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Published: Saturday, 11/13/2010

Amy Sedaris brings kitsch and kooky to hobbyists

If there was any doubt that Amy Sedaris is a kookier, kitschier version of Martha Stewart in the four years since the release of her best-selling, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, get out your Popsicle sticks, toupee tape, and clamshells.

Sedaris proves her place as a domestic maven for today's irony-loving do-it-yourselfers with her latest book. Simple Times is steeped in '70s campiness, with a youthful, can-do attitude walking through an extensive list of projects, neatly indexed in the back, from Acorn Crafts to Macaroni Alien Mask and Yesterday's Newspaper Scuffs.

The actress-comedian is a practical crafting guide. Before diving into the sausage cookies (yes, there are recipes) and wizard duck costume, she tells readers why they should join in.

"Crafting, or 'making things,' has always been a delightful pastime of mine because it requires putting common elements together in order to achieve a lovely something that nobody needs," she writes.

The definition is astute, and from the projects in the book, all too true. Sedaris pokes fun at the craft world in all its eccentricity, but also yearns for the simpler times it evokes.

Simple Times is two parts picture book and one part how-to guide and can be enjoyed by crafters and noncrafters alike. It has more than 20 sections of kitsch, including "The Joy of Poverty," "Teenagers Have a Lot of Pain," "Sausages," and "Knowing Your Knack for Knickknacks."

The projects range from the absurd but practical (using doll wigs as doorknobs) to the downright bizarre: building a miniature ghetto for an injured mouse that is close to dying. Household objects, including a cardboard box, coffee grounds, and tatters of things, can be instantly transformed into a mouse tenement. Don't forget "the ability and desire to create a depressing space." That must come from within.

Sedaris is her own living craft project with her ability to transform herself into dozens of characters, from a shut-in to a fireside storyteller to an extremely unseductive model in a seashell bathing suit. Pictures dazzle, amuse, and sometimes frighten. (Beware the section on safety.)

The author lives crafts, no matter how absurd the hobby is portrayed. She genuinely wants to share it with others in her snarky, silly way. For any would-be crafters, Sedaris suggests starting a crafting club. One tip: Exclude people on purpose to create an air of exclusivity.

"After a few months of denying people membership to something they didn't know existed, I sit back and watch them desperately flock to my circle, like deer to a bait pile."

Also, have a dress code. Elastic waistbands in. Straw hats out (fire hazard, she says).

Simple Times is an ideal gift for the crafter who has crafted everything. There's one thing they haven't made yet: a "Dutch Bonnet" out of the cover. (Directions are on the back flap.)



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