DIY kits make crafting easier

Companies are finding a new niche in the craft market with “DIY kits”


A Made by Me kit. (Darby Smart)

Oh, Pinterest, you well-organized and time-stealing friend. Unlike our other social media loves, you make us feel productive. You say, “This is what your life can look like! Just go out there and Do It Yourself.”

So off we pin, to boards we name “Someday” and “I’m so going to make this!” — and of course we never do. Our afternoons meant to be crafternoons are instead filled with work and errands and, you know, life.

We can’t blame you, Pinterest. The gods of DIY have been rubbing it in our face since Lowe’s (Never stop improving!), Home Depot (More saving, more doing!) and their handy counterparts have graced our TV screens. But it was you and your blogger friends who made DIY so darn cool.

Well, now, good old American capitalism has got you all figured out. World, meet the DIY kit.

It’s everything one needs to complete a crafty project without actually having to go to the store, buy the right materials or, um, be crafty.

The companies send out (1) an adorably designed box, (2) every supply needed to create a specific project and (3) detailed visual instructions that make it nearly impossible to mess up. With magnetic terrariums, applique T-shirts and scented soy candles, it’s finally the busy, uncreative woman’s turn to say, “Oh, this? Thanks, I made it.”

Working out of online storefronts, many DIY kit companies offer a subscription service. New York-based For the Makers ($29/month) sends customers four projects each month, two of which are jewelry. Chief executive Janet Crowther said her company prides itself on sending subscribers materials they don’t have access to at regular craft stores.

Whimseybox of Boulder, Colo. ($15/month), is subscription-based as well but also sells basic craft supplies such as acrylic paint and scissors. Media company Brit + Co.’s version of the DIY kit ($20-$100) can be purchased with an online class for an additional $20.

From box to tea towel:


The Toketee Confetti Trail tea towel kit. (For the Makers)

Making the tea towel. (For the Makers)


The completed project. (For the Makers)

The vast majority of these companies have popped up within the past few years. Richmond-based DIYer Sherry Petersik of the blog and book Young House Love said the commercialization of craft coincided with an upswing in the economy.

“During the recession, a lot of people started getting into DIY because they didn’t have the resources to maybe shop catalogues like they used to,” Petersik said. “Now, it’s just cool. People who have the money to buy things still want to make them.”

So now, DIY isn’t about saving money. For kit companies, it’s about helping people save time.

“People who have the money to buy things still want to make them.”

Sherry Petersik, Young House Love blogger

Former Goldman Sachs investment banker Nicole Farb said this need coincided with her inability to make thank-you cards. So she quit her job and started Darby Smart.

“I think many of our customers are working women who maybe have an hour to do a craft, not the three hours it would take to drive to the store, get the stuff and come home,” Farb said. “And now instead of buying 12 ounces of paint, you can just buy the two ounces you need.”

Farb’s popular company pays well-known Pinterest users and bloggers to design its kits. She recently launched Darby Smart’s line of DIY wedding kits, for brides who want to personalize their ceremonies and receptions. Crafts are organized into wedding types: “seaside chic,” “rustic luxe,” “modern whimsy” or “classic romance.”

Take that, Pinterest wedding boards.

We highly doubt that kits will run craft stores out of business; experienced DIYers like Petersik of Young House Love and Maxwell Ryan, founder of Apartment Therapy, say the experience of “DIY-light” is just not the same. But just like Pinterest found a niche in the social media world, kit companies are most certainly making a dent in the DIY market.

“The kit thing is a little against the grain, but Americans, people, we like things to be laid out,” Ryan said. “It’s in our nature to want things and to want them kit-ed.”

More from The Washington Post

Chat Thursday at 11 a.m. Joe Johnson of ShelfGenie joins staff writer Jura Koncius for our weekly online Q&A, talking about storage and organizing.

At Home newsletter: Go to the Home & Garden page to subscribe to our e-mail newsletter, delivered every Thursday.

Jessica Contrera is a staff writer at the Washington Post.
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