Martha Project: “Brag Books”

So, I accidentally bought this book.  I’m not a big fan of all things Martha.  No offense, Ms. Stewart, I just haven’t been exposed to much so I didn’t get on the bandwagon.  So, when the book arrived, I sat down and discovered that some of the things in it looked interesting.  Cool.  I mean, you want it to be cool, right?  After all, if you’re going to have this big book of crafts, you’d like to think that you want to do some, right?

After a year or so, I thought I might get rid of it.  After all, I hadn’t done a single craft.  I considered it as a blog prize, I thought about, and then I decided to challenge myself.  Make everything in the book.  Yeah, I get extreme sometimes.  Here I am, ready to start project one and wondering if I’m crazy.

So, what was the first craft?  Brag books.  You know, those staples of grandmothers the world over?  I mean, I’m a grandma and my purse is full– well, no it’s not.  Actually, I don’t have a single picture of my kids or grandkids in my purse anywhere.  Yeah.  Not a contender for mom or grandmom of the year.  What can I say?  I’m a minimalist.  Yeah.  Tell that to my thighs, willya?  Sheesh.

I read the “ingredients”, contemplated the universe, and decided to go for oilcloth over felt.  Why?  Well, because I’ve never worked with oilcloth and I thought I could get a better quality product in town for oilcloth than felt (no wool felt here).  Well, I couldn’t.  Yeah.  Oh well.  So, I ordered several fat quarters.    Here is a breakdown of costs for the brag book.


Oilcloth– 20.00 shipped to my door
Baseball Card Pages– 4.00 for the package including tax, license, and extortion fees
Ribbon– about .50 worth of stuff I already had.  Max.
Glue– 3.00 including tax, license, and extortion fees

With the supplies above, I could have made about 20 of these things minimum.  That’d put the cost at about $1.38 per book.  Not a bad price.    So… let’s get to it.

Here’s what the book looks like on the book page.  To be honest, I wasn’t excited.

See that picture on the left?  That’s what we’re making.  My first impression?  Not (impressed that is).  Seriously, with all the adorable brag books they could have shown, that’s what is supposed to inspire me to make these books?  Furthermore, that’s the FIRST craft of the book.  It’s their jumping off point.  Ok… whatever.  Here we go.

First, I started with cutting the  baseball card sheets.  Let’s just say it’s easier said than done.  See that white paper under it?  I needed that to make it possible to see the fusing lines on the plastic so I didn’t cut off the sealed edges.  It wasn’t difficult in the “you need to be a rocket scientist to do this, but I do wonder if I should have put on a good movie and cut them by hand from the comfort of my chair.

There you have cut and ready to go piles.  I did one with three, but I’m not sure if I’ll use it or not.  Just did it to see what I think.  Right now, I don’t think at all.

Here they are on the inside of the fabric to show you what they’ll look like.  See those strawberries?  That was a freebie from the seller where I bought my oilcloth.

Next, I had to prepare ye olde oilcloth (or today’s version of it– laminated cloth).  I had to glue two sides together.  I used this glue because it’s supposed to be fast drying, strong, and repositionable while it’s drying (they even recommend repositioning it to make it dry faster.  Woot.)

See?  Both sides all nice and glued.

Then I glued ribbon to the inside.  This was not Martha’s method.  Hers involved eyelets and tools that I didn’t have and couldn’t buy in town.  I improvised.  It works.  I just glued the ribbon across the inside of the book.  If I was to do it again, I’d have glued it between the layers of the brag book, even though it probably would have meant that you could see the bump.  Just a warning, but it’s what I’d have done.  Next, I sewed down through the middle of the baseball card sleeves.  I think I used two in each bundle.  Then, I layered three bundles of them together on top of the oilcloth.  Note:  I cut around the outside edge of the oilcloth with pinking shears and then used fray check on the edge of those.  Believe it or not, threads were visible, so I thought it needed it.

See:  Like that.

And that’s what it looks like from the back when it’s done and opened flat.  Then I folded it and put a heavy book on it so it’d crease.  Oilcloth is a fine example of inertia.  An object at flat tends to remain at flat… or something like that.  Snort.

The problem is, I wasn’t impressed with my little book.  There’s no way I’d put that thing in my purse.  It took much longer than I expected to make it, and for what you get, it’s not worth the time.  Seriously, I wouldn’t give it as a gift– I’d hardly give it to my kid to play with.  So, in my opinion, it’s a bust.  But, I wondered…  Could it be done better, with similar materials, and less or equal work/skill required?  I decided to try it.

First, I cut out two rectangles of fabric about the same size as that piece up there.  I fused super stiff interfacing to each one and then fray checked them.

I wanted a nicer closure, so I made a tab.  It’s just a rectangle with rounded edge.  I just folded the rectangle in half, curved the corners of one end away, and voila.  Round.

See, easy.  But, I also wanted my edges nicer than pinked with pinking shears.  I mean, that’s really easy, but anyone can do a blanket stitch and on something so small, it’s easy.  So, I decided to do it.

See?  Easy.  That tab took me about five minutes to do.  I did it while chatting with a friend on messenger (see the laptop) and watching the Olympics.  Speed skating was on.  Just sayin’.

Not too shabby.  See the knot?  See the diagonal?  No worries.  They’ll be hidden anyway, so who cares?  Not me!  Then, I went around the entire outside of the book.  First, I started at one end of the tab, stitched across the front, around the edges, and when I hit the tab again, I then went across the inside of it so that it’d look as nice from the inside as the outside.  Cute huh?

Let’s make comparisons… let’s make comparisons… Now if you wanna make comparisons, let’s make comparisons, but… (name that movie!).  Ok, seriously, I love mine.  It’s simple, cute, but not too cutesy for a mom to actually use!  It’ll hold up to use, it isn’t made out of plastic, and before you say that the wool MS would have been better…. go back up to the first picture and look at hers.  Just sayin’.  The one I did by hand (except for sewing the baseball card sleeves on the machine… but I did hand sew the sewn pieces into this thing!), took about the same time as the MS one and it’s just as sturdy if not sturdier.

Opening up mine…  See the hand stitching?  On the outside edge, I did an outline stitch over that to hide it.  See how nice and flat it lays?  Notice the missing snap?  I’ll put that on when I find them.  Just wanted to clear that up.

And the MS one… it didn’t want to stay open.  Even holding it open with my hand, it was protesting.  If you get it open and flat, it doesn’t want to stay closed.  Before you complain and say, “well you used better fabric for yours,” take note.  I used my fabric scraps.  For hers, I spent 20 bucks on oilcloth because it is one of the two main fabrics she recommended.  Just sayin’.

Ok, so report time.  What is my official opinion of this Martha Stewart craft from the Encyclopedia of Crafts?  I’m doing a star rating from one to five.

Idea:  **** (I like the idea, it’s a cute gift idea, but it’s not, “Wow, I’d never think of that” cool)
Instructions:  *** ( I didn’t have trouble with them, but craft beginners likely would have.)
Ease:  *** (It’s not a difficult project, but it is difficult to achieve quality results with the suggested materials)
Finished Product:  * (Using their materials and directions– blech)

My summary of this project?  I think it looks like something from a Vacation Bible School project.  Even with a nicer felt cover, the way they have you doing it, it looks cheesy.  It could be cute.  I think I’ve demonstrated that.  I just wish the book had given crafters the tools to make a quality product.  I know that if I can think of ways to improve it, others can too.  But honestly, I don’t usually buy books like this.  I just make stuff up myself and mosey along.  People who buy these books are often the people who don’t think up improvements and ways to alter things to personalize them.  Since that is who I see the target market of this book, I give this project an over all 2 stars.  Barely acceptable but with potential.

For fun, I’m giving away BOTH brag books to one lucky commenter.  So please leave a comment and tell me– how many brag books have you ever bought, made, used etc?


16 thoughts on “Martha Project: “Brag Books”

  1. Pingback: Moments of Insanity~ « Paradoxology

  2. I have bought a few in my life, none recently and now I have four beautiful kids to brag about. 🙂
    The strawberry fabric is TOO cute!
    You did a very good job. 🙂

  3. i haven’t ever bought an official brag book, but we do make grammy little scrapbooks at least 3-4 times a year. she carries them in her purse until she gets a new one. 😉

  4. Are you going to do the one on the cover of the book, where you glue seashells to a garbage can? I think we did something like that in Girl Scouts one year. But I’m pretty sure it was a pencil holder. We had sensible leaders.

  5. I really like yours. Can I have it? Concider it an early birthday gift or something. LOL.

    Btw- the movie- Two Tickets To Broadway.

  6. Definitely, the stitching makes “your model” look MUCH better than the MS one.
    At least creating the MS one was slightly better than watching baseball, no?

  7. You did a great job! I thought of Chalice yesterday needing a similar thing that is use for holding coupons. Maybe you could make her one for a gift so she is better organized the next time she goes shopping!

  8. I love your version better also. I think the stitching makes it. I can’t wait to see the rest of the projects from the book. What a great idea!!!

    • Hey Melissa! Good to see you! I think you’re right about the stitching. I also think the oilcloth just looks like cheap plastic– you know, like something from the old Pic-n-Save stores or something. Blech. I’m going to play with the next thing in a day or three. I’ve got a surprise for it too.

  9. Yours turned out really cute!

    I don’t think I’ve purchased a brag book in my adult life. I don’t need pics of my kiddos because they are always with me.

  10. I think you should write a book about your adventure in MS crafts – like Julie and Julia! 🙂

    I’m excited to see your reviews of these projects. If I see one I like, maybe I’ll get the book from the library and check it out. I use books like these for inspiration, and then make whatever I want however I want. I’m happier that way.

  11. Pingback: Update: The Martha Project « Eclectvity

  12. So glad you did a test run. I was just about to try out this craft, but now will look into other techniques before wasting a good hour or two.

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