Category Archives: BOOK Review

Microcrafts – Book Review

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I love little things. I live in a little house, surrounded by my treasures, and many of them are small things tucked into my bookcases betwixt and between the books, or nestled on tables in whimsical profusion. I even have miniature dachshunds! 🙂 When I had an opportunity to review Microcrafts: Tiny Treasures to Make and Share, I jumped at it! Compiled by Margaret McGuire, Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hatz and Friends, it is a splendid look at the things you can make yourself to give as gifts, or tuck into your own bookcases.

This is one of those books where reading the How to Use This Book section is imperative. It gives you some perspective on how the book was compiled, and how to use the book to get the most out of your creative spirit. 25 projects are given in the book, all with great photos, directions, patterns and even some key tips and tricks. If you have never created in miniature before, you will be both challenged and delighted in the works you can make.

One of the things I enjoyed reading about was the things that are highly adaptable to using with children. Boats, for example, created with shells and leaves, are so reminiscent of my childhood that I can’t wait to share them with Xavier and Xander, my grandsons! The tiny creations called “Candy Charms” are delightful – earrings, necklaces, pins and more can be created with some “blobs of polymer clay…” and items you should have in your craft supplies.

I must admit that my favorite section was the one on Books. I collect miniature books, but none are as small or as clever as the little, tiny treasure books here. I don’t have all my craft supplies unpacked yet, but believe you me, making some of these are at the top of my list. Each item on the list of supplies is delineated carefully and in detail – not just a sheet of scrap paper, but one -1×1-1/8 inch sheet! There are even marvelous instructions on how to miniaturize the project even further to make tiny little earrings to match the necklace project. The actual size of the completed books is a mere 1×1-¼ inch, and the earring books are ¼ of that size! Tiny treasures indeed!

If you are a cat or dog person, there are crafts in this volume for you as well. You can create tiny dogs and cats with felt and fabric scraps – they would be great attached to Christmas presents or made into jewelry. The microtaxidermy made me laugh out loud, and the deer heads are absolutely adorable; the details and instructions make it simple even for those of us not experienced in working with polymer or modeling clay. The whimsical abounds here, and the possibilities are endless. The book has wonderful hints and tips (“Use a toothpick to apply small beads of adhesive to microcrafts without risking a giant glue blob emergency”) and appendix sections include Supplies and Techniques, Ideas for Modifying Microcrafts (adapting the instructions in the book to make the projects into jewelry, mobiles, toys and more.) There is a good column on Resources for various materials, tools and ideas.

Take the time to read the amusing and delightful miniature biographies. They will give you blog, website and contact information, and pictures of the talented designers and crafters who love working with “mini!” And don’t forget to take a look at the photo on the last page! It will make your day – and make you smile. Quirk Books and the compilers have done a terrific job in this book, so if you love creating or collecting tiny things this would be a charming book to add to your bookshelf. ENJOY!

 

Microcrafts: Tiny Treasures to Make and Share

Quirk Books, (quirkbooks.com) Philadelphia

978-59474-521-8 Hardback

 

 

NOTE: Reviewer received no compensation for her review, although a copy of the book was provided for review purposes.

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A Pretty Little Project

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Remember this picture?

 

 

 

 

 

Based on the book 100 Pretty Little Projects, published by Lark Books, and the project called “no-sew kitsch,” I used what I had on hand to create this:

First step, I sewed some cute buttons on what would be the center of the project. Then, I started out with a wad of fiberfill, laced with homemade potpourri :

Wrapped it tightly with yarn:

Got the placement right on the little Chinese tea cup and hot glued it in( this picture is before gluing):

Wrapped a funky little pink ribbon with a black dotted line in the middle around the edges of the pincushion, adorned it with a few more buttons, and added a few pins:

I think this might be a great project for kids too, if you used a low-heat glue gun and supervised! I need to get replacement blades for my exacto knife, so I can trim away the excess glue from the buttons on the pink ribbon, Next time, I think I will sew the buttons on the ribbon before gluing the ribbon to the project – it will be much neater looking!

I hope to prowl around some thrift stores this month, and see what I can find in the way of funky teacups or vessels to make more of these – Christmas is coming!

A Belated Day THREE book review…

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Yesterday was a hectic day for me, and I didn’t get the Day THREE book review posted! Sorry! Here it is – hope you enjoy it.

I got this book from the library, but believe you me, it is going to the top of the buy-as-soon-as I-am-in-funds list! I know it is popular in certain circles to belittle or defame Martha Stewart. But true crafters appreciate her creativity, and despite the enormity of publications, products and media that she and her staff produces, she is well worth watching, reading and learning from.

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts (Basic techniques for sewing, applique, embroidery, quilting, dying, and printing, plus 150 inspired projects from A to Z) comes with a CD, which features print-at-home patterns and templates.  The projects are clever, and the explanation and pictures with each one are detailed and thorough. The templates are necessary, so I don’t suggest the book for those without a CD player on their computer – and a printer.

Some of the projects I intend to do include Washcloth Puppets (page 132) made with a terrycloth washcloth and washable felt. So clever, and so easy!

AND, the Mason-jar Sewing Kits (page 280) which will make wonderful gifts.

(NOTE: Please remember that these are copyrighted pictures/photos, the property of the authors, photographers and/or publisher, and as such are displayed for review purposes only. Please do NOT copy or distribute!)

Whether you are an accomplished seamstress/tailor, or a novice, you will really get a lot of knowledge from this book. It isn’t called an encyclopedia for nothin’! Right after Martha’s introduction, there are four separate sections in the “Getting Started” segment. These include – fabric glossary, thread glossary, setting up a sewing area and good things for sewing.

Last, but definitely not least, the end of the book brings the reader to:

  • tools and materials
  • tips and extra techniques
  • CD patterns and templates
  • sources
  • buyer’s guide
  • projects by technique

As always, should you do some projects from the book, please send me pictures to post on the blog!

It’s a GOOD THING! 🙂

Book Reviews – a Trio of Treasures – DAY TWO!

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 I recently won a copy of New Dimensions in Bead and Wire Jewelry: Unexpected Combinations, Unique Designs by Margot Potter. I read it cover to cover, and tried out one thing – couldn’t do much because my jewelry making stuff is socked away in storage in California! 🙂

I absolutely love the way Ms. Potter works so organically with wire and beads; each project shows her attentiveness to detail, her dedication to her art and her interest in creating designs that are true to the nature from which her inspiration comes.

The projects are very well photographed and explained; and her sections on tools, selecting beads and techniques are really detailed. I don’t think this is a great choice for a total beginning jewelry maker, but it is a fine addition to a crafter’s library. Sorry I didn’t take any pictures of the project I worked on; I am practicing wire-wrapping techniques and working with different weights of wire, as well as making my own jump rings and earring wires. It is great fun to see improvements starting to happen just with the tools I have on hand! Next on my “to-buy” list is a new wire jig and some softer copper wire.

The book uses Beadalon wire almost exclusively, which Ms. Potter states she has used for over 12 years and likes tremendously. Beadalon is also the “sponsor” of the book, which is published by North Light Books out of Cincinnati. Ms. Potter has other books in the same series.

IF you do buy this book (or check it out from the library!) and do any of the projects therein, PLEASE send me pictures – I will give you blog space! 🙂 Happy Crafting!

Book Reviews – a Trio of Treasures – DAY ONE!

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I am going to do mini reviews this week on three books recently read. First up, Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders 101 Sewing Projects Using Cottons, Knits, Voiles, Corduroy, Fleece, Flannel, Home Dec, Oilcloth, Wool, and Beyond by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins.

I read this book on my Adobe Digital Reader, and I will have to say, up front, that reading craft books via an e-reader of any kind is an exercise in frustration for me. In this instance, it actually means I cannot give a full honest appraisal of the book’s usefulness, or the patterns (which are provided in an attached envelope in the real hard cover book) because reading a book this way is not conducive to a hands-on approach. Other books I have read and reviewed in this format were actually similarly difficult, (Simply Great Breads and the Crocheted Prayer Shawl Companion) because you cannot print books you get via this medium, for review. In the latter instances, I just kept my computer handy and referred to it as I crocheted or baked. Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders unfortunately does not lend itself to that kind of use. Nonetheless, I can tell you about the book’s strong points, and writing style!

Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins have written another best-selling fabric book, One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects; Look How Much You Can Make with Just One Yard of Fabric! I have not read that one, but get the sense that this one is more detailed insofar as it deals with different types of fabric, how they handle, the tools needed to cut and sew on different fabrics. Chapter 1 starts with Fabric Fundamentals, which was quite useful, whether you are an experienced seamstress/tailor, or a beginner. It gives you guidance on how to get the best from your sewing machine, what kind of needles to use for different fabrics, and details on presser feet, tension and thread weights. Good basic stuff, handy to have in one place. This chapter also has an excellent list of 31 Equipment Must-Haves.

The remaining chapters “take on” each kind of fabric, providing a pattern and tips on working with cotton, wool, knits etc. The patterns are illustrated with sketches, as well as photographs of the completed project. There is an excellent Glossary at the end of sewing and fabric terms, which, whatever your skill level, is really handy to have at your fingertips.

If I had had the actual book and patterns, there are several I would have tried, including the adorable Hedgehog Bookends or the adorable Knight in Shining Armor. (NOTE: Please remember that these are copyrighted pictures/photos, the property of the authors, photographers and/or publisher, and as such are displayed for review purposes only. Please do NOT copy or distribute!) From Hats to Belts to Scarves, this has some unusual ideas for fabric and sewing. If you have kids, and/or teens, there are projects in here that would be right up their alley! (LOVE those Clichés!Cliches!)

The Bottom Line? I liked it, I really liked it! I would not give it full marks because I was unable to test the patterns myself, but the layout, ideas and writing are great. This book will not be published until mid December, 2011, so that I don’t think it will do for making Christmas gifts for this year, but plan ahead for next year, or better yet, give the book as a gift!

Enjoy!

Book Review – Simply Great Breads by Daniel Leader

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Firstly, yes making bread is a craft. AND an art. I have been indulging in this pleasure for some 40 years now, and have tried everything from friendship bread to  quick rise goodies. But, I made a serious mistake when I picked up this book to read for the first time. I did it at 9 o’clock at night! ACK!

So, the first thing this morning,  I sorted through my available ingredients and began one of Daniel Leader’s great recipes. I had to rule out Monkey Bread, because I didn’t have the right pan, and I didn’t have any bread flour left for the yummy looking Brioche Muffins.  Actually, several of the recipes call for bread flour, which I usually have on hand, as it has a higher gluten content. At any rate, I decided to try to try the “Lightly Shaped Parker House Rolls” for supper, to be served with my homemade chicken and rice soup. I remind you, dear reader, to a) NOT read this book before bed (unless you want the visions of jam-filled Berliners dancing through your head) and, b) to make an effort to stock your cupboard with the usual bread-maker’s supplies, including instant yeast, bread flour, etc., which are delineated so well in Leader’s book.

Pre-fermenting complete

This morning, I started the “pre-ferment,” a fairly new technique for me, which I learned to refine and utilize while reading this book. (BTW, all the pictures herein are of my own efforts, not from the book – so except for the book cover, above, what you are looking at, for better or for worse, is Laura’s baking! 🙂  )

Individual Rolls, after rising, ready to bake

Then, late in the afternoon, I finished up the rolls and set them out to rise while getting the finishing touches done on the soup. I know it seems odd to be eating soup when it is 115 outside in this overly-hot Arizona summer – but it is a stove-top job, and makes for great quick lunches later in the week!

Hot from the oven, ready to eat!

Gritting my teeth at having the oven on in our little place when it is in the high-80’s inside, even with A/C , I popped the rolls in the oven for the requisite 18-20 minutes. Oh. My. Ambrosia! The recipe stated it made 24 rolls, but since I like big – there were 20 hot, buttery rolls. Okay. Confession time. I didn’t have much soup! Leader states the rolls are better eaten fresh, and truly, we did our best! The leftovers I froze, per Leader’s instructions, for a treat later in the week.

I love(d) the fact that the recipes in this book are so all encompassing. Bagel recipes take place along with Ciabata Rolls (my next adventure) sweet breads, flat breads, and even a  salad recipe and extras.  Bialys recipes dance through the pages, along with Navajo Bread, Challah and Berliners. The instructions are detailed, the index and resource pages fantastic. Leader includes equivalency charts, and the recipe ingredients will work whether you are American or European.  I really appreciated the Glossary of Baking Terms as well, for although I am an experienced baker and bread maker, it was nice to have all of it in the same place for reference.

Bottom line – I really recommend this book. I admit I get a lot of recipes off the internet these days, to save space, but this one will go on my bookshelf along with half-a dozen of my treasured family favorites. It would make a great gift as well – package it along with a personally crafted gift basket, with special ingredients, pans and homemade towels or jelly for an added fillip.  ENJOY!

A freshly baked batch of Parker House Rolls

Book Review – Crocheted Prayer Shawl Companion

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I first saw this book at the library – yay LIBRARIES! – and then requested a review copy from Net Galley. Janet Bristow and Victoria A. Cole-Galo, founders of Shawlministry.com have done a superb job of creating a useable and very desirable book for crocheters.

I have been a dedicated crafter for charity for many years; at one time I began and ran a chapter of Project Linus in Tennessee (www. Projectlinus.org) donating crocheted, knitted and quilted blankets for children. Our blankets and afghans were carried in police cars and donated to local women and children’s safe houses, and over the years our group worked together, we created many beautiful originals for needy children in our community.

Now, this book has inspired me to create crocheted shawls for several groups that I support, as well as for special friends. The concept of a “Prayer Shawl” is both simple and complex. It transcends religious boundaries, for the prayers come in the making, not particularly for the use. Now mind you, some use the prayer shawls they have for meditative, prayerful times, which is beautiful and tender. But the prayer is in each stitch of the crocheter’s hands, and many patterns are created with intent specifically directed at trios of stitches (for the Trinity, for example) and quite often the shawl is accompanied by heartfelt poetry or dedications.

These “Warm Hugs and Sacred Spaces” are designed both for men and women, and the book includes some smaller shawls for girls as well. There are 37 patterns in the book, and so far, I have finished one and started two more. (I am a bit ADD, so I like to alternate between two projects at a time!) [see photos] The one I have finished is called the Power of Three Shawl, designed by Elizabeth Barnet of Franklin Laies, NJ. I envisioned the ‘three’ as faith, hope and love, instead of the Trinity – and since three is a powerful number in many of the world’s religions, it is especially meaningful for me. I added a different colored border, and two little crocheted pockets.

 I am also working on the Textured Beaded Shawl, from a pattern by Jan Bass, from Hayward CA. I am doing it in a similar color to the pattern, but will add the beading differently. This pattern has the visual and textural beauty of popcorn stitches.

 

Last night I started the Peaceful Waves Shawl designed by Lizzy Crocker, Orange, CT. All three have been easy to create, and easily adapted to different yarns and your own ideas in borders, decorating and size. Most of the shawl patterns have a Prayer of Blessing or a Poem or a loving thought, often from the designer, that could inspire you to write one of your own to present with your gift of the shawl. Whether you are giving to a friend, a stranger, or an organization, the love and prayerful intent in the making is what makes these shawls so unique and special.

You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to use and enjoy the patterns, of course. And you don’t need to be particularly skilled or dedicated to the craft of crocheting – for it is a forgiving art, and the enjoyment in the process is joyous.

The Resource Pages in the back are helpful; here you will find a list of yarn-maker websites, ideas on starting your own Prayer Shawl Ministry, crochet definitions for stitches and techniques, a chart for understanding yarn weights, and a great page on color & symbology.

Whether you are simply an avid crocheter looking for original patterns to work up, an individual wanting to make a gift for a friend in need, or a group wanting to create your own charitable ministry this book deserves shelf space!

The authors also have a book of patterns for knitters. Publishers, The Taunton Press, have done a great job (in my experience) in creating a work without errors, with beautiful photos. See the links bar for more links!

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Taunton Press (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600852930