There's no doubt that the name Martha Stewart brings to mind a creative and savvy media maven who is known for her strong lifestyle brand and multi-hyphenate expertise in crafting, cooking, gardening, organizing, and more. She has released a series of books through the years focused on home entertaining and fun projects; her latest is Martha Stewart's Favorite Crafts for Kids, a large volume featuring 175 colorful crafts, both simple and complex, for all ages. When Parents.com spoke with Martha over the phone, she had just spent the morning riding horses with actor Richard Gere in upstate New York and auctioning off a horseback ride and breakfast.
What inspired you to release this crafts book for kids, in addition to your recipe and craft books for adults?
Well, in my life, [I've seen that] it's the children who start crafting at a very early age. They look for something to do every single day after school. They look for things to keep themselves occupied on the weekend. And the children of our employees are all very crafty, as you can imagine.
What are three of your favorite crafts from the book that both crafty and non-crafty parents can try?
I like making any of the little animals because they're fun. They have great expressions. I like doing any of the simple paper crafts because a good way to learn crafting is [with] paper and cutters and hole punches. Any simple sewing is good, too, because I think children should learn how to use a needle and thread.
For non-crafty parents, what encouragement would you give them to take on projects with their kids? How can they set aside their fears?
There's a whole generation of people who don't know how to do anything. And, I mean, I feel bad about that generation and this book is for the children of that generation. I have friends -- young people, millennials -- who are having babies now, who should really try to do some of these things. They're spending more time in the crafts stores looking for materials for projects; they see projects at their schools, get some ideas, and then go home and try to make some with their kids. What we're all about is giving great instruction. We also provide all of the tools. I don't think there's any company that has the same tools as Martha Stewart Living does, and people know that. They really love the tools and, if you have the tools, you can pretty much do the craft. These crafts are so charming that I think they attract attention; they're little magnets for doing things. The whole idea of the book is to offer a variety, from the very simple to the more complex. And you can work your way up.
You mentioned sewing as one of the skills that kids don't know anymore. Are there any other skills you think the new generation of kids has lost that they should revisit?
They don't know how to embroider, they don't know how to sew on a button, they don't how to take up a hem, they don't know how to measure a hat. They don't know how to set in a collar, they don't know how to make the back of a shirt, they don't know how to gather a ruffle. They don't know how to knit, they don't know how to crochet, they don't know how to make lace with a little tatty tool. I was in Texas doing a talk, and I asked this giant audience, Does anyone in here know how to tat? There was one person who knew how to tat, and she was taught by nuns. And I was taught how to do all this stuff as a kid.
People are like, "Oh, my God, you know everything!" I don't know so much -- other people just know so little. I know pretty much what my generation learned because we had home economics, we had cooking classes in school. All of those wonderful programs have been eliminated because of budget cuts. And [there's] also the great, great pressure to do sports instead of learning homekeeping and other things. I have a little granddaughter who's going to be the ideal student for that book. She went through every page of that book. Not that she knows how to do anything yet, but she'll certainly pay attention. She will have all the tools at her fingertips. She already knows how to do punches for paper, she knows how to glue, she knows how to paint, and she knows how to draw, so all of that's good.
What crafts and other hands-on activities did you love as a child?
Oh, planting a garden. Simple cooking in the kitchen was another. All the cleaning chores. Those are all things I learned as a child. Flower arranging: how to pick a flower and make an arrangement in a container.