Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More Martha Martha Martha

Last year, I reviewed Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts, complaining about the horrible exclusion of our beloved hobby.

Recently, she came out with Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts. This one, dear reader, includes us. I borrowed this from the library, and I thought I'd review it before I got a hefty fine.

Martha has learned a thing or two about the encyclopedia format. This book is divided into four sections: Getting Started, Basic Techniques, the Projects, and a glossary.

Interestingly, Martha begins the book with an acknowledgement of the team of craft editors. Happily refreshing. In a little note to the reader, Martha tells how she learned to sew from her mother, like so many of us, and at school, like many more of us. It was this knowledge that allowed her to wear Balenciaga and Dior and Givenchy to class in college. Indeed. How does one manage to be a DIYer and a snob at the same time? Martha continues to be remarkable, doesn't she?

Getting Started
This section explains the qualities of the different types of fabric that are available to the sewer (I apologize in advance, but that's the word we've been saddled with.) There's also a thread glossary. You might worry when you learn that it is two pages long, but one page is taken up with a lovely photo of threads, and there is much lovely photography throughout the book. The chapter concludes by offering tips for setting up a sewing area and a few of the tools one may find useful.

Basic Techniques
This section contains everything from putting together a sewing kit to preparing the fabric for sewing to hand stitches. It briefly explains sewing machines and their stitches. It moves on to explain more complicated techniques like applique, embroidery stitches--including cross stitch and French knots and even Japanese shashiko. The description she has of this technique makes it clear why it is included in the buttoned-up world of Martha Stewart: "understated appearance" "neat, uniform look." Other techniques include quilting and patchwork, dyeing--this section shows the results of bleaching various fabrics (I always get a kick out of that)--and finally printing, which includes things like stamping and stenciling.

Projects A to Z
A is for ...Animals where else but in Martha's world can stray socks be turned into "winsome dogs of any breed"?
...Aprons you should make these. They "whip up stitchity-quick." Okay, we're 20 pages in and there's not embroidery on these projects. It's all sewing.
B is for...Bags Oh, a raffia-embroidered tote! Not only do we learn the genesis of raffia, we learn it comes in a "wide range of delightfully flashy hues." Oh, Martha, you're never flashy no matter how hard you try. Here we are, 31 pages in and we finally (!) get some cross-stitch. It's a "cross-stitch silhouette tote."
...Bath Linens "It's amazing how much brighter a bathroom looks when you introduce a few hand-worked touches...As you shop for materials keep an eye to washable, color-safe trims and fabrics. Or opt for all-white accessories; you can never go wrong with their crisp, clean look." Except, dear Martha, it's all white!
....Bed Linens I'm not kidding here: buy some sheets, bleach them, then dye them. Oh, thanks!
...Bibs, blankets, and books.
C is for ...Clothing including making, remaking, and embellishing.
...Coasters Did you know you can make these out of "fat quarters." Quotation marks are hers.
...Cozies for hot water bottles, hands, and eggs. Because my eggs hate to be uncomfortable.
D is for...Decorative pillows, "Pillows enliven any living space" which is remarkable for an inanimate object. This chapter might be extraordinarily useful for the cross-stitcher who likes to finish her work into a cushion.
...Dolls "While their facial expressions are neutral and their body shapes plain, they will surely come alive in the arms of a baby or small child," scaring the fuck out of them for life.
F is for Flowers several types, including rickrack flowers that are photographed on some of the most gorgeous children to walk the earth.
H is for ...Handkerchiefs a natural for our hobby.
N is for ...Nursery projects Remember how KL were outraged on behalf of HI in the last book? This time we skip from H to N. One fifth of the alphabet is up in arms!
O is for... Organizers Martha starts with fabric topped storage boxes (store bought). It doesn't seem difficult but it sure seems pointless.
P is for ...Pets Your dog needs a quilted jacket, a handmade dog bed, and an Ultrasuede coat (for when the fur coat just isn't enough). Cats simply deserve handmade toys.
...Pincushions, including "heirloom tomatoes" I actually cracked a smile. Unironically. Strawberry emeries, Mason jar sewing kits and notions made from felt leaves, including a needlebook. You might be interested in this chapter.
...Potholders "Stitch up more than a few; they're sure to make much-appreciated gifts.: Indeed this is one of the first handmade gifts I made--strip pieced I can still see the yellow and blue ones I made for my aunt Mikki (my favorite aunt); she only got rid of them when she redid the kitchen!
Q is for...Quilts and Patchwork I, J, K, L, and M can't believe they were dissed in favor of Q! But wait, wasn't this the title of a techniques chapter? I have to say I really expected more Martha-style quilts, but they're not. Maybe it's just impossible to get that button-downed look into a quilt?
S is for...Shades Just a note, every time I see directions for making Roman shades, I become convinced I will never finish the craft room.
...Slippers "This is a wonderful process, not only because it demystifies shoe-making..." does it matter where the sentence goes from here? Does this book mock itself?
T is for ...Table Linens Here's where the Shashiko shows up.
U is for...Upholstery not as daunting as it sounds, promise: "The techniques range from sewing straight seems to ...methods that require not much more than a staple gun and some batting or foam."
W is for ...Wall decor: ribbon embroidered wall hangings, farmyard applique wall hanging, embroidered letter sampler, framed patchwork star. "Bring a sense of softness to your rooms." What? The upholstery doesn't do that? ("You can work on them while curled up in a chair, sitting on the bus or train, or any time you have a few spare minutes and are feeling creative.")

a glossary of tools and materials followed by tips and extra techniques, the ones that would have put you off if they were at the beginning of the book--making bias tape, installing a grommet, sewing on buttons and snaps, and the like.

I usually have an appreciation for the crispness of Martha's preppy style, but I think this book's style is perhaps even blander. I feel like embroidery took a real back seat tot he sewing as well. On the positive side, it's a very good book for sewing techniques.


Caroline said...

I'm going to leave the exact comment I left last year. Funny that......

"Great review - thanks, I'll pass on this one."

Anonymous said...

Martha should have said, " for PetsMart" because now you can go there and buy Martha Stewart dog beds instead of making your own.


drea_dear said...

It sounds a little interesting, but I'm generally not fond of encyclopedias of craft-ish things anyway. They always leave something out.

"It was this knowledge that allowed her to wear Balenciaga and Dior and Givenchy to class in college. Indeed. How does one manage to be a DIYer and a snob at the same time? Martha continues to be remarkable, doesn't she?" - LMAO

And in re: S is for Shades: I don't know if you've seen this site or not. The instructions seem easier and more inspiring than others. Of course, I haven't made mine yet either. She wants you to buy her supplies, but tells you what to look for in a brick & mortar store, too.

JenFW said...

May I have this in a podcast, please? I love the voice in my head as I read this, and I wonder how similar or different it is from your own voice.

The bedsheets--buy, bleach, dye--are a riot.

Roman shades: I've made some (bedroom/craft room) and have materials to make more (darn good room). My favorite instructions:

It takes some figuring, but Terrell's Hardware Calculator is a big help. And the best part: they really work!