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Helen Popkin
By
TODAY
updated 10/1/2012 1:19:05 PM ET 2012-10-01T17:19:05

You spend endless hours on the Internet stalking craft blogs, re-pinning international yarn bombings on Pinterest, scouring Etsy for tiny needle-felted dogs or guffawing at craft fails on Regretsy — but you’ve never even so much as hot-glued a jiggle eye to a coconut.

BritKits
The newly-launched Brit Kits ($19.95 per month) deliver a new DIY project straight to your doorstep.

Maybe you don’t have the time. Maybe you’re worried about your budget. Maybe you don’t know how to start. Or maybe you’re just not talented. (High five!)

Whatever the reason, you’ve remained on the fraying hem of the do-it-yourself craft explosion — which is now so ubiquitous, you’re running out of excuses. Take, for example, Brit Kits, the freshly launched subscription service which, for $19.95 per month, delivers a new DIY project straight to your doorstep.

“Stop pinning, start doing,” is the motto behind Brit Kits, which come with “all the materials you need to put it together yourself,” says Brit Morin, founder and CEO of lifestyle brand Brit + Co.

Well, almost everything. Brit + Co also offers a Brit Kit starter kit, including basic crafting tools such as a hot glue gun, X-Acto knife and hole puncher, $14.99 with a subscription, and $29.99 without.

“We’ll be sending a mixture of projects with no particular theme,” a surprise each moth, Morin told TODAY.com. “Things for kids, (non-perishable) food kits, DIY fashion accessories, and home decor for parties.”

Awesome! The DIY craft movement is so mainstream now, there’s a service that’ll do most of the heavy lifting — from gathering the supplies and even brainstorming the ideas. But maybe you’ve got one excuse left — does a pre-packaged craft project divorce you from the vaunted “DIY ethic” of self-sufficiency, community empowerment and a political statement against sweatshop goods? Did you really “do it yourself?”

It’s an existential craft query for the ages … or is it?

Crafting from kits? “Sure, why not?” says longtime craft culture observer April Winchell, who, as “Helen Killer,” hilariously critiques unfortunate end products on the Etsy satire site Regretsy.

“I've always loved kits; they were a great part of my childhood. Paint-by-Number sets, needlepoint kits, mosaics, jewelry kits... whatever looked like fun,” Winchell told TODAY.com. “It was good for me. I never felt like I was cheating because I didn't buy everything separately."

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Many of us just want to make stuff — a purse that has the exact pockets we need, or embroidered scarves to give to our friends — and the mainstreaming of the craft movement gives many of us short on time, money or talent, an easy in.

Faythe Levine, who chronicled the rise of the craft movement in her 2009 documentary, “Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY Art, Craft and Design” and its accompanying book, knows from hardcore DIY going mainstream. Levine traveled 19,000 miles across the United States to interview makers, curators and community members, and she’s noticed the simplification of this complex culture.

“The mainstream has attempted to co-op DIY in any form, be it music or craft, for as long as I can remember,” Levine told TODAY.com. “Personally I don't believe you can ever package and sell the ethos of true DIY culture, which is the root of my work. However if I want to buy a birthday card, purse or dress that looks like someone made it in their studio but was mass produced in China, big box stores such as Target has made that option very available and affordable.”

DIY is where you find it, Levine says. “I feel like a kit is as DIY as finding your supplies on the side of the street, but one may come at an extra cost. In the end it's all what you do with the materials and how it makes you feel.”

Other veterans of the craft scene feel much the same.

“It’s just really nice to make something with our own hands,” says Casey Buchanan, a community manager who joined Craftster, a popular online community for crafts, soon after it launched in 2003. Buchanan credits the craft movement — and Craftster’s growth to more than one million users per month — to the gratification that comes from seeing a project through from the beginning to the end, no matter how simple or complex.

“It always amazes me how far the reach of crafting has gone,” Buchanan told TODAY.com. “It used to be just a few people, it wasn’t very widespread. Now even my friends who weren’t into crafting before, will pick up a little kit to do cross stitch.”

Starting small is how Buchanan came to crafts — buying a sewing machine when customized T-shirts were all the rage on eBay back in the early '80s. Like many, she learned more from the Internet, from the community and tutorials posted by other craftsters, how to knit, quilt and even spin.

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Even if your crafting starts small — say, from a pre-assembled kit — starting is what matters, she says. “Whether it’s ‘DIY’ is arguable for some people,” Buchanan says. “But I think that stuff is great. There are a lot of people who are going to use that and it’s going to inspire them to take them further.”

It certainly did during one earlier DIY boom. In the late 1970s, latch hook, needlepoint and leather-craft kits were all the rage, as were unpainted ceramics and pre-cut lengths of macramé rope. Those kit-happy masses didn't have a Craftser or Ravelry yarn community to turn to. They followed the directions provided with their whatzits until some of them started working off-pattern and creating their own inarguably DIY projects (see: everything your grandma ever made). Inspiration is catchy.

Admit it. Staring at everyone else’s creations has your crafty fingers itching.

“Pinterest and Etsy make people want to create on their own,” says Brit Morin, who adds that making things with our hands is a biological function — but one that many people just don’t have the time for. "You don’t have to spend multiple hours on a project, and you’ll still have a beautiful outcome.”

What do you think? Do craft kits constitute DIY? Share your thoughts!

Want from TODAY Style? Follow us on Twitter @todaystyles!

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Photos: Coveted creations from DIY style bloggers

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  1. Coveted creations from DIY style bloggers

    By Rina Raphael

    Why buy it when you can make it? To kick off TODAY's DIY Style Week (Oct. 24-28), we rounded up the top DIY fashion bloggers and showcased some of their best projects. Got your own great DIY style item? Enter our DIY challenge for a chance to win a prize and post on TODAY.com.

    Glitter 'N Glue
    Kristen Turner of Glitter 'N Glue is a big believer in looking chic without breaking the bank. "I think the growth of the DIY movement can be contributed to two things: hard economic times and expanding creative social networks," she told TODAY.com. "We want to buy the latest and greatest in designer fashions, but we might not be able to afford them."

    Her homemade lucite cuff, a style taken from Tory Burch, DSquared and Vionnet, comes complete with a whimsical brooch.

    Find out how to make it: Tory Burch-inspired cuff (Glitter 'N Glue) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honestly...WTF

    Erica Chan Coffman and Lauren Kolodny, the masterminds behind Honestly...WTF, boast an extensive archive of the most adorable and fashion-forward DIY items. From bowties to Miu-Miu-inspired sneakers, they have artfully captured the "it" items of the season.

    One of our favorite projects? The dynamic duo experimented with bleach to tie-dye a shirt that was effortlessly cool.

    Find out how to make it: Bleach tie dye (Honestly WTF) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. P.S. I Made This

    It's impossible to discuss DIY fashion without mentioning Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This. The energetic and constantly innovative DIY designer somehow manages to transform everyday items with extremely accessible tutorials. (It's amazing what she can do with a Sharpie marker.) With her infectious enthusiasm, you'll have no choice but to give in to her genius.

    "I encourage all forms of inspiration. From runways, red carpets, magazines, or a shopping trip – keep your eyes open," she told TODAY.com. "Dive into DIY! It's truly infectious, exciting and empowering."

    Her adorable hair comb, inspired by the Thakoon runway, makes us want to solely wear buns this season.

    Find out how to make it: Woven hair comb (PS I Made This) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. I Spy DIY

    Jenni Radosevich of I Spy DIY works in fashion, so it's no surprise she spends her time recreating trends. "The feeling you get when you tell admirers you did it yourself is beyond gratifying," she said of her stylish projects, which range from Kanye-inspired denim shirts to sparkly cat eye sunglasses (as spotted on J.Lo) .

    She recently updated the casual chic waist purses seen on the Diane von Furstenberg runway with a some leopard print, a chain and, of course, a glue gun.

    Find out how to make it: DVF-inspired waist bag (I Spy DIY) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. ... love Maegan

    Maegan Tintari of ... love Maegan manages to cover all areas of DIY: clothing, hair, home decor and more. The stunning and talented blogger regualry posts fun, interesting projects as well as photos of her amazing signature style. (How does she do it all?!)

    Maegan pays homage to old Hollywood glamour with a sexy, vintage-inspired bustier made of lace and sating ribbons.

    Find out how make it: Lace haltier bust (lovemaegan.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A Pair & A Spare

    Geneva Vanderzeil of A Pair & A Spare is all about recreating the most coveted trends off the runway. "It’s also about people wanting to feel a greater sense of individualism in what they wear," Vanderzeil said of her work. "People want to make something that feels unique and special – even if it’s just embellishing it slightly."

    She recently put her spin on the Sass & Bide necklaces with a little help from spraypaint. Like graffiti for your jewelry collection!

    Find out how to make it: Neon yellow collar necklace (A Pair & A Spare) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Bobbie Thomas

    While TODAY style editor Bobbie Thomas believes that "style is the way you speak to the world without words," it doesn't have to be store-bought.

    "You don’t necessarily have to sift flour or break out a sewing machine," Thomas said. "You could also consider a creative semi-handmade alternative." From opting to wear a dress backwards or inside-out, or using a safety pin to alter its shape, Bobbie's unique philosophy centers around the idea that you don't have to do it (all) yourself, but you can do it your way.

    Need some metallic shine? Inspired by the Cynthia Rowley Spring 2012 runway, Bobbie updates the LBD with some foil glue.

    Find out how to make it: Foiled fashion (Bobbie Thomas) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Stripes & Sequins

    A self-described "human magpie," Grace Atwood of Stripes & Sequins has a love of "shiny old-lady jewelry" and admits she has "a little neon obsession."

    The Cape Cod native explains how to make these Tom Binns-inspired statement earrings with nail polish, glue and some pre-set rhinestones. Who knew your Essie collection had so many uses?

    Find out how to make it: Tom Binns-inspired neon earrings (Stripes & Sequins) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Studs and Pearls

    Kirsten Nunez of Studs and Pearls is "convinced DIY is the best form of self-expression." The New Yorker's blog archive stretches across all style categories, from leopard glam manicures to geometric lace tops.

    Her DIY galaxy handbag and heels offer an affordable option for those coveting Christopher Kane's most recent intergalactic-inspired collection.

    Find out how to make it: Galaxy handbag and heels (Studs and Pearls) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Viewers craft designer DIY trends – for less!

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