I've spent far more time than I probably should have thinking about what I'd say if someone asked me what I thought of this book and should they buy it. No-one has, but I'll tell you anyways! Part of me really likes it and is glad I bought it, part of me is glad it was birthday (ie 'free') money I used on it because I'm not entirely sure whether it...mmm...how to put it...justifies its price or size?
So what I'll do is the good stuff first and I've scanned a few of my favourite projects out of it to show you - and to be honest there were this many again I could have put in so the hit rate in terms of things that make me go "ooOOO!" is pretty high. The book is organised with a large section at the beginning that covers various techniques necessary to do the projects in the book. The projects are broken down into categories like Animals, Aprons, Bed linens, Clothing, Coasters, Decorative Pillows, Flowers, Nursery, Organisers, Pets, Quilts and Patchwork, Slippers, Upholstery, Wall decor etc. etc.
In the order that Flickr gives the photos to me (which is the opposite of their order in the book!):
Menswear Mice. I'm not sure if Lucy would actually be interested in them as she's not a catnip cat and can get a bit scared of anything too big lobbed towards her, but damn they're cute! I suspect little kids would like them more.
Felt slippers. I love love love the cut-out treatment, they look gorgeous. I'd probably do the soles in something warmer than just felt though.
Dog Coats. One of my nephews is a small terrier named Duncan. He'd look adorable in one of these.
Covered button boutonierre. I love this, so small and perfect. Though I never have floral wire or tape around for these sorts of things and I never do them, maybe I should lay some in.
Stencilled curtains. These are actually very similar to the fabric we used to make the curtains in Hazel's room and I love the Scandinavian feel to them. Beautiful.
Girl's shirt dress. Can't get enough of these little girl dresses out of men's shirts! This one looks very cute and has the added bonus of a great construction technique with means you don't have to pfaff around with sleeves etc. Now if only Mat would tire of his shirts before they were worn out! This picture is like my fantasy little girl shot, so demure, the freckles, the sweet little (non-pink) cardigan. I think Hazel would run screaming the other way if I tried it though...
Little felt bags. These are the ones that inspired the Totoro bag. Nothing startlingly new but I just love the colours and design. Hazel likes the birdy one best and I'm very keen on the cat. There are several other more grown up versions in the book as well.
Menswear Bunnies. Oh my goodness I heart these bunnies so much! Wook at deir widdle faces! But really, how cute. These definitely got a "can you make me one mummy?" from Hazel and I will!
Sashiko. I've only recently become aware of this Japanese style of embroidery and I love the patterns shown here and in a couple projects in the book. It's used particularly effectively on the edges of pillowcases in one project. The circles are my favourite but they're all just so elegant and restrained. Again, love it!
Ok, so that was the good. And it was pretty good right? Plus there are lots of projects for things that I don't need right now, like curtains, but might in the future, so it's a good reference book as well.
The bad. Even I, with limited access to the MSL magazine, recognise some of the projects. Like the stencilled curtains - a couple of projects come from that particular issue, which I picked up last time I was home for a visit, as do some of the upholstery ones which I know from another magazine from a previous visit. Needless to say I've been treasuring them since, but I think it illustrates the point that if you have every magazine then you probably have a decent section of this book already.
The same goes if you're an online tutorial addict like me - many of these projects rang a bell or two as to tutorials I'd come across elsewhere. Not identical or anything, but there are only so many ways you can make a small felt purse, or a small dog jacket if you know what I mean. A little searching and perserverence will yield similar projects.
Some of the techniques are in reality quite complicated and I don't think that a page or two of rather superficial instructions are going to get you good enough to tackle the projects successfully. Like the sashiko - to be honest I'd go elsewhere for instructions because I'm not sure I'd get good results based on the book's. The pictures are pretty and it's fabulous to leaf through and read, but I'm not convinced about the achievability of many of the projects. But actually, maybe that's not the point? It's quite likely that the intended audience isn't going to try 90% of these projects, just like they probably don't from the magazines, so I may be judging it by criteria that it simply wasn't meant to meet.
My final verdict? Well I think it depends on how you feel about the Martha Stewart brand and the styling, as well as what you want from a book like this. If you have all the magazines probably don't bother unless you want one of the new projects. Personally I'm a total sucker for the MSL styling and the aesthetic, if not the über-frau ethos. But if it irritates you then don't buy the book. If you need all the projects to be practical or achievable based on the instructions included then be wary but not totally put off, most of them are achievable with just a few that you'd need a gazillion dollars to do, or a personal coach to show you how to do it. If you are more of a free online tutorial kind of person then stick with that because there isn't much in here that you couldn't get online.
On the whole though, I'm pleased I've got it because really, nothing beats sitting on the couch with a cup of tea looking through a lovely great big book, with the promise of page after page of neat and wonderful things stretching out before me. Computers are great, online tutorials are great, but a book's a book and it doesn't need to be plugged in or printed out. So I like this one, it's like a chunk of the crafty internet made real.