HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York
Thorspecken, Thomas. Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques. Barron’s. 2014. 128p. illus. index. ISBN 9781438003412. pap. $19.99. ART INSTRUCTION
In 2009, Thorspecken set himself a goal to sketch on location and to share one sketch per day on his blog (analogartistdigitalworld.com). Here the artist imparts much of what he has discovered about urban sketching since. Instead of step-by-step exercises he presents and discusses many examples of drawings both in progress and complete, and offers lots of practical advice on topics such as where to find inspiration, how to hook up with a sketching community, and how to fit this rewarding pursuit into a busy schedule. Thorspecken also offers tips on color and perspective and suggestions for the tools urban sketchers should carry with them. VERDICT An exceptional selection for intermediate and advanced artists looking to step out of the studio.
NANETTE DONOHUE, Champaign P.L., IL
Barta, Melinda. Mastering Herringbone Stitch: The Complete Guide. Interweave. 2014. 168p. illus. index. ISBN 9781596686328. pap. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781620335147. CRAFTS
Herringbone, or Ndebele stitch, is one of the most popular beadwork techniques largely thanks to its versatility. In each section of this guide, Barta (editor, Beadwork magazine; Mastering Peyote Stitch) explores one basic style of herringbone stitch—flat, circular, tubular, or twisted—starting with an overview of basic techniques and variations. Diagrams marked with the thread path are included, as are text-based instructions. This overview is followed by a selection of jewelry projects that showcase the technique. Jewelry makers familiar with the style of the projects in Beadwork magazine won’t be surprised by the arrangements in this collection, which are showpieces incorporating a variety of accent, colorful glass, and precious metal seed beads. While this is an excellent guide to herringbone stitch, most of the projects also incorporate other stitches, such as right-angle weave or peyote stitch. A very quick overview of the additional stitches is included in an appendix, but beginners may have a tough time with the plans. VERDICT Melissa Grakowsky’s I Can Herringbone may be a better choice for novice jewelry makers who want herringbone-specific projects.
Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism. Arsenal Pulp. 2014. 221p. ed. by Betsy Greer. illus. index. ISBN 9781551525341. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781551525358. CRAFTS
Craftivism is a term that Greer (Knitting for Good!) coined to describe the intersection of handmade items and political activism. The current craft/DIY renaissance has its roots in contemporary feminism and the reclaiming of “women’s work,” and Greer explores this idea in detail through essays by and interviews with activists who have combined their passion for craft with their political ideals. Craft is defined broadly and the examples presented range from fine-art style work, such as Inga Hamilton’s environmental sculpture and Carrie Reichardt’s giant-size political mosaics to Kim Werker’s intentionally ugly handicrafts and Maria Molteni’s NCAA Net Works, which places handmade nets on basketball hoops in public places. Greer includes activists from a variety of cultures and countries and there’s a wide range of statements on topics such as urban blight, the environmental impact of automobile traffic in Brazil, and women’s health. Each segment is accompanied by a variety of colored photographs showing the craftivist’s work in context. VERDICT Socially conscious crafters who enjoy the efforts of Faythe Levine (coauthor, Handmade Nation) and Leanne Prain (coauthor, Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery) will be inspired by these activists’ thought-provoking work.
Gerstein, Sherry (text) & Marcio Noguchi (illus.). Origami Master Class Flowers. Race Point: Quarto. 2014. 192p. illus. ISBN 9781937994402. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781627881524. CRAFTS
In this collection, ten well-known origami masters present their interpretations of flowers in folded paper. Standouts include Derek McGann’s gorgeous orange hibiscus, which is treated with water to make the petals ruffle like the actual flower; Delrosa Marshall’s stunning bougainvillea, which captures the fragile nature of the plant’s leaves; and Daniel Robinson’s bleeding heart, which shows a stem of the plant in a variety of stages of bloom. Most of the artists use a variety of specialty papers or techniques to give their creations a realistic look and the complicated flowers are folded separately from the stems and leaves and then assembled. Each component is fully diagrammed with textual instructions and the book includes a guide to origami symbols. VERDICT This isn’t a guide for beginners—most of the flowers have 20-plus steps and multiple components—but intermediate and advanced paper artists will appreciate the challenge, as well as the opportunity to try new materials and techniques.
KAREN ELLIS, Taylor P.L., TX
Gurstelle, William. Defending Your Castle: Build Catapults, Crossbows, Moats, Bulletproof Shields, and More Defensive Devices To Fend off the Invading Hordes. Chicago Review. Jun. 2014. 176p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613746820. pap. $16.95. DIY
Want to be safe in the coming apocalypse? Gurstelle, author of several books of delightful destruction (Backyard Ballistics; The Art of the Catapult), delves again into historical context to help readers defend their homes. Practicality takes a backseat, however, as this is just an excuse for making more historical weapons and constructs. Thrown in with defensive moats, palisades, and smoke bombs are some offensive devices such as catapults and a battering ram. These projects range widely in level of sophistication. Instructions are balanced with historical background and many would require adult supervision. Some designs lend themselves to science projects and would appeal to high school students as well as general readers. Practicality aside though, this book is a delight. VERDICT Few of these projects would be useful in warding off marauding Huns or postapocalyptic hoards, but readers will learn some military history while having a good time. Recommended just for the fun of it.
Häggvik, Marianne Svärd. Rustic Garden Projects: Step-By-Step Backyard Décor From Trellises to Tree Swings, Stone Steps to Stained Glass. Skyhorse. 2014. 256p. tr. from Swedish by Anette Cantagallo. illus. ISBN 9781628736496. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781629140087. DIY
With the weather warming it’s time to spruce up the garden. Häggvik, an engineer–turned–gardening expert debuts the English translation of her Swedish book to U.S. readers. Projects are many and widely diverse, from bentwood to pavers to masonry, and wire work to stained glass. Each design lists materials with only metric measurements but the instructions are well illustrated. Unfortunately, some of the plants recommended are not available in North America. This book tries to cover too many projects at wildly varying degrees of difficulty. Also, while the wirework projects are appealing others are less original, such as the stained glass and wall building. VERDICT There are some fresh designs offered here but the skills needed to accomplish the projects are better learned from specialty books such as Jim Long’s Making Bentwood Trellises, Arbors, Gates & Fences, Sherri Warner Hunter’s Creative Concrete Ornaments for the Garden, and Pat Sagui’s Landscaping with Stone (2d ed.). Only for larger collections.
Williams, Dee. The Big Tiny: A Build-It-Myself Memoir. Blue Rider. 2014. 304p. illus. ISBN 9780399166174. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101634714. DIY
Living with a smaller footprint both in consumption and square feet has been a growing trend, especially given the current economy. Williams, a consultant and educator with Portland Alternative Dwellings, chronicles her transition from typical homeownership—with renovations, repairs, and costs—to a simpler life in an 84-square-foot house. While the publisher bills this book as how-to and memoir, the material is more biography than building guide. The author’s stories are entertaining and create a fine read, however, she offers no real instruction or construction details. While this title may inspire readers to pursue this lifestyle choice, they’ll need to look elsewhere for assistance to get there. VERDICT Recommended only for those looking for inspiration and motivation. Titles such as Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed: DIY Book of Backyard Sheds and Tiny Houses, Taunton’s Small Houses by the editors of Fine Homebuilding, and Gerald Rowan’s Compact Houses are better suited for plans and construction.
NANETTE DONOHUE, Champaign P.L., IL
Kosbab, Kevin. The Quilter’s Appliqué Workshop: Timeless Techniques for Modern Designs. Interweave. 2014. 143p. illus. index. ISBN 9781596688612. pap. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781620335161. FIBER CRAFTS
Appliqué can seem daunting to novice quilters but it’s simply the practice of applying one fabric to another whether by sewing or by other means. In this guide, quilter Kosbab explores three basic techniques for sewn appliqué: raw-edge, prepared-edge, and needle-turn. Each section begins with a tutorial explaining basic tools, supplies, and techniques, followed by a series of projects of various sizes. The majority of the quilts feature modern designs—think undulating shapes, soft curves, and bold colors—but a few have an interesting mid-century feel. Kosbab intersperses tips and tricks throughout the text both in sidebars (the one about the “quilt police” is priceless) and within the directions making this a true master class in appliqué. VERDICT With its comprehensive coverage of sewn appliqué techniques and its clear, thorough instruction, this is a book that quilters will want in their libraries. The projects are fantastic and the tutorials are excellent but what makes this book shine is Kosbab’s voice, which is wry and funny and encouraging in all the right ways.
McCants, Kelly. At Home with Modern June: 27 Sewing Projects for Your Handmade Lifestyle. Stash: C&T. 2014. 176p. bibliog. ISBN 9781607058007. pap. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781607058014. FIBER CRAFTS
Faced with the opportunity to redecorate when an old tree crushed part of her home, McCants (Sewing with Oilcloth) took her vintage modern aesthetic—think cheery 1950s housewife with a contemporary flair for design—and applied it to home decor. The result is this collection of fun sewing projects for the home, many featuring McCants’s beloved laminated cottons. Most of the projects are beginner-friendly and require little more than the ability to machine sew in a straight line, but there are a few for sewists looking for a challenge, such as the reupholstered bar stool. The home-organization projects are the highlight of the collection and there are a lot of clever ideas to help make closets and other storage areas more cheery. A few no-sew projects are also included, such as a set of chalk-cloth place mats and a set of vintage benches reupholstered in laminated cotton. VERDICT McCants has found a niche—sewing with oilcloth and laminated cottons—and it works well for her. Her enthusiasm for her subject is infectious, and laminated cottons are widely available online. Sewists with a taste for home decor will appreciate these lively projects.
Marfaing, Frédérique. Hardanger Embroidery. Stackpole. 2014. 176p. illus. ISBN 9780811713375. pap. $24.95. FIBER CRAFTS
Hardanger is a traditional Norwegian embroidery technique best known for its use of pulled threads, which leave lace-like open spaces surrounded by stitches. Marfaing, who taught the craft for a number of years at her needlework shop, designed this guide as a teaching tool. It presents Hardanger basics as a series of brief, step-by-step lessons, starting with Kloster blocks, the foundational stitch of Hardanger, and proceeding through the various combinations of stitches and cutwork that give the technique its trademark style. The stitch guide is followed by a selection of projects that demonstrate how Hardanger embroidery can be used to embellish objects ranging from a small sewing bag to place mats to an heirloom wedding ring pillow. The projects include references to the individual lessons (by number) so stitchers can refer back to the detailed instructions as needed. VERDICT There are few books available on this technique and most of them are either more than ten years old or out of print. Marfaing’s guide, with its combination of stitches and small projects, will appeal both to beginners and to embroiderers who want to design their own pieces.
GAYLE A. WILLIAMSON, Fashion Inst. of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles
Fehrentz, Peter. Made by Yourself: 100% Handmade Designer DIY Projects for the Home, from Furniture to Accessories. Jacqui Small: Quarto. 2014. 144p. photos. ISBN 9781909342477. $27.95. INTERIOR DESIGN
German stylist, designer, photographer, and debut author Fehrentz shares his do-it-yourself designs in this book. The 48 projects are grouped into chapters by the materials used, including glass, ceramics, wood, leather, paper, fabric, metal, stone, and plastic, and portray a more modern style than typically found in craft books, which tend to show a more country-cottage look. Also included are decorative accessories, such as leather flowers, and furniture such as a patchwork-upholstered chair. Each project is rated by skill level and cost and lists the time required, a helpful detail to consider. Although there are step-by-step instructions, inexperienced crafters might find them lacking, especially for the more challenging plans. VERDICT Skilled do-it-yourselfers will find plenty of exciting design ideas here, many of which Fehrentz has used to decorate his own apartment.