Master your Minecraft

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Tour our stores


Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Powell’s Gets Crafty

A little-known fact about Powell's employees is that we are super crafty. In fact, we're just as crafty as we are sexy (thank you very much, Portland Mercury readers). To celebrate, Tracey (one of our craftiest) suggested that we put our wares on display (or, at least, pictures of our wares), along with the books that inspired or guided them. So, that's just what we did.

I say "we," but in fact, I am not very crafty myself. I am what you might call an enabler of craftiness, mostly within my family. I regularly send my mom fabric and yarn that I find at thrift stores in the hopes that she will knit or sew something for me (never fails). I email her links to wool felting sites, and to pictures of fancy pillows that "would be so easy to make with a sewing machine" (which I don't have). Now that I'm nine months pregnant, I drop hints for things like homespun diaper stackers and housecoats, handmade plush toys, and tiny T-shirts that say cute but relevant things like "Save the Bees."

Thanks to Tracey's brilliant idea, I'm now getting paid for my enabling. As the In-Store Merchandising and Promotions Coordinator, my job was to solicit projects from staff and encourage them to show off. As I organized the display I was introduced to more amazing craft books than I ever knew existed. Seeing my coworkers' projects made me want to buy every one of the books that inspired them — and not just to send to my mom — I might even see if my newly arrived nesting instinct can be put to some crafty purpose.

One of the most intriguing books to me was Second-Time Cool: The Art of Chopping Up a Sweater. Maybe it's the recycler in me, or maybe I watched Pretty In Pink one too many times as an impressionable girl, but I never get rid of nice clothes — even if they don't fit or they're seemingly ruined. I always want to do something (or find someone else to do something) with them. So, what to do with a shrunken sweater? Tracey made some really sexy wrist cuffs.

She had this to say about the project: "I live near The Bins so I have plenty of sweater chopping up opportunities. The wrist warmers were cut from a machine felted sweater and the ends were crocheted. The crocheting process stretched the material a bit to make the ruffly look. I wear them inside all winter at my glass topped computer desk." The book also has ideas for purses, hats, scarves and other cute accessories.

Lori, one of the store's Assistant Managers, works with metals, stones and beads to make jewelry. She used The Art of French Beaded Flowers to design flowered brooches.

"Everything old is new again," she says of her attraction to the beaded flowers. "The examples in this book are traditional flower types. I used the techniques to make my own designs. The finished flowers make great brooches, especially for knitted hats."

Sarah S. makes her own plush toys inspired by Plush You: Lovable Misfit Toys to Sew & Stuff.

She notes that the book doesn't feature instructions or patterns, but for the adventurous crafter, all you need is inspiration. "The artists featured in this book have creativity dripping all over them and it was impossible not to feel the need to make my own plushies after thumbing through the pages of their labor and love." There are tons of cute plush toy books out there. Margy's mom made her an adorable doll from Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves.

The pictures really are entertaining, much like the plush "characters" in the Aronzi Aronzo books.

Amy W. made a tea cozy from Bend-The-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew.

She's a big fan of author Amy Karol's blog Angry Chicken, and waited months for her book to come out. She wasn't disappointed. "All the directions are written like she is sitting across the sewing machine from you, talking your way through the projects, telling you not to worry about the crazy 'straight' line you just sewed." The embroidery on the tea cozy came from another favorite book of hers, Sublime Stitching: Hundreds of Hip Embroidery Patterns and How-To.

Amanda made her own furniture from salvaged items and the instructions in ReadyMade: How to Make [Almost] Everything: A Do-It-Yourself Primer.

Amber and Jonathan started their own screenprinted underwear business using (among others) Simple Screenprinting: Basic Techniques & Creative Projects.

Sadly, I don't have room to talk about all the craftiness that goes on around here, so you should just come down to the store if you can, and take a look around the crafts section in the Orange Room. Some of the books are so pretty and delicious they're worth buying just to fantasize about being crafty. That would be against the whole doctrine of craftiness though, so better to start with a simple project (like Tracey, who crocheted flowers from Nicky Epstein's Crocheted Flowers while pretending not to watch television) and work your way up to more complicated things.

Tove, another Orange Room craft maven, told me that local blogger Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty was in the store the other day admiring our display.

She'll be here THIS COMING MONDAY, April 7, AT 7:30, promoting her new book Bead Simple: Essential Techniques for Making Jewelry Just the Way You Want It, which came out last week. Check out her site for more details on what she's planning, and for more information on getting crafty (or enabling the crafty by purchasing their goodies) in Portland.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Plush You: Lovable Misfit Toys to...
    Used Trade Paper $6.95
  2. Sock and Glove: Creating Charming...
    Used Trade Paper $5.50
  3. Bend-The-Rules Sewing: The Essential... Used Trade Paper $6.95
  4. Sublime Stitching: Hundreds of Hip...
    Sale Spiral/comb $10.98
  5. Readymade: How to Make [Almost]... Used Hardcover $4.50
  6. Simple Screenprinting: Basic... Used Trade Paper $7.95
  7. Nicky Epsteins Crocheted Flowers
    Used Hardcover $12.50
  8. Bead Simple: Essential Techniques... Used Trade Paper $9.50

3 Responses to "Powell’s Gets Crafty"

    Brockman April 4th, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Wow... I had no idea our co-workers were so craftastic! Do they take requests?

    Miss Gretchen April 6th, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Fave Powells blog post ever! Y'all are the ueber-craftiest! Just lovely! (and hilarious!)

    For inspiration, I love Arne Svenson's art photography book _Sock Monkeys (200 our otf 1,863)_ with essays by Penn Jillette, Simon Doonan, Isaac Mizrahi, and other fabulous folk.

    Most recently, I made a soft cloth "Waldorf doll" for a friend's little boy, who named him "Forest baby." Similar projects can be found in _Creative Play for Your Baby: Steiner Waldorf Expertise and Toy Projects for 3 Months-2 Years_ by Christopher Clouder.

    dot dot dot April 6th, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Oooh, ooh...I have a subset of crafty Powells handiwork! Howzabout this: Instore book displays made only from materials found on my walk to work.

    Thank you, thank you, my inspirational memoir is forthcoming.

Post a comment:

Get Your Gravatar

  1. Please note:
  2. All comments require moderation by staff.
  3. Comments submitted on weekends might take until Monday to appear.
PowellsBooks.Blog uses Gravatar to allow you to personalize the icon that appears beside your name when you post. If you don't have one already, get your Gravatar today!
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at