December, 2009

Put a Cork in It

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Well, the holidays are in full swing, and if your holidays have been anything like mine have been, then you’ve opened a bottle of wine or two to celebrate with your loved ones. My favorite place to buy wine in New York City is Dandelion Wine in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.


The owner, Lily, is just about the greatest wine store owner you could hope for. She’s super friendly, very knowledgeable, and she knows how to throw a bumpin’ wine tasting.


And all of the good folks who work there with her just happen to be some of the coolest, friendliest folks you’d ever want to meet. I probably buy too much wine just ’cause I like going in there so much. And the sign in their window is hard to resist.


The shop is open and airy, and they store some of the wine in things like these cool old lockers.


Look at all those purdy bottles…


I dig the old Gallo Wines display case. Lily bought it at Kill Devil Hill, another neighborhood store that is completely awesome.


Do you see that huge jar of corks? I can’t say that I have a stash quite that large at home, but during the holidays my cork collection certainly grows. The first time I did Whole Living on Martha Stewart Radio the producer invited listeners to call in with questions about what to do with any random craft supplies they had around the house. She gave a few examples of odd supplies, including a casual mention of wine corks. Well, she must have hit a nerve because for the next 15 minutes, every caller called in with cork-related questions. One woman even said she had, “a barrel full of wine corks” in her cellar. I wanted to suggest that she might want to reconsider her relationship with wine, but I thought that might be a tad impolite.

A few months later, I had an a-ha moment when faced with another plethora of wine corks at my favorite craft store, Spacecraft. Wine corks are so cool looking,  so why not make them into something that will protect your table from drips from your favorite bottle of wine? A cork wine trivet is a chic, eco-friendly craft that is easy to make and looks great on a table.

wine trivet tools


Wine corks

Cork sheet or cork wall tiles (the thicker the cork, the more protection it will provide to the surface below)

Glue gun (loaded with glue sticks)





1. Using a compass, draw a circle with a six-inch diameter on your cork sheet or wall tile. You can make the circle bigger if you usually buy wines with a wider bottom. And if you don’t have a compass, find an oatmeal container or any other round container with a six inch diameter and use that to trace a circle on the cork roll.


2. Cut your cork circle out of the cork sheet or wall tile.

3. Take approximately sixteen to eighteen corks and arrange them around the edge of the circle. Make sure they will fit snugly. Arrange them in the order you’d like to glue them in.


4. Using a glue gun, adhere the corks to the bottom of the cork circle until it is complete.

wine_glue gun

5. Let the glue dry, and voila, you have a cork trivet!

wine trivet complete

My best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy new year. May you celebrate surrounded by those you adore, and by all means, save the corks!

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Holiday Gift Guide: Things to Read

Monday, December 21st, 2009

With the holiday clock ticking away, it’s time to figure out some quick picks for the hardest recipients on your gifting list. Books make the perfect present for folks who’ve got everything. Books spark our imagination. They help us to dream of the future and they ask us to remember our past. Can a department store scarf do that?

These books are meant to inspire your recipient to get crafty, get get cooking, or get nostalgic. I’ve picked up all of my books up at WORD, my local bookshop that just happens to be coolest bookstore in New York City. And you can pick yours up at your favorite independent bookstore or online retailer. The very best thing about gifting books? They’re easy to wrap!

KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting’s New Wave by Sabrina Gschwandtner


KnitKnit is gorgeous and endlessly inspiring. Sabrina Gschwandtner profiles an eclectic group of artists and communities who are creating an electric new form of knitting. While most of the artists are avant-garde, the book feels completely accessible. Each artist has contributed a pattern for a knit garment or object, and the projects vary greatly in scope. Some of the knitters use their knitting to create political statements, while others are simply interested in exploring new methods and materials. The design of the book is beautiful, and the photographs by Kiriko Shirobayashi capture the personalities of the artists and their work. It’s a must-have for any knitter’s library.

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Organic and Chic by Sarah Magid


Sarah’s approach to baking is to simple: use the best ingredients you can for the tastiest results. The recipes in this book are absolutely delicious, and her insistence on using everything from organic flour to the seeds in the vanilla bean elevate simple cakes to masterpieces. And her approach to decorating is after my own heart. She isn’t fussy and her frosting shows strokes where the spatula spread it on the cake. Instead, she embraces the use of fabulous food coloring, edible metallic powders, and beautiful floral designs that show the mark of their maker. And her takes on classic junk food treats are clever as can be. This cookbook is sure to be covered with cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar immediately, because her recipes are impossible for the reader, and the eater, to resist.

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Hand-Stitched Felt by Kata Golda


Whether you are an expert crafter or a new beginner, you will fall head-over-heels for Kata Golda’s gorgeous, gentle little felt creations. With projects that range in hands-on time from less than an hour to many more, there is something for everyone who wants to start creating with felt. The templates for her stuffed animal family are the perfect guide to making an heirloom that will be played with and treasured by any sweet child of yours. And Kata embraces the beauty of imperfection, which makes me love her even more.

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Cassette From My Ex edited by Jason Bitner


This collection of stories that pull-on-your-heartstrings (and guitarstrings) has something for every reader and every sort of of music fan, most especially anyone who grew up in the 1980s. Edited by Jason Bitner, co-founder of Found Magazine, it’s also got a fantastic interior design that includes photos of loads of handwritten cassette tape covers. (For the sake of transparency, I should mention that I have an essay in the collection, and I’m damned proud to be a part of it.)

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Crafternoon (duh) by me, Maura Madden


Sure, it’s more shameless self-promotion, but heck, an author’s got to sell books, right? Here’s part of my favorite review of Crafternoon courtesy of the lovely Rachel Hobson of

CRAFTERNOON is a book that speaks directly to the heart and soul of what I love about crafting: connecting with other people while engaged in the creative process. Maura Madden’s new book, CRAFTERNOON: A Guide to Getting Artsy and Crafty With Your Friends All Year Long, lays out the tools, projects, tips and even snack recipes so readers can easily put together their own Crafternoon groups and get to makin’ stuff with friends and family in a relaxed, fun setting.

Initially, I just loved the idea of an actual guide that motivates people to craft together for the simple pleasure of having fun and connecting with one another. Creating community through crafting is one of my mantras. But as I started reading the book, I fell in love with Madden’s wit, her glowing stories of crafting with her mom, and – mostly – with her preaching of pressure-free crafting and an embrace of imperfection.”

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Holiday Gift Guide: Things to Put in Frames

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Art that you can put on your wall is one of the very best gifts of all. Rufus and I have lots of original art in our little apartment. Much of it has been graciously given to us by generous artist friends, but we have also made a point of buying art that we love. Many outrageously talented artists sell limited edition prints of their work at very affordable prices. And one of my absolute favorite cartoonists sells some of his original drawings, too. So if you’re looking for a gift that will be part of someone’s daily life, give them some art.

Original art by the incredibly talented Ron Rege Jr.

awake field

Clever posters from Space 1026 artist Alex Lukas:

comic fans

A sweet sleeping fox from FIELD:

Image of Sleeping Fox

And finally, this awesome block print by Meredith Stern:

give love

Sure, the message may be a bit at odds with a gift guide, but it’s a good message. Ultimately, the most important gift that anyone can give is love, not stuff. But if you still want to give a little something on top of all the love, art is a pretty great gift.

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12/12: Modern Women of Sewing Handmade Crafternoon at NYPL

Thursday, December 10th, 2009


Saturday, December 12th – Handmade: Crafternoon at the New York Public Library
Time: 2:00 to 4:00pm

Join us this Saturday in a new room (with a fireplace!) as we welcome Heather Ross, author of Weekend Sewing and two other textile mavens: Denyse Schmidt, author of Denyse Schmidt Quilts; and Liesl Gibson of Oliver + S, will all be on hand to talk about what inspires them and share some books they’ve discovered from the libraries collection.

And as usual, we’ll have lots of amazing library books to look at as well as some supplies. But we recommend that you bring your own scissors, needle and thread, and a square foot of fabric of your liking if you want to be sure you can whip something up on the spot.

Copies of Crafternoon and Heather and Denyse’s books will be available at the The Library Shop. So buy a book in support of the library and get it signed on the spot!

Location:Stephen A. Schwarzman Building , 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue

NEW ROOM: Trustees’ Room (Room #206, located in the southeast corner of the second floor)

Admission: Free


And if you’re at all on the fence about attending, take a look at these gorgeous photos of our very first Handmade Crafternoon at the NYPL taken by the talented Shira Kronzon. They’re the perfect proof of the joy of Crafternoon.

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Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for Crafters, Bakers and Cooks

Monday, December 7th, 2009

For the makers in your life, few gifts are more fun than brand new supplies. While I try to use recycled materials whenever possible, there are times when new materials are a necessity (or a really fun luxury). And these fine, fine items are a real joy.


Thick, luscious hand-dyed felt from OhMa Felt! I found OhMa on the blog of felt crafter extraordinaire Kata Golda. They provide the felt she uses in her beautiful, whimsical felt treasures. So I ordered a “Winter Pale” Combo pack and was thrilled when I opened the package. Wrapped in brown tissue paper with a sweet letterpress tag was a stack of thick, subtle felt, the likes of which I had never *felt* before. Dense and soft, not a bit itchy, and in colors as lovely as can be, I became a fan instantly. And I’m certain your recipient will feel the fandom too.


I have long adored Purl and Purl Patchwork. The two Soho shops have superb collections of delightful fabric and yarn in every price point, color, and material. And I took a wonderful hand quilting class with my mom at Purl Patchwork and loved the experience. So what could be better than a Purl gift certificate for your favorite knitter or seamstress/seamster? They can be used online or in the stores for all of the good things they sell, or for their classes. That’s a stitchy, knitty delight.


Cupcake kits from Bake It Pretty are a dream gift for anyone who loves to make the sweetest kind of cakes. The kits come with a selection of baking cups and cake toppers, as well as a bag of multi-colored jimmies. And I love the fact that they instruct buyers to, “Please use the memo box below for special instructions such as: ‘this kit is for a boy or girl’, ‘go heavy on the pink please’, ‘no clown-stuff because they scare me’, etc.” Any baking site that recognizes the fear of clowns, even in cake topper form, is a website after my own heart. And be sure to browse around the whole Bake It Pretty site. There is so much fun stuff on there, you’ll want to forgo the gift giving and spend all of the money onacquiring good things for your cake decorating stash instead.


Pick up a pack of exquisitely simple letterpress recipe cards from Moontree Letterpress for your most creative cook. Give them a pretty place to jot down the secret ingredients for all of their best dishes, and they’ll most certainly reward you with something tasty in return. I love the look of all things letterpress, and Moontree is one of my absolute, all-time favorite letterpress companies. Your culinary recipient is certain to fall sway to the pressed charm as well.

And if you’ve got some change to spare in your gifting budget, treat yourself to something new for your own craft closet or kitchen cupboard. In this time of holiday madness, it’s nice to treat yourself to something soft and sweet. I’m sure that you deserve it.

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Big Brooklyn Weekend: Saturday Crafternoon/Sunday Book Signing

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Hope you’ll pay a visitation to Spacecraft’s ornamentation decoration station or WORD’s writer-bookstore collaboration in the beautiful Brooklyn nation!



Saturday, December 5th: Holiday Ornament Extravaganza at SpaceCraft in Brooklyn
Time: 1:30 to 3:00
Join me for an afternoon making ornaments for all the things in your life that need festive decorations. We’ll be crafting up some clothespin ornaments and adorable Christmas bagels, too, in the warm and cozy Spacecraft space!
Location: Spacecraft, 355 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Admission: $5

Sunday, December 6th: WORD Holiday Open House

3-5 pm:
Lev Grossman (The Magicians)
Maura Madden (Crafternoon)
Michelle Knudsen (Dragon of Trelian and Library Lion)

The word on the event, according to WORD:

“Some of our favorite authors will hang out with us at the store,helping with gift-wrapping, recommending their favorite titles and personalizing signed copies of their books for your gift-giving needs! Get a head start on holiday shopping – join us for this festive two-day open house. Refreshments will be served.

Facebook RSVP here.

Location: Word, 126 Franklin Street, Brooklyn, NY

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