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Marni Jameson offers tips for avoiding do-it-yourself disasters

Marni Jameson
mjameson@tribune.com

“I can do that!” Who hasn’t lived to regret those words?

We start off emboldened by a deceivingly simple tease on Pinterest or in Martha Stewart Living magazine. “It’s easy,” the copy alongside the craft project promises! We forge ahead and wind up creating an eyesore not fit for a back-alley Dumpster.

If this sounds familiar, CraftFail.com will make you feel a lot better.

It did me, although I’m still not over the time I tried to make an upholstered headboard and wound up with a lumpy, lopsided slab.

The headboard was just the kind of fail that is celebrated by Heather Mann, who launched CraftFail.

Mann, of Portland, Ore., actually knows what she’s doing. Her crafts have appeared in Martha Stewart’s magazine and the New York Times, and she posts her craft successes on her other website, dollarstorecrafts.com. But she fails, too. And blogs about it.

As proof, she emailed me a picture of a Batman hat she had sewn for her then 5-year-old son. The eye holes hit perfectly across the center of his forehead.

“My failed projects used to go in the trash and that was the end,” she said. Then a thought struck her: “Wouldn’t it be funny and helpful if I started posting projects that didn’t go so well?”

One post features a DIYer’s effort to paint clear glass ornaments. The inspiration picture looks lovely, but the crafter’s rendition is a drippy green mess.

“Remember, Martha Stewart has a team of 20 stylists designing products and perfecting them,” Mann said. We’re not seeing the first drafts.”

Nonetheless, here are some ways Mann says we can dodge DIY disasters:

Do a trial run. When trying something new, do a test run on a small area.

Don’t wing it. Sketch out the project before you start so you can see where you’re going and avoid heartache.

Stock up. While planning, carefully calculate (don’t guess) how much material – fabric, tile, paint, wood – you will need, then get a little more.

Learn to be a pessimist. “Imagine the worst-case scenario and trouble-shoot before you start.”

Do a gone-wrong Google. Google projects gone wrong so you know what could happen and what to avoid.

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