We’ve reviewed the fashion subscription service Stitch Fix (twice), and the tasty treats of Try The World. Now for something completely different! Darby Smart sends a DIY crafting box each month that “gives you everything you need for a chic DIY.”
How It Works
There’s no survey to fill out. No profile that needs to be built. You pick “adult” or “child,” pay the monthly fee ($19 for adults) and you’ll get a surprise box filled with goodies. It’s a grab bag each month, with crafts that vary in style and skill level.
A friend of mine sold me on this by telling me about some of the quirky crafts she’d concocted from her Darby Smart boxes, like a dino ring dish.
Or a resin bracelet you could fill with flowers, glitter or candy.
I used to be a dedicated crafter in my youth, tackling everything from painting and calligraphy to embroidery, making buttons, my own comic books, and stuffed animals. So these cute and seemingly easy crafts looked like a great, stress-free and inexpensive way for me to dip my toe back into crafting.
The craft was woodburning a lovely little box that could be used for jewelry or Halloween treats. Now, the box itself and the woodburning tool (with interchangeable heads) is a great deal for $19. But this is not the kind of craft I anticipated. I was hoping for something I could do while winding down from a dizzying day, with a glass of wine and a repeat of Project Runway. A tool that’s job is to burn things is not amfit for such activity. And on top of that, the box was so dear that I didn’t want to mar it with my first-ever attempt at woodburning.
On the plus side, Darby Smart’s site has lots of users share tips and pics, so you can find inspiration outside of the “stencil” they included.
So what did I do? I bought a bunch of simple wooden disks to practice on (from Amazon where they were cheaper). I tried the various heads to get a sense of what designs worked for what tool. Over the span of a few weeks, I tried out patterns and pressures, and made a handful of Christmas ornaments out of them, which turned out ok. Not great if I’m being honest. I was trying to train myself to the point where I could be confident in woodburning a beautiful jewelry box. The plan was to get it done in time for Christmas, as a perfect gift for my mom.
Yeah, Christmas came and went. As did winter. That box is still naked and unburned. But my mom loved the ornaments.
I hoped my November box would be a better fit. And initially, I admit I thought it was pretty damn cool.
The goal was to make my own seal for letters or gifts or whatever possible reason I could employ a personalized wax seal. It gave me wax, stationary, string, sculpey, and even some letter beads to use in my efforts. But again, this seemed more skill-heavy than I was ready for. Again, the twee teal box sat and sat and sat. I used some of the string to wrap Christmas gifts, but that was about it.
As December rolled around, I decided to call it quits on Darby Smart. It just seemed a poor fit for the lapsed crafter I’d become. But it was too late to cancel before that month’s box. And so this arrived, which seemed like someone realized I was in over my head:
A mason jar (not pictured) snow globe, complete with penguin figures, glitter and snowflake stickers.
I didn’t do this one either. I know. This is literally a project appropriate for a child. But that’s actually why I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t think this would satisfy my creative yen. The first two boxes seemed too big a challenge, and this one was a project I would have sneered at at age 12. Plus, what would I do with it after? I’m in my 30s. So “look at the mason jar snow globe I made” is not a good look.
What I did love about Darby Smart was its site. You need an account to use it, but that can be as simple as logging in through Facebook. From there, you can peruse all kinds of craft ideas, like this adorable coffee pot terrarium. (Even if I won’t do them, I enjoy the browsing!) On top of that, they have a great shop that allows you to purchase whatever you might desire to create past crafts. On Black Friday they had amazing sales, and I bought a “Make Your Own Gin” kit that was a big hit with my homebrewing brother.
Whatever level of DIYer you are, I’d recommend getting an account so you can indulge in Darby Smart’s whip-smart crafter community. But as hit or (mostly) miss as I found my boxes, I can’t say I’d recommend its subscription service.
I’d have much preferred if I could have tailored my experience with skill level/interests. As is, Darby Smart was not for me.I was hoping for something like I’d heard about, crafts that a quick tutorial would allow me to do well enough that the experience would be more fun than stressful. I wanted crafts that my friends and I could do together over gossip and cheesecake. (Because I will live my Golden Girls fantasy some day!) But sadly my three boxes didn’t thread that needle.
Kristy Puchko would love to hear your experiences with these subscription services, and which one you’d like to see her try out next.