Gear received as rewards or looted from dead bodies can be studied (trait research) or deconstructed for materials & crafting inspiration (leveling). Stolen items and items with a value of 0 gold will give far less inspiration than other items.
Common style materials (and occasionally the common book motifs) are typically found in furniture such as desks, cabinets, dressers, trunks, and urns. Provisioning ingredients can be found everywhere but abound in crates and barrels. If you kill an animal, you may find many items — including a usable hide for leatherwork (not foul hides, sell those). During your travels gather nodes of ore, fallen logs, fibrous plants, runes, alchemical reagents and pure water.
Rough wood must be sanded, ore must be smelted into ingots, hides must be processed, and raw fibrous plants must be spun & woven before being used to create items. This is done in the "Refinement" tab at a crafting table. Each craft has its own crafting table, located in most cities throughout each region and at special crafting sites (oriented to crafting a particular set) which are scattered about the wilderness.
When ready to create an item, bring refined materials of the proper level, a style material, and a trait gem if you wish the item to have a trait (only items destined for a writ delivery or crafting buddy's decon should not have a trait). After gear is crafted it can be improved in quality or have an enchantment added or changed, but the trait, style, and item level cannot be altered.
Each character automatically knows how to craft in their own racial style, but must study before creating other styles. This is done by reading style motifs (books and/or chapters). The basic racial motifs (blue books) and the Imperial motif (gold book) can be learned immediately, but other motifs require an investment of skill points into the material tiers before they can be understood (except when purchased from the crown store).
Researching traits is a very long process. Times to complete research increase dramatically as you progress, so start as early as possible! To research (learn) a trait for a particular item you must possess (and sacrifice) that same kind of item with said trait upon it. Take the item to an appropriate crafting table and select the "Research" tab. Select the kind of item, then the trait you wish to study. Confirm your choice and the trait will soon be unlocked for your character to craft with.
Upon reaching character level 6, the game offers tutorial quests, started by approaching the "writ board" in your starter city. These tutorials cover these basics and, once complete, enable you to do crafting writs.
This plan will help keep the points from getting out of hand when skill points are difficult to get in early levels. Eventually you'll find you have plenty of points to put in all recommended or desired skills.
Provisioning would be the first place to invest points in my opinion. Spending points in Connoisseur (to extend the duration of drinks) is essential before drinking Psijic Ambrosia (the experience booster). The ability to make food at your level (Recipe Improvement) in at least blue quality (Recipe Quality 2) is significant and should be invested next. While Brewer & Chef might also be handy, they are only absolutely necessary once using perfect roe to create recipes such as Psijic Ambrosia & Orzorga's Smoked Bear Haunch as other ingredients are relatively plentiful.
On your first character, invest one rank into Keen Eye for Blacksmith, Cloth, Wood, & Alchemy as soon as possible to learn what these materials look like and to begin gathering these resources as you play. Keen Eye is not necessary for Enchanting however; all runestones glow already and do not blend into the vegetation like many other collectible materials, so once you learn to recognize them they can be easily spotted from afar.
Always invest as rapidly in possible in the skills that reduce research time and allow simultaneous trait research studies. Further invest in your blacksmith/cloth/wood skills as you level, keeping your material tier useful to your most advanced character's level.
Early on I'd skip putting points into Enchanting and focus on leveling enchanting through deconstruction. I'd also ignore Alchemy skills for a short while — except for the 2 skill points that help effectively learn all traits while starting to level the craft nicely.
If you follow the recommendations in Sunshine Daydream's Guide to Crafting you'll eventually invest around 110 points for a well-rounded do-it-all crafter:
One trick I wish I had used when researching traits: study either light or medium armor (whichever you are more likely to actually wear) and heavy armor on your main crafter while initially studying 8 traits (not nirnhoned) on light/medium (the other option) armor and metal weapons on another character. When done learning things this way, have your main learn nirnhoned on all gear (learning that expensive to study trait once and only once). Then consolidate the other traits by having that alt make study items for your main crafter. This saves no overall time, and eventually all traits are learned on your main crafter anyhow, but does greatly reduce the time before being able to make the best set pieces.
Motifs can be expensive and/or tedious to acquire! Train blacksmithing, clothing, and woodworking all on the same character so you'll only need one copy. Historically some folks advocated splitting off the consumables crafting (provisioning, alchemy, enchanting) to lower the percentage of skill points dedicated to crafting, but there are plenty of skill points available (a character at level 20-30 can easily gain skyshards for skillpoints). Plus, since furniture crafting is often a cross-platform skill, one character must be trained in all crafts to be able to craft the full selection of furnishings.
If your playing characters know provisioning & alchemy you can always make food, drink, & potions during your gameplay and without an interruption to change characters. Unlocking the crafting level necessary for the passive skills recommended for all characters will be easily done while leveling the crafts anyhow.
Remember that while your main character(s) will eventually have plenty of skill points, it can be difficult to gather sufficient levels & skill points on a character designed solely around crafting. However, if you are creating a dedicated crafter, Orcs should be considered because they receive an inherant 10% boost to crafting inspiration. Also of note, high level Orcs can choose the Swift Warrior passive which increases sprint speeds while reducing sprint cost for faster gathering runs.
Gathering runs include lots of time sprinting. The Steed Mundus Stone's bonus to movement speed and medium armor with the well-fitted trait and stamina enchantments will aid in gathering runs. Consider using armor sets whose bonus includes a boost to stamina, such as Night's Silence, Hunding's Rage, or Eternal Hunt. And once you hit level 10, visit Cyrodiil at least long enough to grab the Assault & Support skill lines and get the 2 free skill points from the introduction quest; the first skill in the Assault skill line is Rapid Maneuvers which provides a speed bonus to Movement Speed both while mounted or while on foot for 30 seconds.
As a side note, if these gathering runs might mean alternate equipment to move more quickly and easily, then it's a good time to level up the armor skill lines while you're running about. If you don't normally wear light armor but wish to level up the Light Armor skill line, craft a sash (light belt) to minimize the loss to your armor. If you don't normally wear heavy armor but wish to level up the Heavy Armor skill line, craft a cuirass (heavy chest piece) to gain the most armor rating. If you wish to level up the Medium Armor skill line, craft bracers (medium hands) if you typically wear heavy armor or guards (medium legs) if you typically wear light armor.
Have you just hit CP 160? Congratulations! Now prepare to spend a lot of materials to make your final gear... Each weapon or piece of armor can require most of a stack of rubedite ore, rubedo leather, ancestor silk or ruby ash wood. Age-old wisdom has it that weapons show the biggest difference, so first craft a gold-quality version of your weapon. Until you've gathered sufficient resources to craft CP 160 armor (or perhaps even longer) wear CP 150 armor pieces improved to purple quality.
If you have Champion Points to spend, place 30 thief points into Sprinter in The Tower and 10-75 points into The Lover. 30 points on The Tower boosts all crafting inspiration 20% and placing those points into Sprinter will help you gather resources faster. The first 10 points in The Lover grants Plentiful Harvest, which doubles the yield when harvesting from crafting nodes. If you place a total of 75 points in The Lover you reduce the time to actually gather from a node by 50% which can make it easier to grab materials before being attacked. If your character's main focus is crafting, consider focusing on the Mooncalf aspect of The Lover as it will allow you to sprint more while gathering resources.