16 Unconventional Craft Supplies that are Free or Cheap

Crafting need not be expensive, if you know how to think “outside the box” with your craft supplies. Here is a list of unconventional craft supplies that range from free to relatively inexpensive, that you may want to stock in your craft cabinet. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

 

You will absolutely love this fun list of unconventional craft supplies that are easy and cheap to stock! And it also includes lots of crafts to make with them (including plenty of upcycled crafts)

 

16 unconventional craft supplies: 

 

1. Nail polish

It’s hard wearing, fast-drying, easy to apply in careful detail, and gives a beautiful, enameled finish. I put together a beautiful list of crafts using nail polish for inspiration!

 

DIY enameled spoons

 

Note: make sure your room is well-ventilated.

 

2. Old makeup

Whether you’re done with it, or the color was just wrong, your old makeup can be great for coloring things. Check out this amazing lipstick process art for kids!

 

Lipstick, eyeliners, and anything with rich pigments work too! You can even upcycle old mascara as a great textured paint brush.

 

3. Nature: Twigs, leaves, flowers, shell, and rocks

Nature provides us with some of the most beautiful craft supplies. From gorgeous seashell necklaces to a nature-inspired entry organizer, these eco-friendly craft supplies are totally free!

 

Make sure to always have a few handy in your supply closet… I put together a beautiful list of nature-sourced craft supplies for you to enjoy, along with some inspiration.

 

You will absolutely love this fun list of unconventional craft supplies that are easy and cheap to stock! And it also includes lots of crafts to make with them (including plenty of upcycled crafts)

 

4. Straws

Something that was formerly limited to toddler beading, this new-ish craft supply should now be a staple! Paper straws look totally cool in any craft, but these photo booth props are totally awesome!

 

5. Isolated game parts:Lego, puzzle pieces, etc.

Lego pieces are perfect for making fan crafts, and puzzle pieces are good for anything, such as this fun tree! Instead of chucking these orphaned bits, stow them in a container in your craft room.

 

You will absolutely love this fun list of unconventional craft supplies that are easy and cheap to stock! And it also includes lots of crafts to make with them (including plenty of upcycled crafts)

 

6. CDs

Time to back up your old CD’s and store them digitally! There is really no point in having those old things around, especially if you’re looking to declutter… unless you’re a crafter! With the iridescent surface, and the durable shape, they make a great starting points for kids’ crafts. Try out these simple, but pretty doodle discs, too!

 

Here’s a great list of crafts using CDs, including the fun craft below.

 

Note: watch for sharp edges when crafting with kids.

 

Upcycle old CDs and DVDs as doodle discs! Such a fun, easy craft for kids and adults of all ages!

 

7. Crayons

These are most likely a staple in your craft room – but do you use them in the craft itself? They are great for kids crafts, like this crayon initial art, and as a sensory activity, like this crayon play dough.

 

8. A bleach pen

If you love making crafts with fabrics, a bleach pen is a staple too. It allows you to create effects with bleach, only it gives you more control. Check out how cool this owl shirt is!

 

Note: You should probably not use this in kids’ crafts 😉


 

9.  Rubbing alcohol/nail polish remover

Sharpies may be an obvious craft supply, but its close relative, the blending component isn’t. Check out how cheap nail polish remover made this rainbow onesie into the beauty it is.

 

Bonus: nail polish remover works wonders on removing craft-related “oopsies” from your furniture.

 

DIY Rainbow Onesie Baby Shower Gift Idea

 

Note: use in a well-ventilated area.

 

10. Pool noodles

These are so versatile, and inexpensive, especially for larger scale crafts such as this garland or this sign stand. Get them at your local dollar store. Here are lots more things you can do with pool noodles: 

 

'Tis the season of stores overrun with pool noodles, cheaper by the dozen, and so the time to look into pool noodle crafts and activities to try!

 

12. Recyclables: cardboard tubes, glass jars, tin cans

My craft supply storage looks almost like a recycling bin! These are some of the most versatile and cheapest (or free) crafting supplies! I’ve made planters, a menorah, toys, and more out of things that normally get recycled.

 

These adorable denim flower patches will can be used for anything like knapsacks or headbands. Use promotional magnets to make things like car magnets, or these Earth magnets.

 

 

13. Metal bits: washers, old keys, zippers

These bits of “junk” can be treasures when crafting, especially when making jewelry. I love how this fidget spinner case incorporates a zipper as the handle!

 

 

14. Paint chips

The uses for these little bits of color are endless! I used them on the ears of a Pooh costume, and they can be used in mosaics, mobiles, etc. Since they are free, and come in every single shade imaginable, the possibilities are endless. They are perfect for ombre crafts, such as this garland, too!

 

15. PVC piping

Martha Stewart uses these a lot, and while PVC pipe might not be the cheapest, it’s versatile and adds a new dimension to your supply closet. Some examples of medium-scale crafts using this include these vases and this water shooter toy.

 

16. Old books and maps

There’s something charming about the yellow pages of an old book, or the familiar pages of a children’s classic. There’s something adventurous about the pattern of a map. Instead of throwing out those you’re done with, use them in crafts. Here is an adorable garland to get you started. Scour Pinterest for countless book crafts too.

 

You will absolutely love this fun list of unconventional craft supplies that are easy and cheap to stock! And it also includes lots of crafts to make with them (including plenty of upcycled crafts)

 

If you loved these, you may find inspiration in my “DIY – Upcycle it!” board on Pinterest, where I share loads of crafts from around the web made using upcycled materials.

 

Follow Moms and Crafters’s board DIY – Upcycle It! on Pinterest.

 

What unconventional craft supplies do you love to craft with? Share in the comments below! 

 

 

You will absolutely love this fun list of unconventional craft supplies that are easy and cheap to stock! And it also includes lots of crafts to make with them (including plenty of upcycled crafts)

 

This post was originally published March 2015.

18 Comments

  1. I have tons of old makeup and some fingernail polish. I never thought of these as craft supplies. I can’t wait to clean out under my bathroom sink and re-purpose some stuff.

  2. WOw, what an awesome list. I would have never though of using old makeup, now I know where my outdated eye shadow is going 🙂
    The most unconventional items I used in my crafting I can immediately think about tea bags- for staining paper and fabric.

  3. I’m always keeping old containers for this purpsose exactly and I can’t wait for the weather to warm up here so we can start collecting our nature craft supplies. I love the idea to keep old miscellaneous puzzle pieces.

  4. I use clear nail polish in my jewelry making in place of glue…..and it works very well…)

  5. Pine cones, acorns, pine needles, broken jewelry, broken parts

  6. One can keep normally-discarded lids of different sizes, such as the tops of peanut butter jars, Pringles brand chip tubes, beverage caps (an orange Gatorade cap has a larger diameter than a green Sprite, red Coca-Cola, grey-silver Diet Coke, yellow Squirt, blue Pepsi, purple grape-flavored Fanta, baby-blue Evian, or weird-flavored Mountain Dew bottle cap does…), empty vitamin bottle caps, plastic lids from resealable cocktail mixed-nuts containers, etc. The lids can be arranged from largest to smallest in a relatively flat stack, so that the largest lid is at the bottom and all the different colored lids are visible from the top, and glued in place like that, to make recycled plastic flowers. If you have the proper scissors for the job, you can even cut ‘petals’ into the edges of the thinner plastic lids (please be careful!). Remember there is still another flat side to the largest lid that can also be layered with lids if you want a two-sided flower (the colors on each side don’t have to match), or keep the one side flat if you prefer. Adding a button, bead, rhinestone, sequins, or even a tiny flower to the center of the topmos, smallest lid helps look cdiameters
    Finally, you can choose to:
    -punch a hole in the top of the flower to thread a loop for hanging
    -glue a bamboo skewer on to make a flower stalk you can stake down (maybe paint the skewer green first?). An empty flower pot, some decorative medium to hold the stake in place, and you’re in business.
    -glue a magnet to the flat back (especially if like, you have a kid or whatever with whom you made the flower)
    – make a few colors coordinated flowers to fit in a shadowbox as abstract art; alternatively you could go big & make lots of flowers in a range of a few different diameters, then arrange them for unique, cheap, 3D wall art
    -use floral wire to thread and attatch the flowers to a large, faux houseplant if you want to go for a Dr. Seuss-look
    -do whatever it is you do with fun, recycled-material crap you make ?

    P.S. There is a reason to keep CDs- well, not CDs you may have burned at home or received from someone (though maybe consider holding onto a decorated CD received as a mix-tape style gift…). There is a reason to hold onto undamaged, factory-manufactured official release CDs, if you care at all about sound quality.
    See, while scratching is the Achilles’ Heel of the professionally-made Compact Disc music album, the pro-made CD is also the pinnacle of sound quality of all music storage mediums.
    Vinyl is just a novelty now; cassettes faded out quickly (as they rightly should, those pieces of junk); the CD became “Music;” then Apple pulled a publicity stunt that made billions of unexpected dollars- not with the iPod, but with the release of the [free!] iTunes software- and all attention turned to mp3 files.
    Guess what?
    mp3 files (a.k.a. the songs on your playlist), whether uploaded from a CD to your computer, purchased & downloaded legally(bought on iTunes), purchased & downloaded illegally (bought on Nappster; don’t worry, you’re not in trouble- but they sure are!); or downloaded illegally using file-sharing software (ex. torrented)…are just awful. I know a lot of people don’t notice because most people haven’t received extensive music training, have never recorded anything, or even touched a soundboard (no DJs, not your kind of soundboard. As the band Jet puts it: I wanna move but it don’t feel right
    ‘cuz you been playing other people’s songs all night.
    I know that you think you’re a star
    But a pill-poppin’ jukebox is all that you are.
    Tell me…What’s Your Name?
    Yeah, Hey- Rollover DJ.
    Quit spinning away
    On my time.
    Hey, no one cares what you play, say whatever you say.
    Rollover, DJ. If ya don’t mind…)

    On the other hand, most people don’t notice how bad, how flat, how fuzz-crunchy, even how OFF-KEY their terribly unbalanced mp3 songs sound, nowadays, because they just have no idea what they’re missing.

    Professional, factory-made CDs have an ultra-high compression rate, and if you treat them decently, like not throwing them on the floor of your car, the sound fidelity of CDs is unrivalled. Peerless. Bar none. No contest. Beyond all shadow of doubt. The layers of each song recorded are actually maintained as separate, but inherently simultaneous, different recorded layers, maintaining the depth of sound as originally recorded, and with all the clarity one could ask for.

    Besides being really loosely compressed files, mp3-file song sound quality still gets even worse. After all, you have to plug you iPhone or iPod or Android or whatever lame toy you call a mobile device into a sound system. That means either you plug it in directly (screwing up your device’s built-in USB port each time) or using the headphone jack- which means using a freaking CORD to actually transmit those crappy mp3 files from your brick-shaped ball n’ chain (get off your smartphones every once in awhile; the phones only make dumb people), through the headphone jack that’s already seen too much use by the second time you plug something into it, through a tangled, bent, abused, improperly shielded, thin cord, through yet ANOTHER jack, and then, exhausted, your beat-up sound file has to make its way through whatever sound system, and finally play a shadow of the song it once was, when recorded, through the speakers you ironically bought for their aethetic quality.

    CDs are really well made digital storage devices when professional artists actually charge you money for them. Since everyone else has gone tone deaf and got lost in a 2D world of bubblegum and scrap metal (like that? “Scrap metal”- yeah, I came up with that one. Credit me if you use it THX), demand has plummeted and I get loads of CDs for nickels and dimes. If you don’t steal music (which you really shouldn’t do; all arguments about artistic intellectual property aside, pirating is a great way to get your computer infected with viruses malware-> you’ve been warned. Also, its sorta against the law- and that is exactly what I mean with those words), and you’ve jumped the gun and told your CDs, “To hell with you!” then that just means…

    I still have physical copies, which, unlike digital mp3 files, cannot just disappear because of a scratch on a computer hard drive,
    I’m listening to music that sounds wayyyyyy better than your files, even if you have the exact same tracks as I do,
    and I paid a lot less for it all,
    and Bonus: artists still prefer that I buy CDs because stream & download software companies (iTunes…) take a hefty publishing fee off top of artists’ income generated by mp3 sales (in Nappster’s case, the company just plain took it all).

    Danke, thank you, merci beaucoup Madame Meducha for your awesome ideas, and No, CDs are not just clutter, but quite the contrary (that is, for those with taste- which I very much suspect you have!)
    ?

    • Thanks for your input and for sharing your brilliant idea! And good to know about the CDs – I did not know there is a difference in quality 😉 Luckily, I still have plenty of old mixtapes and CDs that were used for photos and such that have since been backed up using more modern methods 😉

  7. Margaret Owen-Trowbridge

    Other inexpensive tools: My favorite art is making jewelry – actually wire wrapping stones and designing wire changes. I found a rock tumbler in the “kid’s section” at Hobby Lobby. I could not afford a normal “Tumbler” but I did buy the kid’s one – it worked great – I made wonderful pendants to sell. My son also found a light table at the toy department at Walmart. He is an artist and it helps him with is design ideas.
    I love the list you posted – I and my husband are on Soc Sec, we budget everything.
    This Trowbridge family are all artists (have won award locally and nationally) – being retired and on a tight budget should not stop us from still having fun with our art.

  8. Styrofoam meat trays or plates are also treasures. I use mine for mixing my oil paints. I can put them in zip lock bags and store them in the freezer between painting sessions, and throw them away when my painting is done. They are also useful for holding puddles of glue for crafts, and sorting small objects such as beads. I have also cut out simple patterns such as stars, hearts, etc., that I wanted to use repeatedly in a project. I’m sure I’ve used them in many other ways, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately. Happy crafting!!

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