A few years ago, those Magic: the Gathering starter decks that Wizards of the Coast puts in PAX Prime swag bags got my friends and me playing Magic. Ultimately we all went different places with it. Some of them are really keen on pre-releases and sometimes go to FNM, a couple of them have gotten into Legacy and Highlander, others mostly play online, streaming their MtGO drafts, and the ladies often hit up our monthly Lady Planeswalkers’ night. Some of the group even make promotional videos for Wizards of the Coast.
One form of play that all of us still enjoy now and then is drafting. In drafting Magic, there’s a group of usually 6 – 8 people, and each person gets 3 booster packs of Magic cards. Everyone opens up their first pack, chooses a card from it, then passes the rest of the pack to the person on their left (so they’ve also just been passed a new stack of cards by the person on their right). Everyone chooses a card from their new stack, then passes it to the left, and so on and so forth until all the booster packs have been opened and passed around. Then each person makes a deck out of the cards they chose, and people play each other with those decks.
Well, I decided that this gameplay could extend to other activities too. I decided to do a craft draft.
For the trial run of this activity, I spent a couple hours gathering odds and ends from my absurdly endless stash of craft supplies. I split the supplies up into individual baskets, making sure that:
- it was clear what constituted one item (for example, a bunch of tiny silk flowers would be put together in a little bag, or 5 popsicle sticks could be tied together with string), and
- all baskets contained the same number of items.
I invited a bunch of craftsy friends to try this out with me, and we ended up with a group of five people, which was a workable number (more on that in the conclusions section). In addition to myself, we had:
Bonnie, who crafts wonderful chain mail items such as lanyards, jewelry and ornaments, and builds Warhammer scenery. Twitter
Kathryn, who does a great deal of painting and drawing, and dabbles in various other crafts. Twitter
Rebekkah, who is an avid knitter and crocheter, making everything from socks and shawls to tiny, intricate clothing for ball jointed dolls. Blog
I tried to get everything ready ahead of time, but felt that we should decide on some of the rules as a group. Here’s the list of details and rules for how the craft draft works (at least, our version of it – anyone can modify this as desired).
- Each person starts with a basket of items, takes one item, then passes the basket to their left. Repeat until all baskets are empty.
- Your final craft must incorporate a certain set number of your total items (we had 14 items each, and were required to use 10 of those).
- Your final craft must fit the craft draft’s chosen theme (more on that below).
- Various glues, scissors/knives, and sewing equipment (needles & thread, a sewing machine) are available for general use. Also pens/pencils (for making working marks on things) and scrap paper (for pattern making or sketching out ideas).*
*We decided that things like crayons, markers and paint were not to be made available, but that next time some of those types of things could be put in the baskets as items to be used.
We agreed that it would be good to have a theme to work with, rather than the making process being a total free-for-all. The idea was this would keep us from never even getting started due to over-inspiration from total open-ended creativity, and would challenge us to use our supplies in a somewhat specified way. We came up with a whole list of themes, some better than others and some more appropriate than others, and in the end narrowed it down to three:
We put them all in a cup and Bonnie drew one for us.
And with that, it was time to start making stuff!
“I’ve already got more glue on me than on the object. I think that means I’m crafting.” – Bonnie
Here’s the “drafted” collection of items that each crafter ended up with.
There was much chatter and banter and stray glue for a couple of hours while we sat and created. Feathers flew, stitches were put in and then picked back out again, decisions were made about which items to use, paper scraps settled here and there, eyes were attached, fibers were fiddled with.
What we made
“Oh, I so look forward to having these in my house… forever.” – Kathryn
After much craftiness and talking, a number of very… special objects had come into being. It was interesting to see how other people thought to use items in a way that maybe hadn’t occurred to you, and how they chose to incorporate the theme.
Bonnie started out with all that:
and turned it into the deranged-but-delightful great aunt of Harry Potter’s Monster Book of Monsters (the teeth are mini cupcake liners – brilliant!):
Heather had all this stuff:
which she turned into these intrepid wanderers, who look like they’ve jumped out of a Japanese anime:
Kathryn began the draft with this pile:
and crafted it into this flower-fairies-of-the-forest disguise, using flowers as the teeth, and with wee flower sprite companion:
Rebekkah’s pile of that:
became a quad of fiercely lovely stick puppets, who just may be ancient Japanese vampires:
And my initial heap of all this stuff:
was transformed into the most derpy yet dangerous purse to dig around in:
Final thoughts, conclusions & ideas for next time
Since this was a trial run, we learned some things that might help a future craft draft to run even more smoothly.
Number of participants
Five people was a perfectly workable size, but you probably wouldn’t want to do this with a group any smaller than that. Too few people and you start to limit some of the randomness of what items you end up with. You want to create that tension of having to choose between really desirable items in each basket, with the knowledge that an item you leave behind is likely to be taken by someone else before the basket makes its way back around the table to you. I think a group of 8 to 10 people would probably be really ideal.
As I described, I put together all of our baskets ahead of time, but after the draft my friends had a great idea for next time: every participant prepares a basket of items and brings them along for drafting with. This would provide a greater variety of item types, catering more to diverse craft areas and styles, plus it would give everyone a chance to do a little stash-clearing.
The number of items we had (14) and the number of those we were required to use (10) felt fairly close to the mark. I think in future I might cut it down to somewhere between 10 and 12 items per person, 7-8 of which must be used.
Time & food
Much like a Magic draft, a good craft draft takes a few hours. We lost some time at the beginning just solidifying the rules and getting organized, but that’s to be expected since we’d never tried this before. Still, set aside an afternoon or evening for this, like you might for a stitch-n-bitch or any group hangout.
I also put some cupcakes out, but had there been time (there wasn’t) I’d have liked to put together more snacks and drinks for people to enjoy while crafting.
Make sure you have a reasonable amount of workspace available for the number of people coming. Everyone needs room to spread out and get creative, and it needs to be a space that can get a little messy. Also, make sure there’s good light, whether natural or artificial, for everyone to work by.
Because I was crafting myself, I didn’t do a very good job of taking pictures, and it would have been better to have someone else, someone who wasn’t crafting, taking photos the whole time. Which we also would have needed better light for. This isn’t applicable unless you really want to fully document your craft draft – something I wanted to do primarily to share the idea with all of you. I’m hoping that in future, we can try this again with a dedicated photographer, or perhaps even make a video. But that’s all to come later.
I assume it goes without saying, but the whole point of this exercise is to have a good time and get a chance to be social and creative. Make this a chilled out, fun activity with friends and chitchat.