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Do craft kits still count as DIY?

The DIY craft explosion has birthed a multitude of shortcuts, saving you the heavy-lifting – from gathering the supplies and even brainstorming the ideas. But then did you really "do it yourself?"
/ Source: TODAY

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.

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 “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 “It was good for me. I never felt like I was cheating because I didn't buy everything separately."

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 “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 “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.

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?

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