Sunday, June 5, 2011

McCall's Make-It Book (1953)

Craft madness is about to begin again in the library's teen section! As our summer reading program kicked off yesterday, Tuesdays in June and July are about to get a lot scissors-and-glue-ier up in this piece. Ugh! But I am so tired of making friendship bracelets and on-your-own discarded magazine collages! What is a teen program assistant to do?

Lucky for me, I happened across this, one of my top five of all time children's craft books, McCall's Giant Golden Make-It Book. I like to think of the title as a double entendre of both "See this awesome thing? You can make it!" and "Don't worry when you've almost stapled your hand to the book you were trying to craft, you'll make it!". Trusty McCall's magazine (one of my vintage fav's) has compiled for you a number of mid century crafts. Dollars to doughnuts you'll be seeing some of these entries again as I shape the summer craft projects in the image of these kitsch cute, homespun handicrafts.

I mean, you had me at the overleaf. Puppies, bears, cupids, eyeglasses, eagles, owls, clowns, angels, Colonial gentlemen, witches, tropical birds, table vices, and hobby horses are all things of interest to me! May I remind you, gentle Reader, for the 800th time, that if you are so inclined, you can click any of the images for a much, MUCH larger photo! I don't expect your spectacles to be as hundred proof as your will to craft, so please, do yourself a favor and see the ENLARGED AND IMPROVED version of each photo by clicking him.

I want to use this formula to make a small batallion of Beatles. Just dozens of John, Paul, George, and Ringo's running around my house, gracing giftwrapping on future presents, hanging out in container planters, everywhere. I mean, Farmer Ezekiel and Farmer's Wife Hecubah would be kind of neat, but the possibilities for celebrity clothespin dolls here are endless. I'll have to check my local craft store for the cost of old school clothespins, as I'm not sure if you can pick up this variety at the five and dime anymore, and report back.

Why yes, please. One of each! The masks above are described (left to right) as "a lion's head", "a robot or man from Mars", "the queen of Hearts", a "grinning cat", a "mischevious goblin", "a clown", "an owl", and a "funny man with big glasses", but I invite you to draw your conclusions as to the best and most suitable description of each. The robot/mars Man sure looks like a antennae'd washing machine to me, but maybe that's just me. At any rate, look at how cute each of these is in their own, "what in the heck possessed you?" kind of way.

I really, really want to get on the ball and start monogramming and lettering items of clothes that belong to me, Laverne and Shirley style. The "L" thing even already works for me! I'm copping that look, wholesale! I wear so many not-my-own initials on vintage clothes already that it would be kind of neat to have specific to me handstitchery. And if a fourth grader, as depicted in the illustration above, can do it, then by gum, I should be able to.

Ditto on stitching figures, which is just something I want to do each time I see that 50's cartoon hound dog as illustrated below:

Wouldn't any of these figures just love to grace a "blah" dress collar or two of mine?

This....thing...comes from a section about disguises, and if my future kid came upon pitiful me, unawares, in this ensemble, I'm not even sure what my reaction would be:

What exactly are you disguised as, son? A mustachioed, bespectacled, snaggletooth'd, person of shorter stature in an ascot and fedora? I thought the point of being disguised was to keep a low profile, son. No one's going to NOT NOTICE you in that get up. I love you, but good Lord.

One of the best sections in the book had to do with crafts of foreign extraction:

Aren't these darling? I'm getting to where Pennsylvania Dutch and from-Sweden-Swedish are my two favorite styles of decorative art. Could these be more adorable? I want to decorate like every single thing on the first page in the exact way as-shown. As to the colonial man and maid in the lower picture and the bower of aubergine and pink colored flowers? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

On that same note, how boss would it be to have your own handmade, hand hewn Kachina doll? Its resemblance to a robot and the process of making one always gives me wild ideas about its possibly Golem like properties (Jewish robot-like zombie to do one's bidding, not the Lord of the Rings thing) . If I had a Golem, I would totally use it to do the most inane things. It would be a glorified manservant/errand runner rather than the soul-less, murderous being in its capability. "Golem, I need an Icee from the Dickerson Road Tiger Market. Do my bidding, Golem. Can you drop this Netflix off at the post office on your way? Thanks, Golem. Can you get me a pound of chuck steak from Kroger's? Don't buy it unless it's on sale."

If I can train my young child to paint masterworks of early-American design on the backs of chairs and tops of ottoman stools in my home, what a wonderful home it would be. Do you see that this little guy is using paint thinner? I don't think my parents, even in the 80's, would have let me within a mile of anything that toxic, craftwork or no. I've often seen these kind of designs (reproductions... I definitely don't shop in upscale enough places to see real deal 18th century antiques outside of museums) on furniture and seeing it broken down into a simple template really makes it seem like something you could accomplish at home.

How cute is the piano keyboard? Get it? Get it? PIANO? KEYBOARD? I crack me up.

Look at this little girl's great hat. Made even greater by the addition of a felt lapel pin! I like the horse with his fringed mane the best.

These gardens are cool because they incorporate diorama-like elements to basic container gardening. I would take it to the next level and build like an early 1700's settlement in the middle of it. Or put tiny Star Trek figures in an "alien planet" setting. There is no reason to do anything in a mundane way, people! I think 1950's kids could appreciate this school of thought.

Not much to report about this craft idea (it's really more of a party idea) besides how much I love their party hats. Why settle for a boring conical hat when you could have a top hat or bonnet? This scene begs that question, doesn't it? Also, look at the clown shaped placeholders. CUTE.

There aren't many children's crafts today that would require you to cut a "machine gun", "heavy gun" and "turret" out for its completion, but that's why I'm reproducing this one here for your viewing pleasure. I love that it rolls and everything.

Kitchen jug band. I thought this would be a great idea for a grown up party, to have everyone make and bring a home made instrument and just have the most out of control jam session imaginable. Give out song assignments and see who can approximate, in a team, with their jug band instruments, the closest version of say "Africa" by Toto. Maybe even tape sections of it, convert them to mp3, and use them as "in between song" pieces on a commemorative mix cd. Possibilities!

I like these because they seem WAAAAY in my comfort zone of crafting, ie difficulty level of like two on a scale of ten. But still super fun!

I actually made the reindeer like creature in the pipe cleaner animals category as a test run for a summer craft project. He ended up looking a little more like the dog in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but he was still totally cute. I can vouch for this project as particularly easy and fun... I can't wait to make an entire menagerie of animals that don't quite look like they're supposed to. The cross stitch to the right makes me want to bust out some gingham and go to embroidery TOWN on it. Dig that jalopy.

The play camera even comes with play prints. Could you just die?

These finger puppets were another project I tried, and actually also came out pretty well. The picture aquarium to the right is something I want to try when I finally break down and adopt one of Jennelaine's turtles (see the previous post where Jennelaine had Vincent Price swimming with the turtles).

Last but not least, my very favorite entry, mid-50's football themed pipecleaner men. These have got to the be the best looking craft in the whole book. I want to wear one on one of my lettermen sweaters (I have three... it's like Hawaiian dresses, when I see one I can't keep myself from buying it!) if the weather ever drops below ninety degrees again. Oh happy day.

Which craft would you make, given the time and determination? I'll keep you guys posted on any other attempts I make and how the library kids like the crafts in 2011!


  1. I love love it. I start craft sessions tomorrow too, i'm going with some funky cross stitch.Lets hope the teens love it... xx

  2. That kid painting the furniture is making me feel bad about myself. I love the idea of painting, but I'm rubbish at it. I think I could manage the clothespin people, though. Love the idea of using them for gift-wrapping accents. McCall's really is one of the best vintage publications. I want to see your finished projects!

    Well, I'm off to round up the husband for our kitchen band. Drat! Where did I put that washboard?

  3. Fantastic! When I see things like this I wonder the difference between kids involving themselves in this kind of play vs. all the plastic and electronic toys available to kids nowadays? These crafts look SO fun and creative.

  4. I agree with Lauren up there, that kid painting the furniture "Hitchcock" style looks like a tiny genius! I don't know how that would actually turn out with a real kid painting it. Also, their "Hitchcock" style must pre-date Alfred Hitchcock, otherwise I'd expect some gloomier designs, perhaps something with birds and shower curtains stained with blood. I'm just sayin'. LOL! I do LOVE the illustrations in this book. A lot of these crafts I made as a kid. Like the pipe cleaner animals. I remember those so fondly!

  5. Oh, I remember being a kid and taking these kind of books out of the library! PS...saw your comment, it's been ages since I saw Unsolved Mysteries! The theme music use to always creep me out :p

  6. I absolutely want to put together a kitchen band!

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I am glad you did and I found yours that way! I can see myself spending hours taking in all the vintage goodness here!

  7. @ Miss Ginger: Good luck! Can't wait to see the results. :)

    @Lauren: I so call "jug" in the kitchen band. Six years of concert band as a flute player has given me the embouchure I need to succeed!

    @Tasha: I love how creative the crafts are, too. You can put so much of yourself into them. Let's bring 'em back!

    @Amber: We are all shamed by the child-Hitchcock-painter.As to the Hitchcock chair vs Alfred Hitchcock, everytime I hear "Chippendale" on Antiques Roadshow, referring to the furniture maker, I always think of Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley in that Chippendale's audtion from SNL. Every. Time.

    @Erin: Totally cool, right? They have some of Unsolved Mysteries out on dvd right now, it's really a hoot (and a little bit of a sentimental journey) to watch them again.

    @Annika: Re: kitchen band: As well you should! Re: blog: And thanks! Back atcha!



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