Book Review: “The Craftster Guide to Nifty, Thrifty, and Kitschy Crafts”

    The Craftster Guide to Nifty, Thrifty, and Kitschy Crafts: Fifty Fabulous Projects from the Fifties and Sixties
    By Leah Kramer
    Ten Speed Press, June 2006, 184 pages
    $17.95, paperback

You probably know Leah Kramer as the founder of Craftster, probably THE online home for young crafty minds all over the Internet. Or perhaps you know her as one of the co-owners of crafty boutique Magpie. Name still doesn’t ring a bell? Try the organizer of Botson’s Bazaar Bizarre.

Phew. That’s a lot of stuff going on. And with all those titles, now add “author.”

The Craftster Guide to Nifty, Thrifty, and Kitschy Crafts (Fifty Fabulous Projects from the Fifties and Sixties) hit store shelves earlier this summer and has established Kramer as one crafty historian.

In this textbook/super-kitsch project book, Kramer reprints some of her favorite out-of-this-world creations from the decades that gave us I Love Lucy and “MOD Barbie.” I think this quote from her introduction sums up the book best, and I couldn’t agree with her more:

    “It’s hard to say why I’m attracted to this era. It’s not nostalgia, because I wasn’t born until a copule of decades later. But it’s just so appealing.”

I wasn’t sure at first if I’d like an entire book dedicated to pipe-cleaner Christmas ornaments and Gerber snow globes, but one read of Kramer’s musings and you’ll want to add this book to your library as an excellent resource of craftiness from yesteryear.

The book is broken down into accessories, home, clothing, novelties and holiday. Don’t worry, the holiday section isn’t Christmas-only, so fear not. If you love Valentine’s Day, you’re set!

What’s fun about this book is that Kramer reprints the original book excerpts complete with artwork that first accomapnied the projects 50 years ago. I love the idea that someone was working very hard to make bathroom cleanser covers to not only make sure her bathroom accessories matched but express an inner crafty creativity.

I also appreciate the reprint information for the projects since now I think I’ll be on an eBay quest to find some of these old books for possible crafty ideas and funny reads.

Of the 50 projects, my favorites had to be the “Felt Flower Appliques” pins (perhaps some modified Michigan Mittens in the future?!), “Towel Handbags,” and the “Mac and Gold Jewel Box.” Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like!

However, what I’m taking requests for right now are popsicle sticks, as I’ll need 250 of them to make the ever-lovely “Popsicle Stick Purse.” A girl can eat only so many sugar-free creamsicle pops before losing the taste in her tongue.

Kramer’s book ends with a list of resources for everything from vintage fabric to old sewing patterns online. Kramer really has thought of everything for her “kitschy krafters.”

Brini Maxwell, mod lifestyle guru-ette, leaves her own thoughts on both Kramer and the book as a back-cover quote. See if you don’t totally agree and want to run out and add this book to your list of wants right now:

    “Leah Kramer’s collection of vintage craft books has served her well!The Craftster Guide is sure to be required reading for anyone interested in mid-century crafting culture.”

Sometimes we get caught up in working on orders, cranking out inventory for an upcoming fair or simply trying to think of the next great product for our shelves. One look at The Craftster Guide will remind us of how fun it is to make some totally, completely nutty.