Are DIY posts bad for creativity?

Edit: Geen Geenie added a new perspective to this conversation by discussing the potential effects of prolific free tutorials on the value we place on professional crafters and their products. It’s very interesting and you should read it. 

The one and only magazine that I truly love is Uppercase Magazine. It’s a celebration of all things creative (art, crafts, writing, you name it). In one of the recent newsletters, Janine (the magazine’s creator) stated the following:

Stay away from DIY posts and Pinterest!

These days, it is too easy to get bogged down into the perceived perfection of Pinterest and the tyranny of step-by-step craft instructions. Today’s the day to unplug from these distractions. Comparing yourself to others and following directions can be so detrimental to genuine creativity. Use your own ideas, your own resources, your own ingenuity… you will make something that is from you and your heart.

While I’m a huge fan of online instructions and tutorials, I think she makes a really good point. Too often, we are led to believe that everything has to be perfect and done exactly the way things are laid out in the instructions. In some cases, veering from the instructions is a recipe for disaster. But, I feel that we should allow ourselves to trust our instinct and experiment on occasion. Not only does this help us to learn through trial and error, it also allows us to stretch our creativity skills.

I used to just wing things all the time. The first quilt top I ever made was in high school – I knew nothing about quilting and had to use a sewing machine that would only cooperate for mom. I also played with mixing media (using whichever tools/media produced the colour or texture that I wanted), making things with no instructions (clay sculptures, paper mache shapes, etc.), and generally making shit up as I went. But, I haven’t done that in ages.

I know, for me, part of the problem is that art stopped being a habit and my go-to means of relaxing. After years of never having time for it, I lost my confidence in my abilities (my drawing skills have definitely suffered in the past two decades), so it became a source of stress. Instead of just playing, I got upset if things weren’t perfect. So, I turned to patterns I could follow.

And, this is where I contradict what I said above and tell you about how great following instructions can be: Sometimes, you just need to do something that doesn’t require you to be an expert. If nothing else, it helps you to learn the basics. For quilting, following instructions for the first few projects I did gave me the confidence to play and make things up as I go. For cross stitch, I’ve found that, while I know I could do my own thing, I actually really love to follow a pattern, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking of projects I could design on my own.

So, don’t be a slave to Pinterest or other how-to sources, but at the same time, try to appreciate and use them when needed. I do miss the old me, who just tried things without learning about the craft, but I’m also glad that I have the means of finding a million and one tutorials online. I think, though, that I need to play more often and allow myself to just make things without looking for perfection.



  1. This is a sticky topic. I started to write a response here, but it’s so long it merits a response as a blog post of my own. You prompted a whole train of thought about the short comings of the ‘craft industry’ that feeds into what i’ve long wanted to write about the myth of the craft entrepreneur . I promise to share a link asap! Cheers Anne!x

    Liked by 1 person

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