another trip down Martha lane…

I was lucky enough to attend my second Martha Show taping yesterday. (You can read about my first taping here.) I follow TheMarthaShow on Twitter and they often tweet about upcoming shows that have seats available. If you live in the New York area and have a flexible schedule, you can contact them when you see a tweet about available tickets. As a single attendee, like me, I think it is easier for them to squeeze you into less than full audiences.

I attended the afternoon taping (they had taped a live show in the morning, too) and was at the studio for almost four hours. It took a big chunk out of my workday, but it was totally worth it. I love seeing Martha and her team in action. They are all so professional and nice. (They also all dress extremely nice – casual, but completely fashionable and neat.) They really work hard to make sure the audience has a fun time.

The show will air tomorrow, Thursday, February 3rd at 10 am on the Hallmark Chanel. I am sitting in the front row of the upper audience section and I think they caught me on camera a few times… I hope I don’t look too dorky. I think I was wearing too much blush and I really hope I don’t come across as someone desperate to be on tv….

Anyhoo, the show was great. The girls from Crafternoon were there to make vintage-inspired valentines and Grace Young, a Chinese chef, was there demonstrating two kinds of stir fry. The best part: we got to take home a bunch of free gifts! I try not to get my hopes up for free stuff, but it is definitely always welcome. We received the Crafternoon book (yay!), the cookbook, Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge, and a handy, little slicing tool from Grace Young, and a Sony Pocket eReader!! Martha had on Abraham Verghese, the author of her latest “Books I’m Reading” selection, Cutting for Stone — which looks very interesting — and we got an e-copy of his book on the eReader! Very cool! I am charging mine right now and can’t wait to play with it and start reading.

An exciting tidbit: I got to ask Martha a question after the show! They allowed a little time at the end to ask her a few questions and I raised my hand to ask about her lip. She had cut it pretty bad a few weeks ago and posted about it on her blog. She says it is pretty much healed and it does look fantastic — you couldn’t even tell she had been cut. One more exciting tidbit: maybe I shouldn’t share too much, but Martha used the word grandchild during the Q&A session!! Sounds like she may have some good news to share soon!

All in all, it was another great experience at The Martha Show, but I have a question: how many tapings do you think you have to attend before they put your name on the “crazy fanatic/groupie/stalker” list? I sure hope I’m not on my way down that path! I do love Martha, but maybe I should tone down all of the Martha tweeting and Martha blogging… what do you think?


loving… The Hairpin – A recently launched “ladies website.” It is basically a general-interest blog that links to everything from politics to beauty articles and provides clever and lol-funny commentary. It is a tiny bit snarky and a little obscene, but I can’t get enough of it!

watching & reading… The Walking Dead – I read the first three trade paperbacks of the comics and I am pretty pumped about the tv series. The first few episodes had me worried (some lame dialog, heavy-hitting lessons in humanity), but this Sunday’s episode was pretty awesome with the zombie attack at the end. I’m a fan.

thinking… about my maternal grandparents. I watched 1952’s Room For One More over the weekend and it reminded me of them. It was made before my mom was born, and all of the 1950s style — the clothing, the way of talking, the large families and stay-at-home moms in dresses — made me think of my mother’s family growing up. Cary Grant is skinny, and tall, and dark like my grandfather was, and Betsy Drake plays the caring mother of five (my grandmother had six). It is funny how much style and society can change in a little over 50 years…

worrying over… whether to just go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) without any prep, or to re-read the books and/or re-watch the movies again before hand. I feel like I’ve been away from it for too long…

the hipster life

I finally got my rear end back to another Etsy Labs Craft Night!! It was so fun — I don’t know why I don’t attend every week! I went with my friends, Jessica & Lisa, and we made fringe scarves with Erica Domesek of the blog and new book, P.S. I Made This.

I haven’t had an excess of time to devote to crafting lately, but I still enjoy following the DIY-ish P.S. I Made This blog for its style and beautiful inspiration collages. Plus, I am totally impressed by Erica’s jump from the web to publishing a book! I had to buy it.

The fringe scarves were super-easy to make from an old t-shirt. Basically you cut off the top of the shirt with the sleeves, then fringe the bottom of the remaining “t-shirt-tube” — simple! They are totally hipster-ish, so I am not sure I have the confidence to rock the fringe scarf on a daily basis, but I had to let Crusher try it on…

I’m going to submit his photo to Hipster Puppies!!

review: Art Style Guide by Lydia Barry Kutko

I was an art major in undergrad, studied art management in grad school, and I worked at an art magazine for many years. I interned at art organizations and an art museum, and was even offered a fancy gallery job… you would think I would be totally comfortable in the art buying world! Unfortunately, that is not the case. I am still completely intimidated by the gallery scene and the daunting task of figuring out how to start my own art collection. Which is why I needed the Art Style Guide, a helpful mini-book that helps the reader define their personal art style and start the collection process, all in six easy steps!

The author of Arts Style Guide, Lydia Barry Kutko, has a BA in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA in art & business from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I met Lydia at an the Etsy Labs craft night I hosted last February. I helped her make a Valentine for her husband, which I think cemented our friendship, and she has since helped me explore some of the more sophisticated aspects of NYC culture. She is brilliant and charming, and pretty much the epitome of a cool New Yorker… but let’s get to the Guide

Lydia Barry KutkoArt collecting is daunting. Galleries are often cold and unwelcoming. The Art Style Guide is a resource for people who love art but feel overwhelmed by the art buying process. It takes you through six accessible steps — Cut, Decode, Compile, Court, Corroborate, and Celebrate — that help you define your own personal style and interests, and then gives you the knowledge you need to dive into the art gallery scene. It is a pocket-sized book that you can easily carry with you on your art adventures and it includes multiple built-in note pages for jotting down your thoughts and responses to the book’s prompts.

The Guide also includes a great list of helpful art resources. (I was tickled to discover one of them being the magazine I worked for, America Art Review – fabulous!) Lydia emphasizes the importance of research and exposure – the best way to start collecting art is to start looking at art — lots of it! And, it turns out, art is all around us and we make artistic decisions everyday!

From the book’s intro:

Art Style Guide resulted from an epiphany about collecting: that through mass media culture, we are all inextricably involved in the art world; and that daily, whether aware or not, we make savvy aesthetic decisions – from the clothes we wear to the products we purchase. Art Style is about using the aesthetics of the familiar to explore the exotic.”

I had a lot of fun going through Art Style Guide’s six steps and I think any beginning collector will enjoy it, as well.

To learn more about the Lydia and the Guide, check out her website and Facebook page. You can purchase the Guide here, and get lots more informative art tidbits and tips by following the Art_Style Twitter feed.

Sleepy-head me doing some early morning Art Style reading…


This post is based on the blogging prompt “What do you think of when you think of September?” from IndieBizChicks’ September Blogging Special.

the month of September

Is September half empty or half full? I can’t quite decide, but I am happy it is here even if it is already half over! September makes me think of fall, of course. You can smell the colder air approaching and the weather has been much more hospitable to running. I hate to say good bye to summer, but I have a feeling that autumn is going to be a good time, too!

September also makes me think of school. I am no longer in grad school (thank god!) and I do not have any children returning to school, but it still feels like a month for learning. Maybe that is why I have been adding so many books to my reading list! Right now, I am working my way through Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and I am determined to finish it even though it breaks my heart every time I pick it up. After that I MUST read these five books:

Books for September

  • The Lampshade – I read the excerpt of this non-fiction book that was in the last issue of New York magazine and I am so totally hooked… is the lampshade a Nazi artifact made of human skin?!!
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – A nonfiction pick that has been on my list for a while… “a tale of medical wonders and medical arrogance, racism, poverty.”
  • The Warmth of Other Suns – Another nonfiction book that I learned about in New York magazine (love that publication). I am really into historical nonfiction lately and this book would be a new perspective for me: the twentieth century migration of African Americans from the South to the North and West.
  • Let the Great World Spin – Finally a fiction pick! This National Book Award winner has gotten rave reviews and tells the story of New York City in the 1970s. Must read.
  • The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival – This is a brand new addition to my list. It turns out that the author, Ken Wheaton, is on my Team In Training and he just told me about his book last night. I am fascinated by Louisiana culture and religion in general, so it seems like a perfect match for me!

I wish I could say that I am going to read all of these by the end of September, but that is way too ambitious for this slow reader. I will do my best to get them all finished by the end of the year! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What other books should I add to my reading list? Besides learning, what do you think of when you think of September?

market day


Another big craft show this weekend, but don’t worry, Swap-bot was not a sponsor. This weekend it was the Brooklyn Food and Craft Market at the Brooklyn Lyceum, which is very near our apartment. Since Travis is still stuck at home with his hurt knee, I strolled down to the Lyceum by myself to check out scene. The Lyceum is huge and there were craft and food vendors on two levels, plus a mezzanine. There was a lot to see! I was already familiar with many of the craft vendors from previous fairs, but I was blown away by the number of food vendors. Each table seemed to have samples of cookies, and brownies, and jams, and spices. I sampled a lot of tasty things! I ended up buying some pear and chipotle jam from Anarchy in a Jar and some dark chocolate and sea salt caramels from Token Confections.


Last week at the Handmade Cavalcade I met Karen Eiger, the author of Markets of New York. Her book was pre-launching today at the Food and Craft Market and I was eager to pick up a copy. It is a small, but beautiful book full of info and color photographs from many of the flea markets, farmers markets, and artisan markets in NYC. I have only taken a preliminary peek inside it, but I have already discovered new markets that I need to visit. As a bonus, some of the market vendors were giving a discount with the purchase of the book. One such vendor was Nguyen Le of KnitKnit. I’ve met Nguyen previously at Etsy Labs Craft Nights, but last week at the Cavalcade I fell in love with one of her knit and bead necklaces… but I refrained from purchasing it. Thank goodness it was still there this week! I purchased (with the nice discount, of course!) the pink and green necklace in the middle of the photo above and I adore it!

It was a fun and successful market day and there are sure to be many more. Summer is definitely craft fair season! Will you be attending any markets or fairs in your area?

Making a Great Blog by Diane Gilleland

This article was originally published on…

Diane Gilleland is a fixture in the online craft world. She runs the informative and fun craft site,, which consists of a frequently updated blog, and truly amazing weekly podcasts all about “making stuff.” She also contributes to the creative community blog: Make + Meaning, and co-manages a monthly “tweet-up” called Craft Social. I have been following Diane and CraftyPod since 2006 when I met her at one of the monthly Crafty Wonderland craft sales in Portland, Oregon. I have always been impressed with the quality and helpfulness of the content she produces.
Recently, Diane has also branched into online publishing with a line of how-to eBooks. Even though I have been blogging for nearly seven years, I knew that there was still plenty I could learn from an expert like Diane, so I jumped at the chance to purchase two of her books during a recent promotional sale she was having. I purchased Making a Great Blog and Social Media for your Crafty Business (today, I am only reviewing Making a Great Blog, but stay tuned for the next installment!)

Making a Great Blog is a 47-page eBook that also comes with eight pages of helpful worksheets. According to the book’s official description,

“It’s designed for beginning bloggers, and for more experienced bloggers who need to get re-inspired. And most importantly, it’s written specifically for art and craft bloggers.”

Once you purchase the book, you download it in PDF format via an emailed link. The entire purchasing process was simple; I was able to open the book on my personal computer within minutes of my purchase–instant gratification!

Anyone who has started a blog knows that there are many online resources that can teach you the technical side of setting up a site and publishing content. What Making a Great Blog focuses on are the often more difficult tasks of creating valuable content and persevering through “blog fade.” The four main subjects covered in the book include pre-blog preparation and planning, generating quality content, the visual side of blogging, and blogger etiquette.
In Making a Great Blog, Diane addresses broad topics like why a person may want to start blogging, and more detailed topics like specific blog post ideas and how to write more interesting, informative, and narrative content. There are also suggestions for how to improve your blog photography and design (with photo examples like the one seen above), plus common sense — but unfortunately necessary — guidelines on blogging etiquette.

Personally, I was reminded to bring more cohesiveness and structure to my own blog’s subject matter and to focus on my readers instead of my own needs, but each reader will take away their own favorite ideas. The book is definitely geared toward (and will be most helpful for) beginner bloggers. However, I believe everyone, from true beginners to experienced professionals, will find more than one helpful tip or reminder in Making a Great Blog that will improve their blogging skills.

  • Immediately available for download and reading–no need to go to the store or wait for a package to arrive.
  • Very clear and concise writing, with a little humor and personality sprinkled in. It is a quick read that is broken into easily-digestible chapters and sections.
  • A unique perspective on blog development that focuses more on creating good content instead of only explaining the technical “nuts and bolts” of setting up a blog site (although, there are plenty of links to technical resources provided for further study, too).
  • Includes guided worksheets and list prompts that help the reader focus and improve their blog in a wide variety of ways.
  • Making a Great Blog is not about tricks or “get-rich-quick”-style tactics for gaining an immediate (but low-quality) blog audience – it is about helping you do the real, valuable work of creating and publishing quality content and becoming an important member of the online craft community.
  • Most helpful for blogging beginners, and although I recommend the book for any blogger looking to improve their craft, experts may not find it as helpful.
  • For some, the lack of a physical paper book may be a drawback.
  • If you are looking for extremely detailed technical instructions on how to build a website, Making a Great Blog is probably not the book for you.
Making a Great Blog the eBook is available for purchase on for $12.50. Have you purchased or read this or other eBooks before? What do you think about eBooks as an educational medium? Do you have any suggestions for other books or resources that can help with successful blogging?


Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross

This article was originally published on…

I received Weekend Sewing: More That 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Sewing from my mom as a Christmas gift. I always love receiving craft books as gifts, not only because they have great projects in them, but because I always enjoy the inspirational photography. For me, photography is one of the most important aspects of a craft tutorial book, and Weekend Sewing does not disappoint!
Heather Ross, the author of Weekend Sewing, is an artist and author. This is her first sewing book, but that does not mean it is a book for only beginner seamstresses. The patterns contained in the book range from simple napkins to formal dresses – and each project is accompanied by beautiful, full-color photography and detailed, hand-drawn diagrams. Ross explains in the introduction how each of the projects are meant to be completed in a weekend, or less, and how she meant for each of the items to have a relaxed, weekend feel.
The book is well organized with three distinct sections (home goods, adult clothing, and children’s clothing), as well as approximately twenty pages of basic sewing information, and a lovely “Resources” spread (seen below) with store information and suggested websites. Another very helpful and generous feature of Weekend Sewing is that is comes with all of the patterns printed in their full size on large sheets of paper that are tucked into the book cover–no need to photocopy tiny diagrams at 400% at Kinko’s like with other pattern books.
Now, I must confess: I have only basic sewing skills, due mostly to my own impatience. I own a sewing machine (a 30-year-old, heavy, metal Kenmore that has survived my amateur tinkerings ever since I was a child) and I use it regularly, but I don’t think I have correctly followed a sewing pattern since 8th grade HomeEc class. I sew lots of simple, fast things, like curtains and patches on torn jeans–things that don’t require a lot of ironing and measuring. Knowing this about myself, I choose one of the easier patterns in Weekend Sewing as my first project: the Sunday Dinner Hostess Apron.
I gathered my supplies: fabric from my stash (which I DID wash and iron first–go Rachel!), tracing paper, scissors, etc. Notice that I do not have tailor’s chalk or fabric shears–which would have been helpful, but not totally necessary. I traced the apron pattern (the apron skirt, the waistband and waistband facing, and two ties with facing) and cut the pieces from my fabric. Then, I started sewing, very proud of myself for following the instructions exactly!
I wish I had taken better photos of the finished product, because it really did turn out to be a very cute apron. I love it. It looks nearly professional and is quite feminine and sweet. The entire project took me about four hours and the whole process went smoothly thanks to the detailed instructions and diagrams in the book.
I look forward to attempting more Weekend Sewing projects, maybe even the wrap dress! I would definitely recommend the book to anyone (with at least some basic sewing skills and access to a sewing machine) who is looking for simple, but beautiful sewing project ideas.
  • Over forty sewing projects, from napkins and tote bags to blouses and smocked dresses.
  • Lovely color photos and very detailed, hand-drawn, step-by-step diagrams for every project.
  • Full-size patterns included with the book on large, separate sheets of paper.
  • It has a laid-back, easy-going weekend attitude that encourages the reader to really enjoy their sewing time.
  • Not exactly a con, but you must have access to a sewing machine to complete most, if not all, of the projects.
  • I would not call the projects in Weekend Sewing extremely advanced, but they are not for absolute beginners, either. Some sewing knowledge and skills are necessary.
  • Also not a con, but something to note: 2/3 of the book is devoted to clothing projects, and half of those projects are children’s clothing. If you are looking for more housewares or functional items, this may not be the sewing book for you.
Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching has an MSRP of $27.50 and is sold at most major book retailers. Do you own this book and have you created any of the projects? If so, please share links to photos of your finished products. What other sewing books do you suggest for a beginner-to-intermediate seamstress?

adventures in sewing

newapronI made this apron today! It took me all morning, but I am pleased to have followed through and actually completed a full sewing project. I used the pattern and instructions from Weekend Sewing, a lovely book I received from my mom for Christmas. I am also working on a full review of the book for Craft Critique, so stay tuned for that.

My sewing skills are not superb… I have a hard time keeping my sewing lines straight and usually I am too impatient to actually iron the fabric and hems as I go, but for this project I took my time and tried to do it right. I used my mom’s old Kenmore sewing machine, which is heavy, and noisy, and awesome – I really love it. It works great considering that it is older than I am, and I have FINALLY gotten the hang of threading the bobbin.

It feels good to at least have a basic understanding of sewing (seamstressing? tailoring?), but man, Travis and I would be in trouble if I had to sew all of our clothes! This apron is the third easiest pattern in the Weekend Sewing book… there is a wrap dress in there that I want to try, but I am afraid of ruining a bunch of nice fabric. Maybe I should make the checkbook cover first…

Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt

This article was originally published on…

Kata Golda is an artist who works mostly in felt to create children’s toys and items for the home. She recently published her first project book, Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt: 25 Whimsical Sewing Projects (published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, MSRP $19.95), and I had the pleasure of meeting her during her promotional tour at the Etsy Labs Craft Night in Brooklyn on October 19th, 2009. At the craft event, Golda showed us how to create a felt photo pocket, one of the projects featured in her book.
Golda supplied the wool and wool-blend felt, which came in beautiful muted colors that were hand-dyed at her studio. She also gave us a template to use for the fall leaves on the pockets (in the book, the photo pockets have a botanical motif). The pockets were created by tri-folding a rectangle of felt and using a combination of three simple stitches (straight stitch, whip stitch, and blanket stitch) to secure the applique and close up the edges. The project was a good refresher for me, as I was a bit rusty on all of my stitching techniques. I was very pleased to finish my pretty pocket by the end of the evening!
I was so pleased that I went ahead and purchased the Hand-Stitched Felt book that evening! The beginning of the book covers many of the same things we learned at the event, like simple stitches, knots, and sewing techniques. There is a cute section all about stitching faces freehand. Golda’s stuffed toys are absolutely adorable, and it was fun to get a glimpse into how she creates their cute and expressive faces. The sewing techniques section of the book is only eight pages long and covers the most basic of instruction. It is completely adequate for a beginning stitcher interested in tackling simple sewing projects like those in the book, but more advanced seamstresses could probably skip right over the section.
The majority of the book is devoted to the twenty-five different felt project tutorials. The projects include a pincushion, a purse, stuffed animals, journals with felt covers, finger puppets (seen on the book’s cover), pillows, a baby quilt, a messenger bag, and many more cute felt creations. Each project tutorial is accompanied by multiple full-color photographs by Frank White, and Golda’s whimsical, hand-drawn sketches and diagrams. It was a joy looking through the book trying to determine what I would attempt as my first project. I settled on the “Songbird Mug Cozy and Coaster” as my inaugural hand-stitched felt creation.
I gathered my supplies (three colors of felt, three colors of embroidery thread, scissors, measuring tape, pencil, and buttons) and then hunkered down on the sofa to get stitching! Golda’s pattern for the mug cozy is ingenious, with a little tab that fits through the mug handle and an attached coaster at the bottom of the cozy. Each mug cozy must be custom-made for the mug it is intended to keep warm. I (somewhat stupidly) choose one of my largest mugs. This caused a problem when I discovered that my felt pieces were not quite long enough to wrap the mug. I improvised and added a tab with buttons on both sides to fit under the mug handle.
Even with my slight improvisation, Golda’s instructions kept me on track and reminded me to do simple things (like attach the applique first) that made the process of constructing the cozy go smoothly. (I added the little heart between the birds as my own special touch.) I had a lot of fun making this felt project, and I am very pleased with the results. The cozy is both cute and highly functional!
I have a weak spot in my heart for cute things, which probably was what initially swayed me to purchase Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt: 25 Whimsical Sewing Projects. But even if cute is not exactly your style, the book has many clever and functional project ideas for all ages that can be customized to fit your personal taste. If you are attracted to Golda’s cute characters, she provides all of the character and motif patterns at the back of the book in the templates section – including full-size templates for her signature stuffed companion dolls. The projects in Hand-Stitched Felt are all very simple, and as the title says, they are all completed with hand-stitching. No sewing machine required. So, that means you can work on them in front of the tv or on the subway with ease. Perfect for someone like me who likes quick, but satisfying craft endeavors!
  • Wide variety of both functional and whimsical felt projects.
  • Beautiful color photography and detailed project instructions with construction diagrams.
  • The projects are all quick, simple, and can be completed with only the most basic materials.
  • Patterns for the applique designs are provided, but the projects are easily customizable using your own creativity.
  • Advanced seamstresses may find the sewing projects to be too simple.
It is hard for me to come up with any substantial “cons” for Hand-Stitched Felt. I really love the book and it has made me more interested in continuing to craft in felt. What other felt craft books should I check out? Do you have a favorite online felt vendor? Who are some other artists or crafters working in felt who inspire you?