Arts and crafts mythbusting: Putting the WHY into DIY


Is it really as easy as conventional wisdom says to craft your way to an ideal life? Emmi Miller gives her take on three of the biggest arts and crafts myths.

Myth 1: Crafting is Cheap!

Wrong. Crafting can be very expensive. It depends how far you want to go. Making a birthday card with paper and pencils can be very thrifty indeed. But some of the impressive card tutorials out there are made with the aid of laser cutters, embossing machines and fancy pokey tools and bendy bits (the exact words my craft-loving mother uses, along with ‘chu-chung’ which sounds less ominous than ‘guillotine’). Even a relatively cheap-seeming craft involving a stamp and some ink can soon start costing the big bucks when you realise that each stamp you may want to use is another few pounds/dollars a time.

The truth? Crafting CAN save you money!

Yes, crafting can be cheap, but mostly what doing-it-your-fine-self does is give you options. Take, for example, some of the fabulous tutorials for Disney Princess dresses online. These dresses are not necessarily less expensive than their official counterparts. But making your own means that you can choose a better quality fabric (more hardwearing, for frequent playing, or softer for sensitive skins) and it means you can make the outfit fit your child, whatever their body shape. If you take care to find free patterns, wait for sales on fabric and use offcuts as much as possible to save waste, you can save money on an official product IF you already own a sewing machine (or you’re doggedly prepared to hand sew all the ruffles on Belle’s ball gown…).


Myth 2: DIY is easy!

Sadly, this isn’t often the case. Pinterest and the likes are flooded with ‘simple’ picture tutorials showing you everything from making a braided bracelet to reupholstering a sofa. But it’s a very different ballgame. If you already have some of the skills you need (usually sewing, painting, woodwork for most household projects) then you may find you save money on hiring a professional (but the outlay for materials is yours, and very few people have the exact thing they need just lying in their garage). If you’re absolutely set on renovating your living room yourself, you’re going to need more than three photographs and a ‘tada!’ image.

The truth? You can learn the skills you need!

No, it’s not as easy as just copying the tutorial. But if you’re passionate about reupholstering that sofa with absolutely no experience, you can find books, videos and courses to teach you. Don’t believe anyone who says that you can just wonkily stitch a few bits of felt together and get a decent coffee cosy. Plus, if you want to DIY it, you owe it to yourself to do a good job. What’s the point of making your own prom dress if it doesn’t fit you any better than a store-bought one because you don’t understand dart placement? And why would you bother making your own shelving unit if it collapses twice as much as the IKEA one you threw out?

Myth 3: You can make stuff from things lying around your house (or a thrift store)

If there’s one thing I know about true crafters, it’s that they hoard. After all, everything can be used ‘one day’. That gorgeous Pinterest tutorial you found for plastic dinosaur Mason jar fairy light cupcake holders never seeems to reveal the Room of Shame in which all those one-day-useful things are hidden, stacked up ceiling-high.

If you’ve already invested in the glue gun, sewing machine and embossing machine that you are, of course, certain you will use to craft, then you have a decent head start. However, crafting often calls for scrap fabrics,  and I don’t know about you, but I have every print imaginable EXCEPT the silky black and purple damask that haunts my dreams, calling me, tempting me… So if I ever decide I really want to re-upholster my dining room chair, I’m off to the fabric shop. I may then (perhaps) have enough scrap fabric left over for some other craft, but that requires me to have bought too much when thrift demands I buy the right amount. As an aside, unless a beautiful fabric is on sale, don’t kid yourself that you will find a use for it without a project in mind. That way lies bags of unloved fabrics sitting around your house, where the most crafty thing you do with them is use them as DIY ‘bean bag’ chairs for the cat.

The truth? You need to be lucky!

When it comes to scouring charity shops for thrift store finds, you may just get lucky. However, shabby chic and DIY is so fashionable now that people are realising the value of their antique dressers and old pianos and selling them online for eye-watering prices instead of dumping them at second hand shops. A few years ago, I could stroll around the charity shops in a nearby village and find quaint pottery, interesting furnishings and vintage clothes. Now it’s sadly lots of DVDs as everyone starts downloading, buying flat pack furniture and casting off last season’s high street clothes. If you are dedicated and incredibly fortunate, you may discover a thrilling find. There’s an even slimmer chance that yes, it actually will fit in your hallway, not be riddled with woodworm and utterly fail to clash with your curtains. So you need to be VERY open-minded if you are determined to get vintage for cheap.

The art of DIY is a true art. It requires a passion for experimentation, for creating a one-off that’s what you always wanted… or a glorious strangeness you’ll personally love, even if no-one else can quite figure out what it is. Sometimes you’ll even be able to do it for cheap… but DIY is big business, so it’s better to invest if you love the pleasure of the making, not just the having of the thing that’s been made.