May you live in Pinteresting times


In just a couple of years, Pinterest has established itself as an attractive and essential online haunt for creative types. It might already be a regular staple of your internet routine — check email, check Facebook, check Pinterest.

Pinterest is a photo-sharing website that allows you to view a stream of images shared by the other users you follow. Conversely, you can “pin” and share images with your followers. The content that people pin runs the gamut from hairstyles to home decor to cooking and art. For artists, designers and crafters, the site holds particular appeal as an ever-changing “inspiration board.”

Whether you’re experienced in the ways of Pinterest or still a relative novice, let’s examine the pros and cons, pitfalls and pleasures of this visual social bookmarking tool.

The Good

Learning new skills and techniques:  If you’re careful about whose pins you choose to follow, your Pinterest feed can be a source of those little yet life-changing moments where you finally learn the proper way to sew on a buttonor how to darn a hole in knit fabric.

Inspiration for your own work: Not only can you source cool new patterns and techniques on Pinterest, you can find a steady flow of imagery to spark your imagination — adorable illustration, fascinating ancient architecture, vintage fashion. See the work that other people are doing right now. Find new colour palettes and texture concepts.

And possibly get sucked into a never-ending vortex of pinspiration. Which leads us to…

The Bad

Pinterest spiral: Get too into Pinterest and you may find that the evening you wanted to spend actually working on a craft project has disappeared into a stream of mason jars and upcycled thrift store books.

Demoralization: You may find that Pinterest exposes you to so many wonderful artists and works that your confidence in your own skill and talent starts to wane.

Neither of these is an ideal result. As such, Pinterest is strictly a use-at-your-own-risk affair. Or, maybe, a use-like-a-grown-up affair. We all have that little voice inside that tells us when to put down the mouse and pick up the actual tools of our craft instead. It’s up to us to listen to it. (Full disclosure: I am terrible at listening to it.)

The Ugly

Most of us know what it’s like to have a project go hilariously awry. Well, on Pinterest, there’s a name for that — the Pinstrosity. The writers of the Pinstrosity blog collect and catalogue these failures for all to see and learn from. I hope you never end up with a Pinstrosity of your own, but if you do, you have somewhere to go for commiseration. Here are some particularly remarkable craft Pinstrosities:

Not the Right Goo

Kool Aid Yarn Dye

Button Bowl

Houdini Yarn

Tips for using Pinterest effectively

Avoid going on “pinning sprees” that flood your followers’ feeds with multiple similar images. It’s cool that you found a site with tons of lovely crochet borders to try, but consider that Pinterest is a social site and that everyone following you might not appreciate a torrent of similar pins. Pin one or two of your favourites to serve as a bookmark for when you want to go back to see the rest.

Pin properly. When you are creating rather than repinning existing pins, make sure you use the Pinterest bookmarklet on web page where you found the image. Do NOT save the image to your computer and then upload it to Pinterest. Not only is this rude and unfair to the person who created and posted the image, it prevents other Pinterest users from finding the source of the images you pin. If you are pinning images of your own work, I recommend you upload the image to a personal website or photo sharing site like Flickr and then pin the image from that external website rather than uploading directly to Pinterest. This will make it less likely for your image to be divorced from its source and your name. You may want to consider adding a subtle watermark to images you post so that if your picture loses its caption, viewers still know who made it.

Follow selectively. Remember that you don’t have to follow every single one of someone’s boards. You might have a coworker or friend who pins some nice landscape photography but also a lot of, say, baby clothing or vegan desserts or something else that holds little interest for you. Selectively following certain boards allows you to engage with your friends and colleagues without having your Pinterest feed full of content that doesn’t appeal to you.

You can follow the Manitoba Craft Council on Pinterest, as well as the author of this post, Jenny Henkelman.