Crafts & DIY Reviews | July 2013


Bammes, Gottfried. Complete Guide to Drawing Animals. Search. Jul. 2013. 240p. illus. index. ISBN 9781844489213. pap. $35. ART INSTRUCTION

Bammes takes a holistic, methodical approach in this thorough and in-depth title. Readers will learn about the anatomy, balance, and movement of various animals, as well as how these aspects differ from the more familiar human figure. One particularly helpful section is devoted to explaining the proportions of a range of animals, using gridded diagrams. The exercises included take the form of suggestions and tips that are open to the readers’ interpretation and experimentation. VERDICT Best suited to serious intermediate and advanced artists.

Swinburne, Lucy. Animals. Search. (Drawing Masterclass). 2013. 96p. illus. index. ISBN 9781844487721. pap. $19.95. ART INSTRUCTION

The latest in the series focuses on wild and domesticated animals and provides 11 short step-by-step projects for readers to try. Those seeking tips on sketching animals from life in a wide variety of media may be disappointed, as Swinburne uses photographs as the main inspiration and pencil as the primary medium for the animal drawings presented. However, careful readers hoping to depict detailed and polished drawings of animals realistically will be satisfied with this book. VERDICT Both teens and adults who are short on time will appreciate this guide’s concise approach.


Faiola, Anne-Marie. Soap Crafting. Storey. Aug. 2013. 239p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781612120898. $19.95.CRAFTS

Twenty years ago, Faiola made her first batch of soap. What began as a hobby turned into a successful business selling both handmade soap and soapmaking supplies. In her first book, Faiola provides a comprehensive guide to producing cold-process soap. After a brief overview of the chemistry of soapmaking, she dives into supplies and safety and provides a basic recipe for crafters who can’t wait to get started. Once novices have a few batches of soap under their belts, they can try one of the 30 variations described. Each recipe includes step-by-step directions and photographs. Further information, including videos of the soapmaking process, is available at the author’s website. VERDICT Faiola’s enthusiasm for her subject is apparent, and with her guidance, beginners will easily take to this craft.

Van’t Hul, Jean. The Artful Parent: Simple Ways To Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity. Rooster.2013. 320p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781590309643. pap. $21.95. CRAFTS

In 2008, Van’t Hul combined her two passions—visual arts and her growing family—into a blog, the Artful Parent. In her first book, she presents parents and caregivers with a handbook to introducing young children (roughly toddlers through elementary school) to art and creativity. The author has an intuitive feel for what children like, including tried-and-true favorites such as homemade Play-Doh, as well as more unexpected projects. At times, the text falls prey to the all-too-common mommyblogger “perfect family” trap, which can be frustrating to parents who don’t quite measure up, but readers who tire of Van’t Hul’s extensive descriptions of art playgroups and special spaces for creating can focus on the projects instead. VERDICT Parents, teachers, and child-care providers will all find useful ideas and inspiration here.

do it yourself

Library Journal Reviews starred review Bedford, Scott. Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff. Workman. 2013. 330p. illus. ISBN 9780761171478. pap. $18.95. DIY

Remember all the crazy things you made as a kid, like ramps for toy cars or contraptions for pulling pranks? In his first book, illustrator Bedford, who also blogs at What I Made, gets in touch with his inner child. With a host of silly projects, this title is directed at parents looking for interactive activities for their children. An introduction discusses materials, tools, and techniques, emphasizing which of them are kid friendly and which require an adult to step in (for instance, one project necessitates a blowtorch). The “blueprints” are arranged by general theme and are heavily illustrated with playful drawings (both step-by-step construction diagrams and illustrations of the creations in use). The author also includes templates to give extra help to those less graphically talented. Providing wild and wacky fun, Bedford’s beautifully organized projects include an alien abduction mobile, a bunk bed communicator, and a jelly bean dispenser. Though there is no index, the detailed table of contents more than makes up for this oversight. VERDICT What’s not to love? This engaging compilation is clever and entertaining. A fantastic book.

fiber crafts

Andrews, Carol. Embroideries from an English Garden. Ruth Bean. 2013. 112p. photogs. ISBN 9780903585347. pap. $29.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Embroidery teacher Andrews specializes in floral designs in surface and raised embroidery, and the 26 designs in this collection were inspired by flowers from her garden. Some of the designs focus on a single flower or plant, while others present seasonal arrangements. Andrews uses a number of stitches that may be unfamiliar to less experienced embroiderers, and she includes full diagrams and directions for these specialty stitches. Traceable outlines, floss guides, and embroidery notes are provided for each design, and a full-color photograph of the finished work is also included. VERDICT Readers interested in traditional embroidery will appreciate the photorealistic floral designs and the inclusion of lesser-known stitches.

Haxell, Kate. The Knitter’s Palette: A Workbook of Color and Texture Techniques and Effects. Creative Pub.2013. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781589237308. pap. $24.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Haxell ( Knit Edgings and Trims ) explores in this handbook the use of color in knitting. After a clear overview of color theory (using stockinette swatches knit out of colorful yarn), the author describes a variety of methods that knitters can use to incorporate color into their projects. Some of these techniques, such as intarsia, mosaic knitting, and stranded colorwork, are obvious choices, while others, for example, bead knitting and surface embroidery, are more unusual. Though this title doesn’t include any projects for readers to try out, the examples and directions are clear and detailed. VERDICT Readers looking for projects may prefer books by Kristin Nicholas or Melissa Leapman, but this comprehensive reference is suitable for experienced knitters. An excellent purchase.

Hubert, Margaret. Runway Crochet. Creative Pub. 2013. 128p. photogs. ISBN 9781589237490. pap. $24.99.FIBER CRAFTS

The phrase crocheted clothing brings to mind 1970s-era granny square vests—an image that designer Hubert attempts to dispel in this collection of fashion-forward crochet patterns. Her audience is younger crocheters, particularly those with the body type to pull off some of the form-fitting garments included here. Some of the designs read 1980s a little too strongly—particularly the off-the-shoulder dress crocheted out of a teal sock yarn—but there are a few gems sprinkled in, such as the Asian-inspired Qipao tunic and the dramatic Catawba shrug. Step-by-step text instructions are included, as are charts as needed. VERDICT Younger crocheters who are curious about creating their own clothing may find something of interest here.

Murphy, Amanda. Modern Holiday: Deck the Halls with 18 Sewing Projects. Stash. 2013. 144p. photogs. ISBN 9781607056782. pap. $23.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Fabric and quilt designer Murphy brings her bright, modern aesthetic to holiday sewing in this collection of Christmas-themed projects. She begins with nine quilts, most of which are the perfect size for snuggling on a cold winter’s night, and then follows with nine home décor projects. For many of the patterns, especially the quilts, a different choice of fabric or color palette would make them more suitable for everyday use, rather than as holiday gifts. Several of the projects incorporate intermediate or advanced techniques, such as precision piecework and hand or fusible appliqué, but directions are provided. VERDICT Holiday projects are ever popular, and summer is the time to start thinking about handmade gifts. Modern quilters will enjoy this fun collection.

Ricketson, Kathreen. Brave New Quilts: 12 Projects Inspired by 20th-Century Art from Art Nouveau to Punk & Pop. Stash. Aug. 2013. 160p. photogs. ISBN 9781607057192. pap. $25.95. FIBER CRAFTS

The late Ricketson, founder of the popular crafting website Whip Up, had a background in visual art, and she brings her interest in 20th-century art movements to quilting in this collection of patterns. Quilts inspired by modern art commonly feature bold and contemporary designs, and these interpretations are no exception. The glimpses into the author’s design process, from inspiration to choice of color to block layout, are fascinating. The majority of these projects are appropriate for adventurous beginners, while more experienced quilters will appreciate the playful attitude toward color and shape. VERDICT Ricketson’s final book serves as a lovely coda to a promising career cut far too short. Modern quilters will love the art-inspired designs, and quilters of all skill levels will savor Ricketson’s gentle guidance and encouragement.



  1. What an excellent list of links and reviews, thank you, there are quite a few that I am interested in looking into