with felt flowers. Half of the girls finished the yarn ring all at once and were wanting to learn the felt flowers. I had put the flower project in the smallest room with the least amount of workspace. Somehow I hadn't anticipated that people would spend as much time as they did crafting these to beautifully decorate their wreaths. People were sitting on the floor, tracing on the walls, and bumping into each other left and right. {And what dearies, they weren't even complaining!}

9. Feed them! I know this is basic, but I just want to reiterate simplicity here. One great way to keep party costs down is to ask guests to bring treats to share. I turned my party into half craft making, half Christmas cookie swapping. The spread was amazing--way better than I ever could have done by myself. It was so fun to sample everyone's baking talent. All I had to worry about were drinks! It's also important to consider that you'll be spending tons of time the day before cleaning your house and setting up your crafts; the last thing you need to fret over is food. If you choose to be more hospitable and serve your own treats, do yourself a favor and have things made ahead of time.

10. Enjoy yourself. Face it, you can't be all things to all people. You can't individually teach every guest every project, or hold lengthy personal conversations with everyone. That's why for large-scaled craft parties or for varied skill levels, make certain that you are not the only one who knows what the heck is going on. (i.e. delegate.) I asked a few of my craftiest friends to arrive early so that I give them a brief run-down of all the projects. My sis-in-law kept the coffee brewing and I felt free to mix & mingle. It was wonderful. Like growing extra sets of hands and eyes. I was able to relax and chat a whole lot more because I knew there were plenty of friendly resources bouncing throughout the house. It's also helpful to create multiple samples (if you have time!) of each project to not only present the basic concept but inspire variations on a theme.

Wow, so much for short. I really hope this is helpful! Feel free to visit my blog, ask questions, or add your two cents. I'd love to hear the skinny on your craft parties--past & future!  

view the entire how-to series archives for tons of tutorials from readers like you. 
"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden


black tag diaries said...

love the idea of a "crafternoon!" what a great idea!

Zoe ~ A Quick Study Paper Goods said...

Thanks for these tips! I am dying to throw something like this but I think it will have to wait a few months - I was thinking February but realized that a newborn is probably a logistical challenge I don't need while hosting a party!

I'll be sure to return to this post for tips once I'm ready, though!

Katie said...

I love this idea I just don't think I have room to host. I need a new house just for this!

sue said...

Thank you so much for posting these tips. We usually have a craft party for the granddaughers who are all under the age of 8 right now. This year we didn't get to do it. I think now though I would love to host one for adults as well. I feel I would pretty much know what to expect if I did with your great tips. Thanks again.

Cami said...

Love this idea. I wish I was crafty enough to do a party like this. But maybe I could solicit a crafty friend to plan the crafts and I could just host. Have to think about this for next year. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

When my girlfriends and I plan craft parties we always just bring our own craft we've been working on. Never thought to plan out group crafts the way you did. Love the idea! Will be planning one of my own soon! Thanks!

Tracy said...

I was thinking about doing something like this...and I googled & found your blog. It's awesome! Quick question on your "build a xmas cookie stand" craft table...what did you use to glue the pieces together? My jaw litterally dropped when I saw that photo!!!

Cherise said...

I'm hosting my first craft party in a couple weeks (a wreath-making party), and I'm so glad to see how lovely they can turn out! Great blog and thanks for sharing your success story!

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