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Handmade Garden ProjectsHandmade Garden Projects by Lorene Edwards Forkner
Forkner, a former nursery owner and avid gardener, has filled up a book with garden projects for people with not much money and a little more time. The projects are divided by their ultimate purpose or location thusly: Ground Floor, Supporting Acts, Feature Attractions, Clever Containers, Finishing Touches and Organize and Store. There are lots of projects made out of repurposed hairpin wire fencing, including a sculptural trellis and chandelier with mason jars, another frequently used item. In general, the materials are intended to be commonly available, either recycled or new but repurposed. There are pictures and sometimes diagrams, lists of materials needed, and step by step instructions. Notably missing from all projects were time and cost estimates. Most projects looked to me like they were intended for people with minimal craft/building experience, but tools and definitely some strength for the wire bending and large container moving. I’d guess that most projects could be completed in an afternoon on the short side to a weekend on the long side – not huge time commitments in the grand scheme of things. The aesthetic seemed to me mostly modern rustic, with things like industrial woven steel for a trellis or an upturned industrial light fixture, big enough to use as a coffee table, used as an outdoor terrarium. The style was a little too modern for me personally, though I still liked many of the projects, including a fire pit made from a commercial wok or discarded kettle grill base or lid, the LED fireflies for garden lighting, the beaded mason jar hose guides, and the old birdbath planted with cascading flowers in watery colors. I’m feeling that I’m not quite as enthusiastic as this book deserves only because I am so very short on both time and sleep right now. However, better rested gardening friends thought this was a fabulous book, so I’m passing it on for those of you closer to their situation.
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Fabric-by-Fabric One Yard WondersFabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins. Here is an ideal sewing book for busy people. This book features stylish and fairly simple sewing projects with just one yard of fabric (plus notions & sometimes a contrast fabric). It starts with great detailed general sewing instructions, including what type of foot, needle & stitch length to use for different fabric types. Full-sized patterns are included for most projects; some simpler designs just have measuring instructions. From there, it’s divided up by fabric type, each fabric including a short introduction with more on how best to sew and later care for it. Fabrics include lightweight cottons, quilting-weight cottons, home dec, flannel, woven pile, coated fabrics, fleece, knits, and wool & felt. In general, the projects included lots of bags, little kid clothes, shorter women’s tops, some home décor items, and several toys. The projects I thought were the coolest included a hot pad apron; the flirty skirty; a quilted 8-bottle tote; a swaddle blanket with ties; the multi-use bucket; the kid’s comfy chair; a real kid-sized arm chair; the monster-wear hat & mittens; a superhero cape & shorts; a stuffed pig which gives birth to piglets who then attach to velcro teats to nurse; the speedy ruffle scarf; and the last-minute tunic. The ones I’d be most likely to make – mostly simpler and things I can’t buy - include the seafarer’s tricorn hat; a flat-screen TV cover. The book had lovely layout and design, with large photos and diagrams included for all the projects, in addition to the patterns. Smaller illustrations demonstrate techniques needed for particular projects. Coming from the knitting world, I wished that each project had included a source for the fabric, since for many of the simpler designs, the print will make or break the project. There was a list of websites for fabric sources at the end, though the URLs were missing from several of these, and there was no way to tell even which designer the featured fabrics came from. The projects came from many different designers, whose bios and blog addresses were also featured at the end. I’m not running out to buy it, but I am keeping it in mind for when I finish those sewing projects I bought fabric for in September.
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I happened upon this book while shelf-reading in the Crafts section of the library (always dangerous). While I resisted the first time around, when my dear friend A. said she was looking for help making fairy dolls, I tracked it down again.

book cover Felt Wee Folk by Salley Mavor. Salley Mavor seems to have made her living off of making little tiny dolls. She’s illustrated several books with dolls and appliqued and embroidered backgrounds. It appears that you can sometimes buy them on her website, if you are in time to snatch them up. But if you want them without the chance or the expense, she’s thoughtfully produced this book that tells you how to make them yourself. They are based on chenille stems, wooden beads, felt, and a little roving. I should not forget the little acorn-cap hats. Anyway, after covering materials, Mavor has simplified versions of the basic dolls for kids to make themselves, with step-by-step instructions for both flower fairies and boy dolls. Then, she goes into the process for adults to make dolls, which includes painting faces on wooden beads and making an armature. These dolls look both sturdier and, since the chenille stems are first completely wrapped in embroidery floss, then bent double and wrapped up all over again, considerably more time-consuming. There are instructions for wee folk from babies through adults, with the babies having one and a half inch tall armatures and the adults being four and a half inches tall. With the basics out of the way, she goes on to specialized groups of dolls – flower fairies, castle inhabitants (royalty with gold-painted acorn caps), harvest folk, and beach residents (including a pirate). You can photocopy the patterns to cut out their little felt clothes, which are also marked for where to embroider them. She also gives advice on selecting the best artificial flowers to take apart and use for fairy skirts and wings. If I didn’t know for sure that two years old is both too young to give me the time to make these and too young to play with them without ripping them apart, I would be making all of them right now. Following all of the doll instructions are some felt appliquéd and embroidered pins, coin purses, backgrounds, and suchlike. They are also charming, and made me want to believe that I could do folksy, free-form embroidery and have it come out as beautifully as Mavor’s does. But the little dolls are what are begging to be made the most.

If you love her work, but more for looking at than wanting to recreate, here are some of her other titles:
Come to My Party by Judith Bennet Richardson
In the Heart by Ann Turner
You and Me: Poems of Friendship
Jack and Jill
Wee Willie Winkie
Pocketful of Posies

Cross-posted to and .
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I have always loved costumes. I wear them whenever reasonably possible, for Halloween, for Talk like a Pirate Day, and of course through the SCA when my schedule permits. Many of our SCA friends now seem to be doing Steampunk as well, and while I haven’t yet gone to an event or even put a costume together, I couldn’t resist checking out this book when I came across it at the library.

book coverSteampunk-style Jewelry by Jean Campbell Steampunk, for this purpose, is loosely defined as fantasy Victorian with an emphasis on the beauty of early mechanical pieces. The jewelry is projects intended for the reader to be able to reproduce and use as inspiration. There are necklaces, earrings and bracelets. They use bead or craft store bits and wire, often combined with gears and other parts from cannibalized antique watches or reproduced old photographs. There is a lengthy introduction on the techniques used. When hazardous materials are used, cautions are given both in the intro and in the individual projects. The instructions seem thorough, including lists of materials and which steps might need practicing on scrap materials first, which, as a novice would-be jewelry-maker, I appreciate. Campbell is the senior editor of Beadwork magazine, and though many designers are featured here, her experience shows. The designs are beautiful. I especially enjoy the numerous designs where the delicately balanced gears are designed to spin while being worn. The biggest caution that I have from just reading the book is that many of the designs use found materials that could be difficult or impossible to duplicate. One ring, for example, called for a 28mm men’s watch movement. Right. My love and my mother were both appalled at taking apart potentially fixable watches. I can’t say how steamers usually come by their gears, though I think reusing is vastly preferably to discarding them. I will note that we have since found new gears at JoAnn’s. They are really pretty in either case. Interspersed with the jewelry projects are multiple two-page spreads on various aspects of steampunk culture: the costumes; modifying other items to look Victorian (a computer and a motorcycle are featured); steampunk books, movies, and bands. There is a small gallery at the end of jewelry without instructions. All in all, this a very well done book, both for jewelry-makers and for steampunk aficionados.

Originally posted at .
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book coverCrafternoon by Maura Madden Madden has an idea: More people should be crafting. Crafting with friends is fun. She’s been having monthly crafting afternoons, or Crafternoons, for a few years now and shares her expertise in this book. She has general guidelines on making your Crafternoon a success. She has a year’s worth of crafting ideas with instructions for crafts that can be completed in an afternoon – Valentines and paper crafts, paper dolls, knitting, embroidery, knots and more. She leans towards the less precise in her crafting, and her instructions reflect this, probably a good approach for those trying to finish in an afternoon. Madden’s events seem to be populated mostly by single friends her age plus her mother, but she urges readers to make their events multigenerational affairs that are friendly for kids, which is surely the only way something like this would work for me. Madden’s humor sometimes felt like it was verging on padding the word count, but the book is otherwise fun and inspiring. Who wants to do Crafternoons with me?

Originally posted at .
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book coverSewn With Love by Fiona Bell I’ve had a really hard time finding time for sewing since I had children, and I’ve mostly only made the time to sew garb, since that’s really hard and expensive to buy if you don’t make it yourself. And yet – when I saw this book at work, not even cataloged yet, I was inspired. It is full of beautiful, classic designs for clothes and accessories, for both boys and girls. OK, the clothing for boys was in the simple department – button-down shirts, shorts, and pajamas. The bulletin board was done in a more masculine print, too, and the simple but adorable stuffed frog (indeed, all the non-clothing items) could easily go either way. The girls’ clothing featured lots of dresses with full skirts and details like pin tucks, lace, or rick-rack. Pretty much everything is done in vintage-looking print fabric. I was so inspired that I checked out the book and am trying to make a dress for my little girl. And now comes the reality check. The book has lots of gorgeous color photography of all the clothes, and instructions for sewing. A CD-ROM in the back includes patterns to print out. Not until I went to print out the pattern was I able to track down the size chart. Instead of putting the ranges for the patterns with each pattern, this is located in a tiny box buried at the back of the book. Even though most patterns in the book give the yardage required, they give just one yardage for all the size ranges, which is quite puzzling. I discovered as I was going to print out the pattern that my daughter is too big for the largest size of the baby patterns I’d chosen, though still too young for me to feel she’d look good in any of the big girl patterns. I do wish they’d put the size ranges with differentiated yardage requirements in for each pattern, and, again puzzling, their measurements assume that children have waists smaller than their chests. The photographs are gorgeous, but not calculated to show the full design of the garments, and no schematic drawings are given either in the book or on the cd-rom. The instructions are written for people with a fair amount of sewing experience – she suggests starting with the laundry bag or the duvet cover if you’re new to sewing. I have yet to find explanations for the symbols used in the patterns – again fine if you’re experienced. Bell also seems to assume that the sewer will have both a regular sewing machine and a serger. On the plus side, she does include resources for buying vintage-style fabric (she uses her own gorgeous prints, which would ship from the UK.) Despite these short-comings, this book is beautiful and seductive and has me wanting to sew everyday rather than just medieval clothing for both my children to wear.

Crossposted to and .

Snow Play

Jan. 12th, 2011 10:10 am
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book coverSnow Play by Birgitta Ralston If you’ve never lost your child’s love of snow, but want something new to do, take a look at this book. Alternatively, if you have kids bringing you your coat and forcing you to go out in the cold, here’s a book to get you excited about it. This is a book of snow creations for adults, or adults and kids, with a few projects suitable for younger children by themselves. After detailed general instructions, including explanations of tools used and the difficulty and time to complete ratings, the book dives into projects. There are fresh takes on classics, like mutant snowmen or snow bunnies. There are giant, all-day projects, like a life-size Loch Ness monster and a fire pit with a circular surrounding bench. There are tiny projects, like little free-standing animals on straw legs or ice ornaments. And my favorites, the glowing ones – including a birthday cake and a lantern made of snow balls, lit with real candles or LEDs. snow fingersAll of the projects have gorgeous full-color photos of the finished product as well as step-by-step illustrations. The most commonly used tools are buckets, shovels, and snow block molds. Projects range from half an hour to a day in length, with most rated at half a day. Most of the projects also seem geared towards adults working with school-aged children or older kids and teens, though there are some suitable for young children as well. I asked for this book sight unseen, a rarity for me, and am now super excited to go out and play in the snow.

Crossposted to and .
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book coverMartha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts by Martha Stewart This is an A to W book of enticing crafts requiring relatively little skill to make with mostly easily available supplies, of the kind that could be finished in an evening or weekend. Much to the dismay of my mother and husband, there are no years-to-become-intermediate crafts like knitting, bobbin lace or miniature painting. However, what is there is very good. Each type of craft includes the basics of the technique including materials and projects, including templates where appropriate. The glossary includes illustrated supplies by type – never have glues looked so attractive. Make flowers out of beads, clay, crepe paper, stamps, cut paper. There are lots of seasonal decorations, home décor, small gift and adornment items. And the book has that special Martha magic, where everything looks both possible and beyond perfect. It is so attractive, even the normally craft-averse LB wanted to look through the whole book and try some (napkin rings decorated with flowers made of pine cones.) Set-up costs seem prohibitive for most people to try more than a few of the many crafts, but the ideas are great and the crafts would mostly work well in small groups of friends or older kids, to split the cost and multiply the fun.
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book coverThe Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin This is a craft book for a kind of craft that isn’t one of the ones I regularly do. But I picked it up and it was so beautiful that I brought it home and now I will tell you about it. This book is written about an ongoing fashion project, meant to revive the dying textile industry and retain the fading knowledge of traditional techniques to make “contemporary sustainable style.” These are beautiful, appealing projects made from cotton jersey, mostly recycled t-shirts. They are decorated with stencils, appliqué, reverse appliqué and embroidery. There are decorated t-shirts, bandanas, skirts, tablecloths and even a couple of corsets – which she claims are comfortably supportive and universally flattering. That I wish I could try before making. The basic technique for appliqué or reverse appliqué involves stenciling the design on both fabrics, hand-embroidering them together, and cutting away the fabric – the order of the last two steps depending on whether you’re doing regular or reverse appliqué. Because it’s done with cotton jersey and she’s going for a home-made look, she doesn’t finish or turn under the edges. I’d wondered about stabilization, since cotton jersey is tough to machine sew in my experience. It turns out that everything is just done by hand. Patterns and stencils are included for all the projects in the book, but the craft store is also full of stencils and the technique could as happily be used for putting skulls and crossbones on Mr. FP’s shirts as roses on mine.
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Well, I was going to show y'all pictures of the diapers that my friends and I so laboriously made for our babies. But I don't have a paid account, so instead, I set up a Flickr account.

If anyone is counting, they'll see that there aren't actually 3 dozen diapers in the picture. That's because 5 are in Wisconsin with our sadly departed friend, and 3 were in the wash. But we really did sew 3 dozen.

Here's the link:


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