Book Review Week: Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts

I really wish I had been in the editorial meeting when this was brought up for approval. I mean, DUH. Martha Stewart + Crafts + Reference? Complete and total no-brainer. I bet the editor just said "Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts" and everyone else said "Yup," and moved on to the next title on the agenda.

It doesn't disappoint (okay, it doesn't disappoint ME). (I loves me an A-Z format.) The projects are everything you'd expect from our friend Martha, and more … incredibly cute pom-pom baby chicks, scrolled-paper hearts, rubber-stamped rain hats … if it can be painted, cut, folded, beaded, silkscreened, marbleized, stamped, glittered, punched, or glued, Martha will tell you how to do it. With impeccably-styled full-color photographs, of course.

If you are a known crafter (and not a vocal Martha-hater — I know they exist, but I don't get it, the woman is like a superhero—or at the very least, Lex Luthor, and I've kind of always had a soft spot for Lex Luthor) and do not receive this book from a loved one at the next major holiday, you may need to consider whether or not anybody loves you. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.

Book Review Week: Stitched In Time

Stitched in Time

Let's get one thing straight (especially if you are related to me): There is no chance that I am going to make anything in Alicia Paulson's new book, Stitched in Time, anytime soon.

(Okay, *maybe* the Baby Clothes Quilt. I do still have a bunch of baby clothes around here …)

But that's only because I'm WAY overscheduled right now. If I could sit down every Sunday from now until Christmas with a pot of tea, an old movie on the television, and this book, I would work my way through it beginning to end. There are SO MANY adorable projects … and, as the saying goes, so little time. Not to mention the fact that my niece is still too young for that cute little doll on the cover …

However, even if you don't have time to make even the smallest potholder, you might still want to pick up this book just for the gorgeous photographs and Alicia's lovely voice on the page. (And if you're not already reading her blog, well, why aren't you?)

Because we can all hope that SOMEDAY, you're going to have a rainy Sunday with nothing to do, and you are going to want this book and a box full of fabric scraps and a little girl to make a doll for. You ARE. That's just how the world works. It's always better to be prepared!

Book Review Week: The Civilized Shopper's Guide to Edinburgh and Glasgow

The Civilized Shopper's Guide to Edinburgh and Glasgow

The Civilized Shopper's Guide to Edinburgh and Glasgow is an adorable little book that is fueling my never-all-that-dormant desire to pay a visit to Scotland. (2009 *is* being promoted as "Homecoming Scotland", although I'm not sure if there's a statute of limitations as to how long ago, exactly, your ancestors can have left Scotland before they say "Eh? Never heard of you" when you show up again. I'm thinking two-hundred-some years is pushing it.)

Anyway, if you are lucky enough to be getting to Edinburgh (or Glasgow) this year, or both, I'd really recommend this little book. Unlike a lot of shopping guidebooks I've seen, this one really concentrates on unique shops, and shops all across the consumer spectrum: there's the obvious wool and whiskey and so on, but also chocolates, bagpipery supplies, and vintage clothing. The book includes so many luscious full-color photographs that I want to go to Scotland now just for the light in the pictures!

Book Review Week: Born-Again Vintage

Born Again Vintage

Born-Again Vintage is another book I'm not really the audience for. I figured this out along about page 10, where the author refers to a "frumpy fifties housedress." (I clutched my pearls and said "Well, I never!" Then I shook out my skirts.)

If I wanted to eviscerate some perfectly good (or not-so-good: think qiana shirts from the 70s) vintage and clap together the pieces into new, wearable garments, that would be one thing (and occasionally a fun thing, too) but here's a list of things I do not consider wearable:

  • jeans cut off at the knee with sweater sleeves sewn on them, "to create the look of a leg warmer while eliminating the struggle of "boot-horning" your cuffs"
  • (while we're on the subject of leg warmers) leg warmers made from sweater sleeves, in general
  • leg warmers AT ALL
  • a corset made from a sweater
  • short-shorts (made from anything)
  • arm warmers

If these sound like garments that have pride of place in your closet (and you have a lot of sweaters to cut up) then maybe this book is for you. I'm afraid that I spent my time flipping through this book wanting the "before" garments a LOT more than the "afters". And when the author wrote (on page 65) "Cutting any fabulous vintage dress is a risk, but the end result here shows that it is worth the gamble," I'm afraid I said "No it's not!" out loud. (Sorry about that, guy in the coffee shop next to me.)

If you DO want to cut up perfectly good vintage dresses and sew them to t-shirts, this book offers more than enough information to get you started. (And if that's what makes you happy, fine. Go, have fun!)

[P.S. the pocket haiku from yesterday are FANTASTIC! I'll post the winners (and some runners-up) next Monday.]

Book Review Week: Singer Perfect Plus

Singer Perfect Plus

I recently got a copy of Singer Perfect Plus: Sew a Mix-and-Match Wardrobe for Plus and Petite-Plus Sizes to review, and it's taken me a while to get to it, being neither perfect nor plus-size.

Perfect Plus is a very straightforward book, nothing fancy. You're not going to get any couture techniques here, or anything too fashion-forward or art-to-wear. This is primarily a book for petite, plus-size women who are not fashionistas, but are frustrated with the tatty stuff they see in stores (or with the price tags on the nicer plus-size garments) and who don't have a ton of sewing experience.

The book includes four patterns (a blouse with collar & sleeve variations, pants, an elastic-waist skirt, and a jacket with very nice pockets) and many, many pages of help on how to choose fabrics, construction tips, and fitting.

If you are newish to sewing, need a very basic petite plus-size wardrobe and want a lot of hand-holding, this book is ideal for you. These garments are so simple, though, that your fabric choices are going to be very important. Cheap polyesters or badly-designed prints will make these look like a dog's breakfast — upgrading to better-quality cottons and silks and good buttons (and taking your time with construction) will make all the difference here.

If you're already an experienced sewist or you want garments with more advanced design elements, I'd save your money — there's nothing here that you probably haven't already made on your own. You'd be better off getting a good book on fitting patterns (like Fit for Real People) and altering patterns that you really like.

I don't need to keep this book, so I'm giving it away … the person who writes me the best haiku about pockets will get it! You can email your verse or leave it in the comments. (If you leave it in the comments and you want the book, make sure there's a way for me to reach you.)

Tyvek Fabric

tyvek fabric

Beth sent me a link to the NYT article about a completely-recyclable Tyvek fabric being offered by Mio CultureLab. How is it completely recyclable? They even send you a prepaid return envelope with your order so that you can send back your scraps (or even your whole project, if you don't want it anymore)! That's pretty cool.

It's $13/yard, which is a bit pricey in my budget, but cheap for home dec fabric. And — Tyvek! I've always wanted to sew with Tyvek. (If you don't know what Tyvek feels like, think about those FedEx envelopes — the big ones. That's Tyvek. A little slippery, a little papery.)

If anyone from Mio wants to spot me four yards I promise to make a big dress and write about it. I like the orange dots. 🙂

This Week's Pattern Story

Vogue 9749

Red Hat: Do you have the money?

Swim Cap: Of course — right here in my absurdly large, yet surprisingly stylish Bonnie-Cashin-looking beach bag. Did you come alone?

Red Hat: Yes. Well, except for my sister Peggy. She always insists on tagging along! So infuriating. I made her stay twenty paces behind me, though, so no one thinks we're together.

Swim Cap: So how do we do this?

Red Hat: Keep pretending I'm not standing way too close to you. Then drop the bag. I'll pick it up — you keep going.

Swim Cap: And the illegal sunscreen will be in my cabana?

Red Hat: Within the hour.

Swim Cap: It's a pleasure doing business with you. Say 'Hi!' to Peggy for me!

[Pattern is at Lanetz Living, click on the image to check it out!]

Vintage Sewing Contest! (Not An April Fool's Joke)

Simplicity 8283

Michelle from Patterns from the Past reminded me that Pattern Review's Vintage Sewing Contest is starting up again!

First prize is a $100 gift certificate to Patterns from the Past; 2nd prize is a $50 gift certificate. If you were planning to work on a vintage sewing project between between April 1 – 31, you should consider entering it in the contest! (You must use a vintage sewing pattern printed between 1920 – 1976, not one of the new reproduction patterns. Here are the full rules.)

Michelle is also offering a 15% discount at Patterns from the Past during the contest. The discount coupon code is contest.

Good luck and happy sewing!

Oh, and a couple of not-a-joke sales, too:

Sandra at Sandritocat is running an April-Fool's-only sale — 25% off today only — and you can combine with her offer of free shipping with the purchase of three patterns.

Marge, at Born Too Late Vintage Patterns, is running a $5 sale! All patterns at her store are $5 (or less if marked less already). All you need to do is haggle the price to $5 and I'll accept it. She's running this sale from Friday April 3 to Friday April 10th.

Secret Lives of Pants, #1

ugly pants

I thought that I was destined for higher things. Really, looking back on it now, I don't know why I thought that, but I did. I'm not even sure what I meant by "higher things," even. A hat? That would have been higher.

I know I didn't expect to never fit. I mean, I never fit ANYBODY. I must have been passed on to ten women, maybe twelve … and nobody was happy. I was too baggy in the thighs on one; too loose in the waist on another; indistinguishable from a sausage casing on the third. Too short, too long, too liable to ride up in embarrassing ways: if I could be uncomfortable, I was. It's not that I meant to; I really didn't. It's just what I was.

The worst part, though, was what they called me. Did you know that there are people in this world who use the word "pants" to mean something is ludicrously terrible? "That film was utter pants." "Slacks" is also just plain awful. Why "slacks"? Why not "sharps"? "I think I'll put on a pair of slacks." You might as well say "I think I'll go shoot myself in the foot." Pantaloons? Loony. Knickers? What a horse does. Britches? "You betchure." Breeches? Once more into the breeches, my friends. Trousers? You've got to be kidding me. TROOOOOOW-zers. Just say it a few times, you'll see. I prefer "nether garment" myself, but, of course, nobody asked me. Hardly anyone even tried me on more than once, so we didn't get to the "what should I call you" stage.

I haven't given up hope, though. Somebody picked me up in a thrift store (I have sunk so low, I admit it) the other day. When she stopped laughing, she held me up to her friend. "I think I can do something with this," she said.

"What, violate non-proliferation agreements?" (Her friend was holding a chartreuse batwing sweater, so I don't know where she found room to talk.)

"No — what if I did that jeans-to-skirt thing?"

Her friend stopped, considering. "Well, that COULD be cute … and if not, there's always turning it into a tote bag. Your mom would love it."

So that's what I'm waiting for now. To be a tote bag. Or maybe (oh please!) a skirt. Being a skirt wouldn't be completely pants, would it?