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How to DIY - 5 Steps

How To Aug 11, 2011

Finding time, the DIY toolkit and more. I often get emails from readers saying that they love DIY fashion projects but don’t do any – common reasons for this include a lack of materials, inspiration, confidence and above all, time. Bearing that in mind, I’ve listed out below my 5 key steps to getting started on DIY fashion projects.

The first step is to organise a DIY essentials kit. This kit will have the key tools to support the actual process of your DIY projects, and without them it’s going to be super hard to follow through when you’re inspired.  There is a huge benefit in taking the time to collect the right basic tools at the start – it opens up your imagination and means less barriers to getting started on a project. To do this, get a box and start collecting. You can check out M&J Trimming, Ebay, Hardware Stores, Flea Markets and craft stores for these items . At a minimum your essentials toolkit could contain the following things:
  • a good pair of dressmaking scissors
  • a box of dressmakers pins
  • a measuring tape
  • chalk
  • black and white thread
  • needles
  • a quick unpick
If you have cash to splash, invest in:
  • a sewing machine (mine is a Singer model ‘2250 Tradition’)
  • a glue gun
A sewing machine is the best investment you will ever make in terms of the quality and type of DIY projects you will be able to produce. But I know they aren’t cheap (my aussie one was AUD$600 and the one I now have in HK went for US$250) and it’s a huge investment to make when you don’t know how to sew or if you will even like it. Why not buy one with a group of friends and take turns using it? The person who enjoys it the most can always buy the others out if interest wanes. Find a local sewing school or sewing cafe and do some classes before you invest – Sweatshop Cafe in Paris and The Make Lounge in Islington are two fun places to learn how to sew. If anyone knows of any other sewing classes/schools/cafes they would like to recommend please leave a comment below.
Look around you for inspiration for DIY projects – in magazines, on blogs,, on the streets, in shops, in your local department store. Start asking yourself, could I DIY that? Collect and keep images and ideas, have a folder on your laptop or computer titled ‘DIYS to do’ where you regularly save off inspiring images from blogs and websites, tear images out of magazines, and take pictures on the streets. DIY ideas can be fleeting we’ve all got a million other things to think about, so make sure to nail down your inspiration when you have it. This allows you to come back to it later on when you have time.
The easiest DIYs involve altering and experimenting on thrifted clothes. This is really how I got started. Creating a garment from scratch is really a daunting task (for me too!), but making changes and alterations to existing clothes is a surprisingly easy place to start. Add fringing, studs, feathers and buttons as a start. Check out local charity shops, seconds stores, flea markets and garage sales for clothes that you can experiment on. The less you spend on these items, the more likely you are to be imaginative.
Get together a collection of cheap materials – such as chains, buttons, studs, ribbons, and zips,  which can be used to DIY items of clothing or accessories. Often you will find these materials in the most unlikely of places – thrift stores, hardware stores, newsagents and stationary stores, plumbing shops and junk yards. All these stores have a million different items them that, with a little creativity, can help you produce professional looking DIY projects. I have a tendency to stockpile these items when I see them, even if I don’t have a use for them at that particular moment – they always come in handy down the track. I also try not to spend too much on these things – DIY for me is a way to satisfy my fashion cravings without breaking the bank.
I get asked alot ‘how do you find the time to do DIY?’. Time is one of the biggest factors in being able to carry out DIY projects, and what stands in most people’s way. Most of us lead busy lives – between work, socialising and (occasionally haha) going to the gym, there is very little time left. My biggest tip is to commit time to doing projects, as that is one of the only ways they happen. I generally commit to doing one project over the weekend – Sunday afternoon is my favoured time to put on some Sex and the City and have a ‘crafternoon’. You could commit to doing a project a month or fortnight and take the time to prepare for it. Still torn between other commitments? Organise to do some projects with friends so that you can kill two birds with one stone. Or do some DIY whilst on public transport – beading and other sewing projects are possible. I also always have a project to do while sitting in front of the TV, most of us waste a fair amount of time watching the new Weeds/Breaking Bad/Californication (etc) episodes – so make it productive DIY time.
And lastly… Don’t be afraid to have a go. Have the confidence to make DIY inspiration reality, the worst thing that could happen is that it doesn’t work out. Reduce fears associated with this by using cheap and thrifted materials. Every good DIYer has a project graveyard, a place for those DIYs that didn’t work out as planned. I have ruined so many projects by getting scissor happy and cutting a dress/skirt too short. A word of advice – more is more when it comes to hems and scissors, trust me! Remember, projects that go awry can always be refashioned in the future, so there is no such thing as a complete fail.

Has this post answered some of your questions about how to DIY? Feel free to add any comments or further questions you have below – would love to know if anything else stands in your way from doing DIY projects. Share the love and DIY!
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