Tag Archives: Non-fiction

Book review: Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bright pink, girly cover of the Bust DIY Guide to LIfe

The Bust Do It Yourself Guide to LIfe: At 368 pages--That's a LOT of book to love!

My first exposure to Bust magazine, I wasn’t even aware of the connection. A friend invited me to a “Stitch ‘n Bitch” in Lansing, Michigan. The name was humorous and perfect – an event for stitching and talking with other women! To be more kid-friendly, we abbreviated the group name to SNB.

Although most of the others were knitting or crocheting, I decided the word “stitch” entitled me to do any kind of stitching. At each monthly gathering, you’d find me hand stitching strips of fabric into quilt squares!

As an aside, I wasn’t the only one with a loose interpretation of stitch. One creative soul used her iron and Stitch Witchery® to make curtains. (If you are not familiar, Stitch Witchery is a fusible “tape” that can be ironed with other fabric to make a hem.) That day the weather was so nice, we sat outside. The girl making the curtains set up her ironing board in the yard and made magic!

Jump to the present. I’ve moved away from Lansing and the SNB crew, but I still quilt, sew, make soap and any other crafty project I come across.

Getting to Know You…

In the last 6 years I started knitting too. As a result, I learned that the founder and editor of Bust magazine, Debbie Stoller, helped to popularize the term stitch ‘n bitch.

Debbie Stoller was one of the 1st feminists to embrace DIY (do it yourself) and helped change the perception of crafts from old fashion to hip. Having a PhD in Psychology of Women from Yale makes her an authority on the subject and an inspiration to me.

Since learning to knit, I have read several of Debbie Stoller’s books including Stitch ‘n Bitch Nation and Stitch ‘n Bitch Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics. I have even picked up a few second-hand issues of Bust magazine. The magazine is empowering, gritty and gets below the shellac of modern life. It is feminism for now.

The latest book from Debbie Stoller is, “The Bust DIY Guide to Life: Making Your Way Through Every Day” (published in 2011 by STC Craft). This book is empowerment through know-how. The premise is the more we know how to do, the freer we are and the more choices we have. Crafts aren’t to be rejected as some domestic carry-over from the past, but rather, embraced as enjoyable arts and skills.

But Wait There’s More!

The Bust DIY Guide to Life isn’t just about crafts. It literally covers life from the cradle to the grave. To give you an idea of the scope of this book, topics include: camping, clam digging, natural skin care, cooking, but also… home births, DIY funerals (really), plumbing, financial security, among many other topics. As the introduction says, “…DIY is not just about making things – it’s also about making a life.”

Each topic is a stand-alone article that was originally published in Bust. As a graphic designer I enjoyed the fun design, project photos and illustrations curated by Laurie Henzel, Debbie’s co-founder of Bust.


Some people might not enjoy all the double entendre, but that’s simply the Bust coming through! (Did I mention that Bust is sexy like a librarian?) If you have young ones or certain sensitivities, I have to issue a “potty mouth” alert!

This book is smart and sassy. It holds 15 years of accumulated wisdom expressed in the way only Bust does – worldly wise and cut the crap!

Check it out!

P.S. Amazon.com has sample pages from the book, so you can see for yourself!


The Gutsy Dressmaker

Book Cover Image - The Dressmaker Khair Khana

The Beautiful Cover of The DressMaker

Last week I finished The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. The book is a non-fiction account of Kamila Sidiqi during the 5+ years of Afghanistan life under the Taliban.

Life Under the Taliban

The day that Kamila Sidiqi graduated from teaching college was the same day the Taliban entered Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

Blue veil to cover the entire female form, with the only opening a small mesh for the eyes.

Screen capture of the traditional Afghanistan chadri or burqa.

Immediately the Taliban enforced a super strict version of Islamic law—with rules such as:

  • Women must not work
  • Women must stay home
  • Women must be escorted by a male family member when outside the home
  • Women must be covered with a full chadri in public

Showing too much wrist or laughing in public were taboo also. Rule breakers were beaten on the streets and could be taken to prison.

Women weren’t the only ones targeted. Her eldest brother couldn’t work for fear of being forced into fighting for the Taliban. With his background in the army, Kamila’s father was at risk too. Persecution became so bad that her brother and father fled their home. Missing her husband, Kamila’s mother went to be with him. This left Kamila as the head of the household.

Although Kamila’s family was better off than many, there were still Kamila and her 7 sisters and a younger brother to encourage and feed. To bring in money and give them something to do, Kamila started a sewing business.

Living Dangerously

After learning to sew and teaching her sisters, Kamila risked danger by traveling to a local up-scale bazaar with a sample dress for sale. She dressed as conservatively to avoid notice but then broke the rules by – gasp! – talking to the shop owner. As a result, she received her first order of dresses.

This is the start of her home business that grows into a sewing school, and eventually leads Kamila to work for a United Nations agency.

Inspiration, Ready Begin!

I enjoyed the The Dressmaker of Khair Khana immensely. The book reaches the same excitement as a spy thriller. My eyes were glued to the page. As someone who is starting a business myself, I loved hearing how Kamila made her new family business work. Her keys to success read like “Rules of Life-101”: Kamila was dedicated to delivering the best quality, on time; She partnered with people she trusted; She worked hard; When questioned by the Taliban, she treated the enemy like a brother, differentially and without showing fear. The true lesson though was that Kamila dared! She was optimistic. She expected the best and was head strong enough to make it happen. She was devout and wanted to help others.

Reading this book enabled me to see another country. The writing is so clear, it’s like watching a movie, with the camera zooming in on important details and explaining the cultural differences so I could understand the significance of what was happening.

The author, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, is also inspiring. She is a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. To get this story, she traveled to Afghanistan many times. As a foreigner, she was a potential target of terrorist attacks and kidnapping. To protect herself, she learned to speak Dari and dressed more conservatively than the locals. She spent years interviewing everyone she could. Ms. Lemmon’s hard work also shows!

Read this book!