“I wish I was crafty like you.” I hear this phrase often from friends and family members. When they ask me about my latest projects, they often listen with awe. I never understood why. My projects never seemed glamorous or intimidating to me before. This week, I took apart a chair’s upholstery with fearless abandon. I needed to shore up its arm and its fabric is hopelessly stained. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t put it back together. While the verdict’s still out on that one, I wanted to share some of the things that help me tackle a project I’m nervous is outside of my skill level. I think everyone should be able to make and do things with their own hands. After all, we all learn to walk and talk with no skills, so why can’t I do this?
The key to my fearless DIY attitude is in that last question. I like to call it my “Why not?” attitude. It’s not the first time this attitude came in handy, either. When I started teaching five years ago, I tackled my work with this notion. Why not try this new lesson? Why not learn this new piece of technology? Even at a younger age, I had this fearless curiosity. My sister and I created other worlds in our hilly backyard that we hated leaving for dinner. Creatures of all shapes and sizes danced through our dreams and imaginations. Still, creatures fill my imagination as I write stories in my limited free time.
The Confidence to Be Curious
People tend to see an old piece of furniture as dated or tired. They see things as not worth the trouble to breathe life back into again. I see them as more of a puzzle. Take this chair I’m working on. I’ve never re-upholstered something of this magnitude before. I should shy away from the project merely because I know next to nothing. But, I don’t.
You can learn a lot from how something is made and operates by taking it apart. In fact, I often enjoy taking it apart much more than putting it back together. For me, it’s a slower process because I take in how everything is tucked, put together and secured. I focus on the little details, like how a piece of fabric is pulled taught or let loose. It’s the same attention I took to taking apart a Chromebook for the first time in my last job. People say “the devil is in the details” but I disagree. I think enlightenment is in the details, if you just have the willingness to pay attention. If you can’t be confident in your skills, be confident in your curiosity. Trust me, that will help you push through more doubt than you think.
Starting Slow and Small
Now, I’m not recommending that your first DIY project be re-upholstering a chair. Perhaps a seat cushion for a dining room chair would be more accessible. You can see my dining room chair project here. That is, if upholstery is something you want to learn how to do. I am interested in it more because I can buy the fabric to re-cover a chair I love for about $75. A new chair like the one I’m currently re-doing is about $300. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of cash just hanging around every time a fabric goes out of style or is so badly stained it can’t be cleaned. 😉
For your first project, you should choose something you’re interested in learning about. If you’re HGTV obsessed like I am, think about the things you wish you knew how to make on your favorite shows. Pick something small. If you’re building, try to pick something relatively square. For those of you who prefer to learn small crafts, choose something that requires only a few materials. If you’re too nervous to start something on your own, check out classes at local craft or hardware stores. They’re a great way to learn! Just pick something small and start slow. Take time to get to know your project. Keep in mind how you want it to look when it’s finished. Plan it out and do research if you need to!
Buy Extra Materials
Whenever I’m trying a new project, especially using fabric, I always buy extra. I can always re-purpose the fabric later, but I can’t necessarily go buy more of the same if I run out from a few mistakes. I estimated that I would need somewhere between 5 and 6 yards of fabric for my chair project this week. They had about 6 and 3/8 yards left of the fabric I wanted, so I bought it all. I didn’t even blink. I may need that extra fabric, since I’ve never re-upholstered a whole chair before. If I don’t, I can always use it to create a bulletin board cover or make a throw pillow. Waste not, want not, right? 🙂
The point is, you’re giving yourself the room to make mistakes. That’s so important in the learning process. As you get better at certain types of projects, you’ll learn how to adjust your materials accordingly. In crafts, I leave pieces in their packaging until I need to use them. That way, if I end up not needing the extra I bought, I can always return it and get my money back.
It may seem simple, but the hardest part of a project is always beginning. There’s that nervous anxiety that prevents us from taking the first step. Just remember, in the face of learning to walk as a baby, you fell many times. You wobbled and stumbled, but in the end you did it. I think sometimes we forget how resilient we are. We learn the hardest skills at the beginning of our lives, so why is it that we are so afraid of those we might learn later on? When you begin (whether or not you’re “ready”), take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you are allowed to make mistakes. Our blemishes are often what make us beautiful. Tell yourself that you’ve accomplished harder tasks before. This, too, can and will be done.
Hammer that first nail. Paint that first stroke. Sew that first stitch. Whatever you do, take the first step. Then, take a moment to applaud yourself for having done it. Smile and breathe that sigh of relief. Take that moment to say “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.” Then, take the next step and the next, until there are no steps left. You’ll be done sooner than you imagined. 😉
Be Fearless in Your Pursuit of Curiosity
I have an intense fear of heights. At times in my life, it’s crippled me from experiencing things I know are worth experiencing. But, I have also faced it to see the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I put it aside to walk across a wire 70 feet in the air. I felt its shivers but still stepped on the glass floor in the CN Tower in Toronto. While none of those experience were quite “fearless,” I did pursue them as fiercely as I pursue knowledge and curiosity. Each lean into my discomfort (okay, shattering fear) of heights, my curiosity wins over my fear.
Curiosity is the best companion you can have to face the world. Be fearless in your pursuit of curiosity. Curiosity will always bring new skills and knowledge into your repertoire. Try something new whenever you can. When it comes to DIY, there’s no better way to be fearless than by doing, trying, and creating. You’ll love your home more for having done things yourself, and you’ll build confidence with every project.
So get out there and do it! Get your DIY on!
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