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CRAFTS : Do-It-Yourself Guides Can Also Help Build Pride and Savings

March 12, 1994|From Associated Press

Today's weekend craftsmen are lured by the idea of saving money as well as personalizing their homes, and they take pride in the notion that the project looks professional.

Enter a number of new do-it-yourself magazines aimed at the high-end market: Handcraft Illustrated, published by a small company in Brookline Village, Mass.; Sewing Decor, by PJS Publications, Peoria, Ill.; Weekend Decorator, New York Times Magazine Group, and Weekend Decorating Projects, Hachette Filipacchi Magazines Inc.

The premise behind Handcraft Illustrated and Sewing Decor, bimonthlies chock-full of decorating crafts projects, is that a professional look can be turned out by novices--with the proper instructions.

"Anyone can learn anything if it's communicated to them well enough," says Carol Sterbenz, editor of Handcraft Illustrated. "We simplify the methods and develop shortcuts with step-by-step directions and visuals."

Sewing Decor aims for the same end result.

"We don't want it to look homemade. That's the whole point," says Linda Griepentrog, creator of Sewing Decor and editor of Sewing News, also published by PJS.

Other publishers are also promoting fast and easy decorating projects.

Weekend Decorator, launched two years ago as a twice-yearly publication, is now a quarterly.

It offers a sophisticated approach to home decorating crafts that readers can do themselves or hire someone to do for them.

"In the 1980s, you hired a designer," editor Kathryn George says.

"Today there is more pride associated with saying, 'I did some of the work myself,' and they are not doing it just to save money, although that is a factor."

Weekend Decorating Projects was launched in August by Woman's Day. The magazine plans two issues this year, according to Maureen Klein, editor.

The focus is upscale projects that can be finished in a weekend or so. They range from sewing to painting and simple woodworking. One scheduled project is how to build a beach cabana with fabric and PVC pipe.

Why the rise in do-it-yourself magazines? A growing audience and--except for Handcraft Illustrated, which takes no advertising--a group of manufacturers who want to spread the word about upscale products for do-it-yourselfers.

A 1992 survey by the Hobby Industry Assn. in Elmwood Park, N.J., found that 82% of American households have at least one person engaged in a craft or hobby.

That compares with 64% in 1988 and 77% in 1990. The most popular craft, according to the biennial survey, is needle craft, fancy sewing such as needlepoint or cross-stitching. Machine sewing and floral craft (arranging artificial flowers) are also popular.

Sales of crafts, including materials, books and finished items, reached $9.21 billion in 1993, up 30% from 1990.

Upscale consumers are attracting high-end manufacturers such as Laura Ashley, Waverly and Hunter Douglas to the do-it-yourself market, Kathryn George says. It is also leading retailers to expand their inventory.

More than a third of the fabric sold at retail is for the home, according to Griepentrog. Thus, fabric stores nationwide are beefing up their decorator corners, and some will even order fabric from swatches and sample books.

In addition, upscale drapery hardware and fusing, or bonding, materials give professional touches to fabric projects.

"Glues used with (fusible materials) have been perfected to the point where you can get excellent results with a home iron," Klein says.

"Up to a few years ago, you needed an expensive commercial press."

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Handcraft Illustrated: (800) 766-7770.

Sewing Decor: (800) 926-9868.

Publications by Woman's Day and other specialty publishers are available on newsstands.

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