DIY Considerations: Know Thyself

DIY is popular for a number of reasons. First, it gives the DIYer the satisfaction of saying "I made it." Second, you get a piece customized to your specifications and tastes, which distinguishes you from the mass-produced consumerist crowd. Third, it's most often cheaper than buying. The benefits go on and on.

Before you get too excited and run off to the craft store, you need a reality check.

I remember that a few weeks ago I seriously considered buying a sewing machine so that I can shorten pants myself. I figured that if I can get my own entry-level machine for about $100, it'll pay for itself after I alter 10 pairs of pants (which doesn't sound too far-fetched). I came really close to acting on my impulses until my senses kicked in. When would I actually have time to learn to sew? School is absolutely crazy right now, and with my jewelry-making hobby taking off, there's barely time left over to sleep and eat. Also, a machine costs money, so if my investment is going to sit there for a long time before making a return, I better put that money to a better use. I was thus saved from making an egregious error. Before that, I thought about stenciling t-shirts. It didn't take me long to realize that it's going to take time to learn and to create designs I want.

Your personality and lifestyle may dictate the type of craft that's suitable to you. Starting a hobby requires lots of time, patience, aptitude, and start-up costs (a sewing machine, for example). Here are some of the questions you need to ask yourself: how realistic are your goals? What do you know how to do? How much free time do you have? How patient are you? How much money do you have? How committed are you to learning? I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying new things, but realistically, if you don't know yourself well enough, you'll end up spending a lot of money on supplies only to let them go unused.

For example, if you're the type of person who wants instant gratification, it's best to pick a craft that's easy to learn and doesn't take a long time before you produce something wearable; therefore, jewelry-making and applique work are great, but knitting, crocheting, and sewing are probably not for you. If you don't like complicated machines, tools, or instructions, you probably want to stick with something that requires little or no gadgetry; knitting, crocheting, or cross-stitching would work, provided that you're patient enough. If you want cool t-shirts, stenciling or applique work are right up your alley.

Before you order any supplies, google for some online tutorials of your hobby of interest. When I decided to start making jewelry, I did my research so that I could understand how easy or hard it was to make stuff, become familiar with jewelry-making terminology and techniques, and figure out what supplies I needed. A couple of sites I liked are the tutorials from WigJig and Fire Mountain Gems, two beading supply stores (I'm sure their tactic is to drum up business, but the tutorials are quite good). For stenciling, I really liked the tutorials from Stencil Revolution. Craftster.org also offers great ideas and sometimes tutorials for all sorts of projects.

Aside from finding free online tutorials, there are a few things you can do to make the learning experience more economical. If you want to sew or stencil, don't forget to save old clothes from your Spring Cleaning sessions; they'll serve as your scratch paper for your lessons. If you're learning to make jewelry, start off with cheap components like plastic beads and base-metal findings. Once you've honed your craft, you can move on to semi-precious or precious components.


BrownEyedGirl said...

I was reading you post and I totally agree! I remember that last year I thought it would be cool to learn how to make my own clothes. Then I really thought about the fact that I'd need to BUY a sewing machine and actually LEARN how to make clothes! Needless to say that idea isn't coming to life anytime soon! I enjoy making jewelry but even that gets expensive so the best thing is to learn more about it before you invest in something on impulse!:)

Sales Rack Raider said...

I absolutely agree with the learning part. When I first got started with jewelry-making, I did make an effort to learn first, but it was apparent that my little knowledge was woefully inadequate when I stood in the store staring at rows and rows of supplies, not knowing exactly what I should get. It's definitely important to get the fundamentals down.

Anonymous said...

You are wise to think twice about the sewing machine unless you have time to mess with it! I learned to sew in my teens but it wasn't until this year that I could afford a nice machine. It's the only one that has ever been able to handle thick denim. My handmedown several hundred dollar machine couldn't even do it. Your DIY method works great!