I like engaging in do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. It’s an occupation that I really enjoy. Research* shows that people typically have an average of 15 personal projects going on at once, whether they are thinking about doing them or are actually in the process of getting them done. That is definitely true of me. And just like the research shows, the attributes of this meaningful occupation are significantly related to my perceived well-being. For example, I can gauge my level of perceived well-being by looking at the current state of my personal projects. If am not presently engaged in some part of a project, then that indicates to me that I am probably overly stressed and have been drained of my naturally overflowing creative energy.

While I am not artistic – I could never paint anything worth being impressed by – I am a creative thinker. I like to look at items and imagine how I can make them more unique or functional. I also like to learn. Sometimes my projects involve cutting and sewing. Sometimes they lead me to try to make an item from scratch that I’ve always taken for granted, like ketchup. Regardless of the project, if it requires a dose of creative thinking and a splash of artistry (minus the artist’s paintbrush), then I’m all for it. Listed below are DIY projects I have completed, from most recent to most distant. Let me know if there’s something new I should try!

*That research was published by Christiansen et al in the January/February 1999 issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. The article was titled: Occupations and well-being: A study of personal projects.


4. custom headband — pearl purple (october 31, 2010)

So I saw these really cool custom-made headbands at a local hair salon a few months ago, but since they were ultra expensive (something like $45) I figured I would try and make something like them myself! So this is my own twist on the initial inspirational pieces.

First, I made a visit to Jo-Ann Fabrics and found some gems (buttons, actually) and textured, multicolor yarn that I liked.


Then, I purchased a four-pack of different colors of basic Scünci headbands (the kind with teeth on the underside) at my local CVS.

After that, I headed home, plugged in my mini hot glue gun, and got to work. I glued small sections of the top of the headband (so that the hot glue wouldn’t dry by the time I got there) and wrapped the yarn around, occasionally doing a few wraps in a backwards direction to give the yarn a more messy, less uniform look. The teeth on the underside of the headband really helped hold everything in place.

After one layer of yarn, it was time for the gems. I tied some pink thread (to blend in with the yarn) to the first small button, hot glued a dot where it would go, then pressed it in until the glue was nice and hardened. Once it was dry, I wrapped the thread once around the headband, and threaded the next button, and then did the same thing. I did this five times — two small buttons, then the large one, then two more small ones.

Once I finished the wrap after the last button, I snipped the thread off the end of the needle, split the two ends of thread, and then used them to make a few knots on the underside of the headband.

Once the buttons were secured, I moved on and finished up the first round of yarn wrapping.

Next, I moved on to the next round of yarn wrapping, intermittently hot gluing and wrapping both forwards and backwards. When I came to the buttons, I made sure to wrap in between them enough so that they would look perfectly nestled in the midst of the color. Once the other end of the headband approached, I snipped the yarn and then hot glued it and wrapped its end into place.

Voila! An instant classic.


3. pillowcase purse #2 (october 31, 2010)

I was at Bed Bath & Beyond recently, and I discovered a gem that I simply couldn’t resist.

A 12″x12″ zippered pillowcase that, for $9.99, would make the perfect base for a homemade gift. Because it was only the pillowcase, I didn’t have to feel guilty about wasting any stuffing. As soon as I purchased it, I immediately headed over to Jo-Ann Fabrics to grab a few accessories that would soon turn this fun pillowcase into a handy purse.

So, here’s what I did.

Step 1: I pinned and sewed under (with brown all-purpose thread) the edge of the one-inch belting material that I bought from Jo-Ann’s so that it made a square at the bottom. After doing this for all four ends, I then pinned the straps in place on the pillowcase.

Step 2: I sewed the straps onto the pillowcase with the brown thread, making sure to fasten it securely with both a square and an X shape.

Step 3: I then used red dual duty thread to sew a rusty gold made-in-Italy button over each of the ends of the straps. I decided not to make it look perfect because . . . well . . . who really is?

Step 4: I tested it out . . .

. . . and then passed it along to a friend!


2. homemade ketchup (july 31, 2010)

This recipe was SO easy (I got it from this website). Granted, I used the tomato paste version rather than the spend-12-hours-standing-over-a-stove-and-using-lots-of-fancy-equipment version. Here’s what I did.

Step 1 – Place the following ingredients in a small mixing bowl:

1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

Step 2 – Mix together the ingredients. I alternated using a thin rubber spatula and a whisk to make sure all the parts were really well mixed.

Step 3 – Taste ketchup to make sure it suits your preference. Then transfer it to a clean, dry, airtight container and refrigerate it.

Step 4 – Use the ketchup within about one month (less preservatives = faster spoilage) to flavor your favorite foods!


1. pillowcase purse (july 28, 2010)

I inherited a pillowcase from a neighbor and used materials that I already owned, so this new carry-all purse was free! Here’s what I did, step by step:

Step 1: Assess pillowcase. Make sure that the zipper works and that the case doesn’t have any significant rips or holes anywhere.

Step 2: Identify bag that would be willing to sacrifice its straps for the greater good. I knew I could count on my husband’s school for something. Remove straps.

Step 3: Pin straps onto pillow case and hand sew them on using a back stitch in the color of your choice and in a crafty, non-uniform manner.

Step 4: Make sure the zipper is still accessible.

Step 5: Fill bag with stuff and rock it in style.

Voila! Now what else can I cut apart to turn into a new creation???


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