*Updated May 9th, 2018*
It’s kind of hard to get crafty in Italy without a Hobby Lobby, a Michael’s or a Jo-Ann Fabrics store lingering around the corner.
I’m a crafty girl and I like to unwind with a good Pinterest project or sewing session every now and then, and I know that when I first arrived in Italy, I was frustrated that the cottons at the nearest quilting store were imported from the States and cost a fortune!
The good news is that I have learned to improvise.
I don’t need to spend a fortune on imported cottons. I don’t need a Michael’s nor a Jo-Ann Fabrics store and I have no desire for a Hobby Lobby to pop up in the middle of my town’s piazza so that I can run in and buy a bunch of junk.
There are plenty of ways for you to “get your craft on” in Italy, and I’m going to share some of them with you.
Here we go!
Don’t Waste Your Money On Junk
So my first bit of advice is this: DON’T BUY JUNK!
Italy does not have huge Goodwill stores that you can go and dump your junk at once you’re sick of it, so make your purchases meaningful.
Crafting is fun, but what will you do with all of the stuff that you make?
I think crafting in Italy is worth it if you plan to give the items as a housewarming gift, use them in your own home, give them as a baby gift (baby showers don’t exist in Italy since it’s bad luck to celebrate anything before it happens) or if you want sell them at a festival.
I guess I also feel this way because I hate clutter! I would hate to have things stuffed in a box that gets forgotten at the back of the garage for 4 years until I stumble upon it one day and open it to find a box full of mold. Ufa!
No, people, NO!
USE what you buy!
DISPLAY what you buy!
If you don’t plan to do either…then don’t buy it! Save your money for traveling around Italy and drinking Spritz.
Words of wisdom, right there.
Where To Go If You Sew
If you enjoy sewing or you need craft fabric, see if there is a Giesse Scampoli store near you. I go to the one in San Fior (Treviso) which is near Conegliano.
Their website says that there are 33 locations throughout Italy. Check them out HERE.
Most of what they sell is on a roll or a bolt, but once they get down to the end, the material heads to a bin.
Oooooo, the BINS! I LOVE THEM!
These bins of contain a mixture of fabrics that are priced by weight, and I have found so many cute applique scraps, seasonal table decor or fabrics for decorating around the house.
As you can see in the photo above (apologies, the lighting was bad and I was in the middle of writing when I realized I had to stop and snap a photo of it), I used a decorative stitch on the top of the fabric where it attaches to the curtain underneath. I salvaged the piece from a bin at Giesse and it fit perfectly with the red accents in my kitchen!
They have all of the sewing materials you need for making garments, for upholstering furniture or crafting. I have found some excellent wool felt, as well, that is much better than the cheap stuff that’s as thin as paper.
When You Want To Decorate The House
I’m going to show you a few examples of projects that I have done to decorate my home. Hopefully this will provide you with a bit of inspiration and show you that, while the real Made in Italy is worth the higher price tag, the at home “Made in Italy” allows you to do much more with your budget.
It’s important to me to mix quality items with my craft items or things that I have brought from the States. They all tell guests a bit about who I am, what I like to do and they reflect upon my personality.
The money that I save by being resourcefully crafty in Italy goes to €48 Euro Mokas, wine tastings and traveling around Italy. Woo hoo!
I encourage you to incorporate as much free stuff as you can into your decor, and by that I mean taking advantage of what Mother Nature already provides for us.
You’ll see in my projects below how I have done this. Keep reading!
My Ikea “Ode to Wine”
I like to keep my small space feeling light and open, so in order to avoid square, bulky shelving that made the living/dining area feel smaller, I opted for some lightweight open shelving in order to create my “Ode to Wine” tower.
After a loop at an Ikea store one day, I pulled together one of my favorite projects to date. Check it out!
Total Spent: €29
What I Bought
Aluminum Shelf: €10
Blue Water Pitcher: €5
Wooden Crate: €13
Plant (different than pictured): €1
(*note- add on another €13 for the second wooden crate on the entertainment center)
I recently purchased a new plant to put on top, which is featured in the photos above since the other one didn’t do so well there. He is now happily growing outside!
Many of the things I already had in my home, but as I mentioned before, I look for ways to incorporate them into my decor rather than keeping them stuffed in boxes or closed behind cupboard doors.
The shelving, as you can see, tied in nicely with my color scheme and it also recalled the hoops around the wine barrel in the corner.
The empty wine bottle added contrast and it happens to be from one of my favorite local wineries, Tenute Tomasella.
I already had the cork grapes from another project and decided that they looked nice hanging there.
Some of you may remember me telling you about the lovely group of Korean ladies who took me on a trip when I was teaching in South Korea (read that story here), and one of them gave me two teacups that had been in her family for years. I love looking at them and thinking of that trip.
For important furniture, I avoid Ikea. Northern Italy is THE furniture capital of the country, so I would like to fill my home with quality, local pieces one day.
For smaller projects that I know I might change as my mood and the seasons change, I love spending less and shopping at the local Ikea.
Getting Crafty In
Above The Cupboards
A few years ago, I whipped up those wine cork grape bunches I mentioned earlier and had them – you guessed it – stuffed away in the closet.
I really wanted to use them creatively and it dawned on me one day that I could create the vine scene above the kitchen cupboards.
Since it was fall, I was able to find a dry, dead vine with curly cues and curves that imitated those of a real grape vine and I cut it down.
After letting it dry, I fixed it to the wall above the cupboards.
Make sure you use a few nails and hooks here and there because the weight of the cork grapes (or anything else you hang) will weight it down.
I added some fun little antiques, both from home and from Italy that added a few new colors to the scheme with bold pops of red.
Clock, Aprons and Photos
Again, I like to display things that I can actually use, so I figured that the red apron from Florence with my name on it needed to be incorporated into the kitchen.
I had my husband whip up the cute spoon hooks (thanks Pinterest!) and then added a few old photos on top.
A funny side story: I was at an antique market one day (in Italy) and was digging through a box of old black and white photos.
I pulled out the one second in from the left (the man playing the accordion) because I liked the scene and it was a photo taken in the area. I also liked it because my mom knew how to play the accordian and it just reminded me of home. I also like the one of the boy in the uniform and bought that, as well.
Six months pass and I return to the same stand at the antique market. I decided to dig through the old box of photos again and after a while, I pulled out yet another photo of someone playing the accordion. Coincidence?
I bought it and took it home, and after doing a side-by-side comparison of the photos, I realized that they were taken in the same spot on the same day! The building in the background was the same.
Somehow, six months earlier, I must have flipped past the photo without seeing it and luckily, no one had found it in the meantime.
It was destiny that I own those photos!
The picture on the far right is of my grandmother. She was a dog lover and even bred Bedlington Terriers for a short time. Her love of dogs rubbed off on me, which is why I am nuts about my four-legged sausage with a beard today.
I think it’s important for us expats to display our family history. I have a row of photos above my computer in my office and I always look up to see grandmas and grandpas watching me work. Reminders of my past and the importance of family…
The clock is also something from home. It used to hang on my mom’s kitchen wall so I was thrilled when she asked me if I wanted to have it.
This is my most recent project.
My spice “cabinet” was stuffed with anything and everything and I was sick of digging for things every time I needed an ingredient.
Did Michael’s come to my rescue?
Did Jo-Ann Fabrics save the day?
What about Hobby Lobby?
I went to the local home goods store (a.k.a Chinese store)
There are some things that I wouldn’t buy at these stores because I know they won’t last very long, but when it comes to household cleaning supplies, small craft projects and office supplies, I head there!
I walked up and down the isles for about 30 minutes and finally settled on the rack and jars you see in the picture.
I think I spent less than €10 for the entire spice rack project, and the store guy went and re-stocked the jars I had just grabbed right after I put them in my basket and asked me if I needed more! Ha. Nice guy.
The rack was originally for use in the shower, but I liked that it was flat on the back, the jars fit perfectly in it and I could find some suction cups to adhere it to the tile backsplash in the kitchen to avoid drilling holes.
I had the two suction cups from another plastic shower failure (a corner shelf that didn’t ever stay up), so I popped the suction part off and used it to hold my spice rack up!
Yes, yes, I know. I’m a craft genius!
Birdcage & Candle Holders
I have two final projects to show you and I’ll make it short since you’re probably sick of reading this post.
Here I used wire and bent it into the shape of a birdcage (Pinterest inspiration, not something I designed).
I had some craft paper from the states and cut the little bird out and I added a little wire heart above him.
Since it is late spring here, I took advantage of the bushy ivy growing outside and put it in a jar next to the cage to fill the space. 100% FREE, thanks to Mother Nature!
The candleholders are simple, another Pinterest project I found. I made the paper roses myself and found the twigs outside. All things I already had in my closet! Even the jars.
If I didn’t have the things I needed, I would have probably gone to the same store where I found my spice rack items.
Wine Cork Button
So what does one do with old wine corks?
You make grape bunches or BUTTONS!
I made this temporary button for my husband’s suit for a wedding. A unique idea and a fun touch (also because he hate wearing ties, hence the pocket square).
To sum it all up:
See if there is a Giesse Scampoli in your area for all fabric and sewing-related projects.
For small craft items, head to your local Home Goods store (a.k.a. Chinese store).
If you have serious craft intentions, then just look up local quilt shops and thread shops. You’re bound to find what you’re looking for there!
Did I leave anything out? Then write me a comment below and I’ll update the post.
Sign up to recieve emails when I post new articles on the blog HERE.