By letting users create "virtual pinboards," Pinterest has become a popular way to keep track of home decor ideas, recipes and craft projects spread across the Internet. But those who go beyond collecting pretty pictures and actually attempt to recreate the crafts often discover it's harder than it looks.
Such failures are featured to humorous effect on at least two sites, including Pintester.com and CraftFail.com. As the name implies, the former chronicle's one woman's dogged attempts to replicate recipes, fashion, beauty products and craft ideas she spots on Pinterest. The latter, which was launched before Pinterest existed, accepts submissions from anyone who has tried, and failed, at crafting of any kind.
Heather Mann of Salem, Ore., started CraftFail as a place to post her own failed projects away from her craft blog, Dollarstorecrafts.com. From her early posts about handmade soap that resembled Spam ("when you want to wash your hands with what appears to be potted meat"), the site has attracted hundreds of entries from fellow crafters willing to poke fun at themselves. Pinterest is now often the inspiration, or culprit, she said.
"With the popularity of Pinterest, a lot of new, inexperienced people are trying crafting. They see something on Pinterest that they like and they want to recreate it, and when they do, it doesn't turn out the way they wanted it to," she said.
Mann can tell a project is popular on Pinterest by how many failed versions of it arrive in her inbox. When a project that called for baking cupcakes in ice cream cones reached its peak, she was getting a submission every other week. In May, she posted a round-up of "those pesky ice cream cone cupcakes of doom," contrasting Betty Crocker's perfectly formed, impeccably frosted cones with a collection of images showing cake batter oozing out of the cones.
As on Pintester.com, the not-so-perfect pictures are often labeled with the tagline "NAILED IT." But unlike Mann, Pintester's Sonja Foust is decidedly un-crafty. Some readers have complained she'd have more success if she used the correct ingredients or materials.
"But this is how I really do it, even if I wasn't publishing it on a blog," she said. "It's not that I'm doing it just for the cheap laughs, I'm just really bad at this stuff."
Even when she follows the instructions, failure is common. Take the "Strawberries and Cream Mug Cake." The original version from babble.com's The Family Kitchen blog shows a single serving of cake tucked into a dainty white mug, topped with a swirl of whipped cream and a scattering of strawberries. Foust's blog shows a lumpy, spongy mess she pried out of the mug with a spoon.
"I was pretty surprised and sort of torn between being disappointed that it didn't turn out and delighted that it was going to make a good blog post," said Foust, who lives in Durham, N.C., and writes romance novels in addition to her blog.
Despite her admitted lack of skills, Foust said she frequently attempted to make recipes and crafts she saw on Pinterest even before she had her blog.
"I have this disease where I look at something and think, 'Oh, that looks really easy, I can do that!'" she joked.
Andrea Green knows the feeling. In fact, she said the words "I can do that!" out loud the first time she saw, on Pinterest, the custom mixed-media pieces made by artist Eleanor Mathis, who creates 3-D maps of states and other locations using wood, nails and string.
"All it is is nails and thread and a board. How hard could it be?" said Green, of Lebanon, N.H.
But in trying to make a modified version featuring her home state, she ran into some trouble early on when the board she purchased cracked in half before she even picked up her hammer. Undeterred, she started over and ended up pleased with the final result.
For Green, who grew up drawing, knitting and sewing, Pinterest has been a huge source of inspiration. She started a blog, mykindaperfect.com, about a year ago to share her craft and cooking projects, including those inspired by Pinterest. She said her failures have been few, mostly because she is careful to pick projects that are doable.
"But I live in an apartment right now. Once I have a house, I'm probably going to get a little adventurous — break out some power tools, maybe," she joked. "So that's a lot of room for failure, and success."