Thursday, June 30, 2005

is this the best book ever?

You may or may not know this, but I have a major jones for vintage Reader's Digest books. In my collection so far I have The Complete Guide to Sewing, The Complete Guide to Needlework, The Complete Guide to Home Maintenance and The Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. They are all from the 70's and, as well as tons of step-by-step projects, they are crammed full of retro interiors and fashion. I love them because they reflect an era where people were thrifty, resourceful and imaginative - a time when it seems that people would spend their free time creating instead of consuming, fixing up old stuff instead of throwing it away.
The latest addition to my RD reference library is The Family Book Of Things to Make and Do.

This is just about the raddest book I have ever seen. It has sections on Knitting, Modelling, Needlework, Photography, Printing, Weaving, Tie-Dye and Woodwork. It has SO MANY cool things to make, including a Zoetrope, magic tricks, masks, loads of kites, model boats, table football, doll's houses, marionettes (pirates and robots!), and puppet theatres - including shadow puppets. There are sections on baking, sweet making and barbecues. There are knitted bags and woven belts, fancy dress, go-karts, tents and teepees - and that's not even half of it. Best of all, there is a whole section on making musical instruments including this thumb piano:

plink plink

and these 'tubular bells'

as well as some little clay bird ocarinas, drums and even a zither.
The soft toy section has a group of circus toys, including this corduroy elephant:

and I really love these printed cats:

Finally, there is a huge jewellery making section, with tons of stuff including these awesome acrylic rings which I am including especially for Emma:

Now I may be wrong, but nobody seems to write books like this any more. It seems that these days, crafting activity books are all aimed at children. That's what makes this book so great - it's really not for kids at all. Not that I don't LIKE kids or anything, but why should they have all the fun?
At the moment, the commercial UK craft market is woefully lame - a fact that is reflected in our appalling selection of craft magazines. It's all pre-designed cross stitch and card making. Gah. Where are my bitchin craft magazines? More to the point, where is my time machine?


  1. I love these old craft books too - I recently got a few at a big second hand book sale and some of the projects are really neat. Although, there are a lot of really ugly things to make too!

    I adore your sock monkey - he's soooo cute!

  2. I agree the UK craft scene is woeful, it's like we have to do it behind closed doors.

  3. Ooooh I used to co-run a second hand bookshop and I always nabbed these Reader's Digest guides for myself! But this looks like the best of the lot! WOW! Oh I want it a lot!!!! I had to get rid of my collection when I moved to London... sniff. The printed cats are wonderful!!!

  4. Old craft books are so awesome. I have a special fondness for them as well.

  5. I remember this book from when I was a child. I clearly remember making my own tie-die scarf, raiding the macaroni jar for crafty pictures, and having a go at peppermint creams (granulated sugar doesn't work). That family edition is long gone, but I found a copy on ebay today. Can't wait to get stuck into some of the projects with my own children! Thanks for the pics - they really take me back!

  6. Hello

    Is there any chance of getting this book know.
    I have been searching for this book online but most of them are already sold. Let me know if you are interested in selling this book.

    My email ID is