Friday 23 November 2012

Book Review: Martha Stewart's Crafts for All Occasions

Martha Stewart's Crafts for All Occasions contains a massive 225 projects covering a whole host of occasions: New Year's, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas.

As a British crafter, Martha Stewart is one of those figures of whom I'm aware but not overly familiar. I see some of her projects popping up on blogs and Pinterest from time to time, and I bought some issues of Martha Stewart Living many years ago when I lived near a Borders with a great magazine section but that's about it. Mostly I just remember being slightly frustrated after falling in love with recipes which required ingredients that just aren't available in British supermarkets!

So the fact that "portions" of the book are apparently republished from the magazine and are available on her website isn't really something that bothers me as I'm coming to these designs pretty fresh. (My general ignorance of the world of Martha Stewart also means I have no idea what proportion of the book are repeats, sorry!)

All the projects in the book are pretty gorgeous to look at, with top notch photography and styling. It was very hard to choose just a few projects to photograph for this review, which is always a good sign I think.

Even the chapter headings are lovely - this leafy one is especially swoon-worthy:

The book is a smallish, chunky hardback - 350 pages long and about 24cms (9 1/2 inches) high and the 225 project ideas it contains vary in complexity from simple creative ideas (illustrated with a single photo of the finished item) all the way to detailed tutorials with step by step photos.

There are an assortment of ideas for seasonal flower arrangements (like making a spring bouquet look like a nest), and for festive details like these place cards...

... plus suggestions for gift wrapping, like embellishing leaves with metallic paint and glitter to decorate Christmas parcels...

... and lots of simple crafty ideas like adding little felt hearts to a shirt, and making chains of tissue paper hearts to decorate the table:

Then there are slightly more complicated (but still very accessible) tutorials like making map coasters, a flower pop up card and embroidered Christmas cards...

... and more time-consuming projects like making embroidered Valentines or decoupage eggs:

The 4th of July section is a bit irrelevant for the UK market (and I guess for most places outside of the USA?). The Halloween section might have been a few years ago too, but it's become a lot more popular to have Halloween parties and go trick or treating here in recent years. There's a guide to pumpkin carving and lots of cute projects that would be great for a Halloween party, like these papier mache pumpkins:

Most of the Thanksgiving section is just autumnal projects, but there are a few things a UK-based crafter would be likely to skip over like paper pilgrim hats.

A lot of the projects require very specific craft supplies, the sort of things that are usually available from big box craft stores like Hobbycraft. For example, one of the Halloween ideas is to cover cardboard skulls with glitter - you're gonna need some cardboard skulls for that! Some of the projects are more adaptable though, e.g. these butterfly basket place cards on the surface would require you to buy a table's worth of artificial butterflies and mini baskets, but you could get a similar effect with cut-out paper butterflies and pretty teacups.

There are a few projects which seemed a tad on the bonkers side to me, e.g. wrapping eggs with thread would be an easy way to make me go completely insane (though I guess if you're a really patient person, the end result would be rather lovely). Some of the supplies seem a bit mad too - one of the decorating ideas involves "100 stalks of wheat"! Is this something that's readily available in stores in the US?? Because I wouldn't have a clue where you'd buy something like that here in the UK!

Usually I check what sizes the templates are, but there are actually no templates or patterns in this book. Instead, all the templates, patterns and clip art needed for the projects are available online (the book includes the URL where they're located on the Martha Stewart website). So instead of photocopying or tracing from the back of the book, you download and print what you need.

I actually think this is quite a neat idea, as as long as you've got access to the internet and a printer it'd be more convenient to download and print a PDF than faff about enlarging a pattern at a copy shop. I do worry a little about the book's longevity though, as will the online resources still be there in 5 or 10 years time when you get the book down from the shelf? I'd love to know what you guys think about this way of doing things!

Martha Stewart's Crafts for all Occasions is published by David & Charles. RRP £19.99. It's available from Amazon UK, RUCraft, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.  The US edition of this book - Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts - is available on Amazon USA.

[Disclaimer: David & Charles sent me a free review copy of this book,and the Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]

The lovely people at David and Charles are giving away copies of Martha Stewart's Crafts for all Occasions to two of my UK-based readers. Yay! Come back tomorrow for the giveaway!


Vilje Vanilje said...

If you worry about the templates you could just download them and store them on your computer? I personally love this idea as I am hopeless with enlarging and stuff from paper:P

AnitaS said...

O think the idea of downloading is good. You can download them and store them yourself.

Jessica said...

I'm loving all these great book reviews - perfect timing for me to help chose what to add to my Christmas list!

sandrafirebird said...

I have just found your wonderfull blog and think these book reviews are a realy great idea

Bugs and Fishes said...

Vilje - good point about the templates! You could also make a CD of the templates you liked and store it with the book to guard against computer failure :)

Jessica & sandrafirebird - glad to hear you've been enjoying the reviews! It does make a difference seeing inside a book, doesn't it?