Getting crafty in Europe
Living in Europe certainly has its perks — good food, exciting places to explore, a new language to learn. But let’s face it — if you’re the crafty type, we’ve all had those moments where we wish we could just swing by Michael’s or JoAnn Fabrics to pick up a few items. While finding a one-stop shop that carries all the things you’re looking for is difficult, with a little luck you can find just what you need at local stores. We’ve done some of the leg work for you, and we’ve brainstormed some ideas for unique handmade gifts with a European flair.
Finding supplies locally
My first stop when I need something is my local on-base arts and crafts store. For the basics like scrapbooking supplies, yarn, fabric, paints and glue, I can usually find what I need and reasonable prices.
To find cute crafting supplies off base in Germany, try a DEPOT store. DEPOT reminds me of a Pier 1 Imports store in the States, offering décor items for the home and garden as well as some crafting supplies such as twine, ribbon and small woodcuts that could be used for many projects.
If you are located in the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC), check out the basement of the Pallman store on Marktstraße in downtown Kaiserslautern. They don’t carry fabric, but they have candle-making supplies, woodcuts, beading supplies, ribbon and the widest selection of nuts and bolts I think I have ever seen. In the United Kingdom, find a Hobbycraft store near you or order online.
Another great place to check for supplies is your local chain grocery, home improvement or garden store (in Germany, check out Globus, Baumarkt, Hornbach and Hela stores; in the United Kingdom, head to The Range stores). These stores will often have a section dedicated to craft items such as wreath forms, canvases and paint supplies, ribbon, seasonal decorative items and more.
Holiday crafts with European flair
To save money and give a unique gift, there are lots of things you can make for your loved ones that have a European twist. If you’re a wine drinker, save up those corks and create a small wreath, coasters or a Christmas tree. If you have a party to go to and need a great hostess gift, consider making an Advent calendar using felt cut outs and fabric, or create an Advent wreath using fresh pine from your local garden shop. For inspiration, head over to Pinterest and find a tutorial. To create a unique keepsake of your travels around Europe, consider purchasing fabric or yarn from each destination you visit. In Germany, look for a Stoffladen, or fabric store; across Europe, IKEA and some department stores often carry fabric as well. When you’ve got a big enough stash, sew or knit your collection into a quilt, scarf, apron or pillow coverings. These also make one-of-a-kind gifts for friends and family.
A photo says a thousand words
If you’re a scrapbooker, create a small book detailing your family’s travels over the year. This is a great gift for the grandparents or a deployed spouse. Scrapbooking supplies can be found at most on-base arts and crafts centers. Another great way to find scrapbooking supplies while traveling is to look for specialty paper stores that carry stationary—in France, look for a papeterie; in Germany, look for a Schreibwarengeschäft; in Italy, look for a cartoleria. In the United Kingdom, a chain of stores called Paperchase carries a wide selection of stationary and paper craft supplies both in-store and online. You can also create a photo book online through services such as Snapfish or Shutterfly.
Share your finds and creations
Next time you are feeling homesick for your favorite stores in the States, think instead of the possibility for a little adventure as you scour your local shops for that item to complete your distinctively European craft. We’d love to hear about the hidden gems you’ve found and see pictures of the masterpieces you’ve created while stationed overseas. Send us a note at email@example.com.