There’s no shame in not doing it all yourself: people exist who can do your projects FOR you!

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Scissor Kit © by LollyKnit, used under Creative Commons license.
The DIY movement has been in full force since oh, say, 2008. Its resurgence started before that, but that’s when it seems to have tipped over into a popular topic, when indie crafters got cool and became a thing you could be. The internet makes it hard NOT to see clever new things to make or fix or repurpose, and for some people crafting becomes a problem because the information is so available.

Thanks to the internet’s cornucopia of information and ideas, I’ve very much taken on the attitude that I CAN MAKE ALLLLL THINNNGSSSS, even though truthfully, I’m fair-to-middling at making things. Given a little time and good supplies, we can make a good go at most things — which is a damn slippery path to the mindset DO IT YOURSELF OR IT DOESN’T GET DONE! Which doesn’t have to be the case.

The reality is, there are people who can take some of your low-hanging fruit in the Project department, and can actually save you time and money in the long run. Let’s work together: who do you rely on to help you make the stuff you own last longer? Do you have a good recommendation about choosing a tailor? Or maybe you learned what you SHOULDN’T find in a good upholsterer.

I have one DIY area I’ve loved avoiding: cobbling. My beloved combat boots lasted through high school and most of college — and three soles — before they gave up the ghost. Find a good cobbler and even the cheapest rubber-soled shoes can increase in value.

Tell us what projects make you admit defeat and give to the experts!

Comments on There’s no shame in not doing it all yourself: people exist who can do your projects FOR you!

  1. I can draw, paint, design, and hot-glue stuff, as well as hand-stitch toys or make cute party decorations… but when it comes to building stuff or assembling things that are supposed to be structurally sound (headboards, coffee tables, refinishing furniture, raised garden beds, sewing whole dresses, assembling Ikea furniture) I’m not at all handy.

    I don’t have the patience to use or get the right tools or parts, the attention to detail, or necessary grasp of three-dimensional spaces. Fortunately my husband is an engineer, so our house isn’t full of my FrankenFails – together we make it come out okay.

    • One of the weirdest things about me is my great joy in assembling IKEA furniture. I really want to get a job with one of those companies that you can hire to assemble your IKEA stuff.

  2. This is me,
    “I can make ALLLLL THINGGGGGS!”

    Hubs and I are actually working towards a home in which we can say we made almost everything we own/eat… but we won’t be fully self-sufficient B.Z. (before zombies). Until then we still buy large appliances and furniture, and have other people fix them when they break. And we hire electricians.
    We don’t do a lot of the DIY so that it will get done; we just don’t have the money to hire out things we’d like to take a stab at!

  3. Does it count if I’m about to suggest to my cousin’s wife that I will pay her in cake if she can crochet the wrist/hand warmers I’ve been trying to make for the past two winters?

    Making curtains would have to be the major one though. As much as it galls me to buy readymade as, in my head, Little Miss Do-it-all shrieks, “But they’re only straight hems!”, I just have too many and too big windows in this flat to have enough enthusiasm to *finish* making the curtains or blinds for each room!

    edit – I love the sunlight and the views over town with the sea in the background and love having lots of lovely big windows but getting new curtains is always a faff. The house being old and all of the windows being a completely different size and shape to modern windows doesn’t help either.

    • I’m so with you on curtains. I bought some great silver curtains and was all excited when they came in the mail. I put them up…and they’re like 18 inches too long. That was October. I still haven’t worked up the gumption to just put a few stitches so they are the right length. Up til now I’ve been able to convince myself that they look classy being all long and that it’s really the new thing to have curtains that are that long.

      • Amy, do you know how to do tucks? We do them all the time on costumes, particularly petticoats and underclothes, or dresses that need to last with multiple actresses. It will be a cinch on curtains and take you an hour, tops.
        1) Take fabric and measure how much you need to take up (in this case, 18″)
        2) Divide up how many tucks you want per inches to cover it all (I would do 9 2″ tucks for lots of texture, or 6 3″ tucks, or you can invert them for bigger tucks, etc…)
        3) Start about halfway down the fabric to allow for material to be taken up…measure from the middle, two inches down, and make a mark on either end. FOLD those marks in half (so the fold will be on the 1″ mark) and press.
        4) Stitch 1″ from that fold (the beginning and the end mark of that 2 inches…) to take up the material, then press the “flap” that has been created down towards the end of the curtain.
        5) Repeat as necessary…boom you’re done!! 🙂

        • And I know that was a totally DIY response on a post that was intended NOT to DIY….I guess proving the point that we’re all “CRAFT ALL THE THINGSSSSSSS!”

    • This is why I go to the fabric market (Taipei has a huge one, and it’s surrounded for 2 blocks in most directions with fabric stores), pick out the fabric I want and have a tailor make my curtains.

      Not so much for window size but style: what’s available here is either heavy and patterned (think Grandma’s Jacquard Curtains) and sometimes decorated with little hangy pom-poms or rickrack, or is translucent but made of cheap, shiny stuff, often with flowers or vines embroidered in it. None of that really suits my taste. I wanted intensely colored but NOT shiny translucent chiffon/rayon curtains, and the set in the living room to be three different colors of this fabric. I wanted very simple lines. No vines, flowers, brocade, poofs, tucks, valances, pompoms, hangy bits or rickrack. Almost shower-curtain simple, so the colors could really stand out.

      This does not exist in Taiwan.

      But I can’t sew.

      Hello tailor!

  4. I think I have DIY paralysis. I think of all these cute things, and it looks so great in my head, but actually doing it freaks me out and I put it off. Painting the rooms in our house is the only thing I’m comfortable DIYing, and even that I don’t do spectacularly well.

      • What Cat said. Assume you will mess up. It’s okay – most of the time. Don’t mess up taking out a wall of your house or something, call a professional for that. What I’ve learned to do is think it through first. If I try to replace the garbage disposal myself and fail, we will be without a kitchen sink for a few days and end up calling a plumber. Acceptable. So I tried replacing the disposal and (twenty four hours, three trips to Lowes and one trip to Home Depot later) it worked! If I fail at replacing thee thermonstat, I will have to put caps on the wires and call a friend who knows what they’re doing. Acceptable. I have since replaced the thermostat at our last two dwellings, and I totally called the help line both times.

        BUT – to stay on topic, I’m outsourcing the landscaping for the front yard and any plumbing more serious than garbage disposal replacements (which is most plumbing things). Reading other comments, I can hem if I have to but I hate it and anything beyond that would probably be best left to professionals/very skilled friends in exchange for their choice of bribery (currency, cake, whatever).

  5. I love to create elaborate historical costumes. But I frickin’ HATE to hem modern pants or skirts. I’m 5’2″ so much of read-to-wear clothing needs hemming. I will so gladly pay someone to do that for me, it’s not even funny.

    There’s also a point when DIY is simply more expensive & time-consuming than buying something or having a pro do the task. When you have to buy a lot of tools & end up using them once for a project, it’s a waste (& clutter!). Great article about that here:

    I only DIY when it brings me joy in the doing &/or the final creation, & also when it’s something I can commit to doing on a regular basis. Life is too short to hem my own pants.

    • I totally feel your pain, I’m 5’2″ and nothing fits height wise from the stores.

      Have you tried using stitch witch on your jeans? Basically, you roll up the jeans to the correct height on you, place a strip of the stitch witch tape stuff in the cuff of the rolled up jeans and iron on both sides. It acts as a type of superglue that keeps the hem in place. It works for me anyways. =)

    • Yes, hemming! I sewed a whole beautiful dress by myself from a pattern (with lining, too!), but then took it to a tailor and paid her $20 to do the freaking hem for me. Worth it.

  6. Things that involve electricity (wiring etc.). Or pretty much any home improvement project or repair that has a greater potential to cause bodily harm to me or my spouse than to turn out looking great. I have very handy friends who are skilled in things like refinishing floors and drywalling so usually I call on them to teach me as we go. That way, it gets done mostly by someone who knows their stuff but I also learn how for future reference.

    • Electricity is terrifying to me. Luckily, I have VERY handy dads: my father has built five or six houses, workshops, and barns, and my father-in-law is a contractor. He finally fixed my dead doorbell, and I was SO TICKLED!

  7. I’ve nearly killed myself stripping wallpaper over the past few weeks. Even with a steamer, it takes hours just to do one little section of wall, plus I’ve had broken razor blades fly at my face, I’ve nearly fallen off ladders, and I haven’t even started on the section of the stairs that has wallpaper 11-12 feet high! I’m starting to think instead of constructing a platform on which to place my rickety ladder, I should just call some pros to do the whole thing while I’m at work one day. It feels like quitting – but it might save me an ankle … or an eyeball!

    • Stripping wallpaper sucks, even if (and that’s a big if) it was applied correctly. And you might do more damage to the walls in the process. No shame in trying it and then calling the pros to do the rest!

  8. I love those crocheted beard hats for babies, but can only single crochet right now. I hope to build up some skills, but right now it’s etsy for me.

    Also just realized I’m not a great quilter. I tend to lack precision and protocol which seem to be quite important for quilting.

  9. I grew up with notions of “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself”. That said, I fair very well with making things, but it really is a HUGE relief to get “good” help sometimes.

    I’m new to this site (haven’t started any home DIY’s yet). Love this post!

  10. My husbad purchased a bank repo home right before we met and decided to gut most of it and rebuild. I was thrown into diy. Then he got burnt out and refused to touch drywall, tools or paint for the next 2years. I spent most of that time realizing what I can diy and what isn’t worth it to me. I can install a sink, re tile, fix drywall, paint etc but I can’t, for the life of me, make my own curtains, art or furniture and I am more than happy to find people on etsy or elsewhere to handle these thongs for me!

  11. mmm…totally know the feeling! i also know my limitations: i can’t sew. building furniture, fine, even curtains i can do (god bless iron-on hem tape!), but sewing, no good.

    also, “cobbler” is a derogatory name for the profession, so do you maybe think you can swap it out for “shoemaker?”

    • I’m curious too!

      Particularly as the place where I get my shoes re-heeled are not “shoe-makers”, in that they don’t make shoes. They re-heel/re-sole shoes, mend watches, cut keys, engrave metal stuff, etc.

      (Yep. Timpsons are a life-saver. So with Cat on the re-heeling shoes thing, although it’s sad when they eventually give up. Also, it was partly my fault – I kept taking them for re-heeling WAAAY past when I should have. Ounce of prevention, etc.)

    • HUH! Are you, by chance, from Australia? I’d never heard of it as a derogatory, either — leatherworkers in my town have “cobbler” right on the sign! So I googled, and found that it’s harsher slang for Aussies/New Zealanders. Good to know!

      • not australian — i grew up in the midwest! i got chewed out by a shoemaker/leather worker who was fixing my dance shoes as a kid. “cobbler” as a noun (and not referring to the dessert) came out of the idea of “cobbling something together,” insinuating that the shoemaker is a hack job rather than the skilled artisans all the ones that i have met have been.

        maybe not everyone even in the business is aware of or sensitive to the term, but since the one who called me out on it actually apprenticed for his craft, i make a point of honoring his requests and not using “cobbler” to refer to a shoemaker or leather worker.

        • That makes complete sense when applied to a craftsman who makes the shoes from scratch, but “cobbler” isn’t a derogatory word when used correctly – the example given above of Timpsons is perfect. In that case, they are cobbling together a new sole to an old shoe, so “cobbler” isn’t insulting, just accurate. You’re right in that a proper shoemaker or cordwainer might be insulted to be called a cobbler, but not because it’s bad to be a cobbler. It’s like a doctor being insulted at being called a nurse – “nurse” isn’t a derogatory word, it’s just different to “doctor”, and one is more accurate in certain situations than the other, even though both are medical professionals.

  12. I can do painting (living in Taiwan, locals are shocked that I paint my own apartment walls rather than hiring someone), framing (only if it’s something that looks good if it’s “homey” rather than “sleek”), covering of old but sturdy boxes for pretty storage, hanging-up-of-things (another area where locals just get a handyman), jewelry-making, can cook almost anything, drawing, and home decorating (yet another area in which, if you seen an apartment that looks nicely decorated in Taiwan it was probably because the inhabitants hired a decorator – it’s extremely rare for someone to do it themselves).

    I do not do my own tailoring, major repair or renovation. I’m just not that good at it. I’ve never had anything upholstered but I’d definitely hire someone to do that, too. Despite designing my own wedding dress, curtains (which entailed more than just choosing fabric), other clothing and picking out my own fabric for other home decorating, I have a real tailor do that. A sewing maven I am not.

    I like my tailor, even though she’s a bit crotchety and difficult (she’s an older Chinese woman – not Taiwanese, she came here from China in the 80s or 90s). I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if she “shares my vision” or whatever, if she a.) does good work and b.) is willing to stick to the designs I specify, no matter what she thinks of them (she made fun of my curtains, they’re very much the opposite of local tastes, which is why I had them made in the first place).

    It’s also good language practice because I have to do this in Chinese. She can’t speak English.

  13. Crocheting/knitting. I tried. I failed. And I accept scarves, hats, and dicebags from my friends that are hook and yarn talented, and I look at my barely-used hooks with a feeling of despair often.

  14. After years of trying to like it, I finally admitted that I *hate* doing bike repairs. Even if it’s a flat tire or something else easily fixable by me, I will pay someone else to do it!

  15. Knitting. I can cast on fine, and my actual knitting is… not too terrible (just a little wonky in parts), but I never remember how to cast off, so I just keep going until I get bored and leave a ridiculously long, wonky scarf lying around unfinished.

  16. Julie- I hate bike repair too! I even took a several week long class in it that included wheel building. Still hated it at the end. Mostly I just hate to get my hnds dirty with the oily, grimy stuff that is on bike parts. True confession- if possible, I even take my bike to the shop to have guys fill my tires for me rather than get out the pump and do it myself.

    On the other hand, I knit like a champ, crochet just about anything from just looking at a good picture of it, sew a curtain in my sleep, make delicious jam and pickles. Bake just about anything. And I am your go to girl for assembling flat pack furniture of any kind. I especially like to do it when the instructions are just mystifying diagrams like with ikea. It’s like a puzzle. I like puzzles.

    But I won’t do anything too much like home improvement. Plumbing, electricity, painting, any of that. I grew up in a home where it was just understood that you did all of that yourself. My dad built a whole addition to our house himself, from the drawings to the finish work. He had a guy with a backhoe dig the basement and another guy pour the concrete for the foundation (though he built the forms himself). That was it. Everything else he did himself. Siding. Roofing. He built kitchen cabinets. He laid the flooring. Wired the lights and outlets Built the countertops. It was inspiring. It was also hellacious to live in. Because he did it all by himself on the weekends it took nearly a decade until that room was what I’d call livable. Even 30 years later it isn’t quite finished.

    I used to try and at least paint rooms myself. It would take me weeks and weeks and still not look great. Then I wised up. Getting the guy in to do it doesn’t cost that much in the scheme of things and he’s done in a single afternoon.

  17. Sewing, embroidering, most craft things and DIY things around the home I can manage myself but I don’t stand a chance with Knitting and Crochet – basically anything that involves wool and knots of any kind is a no go area for me. I’ve tried and ended up with poor/mediochre results at best!

    My other no go area is any kind of car repair, the idea of screwing it up and breaking something terrifies me! I love the logic behind it all, the mechanics of it and whathaveyou fascinate me but the furthest extent that I’m willing to go on my own is changing a wheel!!

  18. I knit all the freakin’ time, but am terrified of sewing machines after hearing stories of how my sister sewed through her finger one time. I can picture how cool this dress would look if I took up the hem and did a few easy fixes, but doing it myself? Not gonna happen.

  19. Seems at our house we draw the DIY line at things that we might want a warranty/someone else accountable on. Like roofing. After that roof goes on I want to call someone to come fix it if it leaks. Not to be up there in 90 mile an hour gale force winds with a tarp!! We did a lot of car/truck repair until I realized I hated it because when things went wrong I still had to fix it and couldn’t get anywhere. But we built a wonderful porch onto our house that still floods three years later and I’m ok with it because it doesn’t cause problems with it’s slight crappy-ness.

  20. I have a tremendous fear of heat. I love glasswork, metalwork and fried foods but I have to pay someone else to do them all. I can just about manage to iron five shirts a week so there is respectable work clothing but I rarely iron any of the clothing or projects that I sew myself. Just too scary.

  21. You know where a good source might be, your local theatre department, scenic or costume shop! If you can’t find someone with the exact skill you are looking for, I bet you somebody else might know someone who could.

    Most of us would be delighted to use our skills on something that wont be worn/used for two weeks and then torn down/put in storage.

  22. Hmm, DIY. We’re experts at painting rooms, but after stripping the wallpaper in our first house ourselves, we decided to hire painters to do that at our second (and current) house. Totally worth it. I LOVE gardening, so I do all the planting and flowerbed maintenance myself, but I’m not about to install a sprinkler system. DH painted the exterior of our house himself, but called the pros for replacing some trim in a very-difficult-to-reach spot. Same with replacing a door, frame and all. Most minor electrical stuff we do ourselves. Decorating I do myself. Most plumbing gets hired out.

  23. My husband and I have painted, drywalled, tiled, plumbed, and even worked with gas pipes (with a pro plumber in afterwards to check our work).

    But when it comes to finish carpentry, like built-in cabinetry with bookshelves, it is sooo worth it for us to hire someone with mad woodworking skills. Having a straight, level, attractive piece that was designed as part of the room makes us happy every time we look at it. If we’d tried to pull it off ourselves it would have been wretched.

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