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December 14, 2012 at 9:35 AMComments: 5 Faves: 4

D.I.Don't: 6 Reasons Your How-To Leaves Us Asking Why-Would-I?

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

I have to admit - when my friends first pulled me onto Pinterest, I was a reluctant recruit. I mean, I already had Facebook, Twitter and this SLN account and despite their insistence that I would come to love pinning, Pinterest seemed like just another fad network.

I was wrong!

…Kind of.

Unfortunately, I have to say, those memes poking fun at Pinterest (“pinterest is for wasting time.”, “pinterest is for projects you’ll never do”, “Saw it On Pinterest --> Nailed it!”) are sadly, in many cases, quite accurate. Though 800 + pins later, I’ve amassed a significant amount of great, realistic DIY inspiration (along with a somewhat ridiculous amount of cute animal photos) - I had to do a lot of wading to find those gems.

The thing is, while laziness (or overly-optimistic pinning) does play some part in the Pinterest problem, in many cases, un-realized goals are not the fault of Pinners, but of tutorials they pin! Many, in one way or another, don’t account for what the audience is working with.

When I boil it down, there are 6 main D.I.Don’ts I encounter regularly in my surfing. Avoid these and you'll be well on your way to how-to gold!

#1. Useless DIY

bad DIYThough you may at first be swept away by how simple, cute, or cheap it is to make this thing, when you stop, think and really get honest with yourself, you must admit - this is Useless DIY. This is a holder for something that has never before required holding or it’s this huge decorative thing you actually have no room for.  With the “gained experience” argument aside, any amount of time or money spent making it, would be a waste.

Tutorial Makers: If there is no commercial equivalent for this thing – there’s probably a good reason.

#2. Needs More Than It’s Worth DIY

Though art should ideally be a heart thing, at some point practicality steps in. There’s a lot of Needs More Than It’s Worth DIY on Pinterest. The hipster movement has brought this great interest in learning forgotten skills and making everything ourselves - which is really cool, and I’m all for it, but sometimes gets taken too far. In our enthusiasm, we sometimes forget the math – that the final product is just really not worth the time or money it requires to make it. For example, I got stupidly excited when I saw that I could make my very own fruit snacks with Jello – until I realized fruit snacks are dead cheap and I prefer the real fruit snacks anyhow.

Tutorial Makers: If making it yourself doesn’t end in a product of equal or greater value, it’s OK to buy the less expensive commercially produced version. Save your money and precious time for a DIY that does!

#3. Experts Only DIY

You see this project and it looks freaking AMAZING, but, as it turns out, there’s a good reason for that. It’s an Expert’s Only DIY, created by an expert. It requires power tools the average person wouldn’t have at home. “Just pull out your serrated 16 point drill bit?...My what?” Or, while room for personalization is usually a plus, it turns out that success with this DIY depends mainly on skilled improvisation “1. Buy a frame 2.Paint a picture …Serious?!” You may even pin one of these really cool Experts Only DIY,  only to realize – this might actuallykill  someone if you did it wrong (DIY: Hang Your Bed From the Ceiling!). “Maybe...not.”

Tutorial Makers: The most successful DIY tutorials avoid stretching too far beyond basic skills.

#4. Still Looks Like Junk DIY

bad DIY

You don’t actually pin this one. You see it and can’t help but cringe at the thought of people displaying this thing in their home. I mean, yeah, you like to live green. You buy organic and you recycle when you can. You think reusing is great! Just… not in this case. It’s sort of hard to issue any hard and fast rules on this one, because cool things CAN be made from junk, but people of taste know it when they see it. In general, most Still Looks Like Junk DIY projects involve either painting something you would have thrown out to look like something else OR gluing two or more things you would have thrown out to look like something else.

Tutorial Makers: Sometimes, it’s better to just toss it. (Or you know… recycle if you can. Use common sense, people.)

#5. Directions Suck DIY

“Wow!” You say, “That [insert thing’s name here] is STUNNING! I’m definitely making that!” Eagerly, you click over to the website excited for the details that will bring you one step closer to possessing it, and that’s when you realize – (oh NO!!) this is Directions Suck DIY. The steps were written by someone that doesn’t realize you don’t possess all their knowledge and can’t see what they are doing. Or they’re written in another language you can’t translate. Or they just stupid don’t exist at all. This wouldn’t be such an issue if it was a straightforward project, but you’re not actually sure how you got those things to turn into this thing – and there is only one picture.  You slap your forehead. Ugh!! All this tutorial does for you is torture you with the promise of sweet, sweet crafting.

Tutorial Makers: We’re (mostly) not psychic!  Throw us a bone, tutorial makers. Pretend we don’t know how to, because, seriously? That’s why we went to you.

#6. Stupid Supplies DIY

This DIY’s status is revealed in much the same way as #5’s.  “Wow! What a crazy cool [thing]! I’ve just gotta know how to make it!” You click over and, “Oh. A Stupid Supplies DIY. Well…crap. THAT’s not happening.” In order to make this thing you apparently need supplies that might as well be the Holy Grail, or the Missing Link, or a fond memory of middle school - you have NO clue how to find them (or would have to special order online and then wait 2 weeks for them to arrive “…no.”) Or, OR(!) they want you take something you already have, like, and think is good as-is and subject it to your (decent, but not professional by any means) crafting skills. “Umm… no? No.” :/

Tutorial Makers: We’ll make the crap out of your DIY and we’ll tell our friends about it - just try and stick to things we can find in a local craft store (good), grocery store (better), or home (best!). Also – don’t tempt me to destroy my clothing or furniture, please? (I’ll do it!)

Credits: Main blog photo from the hilarious Pinterest DIY testing site -

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  • Erin, I LOVE this blog! It's hilarious, and oh-so-true. I just spent hours this month looking for DIYs to put in a local magazine I write for, and I definitely came across some D.I.Don'ts. I got really excited when I saw one page that had 100 easy DIY gift ideas...only to find that most of them fell into your category #4. So disappointing!

  • Awesome blog. I am a sucker for how-to articles, but it is seriously frustrating sifting through the crap. Same with recipes (basically how-tos). Seriously, if you're taking the time to post it, make it clear. Might not need photos every step of the way, but then the text better be awesome.

    Video how-to posts used to be pretty awesome, then people figured out they could improve the quality of the videos by making them seem like a reality TV show, skipping the boring parts (like the actual freaking how-to!!!), and adding useless pre and post reel shameless self promotion crap.

  • Aww... Thanks you guys! I had a blast writing this one (could you tell?) so I'm really glad you enjoyed it. :)

  • So, I too was gullible! My friend found an idea on Pinterest when she shared it with me I thought I could make this, after all, it was something I do all the time (KNIT). This was a project that called for making a knitted cable holder to be used as a sleeve around your hot mug or cup so you wouldn't burn your hand or maybe just for decoration who knows!

    So I attempted to make this pattern only to find out the instructions were wrong. I started the cup sleeve holder three times before I gave up.

    It just goes to say you can't always believe what you read!

  • Love this, it's so true!

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