craft + decor mags make you inept

Teen Bedroom

I have good intentions. In my mind I’m the type of mom who’s sneaking in wheat germ, the kind of wife who’s still buying sexy underthings, the kind of woman who finds time to read and return phone calls. But I’m not. I haven’t written a real letter to a friend in ages. Everything is typed into little white boxes via IM, Facebook, and Flickr. And in truth, I don’t even know what the latest trends are. I haven’t picked up a magazine for just the pictures and matchy ensembles since Linus was in town. Still, I make an effort. I subscribe to fashion newsletters, receive updates on the new restaurant openings (both here in Austin and in New York), and each day an email arrives from Martha Stewart titled "Craft of the Day." And this, dear friends, is the death of me.

Pillowcase Bagsakebox

Here’s what I’ve got to say: don’t read craft magazines; they’ll only make you feel inept. Unless of course you have the time to be constructing sake-box planters topped with plastic wrap, intended to be miniature greenhouses.

I wish my adult life could be more like school, where my time was divided into blocks of subjects. I’d be able to make time each day for child rearing, grooming, writing, and making my own soaps and soups.

When I received an email in celebration of Earth Day, urging me to create a shoulder bag with an "orphaned pillowcase," I realized I’d sooner raise chickens than use a pillowcase as my handbag. One day there will be time for pipe cleaner art, for creating a wreath made of seashells, and for stamping envelopes with wax seals. In the meanwhile, I’ll compose to-do lists I’ll never get through and keep a good distance away from the craft glue–except to occasionally sniff it.



  1. Oh my – do I ever hear you! If there is ever a way to doubt your fabulousness, read a preachy magazine…

    "Time and space organizers – spring cleaning in 10 minutes a day"


    "Office chair workouts – lose 10 lbs in 10 days"


    "Live green – re-use all of your used toothpaste tubes"

    What the helllll eveeerrrrrr…

    As life goes on and gets progressively busier – those boxes of craft treasures get even dustier (so much for spring cleaning). I am further and further away from ever embossing my own cards again (or even sending cards for that matter). I don't know if I'll ever knit again (I'd rather use the needles to gouge my eyes out at this point). I remember when I made candles, potpourri, even did counted cross stitch.

    All of those were good for me and I'm glad I did them. But damn, am I glad I don't ever imagine doing them again.

    Now, if I even *see* a craft magazine at the grocery store in the 22 minutes I budget to get all the food for the week – I have accomplished something beautiful.

  2. hahaha ok those crafts are on the ridiculous side. i'd say that your scrapbooking, photography, writing, working with vanilla, etc are all crafts. you do plenty lady.

  3. "I wish my adult life could be more like school, where my time was divided into blocks of subjects. I'd be able to make time each day for childrearing, grooming, writing, and making my own soaps and soups."
    That's it!! That is EXACTLY the answer to my ever nagging, relentless mind-speak that plays over and over in my head all the live long day! The guilt, the 'should-be-doing-this', etc, etc.
    If only there were a life guidance counselor who organized our 'classes' every semester and a bell that rang at the end of each class. Four minute breaks between classes, lunch, study hall… perfect.

  4. Oh man, I agree with you re craft magazines. So funny. I'd rather spend time with the people I love than gluing things. Old pillowcase as a purse? Ick.

  5. Great post. Live life until life brings you to a crawl. Then…and only then…..partake of craft magazines.

    Any new restaurant recommendations in Austin? Headed there next week…..

  6. My mom can't craft. As a matter of fact, she recently asked me where to by placecards for a dinner party, and I said "the craft store". She claimed ignorance of such a thing. I told her to ask her friend Linda where to find one as we refer to Linda as the "Martha Stewart of New Jersey".

    It is for these reasons that I believe my lack of crafting ability is genetic. I am the daughter of a woman who literally could not find a craft store to save her life. I just pity my future children.

  7. my daughter is nearly 6 months old, and i have hardly made a dent in 1. ordering the 100s of digital photos i've been taking, 2. gathering all the little things i want to put into the scrap book along with the pix, and 3. actually sitting down and putting these things into a scrap book.

    Six months ago, i was that person who was constantly cleaning, organizing, making my home perfect, etc. I was doing home renovation throughout my pregnancy (i was “nesting” big time…I couldn’t get enough of HGTV). NOW, well, the level of dust, et all in my home is CRAZY, yet, after a 10 hour day of work, all i want to do is come home and spend the less-than 2 hours i have before my baby goes to sleep with HER. My mantra these days "i'll do it after 8 p.m."…argggggg… and don't even get me started on my "to do" lists. i break out in a cold sweat if i can't locate them…

    I stopped my subscription to MSLiving b/c of the type of stuff you are saying in this post. yet, i've kept real simple, since the stuff in there is very practical.

    all in all, this post helps me admit i can NOT do it all…which i would never have said before (at least not out loud…..)I think I need to hire someone to come in to clean once every week or at least every two weeks…its time. Anyone have any suggestions for the new haven, ct area? Hee hee…thanks! feel free to email me privately if you have any helpful suggestions. :)

  8. I'm with you, on all of it! If it makes you feel any better, I have three half done scrapbooks, with hundreds of dollars of scrapbook materials sitting and mocking me, everytime I sit at the computer. (The scrapbook materials mock me in my husband's voice. Most likely because he's had something to say about all those unused, unwrapped arts and crafts supplies.)

    I have finally decided to let almost ALL of my magazine subscriptions run out this year. 80% are not opened let alone read. (I'm still clinging to the scrapbook materials, convinced I will finish them one day) About once a month my daughter asks WHEN we're going to start scrapbooking again. Once again I'm pointing out that once school is out we'll get back into it. Knowing that by the time we split the vacation weeks with her father, by the time we take our vacations with the kids, and Bible camp in Washington state is over, we might have a total of two weeks that could possibly be devoted to scrapbooking.

    The cookbooks to teach Tayler how to cook sit untouched as well. I have possibly 5 to 10 half done projects, sitting half done. And still I haven't learned my DSLR camera beyond the pre-set modes. I have good intentions, I just can't seem to find the time or ORGANIZE my time to complete any of them.

    I do manage to stay up on the many Birthday cards, but only because the hubby took over buying them. He lays them in front of me to write something, he seals them up, and mails them for me. So the reality is I don't really follow through there, either. And I don't have books I'm writing and tours to arrange as a viable reason for a lack of project time.

    I guess all this to say, I think you're amazing. And complete far more than I have ever been able to. But still I cling to the hope that one day, I'll get to this or that. Most of the time now, the hubby doesn't mention the undone projects. He knows it's futile. I won't part with any of it. (If he does bring it up, I tell him he can dump it all when I'm dead. Or give it to Tayler, for when she starts 20 different projects hoping to get to them, one day.)

    I see nothing wrong with having lofty goals that one day may fit into the daily schedule. It's still a possibility as long as I have faith that I might. ;-)

    Your first scrapbook had me drooling over how beautiful and COMPLETE it was. The day I saw yours, I wrote out all my undone projects, a list of "hope to's" to get to one day. You're leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of us, that have more time than you do at the moment; and still can't manage to complete those extras that I would love to dive into.

    So don't give up on the projects, you'll get to them. Just probably not as quickly as our spouses wish we would.


  9. I went through a phase where I looked at craft magazines, and longed to do all the projects. Trouble is, I lived alone, and there was no one to show the work to. The only practical things I took from craft mags were the gift-wrapping ideas/tips/executions. I've been milking that ever since.

    Otherwise, I feel inept and know I can't do papercutout lampshades

  10. I was super crafty when it came to my wedding. I made my own invitations (except the letterpress printing) that had each guest's name printed on their RSVP card and painstakingly designed the enclosures and maps to fit neatly in a pocket that was embossed with a monogram I designed myself, made frames for the wedding photos of our parents and grandparents, made placecards, made the votives that hung from grosgrain ribbons from the chandeliers and covered glass cylinders with handmade papers and layered grosgrain and satin ribbon over them to make glowing centerpieces.

    But back in the real world, you couldn't bribe me to label a file folder. I've made a couple of throw pillows, but that's about the extent of my craftiness when I'm not trying to impress everyone I know.

  11. I am immediately turned off by the word craft–be it a store, magazine or activity.

    I would much rather just purchase what I need already completed for me. Possibly unoriginal, but I just can't be bothered with the guaranteed failure of doing it on my own. And who has the time?!?!

  12. I like to combine crafts with pets, thereby enjoying two life enhancing activities at once. For example: take one pillowcase. Fold in half widthwise. Place on cat's or dog's favorite chair, removing cat(s) or dog(s) as necessary. Replace cat(s) or dog(s). Viola! Fresh look and fresh furniture cushions! Wash and disinfect slobber and/or scratches as necessary.

  13. planters are one thing, but let's face it, nobody every said martha stewart had good fashion sense. chuck the orphaned pillow case and keep the crafts out of your closet. i think the last person to actually use a pillow case for a purse was johnny appleseed. hobo chic? i think not.

  14. I hear you sister. Say the word "craft" and all my self esteem goes right down the drain, that is whatever self esteem I have left after looking at my checking account and my love life. I recently read that if you buy bananas you need to separate them if you want them to ripen more slowly. So now I do exactly that and in my book that makes me quite the homemaker. Just be you.

  15. Ha! Someone mentioned being turned off by the very mention of 'craft'. I'm in that camp as well. Who has the time? SAHMs don't usually have as much free time as some people might think. Most of those activities in magazines look great but take time (getting materials, organizing…) and seriously in a free moment it's much better to catch up with a friend or husband.
    The pages of craft ideas make you feel inept maybe but sometimes I feel good just looking at the ideas. On a rainy day, I always say..maybe try it then. My baby is 4 months old and too young to participate or enjoy these things anyway. I flip through just a few magazines, not nearly the amount I used to. Reading too many of the fashion magazines makes me feel like I'm not put together enough and I don't spend the money I used to on myself on clothes and accessories. We have a baby now so my priorities shifted. I maintain myself but not the level it used to be. I like to see what's new, what's out. It keeps me in the loop and I feel less clueless. Looking at these things is nice as a way to keep my finger on the pulse and somewhat involved. It's like when I make lists of what I want to do: I don't take them too seriously. Just writing things down feels good and if I get something crossed off, great.

    The pillow case idea sounds awful though. Reminds me of seeing those gross denim purses made out an old pair of jeans. Might be fun to make but definitely not for public consumption.

  16. dude, that pillowcase bag sounds terrible (unless i was a 16 year old hippie, and then it'd be great, right next to getting coffee refills in cleaned out old mason jars).

    the only magazines that don't make me feel like a poor, tasteless, chunky piece of shit are my American Psychological Association ones and Imbibe, which is
    an incredible magazine devoted to cocktails, and also wine, spirits, beer, coffee and tea. you can learn how to make your own bitters or your own tonic water. now that's my kind of craft!

    sometimes i like O, because the book and art sections are excellent, many of the articles are good, and it's like "psychology today" half the main articles are about psychology! but then it's all here's an article on the things i love these thousand dollar belt buckles! and i'm all "blorg!".

    i love crafts in the kitchen — make my own jelly, confit, more different kinds of bitters (we have a cardamom one to add to our ginger old fashioned and old cubans), smoke my own meat, age my own steak. and yet my lifestyle belies it — take out chinese 4x a week! i echo your someday…

  17. I take what I want or need from "crafty" magazines and leave the rest. Mostly I drool over the recipes, but it's still nice to fantasize.

  18. "…soaps and soups." (<–my favorite part. perfect.)

    I'm with you, sister. The list of to-do-do.

  19. I love this post! And I am going to take it as official permission to get rid of the incredibly expensive tile nippers and cutters that I've been hanging on to for YEARS thinking someday I'd start making mosaics. Well, I'm 23 weeks pregnant and I don't think my life is going to get any less busy moving forward.. so out with the tile nippers!

    What a liberating feeling!

  20. I hate to say this, given the climate of pillow purse haters. But I made one and I rocked the pillowcase purse.
    I sewed vintage buttons on it and lined it. It was fun, and took my mind off of my seriously stressful life.
    I received more compliments on my pillowcase purse's "vintage" style then I ever have with my exspensive designer purses.

    And before you say Hippie Chic, let me add that I am allergic to Granola, hate the Grateful Dead, don't smoke pot or wear patchuli(sp?) and I recycle only because I am guilted by my man and I am in love with Al Gore.

    So I guess you could say that I was swayed by the glossy pages of a "craft lifestyle" magazine and I forced the time
    to make said purse. I get what you are saying SK, it's tough to make the time. But honestly, how great did you feel when you completed that FABULOUS scrapbook that you made of the Babes? Sometimes creative people just need to steal a slice of time to be, GULP, crafty. So to all of you craft supply horders. Keep the faith, your pillowcase
    purse project, that you just can't resist, is right around the corner in whatever form it comes in.
    I 'll be in line at your book signing, Stephanie. I loved your book and I greatly enjoy your blog. I'll be the one with the loud pillowcase purse….. Kidding.

    FROM SK: Ok, now you so totally have to come with the bag!!! I'll tell you I love it (even if I don't), and then you'll say, "you're just saying that!" And I'll swear, no no. And then we'll hug, and everyone around us will want to vomit. Perfect. BRING IT ON WOMAN!

  21. I already knew I had lost my fashion sense, but now it has officially been confirmed…….because at first glance I thought the pillow case purse was cute.

  22. so funny, because i always admire you for your beautiful scrapbooks and photography, and the amazing meals you concoct! when you live on trader joes frozen ravioli and your photographs never even make it out of the digital camera, you have a much lower bar, i guess….

  23. I would be very surprised (and probably a bit disgusted) if you had any time for anything….I mean you are a working mother of TWINS. Forget pillowcase purses and crafts. The stuff you do share on here — the babies scrapbook, cooking, etc — is amazing enough.

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