Macaroni Necklaces Need Not Apply by Cara

It’s me again, the Non-Fiction Lady (N.F.L). As mentioned in a previous post, I usually find myself drawn less to novels and more to practical stuff, texts that inspire me and teach me how to do something special. And hopefully, they are well-written and entertaining as well.

One of my interests is making stuff by hand. “Crafting” is a term I studiously avoid, because it brings to mind the elementary school art projects involving lopsided ceramics, potholders woven with scratchy synthetic yarns, and other horrible crafts your parent dutifully displayed until you went back to school and they were mysteriously “misplaced.” But who decided that homemade had to mean ugly and, well, crappy?

Learning how to make things from scratch is not difficult, and allows one to be a more responsible and thrifty consumer; to reduce waste and packaging through repurposing materials; and to have fun. There is a certain pride in producing something by hand, whether it’s a jar of strawberry jam, a luxurious winter scarf, or a cute tote bag for your library books. The time and care you invest make these things seem more valuable than just throwing a $20 bill at some retailer. And… did I mention it’s fun?

So, here’s my sweet lil’ list for wannabe crafters. Pick your poison:

Bend the Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew by Amy Karol Portlander Amy Karol is the creator of the popular blog Angry Chicken. In her cheeky, chatty style, she shows you the ropes of sewing, and provides easy instructions for artsy little projects, such as handbags or throw pillows, that would sell in Urban Outfitters for, like, $40. Great gifts for your hipster friends (or kids)!

The Stitch n Bitch series by Debbie Stoller Don’t be put off by the title – Stoller, editor of Bust Magazine, believes in the empowering nature of knitting and crocheting, and makes it easy for you to learn with this friendly series of beginners’ projects. Make yourself a laptop cozy, or some headgear the teenager in your life will actually wear.

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, and Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomin This is less about actual everyday cooking and more about making special artisan foods – cheese, peanut butter cups, and other gift-ables. There’s even a recipe for marshmallows, for crying out loud.

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination & Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule Soule is another blogger – she’s the force behind the exquisite Soulemama blog. She’s been described as a hippie Martha Stewart, able to sleuth out pretty thrift shop finds and reconfigure them into clothes, toys, and household items for her free-range clan. In The Creative Family, you will find such projects, but even better, some valuable guidelines for simple, peaceful ways to appreciate the here and now with your young ones – for letting go of materialistic expectations and creating family togetherness of the homemade variety. Ok, I lied.

One more suggestion. Martha. Yes, she’s annoying in her starchy perfection, but there’s a fundamental reason behind her popularity. She has some great ideas! Take what you want and make it work for you, homemade imperfection and all.


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