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'Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts' is exhaustively inspiring

If you have pent-up creativity and a little time, tissue-paper flowers and sand candles can be yours. Page 3H

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If you have pent-up creativity and a little time, tissue-paper flowers and sand candles can be yours. Page 3H

I want to be Martha Stewart.

Not the Birkin-toting, poncho-wearing Martha.

Not the jailed-for-insider-trading Martha.

Not the head-of-a-multimillion-dollar-corporation Martha.

I want to be the woman who looks at a dozen Grade A large eggs and imagines them as a glittering Easter centerpiece fashioned with gilded basket and bow. Or who spies seaweed washed up with the tide and thinks, "that would make great wall art" — then actually accomplishes it.

There is so much more than visions of sugar plums dancing in her head. My mind, on the other hand, is a blank canvas looking for the right inspiration to turn something mediocre (like thin, easy-to-tear tissue paper) into something fantastic (18-petaled zinnias).

I've long used Martha's ideas to spur my own creativity. A photograph of mums planted in hollowed-out pumpkins from Martha Stewart Living (September 2002) sent my mom running to the pumpkin patch. Those pumpkin-potted mums served as the perfect centerpieces for my autumn wedding's rehearsal dinner.

Living has become my guide whether I'm looking for ideas, inspiration . . . or the outlandish (I do have my limits: Learning how to etch glass crosses that line). Torn-out pages from the magazine, neatly stuffed into page protectors, make up my go-to craft bible. They're my "somedays." As in, someday I'll actually make sand candles (Summer 2002), or braid a terry cloth bath mat (April 2003), or create a mantel swag from holly leaves and berries (December 2006).

Then Martha took many of those fabulous ideas and put them into one hardcover book: Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-to-Z Guide With Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration ($35, Potter Craft).

"Someday," it turns out, is now.

My purple binder full of projects never called to my inner DIY genie as does this fab new book with its 416 pages of glossy color photos and step-by-step guides to more than 200 crafts.

Want to set a rustic table for a harvest-themed dinner?

No worries. All you need are glue, pinecones and a little patience to make the floral-inspired napkin rings from pinecone scales.

Have a great garage sale find that needs fixing up?

There's an eight-page section on furniture decoupage geared toward beginners.

Looking for inexpensive but thoughtful gifts for friends?

Make your own soap or bath salts or candles or jewelry.

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts combines the ingenuity of 17 years of projects from the pages of Living in one reader-friendly volume. Each chapter offers a basic introduction to a particular skill, detailed information on the materials used and a specific supply list for a variety of projects.

The back of the book contains a pictorial section on the tools and materials needed, which is handy if you're like me and couldn't tell the difference between chain-nose pliers, round-nose pliers and wire cutters. Also included are project templates, a list of vendors and a handy buyer's guide if you just have to have the exact same gold leaf pictured.

To say the book is exhausting wouldn't be far from the truth. But to say it is inspiring and rewarding would be far more accurate.

We live in a society that relies on instant gratification. We Tweet and text, download the song of the day and create photo albums in an instant on the Internet. Technology has made life easier.

Crafting, especially the Martha way, brings us back to the basics and rewards traits like patience and practice.

In the book's introduction, Martha acknowledges this, writing, "You may not achieve the intended result on the first try. Practice a bit and soon you will get the hang of it. With each project you complete, you will gain confidence and an eagerness to tackle something new."

That sentiment — and those sand candles I first noticed seven years ago — turned Monday into a "someday" for me.

A few newspapers, some sand from our condo's volleyball court and a large blob of soon-to-be-melting wax turned our kitchen into a craft zone — something that invariably sends my husband into hiding.

A short hour and a half later, two candles were cooling in their sandy holes, the kitchen was clean and it was safe for him to return.

He'd better not get comfortable, though. I'm feeling compelled to bring out the tins of rainbow-colored glitter next week.

Jennifer DeCamp grew up the daughter and granddaughter of consummate crafters. She won her first (and only) contest by expertly coloring a picture of Strawberry Shortcake at age 6. Thanks to her grandmother's nimble fingers and magic touch, she had the best Halloween costumes of any of the children in her neighborhood. She can be reached at (727) 893-8881 or [email protected]

'Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts' is exhaustively inspiring 05/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 15, 2009 7:02am]
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