DIY in PDX

Our volunteer-led newsletter team recently asked local Do-It-Yourself'er, Rachel, who also goes by the blogger moniker "DIY in PDX," a few questions about her projects and motivations. We are inspired by her use of repurposed materials and we hope you are too! 

How often do you do a DIY project? 

I do a DIY project at least once a week for my blog, plus many other random DIYs around the house.

How did you get into DIY?  

I think DIY runs in my blood. My parents were always working on projects around their house, from sewing to tiling to gardening. My mom taught me how to sew when I was in elementary school, and one summer the four kids in my family all helped my parents build a huge wooden deck. My paternal grandmother is the craftiest person I know, and she taught me to cross-stitch when I was a kid, and then when I was a teenager she taught me to knit, and my other grandmother taught me crochet. My grandparents lived in Michigan, and I grew up in Oregon, so we only visited them once every year or two, but when we did I loved going into their basement, because it was full of cool craft supplies and tools, like full-size weaving looms and a potter's wheel. An aunt and uncle in Idaho literally built their own house from trees they cut down and milled. I think all of these family members showed me that anyone can learn to do most things themselves. As I got older I just found myself wanting to try to learn how to do more things myself, and it kind of snowballed from there. 

Are all of your ideas original? 

Are any ideas original? Everything comes from somewhere! I don't want to copy anyone, though, so I always try to put my own spin on projects that inspire me, and add to them in some way. Replicating exactly what someone else has done is boring.

Where do you draw your inspiration? 

All sorts of places! Blogs, Pinterest, magazines, shops, hotels, restaurants--there's inspiration everywhere you go once you start looking for it! When I'm out and about, I often snap pictures with my phone, and save them for inspiration. 

It seems like a lot of the DIY projects call for tools that would not necessarily be found in the common home. How do you have all these tools? Are there any work arounds for people new to DIY-ing? 

I actually try hard not to use tools that are hard to find. Aside from a few power tools, like a miter saw, power sander, and electric drill, I'd expect most of the tools I use to be pretty common. For the less common ones (like a tubing cutter, leather punch, or rivet setter), I've just gradually accumulated them over years of DIY. While you can buy pretty much any tool you want from the internet these days, some of my tools have come from places like thrift stores, garage sales, SCRAP, and the the ReBuilding Center. Put the word out to family and friends that you're trying to build up your toolbox, and you may even get lucky when someone is downsizing. Watch out for sales--my dad has all the tools I need, but I bought my miter saw and jigsaws during Father's Day sales. If a tool you need is too expensive, or you know you only need it for one project, see if you can borrow it from family or friends, or check one of Portland's tool libraries. They're a great resource that we're lucky to have here. 

Do you sell any of your creations or are they all for your own personal use?

In the past I sold jewelry and accessories, but right now all of my creations are for personal use.

I see that you tend to incorporate a lot of used materials in your DIY projects, do you prefer to utilize used materials over new materials? 

I love to use repurposed or used materials whenever possible, and I would do it even more if I could. The only tricky issues are that sometimes it's faster and easier to find the materials new, and since I blog my projects as tutorials, I need to try to use materials that other people can easily find, too. Plus, a lumberyard will cut wood to a size I can fit in my little hatchback.

What does creative reuse mean to you?

Creative reuse means looking for new and unexpected ways to utilize materials that might otherwise be thrown away. 

Can you recall a time that you were especially creative with your reuse and saw the greatest transformation/change?

Geez, this is a tough one! My favorite transformations tend to be the ones that involve taking a castoff and making it into something I value. So what comes to mind is that recently I found some copper pipes from a neighbor's bathroom remodel on a curb, and I turned them into a plant stand. I also bought my wedding dress for literally $1 at a flea market, and altered it into a dress I love.

How did you hear about the ReBuilding Center?

I think I just noticed the distinctive building when I was walking down Mississippi, got curious about the interior, and wandered in one day.