Book Review: Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts

by Erin on June 2, 2010


It's taken me forever to get around to reviewing Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts … but it's basically everything you expect from a Martha/Potter Craft book. Beautiful photographs taken someplace where the light always says "It's a summer Sunday afternoon"? Check. Meticulously detailed instructions which somehow manage not to imply that, left to your own devices, you'd stab yourself in the eye with the safety scissors and eat all the paste? Check. The firm conviction that the single most compelling thing you'd like to do today, more than anything else, is sew ribbon onto a bathmat? Check and double-check.

The clothing in the book falls under the heading "One Size Fits All," but not in a terrible way. There's a truly gorgeous and avant-garde scalloped suede skirt pattern that I drooled over, and the obligatory chiton dress, but the cutest thing is a little girl's dress made from a man's shirt. If I had a little girl handy I would make, like, five hundred of them. There wouldn't be a man's shirt left in any thrift store within a ten-mile radius.

I am definitely going to hold on to this book (they sent me a review copy, full disclosure). It's just sooo gorgeous, and, like everything else that comes from Martha Stewart OmniEverything, it is a perfect book to flip through when you want some kind of extra oomph for a project, but you're not sure exactly what. Plus, there's a CD of patterns for the appliqués and so forth, so that the next time I think "ooh, what this needs now is a felted stuffed chicken!" I will have one to hand.

This would make an excellent present, even for experienced sewists, simply because of the high production values. There's nothing like looking at pictures of gorgeous projects (even if they're as huh-inducing as sewing your own coasters) to inspire you to get going and make your own stuff.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Lise June 2, 2010 at 6:39 am

Hey! I’ve sewn my own coasters! In my defense, they were a sashiko project done during an interminable but miraculously un-rainy middle-school-age girls soccer tournament…


peanut June 2, 2010 at 7:20 am

Thanks for the review. I’ve seen this at our bookstore here but since it is a more expensive book it (along with the Encyclopedia of Craft and a few other potentially fantastic craft books) is shrink wrapped and I can’t peak inside unless I take it up to the counter (and then I would inevitably end up buying it when really I needed to be getting groceries* or something less fun like that).

*The bookstore is right next to the grocery store and the coffee shop** I go to every morning.

**I stopped taking my wallet with me when I go for coffee. I only bring my coin purse. My money now lasts longer.***

*** I still go into the bookstore every day to check out the books in case there is one I should get later on when I’ve got my wallet.


aurelia June 2, 2010 at 8:48 am

Peanut, you are such a stitch. You should move to Iowa and be my best friend. 😀

I turned every page of this book at my local mega bookstore and I really want it. But, I’m pretty sure everything in the book is available on the website so I haven’t bought it.


Sheila / Out of the Ashes Collectibles June 2, 2010 at 8:58 am

Okay I know I’m a dork but after I heard Martha Stewart laugh and tell Neil Cavuto that when taxes go up us little people should “suck it up” I swore to never spend another dime on her.


kathleen June 2, 2010 at 9:43 am

Full disclosure – I HAVE made my own coasters. But I am taking medication for that now, and they assure me that all will be well soon.


Cookie June 2, 2010 at 12:28 pm


This is the funniest thing I’ve read this week. THANKS :)


Cookie June 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Well, THAT was f-ing lame! It wouldn’t let me cut-and-paste in my above post! Now must type :( The comment I loved was “Plus, there’s a CD of patterns for the appliques and so forth, so that the next time I think ‘ooh, what this needs now is is a felted stuffed chicken!’….”


Kristen June 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm

that shirt dress makes me want to scour the neighborhood for a girl! Me: “Hello there, sweetie! Can I make some dresses for you?”
Girl: “mooooommmmy!”

yeah – maybe not a good idea.. sigh.


Libby Fife June 3, 2010 at 4:51 am

I would like to know if for some reason Martha gets extra hours in her day that the rest of us don’t get? Is it a special drug that I can order from Canada or something? How to I get the pep???

Great review and witty commentary as always-Thank you:)


LDF June 3, 2010 at 5:42 am

Ironically, I was just thinking the other day that I was in need of a felted stuffed chicken. Seriously. I’ll see if the library has this.


fabricgirl June 3, 2010 at 10:01 am

no little girls in sight but I’ve wanted to make dozens of those shirts too – they were in the magazine awhile back.
If only I had a staff to do all the projects that drift through my imagination.


Susan June 3, 2010 at 11:24 am

I was so excited about this book that I pre-ordered it. I was disappointed, however, that so much of it was specific projects, rather than more general information. I’d hoped for a reference I could repeatedly turn to for tips and information I don’t have in other books, but this wasn’t it. It is certainly a beautiful book, of the highest quality production (It is Martha, after all!), but the content just wasn’t right for me, an intermediate sewer who has been around a while. I think many (maybe all?) of the projects have appeared in MS magazines or the Web site; they sure look familiar. This beautiful book may be a useful addition to some people’s sewing book collections, but I found very little that would be helpful to me. Sadly, I returned the book.


Edda June 3, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I don’t see anything wrong with sewing my own coasters. Maybe I need help!


Susan June 3, 2010 at 7:06 pm

LDF: you made my day! Funniest thing I’ve read in ages.


Doris June 3, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Am I the only one who knows nothing about this cute shirt dress? Does someone have a link to it, or did anyone blog about it? I searched Martha Stewart’s site, and it brings up waaaaayyyy too many results.

Thank you!


Doris June 3, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I googled it and found it linked from someone’s blog:

Very cute!


Wink June 12, 2010 at 9:26 am

I have had that scalloped skirt (and fabric for it in two colors) on my to-do list for years. I should really get off my butt and do it! Hmmm, maybe today.


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