HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York
Krysa, Danielle. Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas; Advice and Projects from 50 Successful Artists. Chronicle. 2014. 288p. illus. index. ISBN 9781452118888. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781452130026. ART INSTRUCTION
Everyone draws a blank occasionally. Fortunately, this title is there to help inspire visual artists and get their creative ideas flowing again. Artist and blogger Krysa (The Jealous Curator) interviewed 50 working artists from around the world. They share insights about their process, the notion of creativity, and what they do to get out of a rut. There are no step-by-step instructional projects included, however; instead each artist offers a short assignment suggestion. These exercises vary widely—everything from road trips to 30-day challenges—and sometimes depart far from conventional art making in their tactics. VERDICT This title is a great resource for any type of visually creative person working in any medium at any level to call upon when the inevitable artist’s block strikes.
NANETTE DONOHUE, Champaign P.L., IL
Cerruti, Courtney. Washi Tape: 101+ Ideas for Paper Crafts, Book Arts, Fashion, Decorating, Entertaining, and Party Fun! Quarry: Quarto. 2014. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781592539147. pap. $22.99; ebk. ISBN 9781627880374. CRAFTS
Washi tape is a low-tack tape available in a variety of patterns and colors that is suitable for use on a variety of surfaces. Until a few years ago, the tape was primarily available in Japanese stationery stores or shops that specialized in Japanese products, but now it’s available in most chain craft stores (and even the Target one-dollar aisle). Mixed-media artist Cerruti (Playing with Image Transfers) has an extensive collection of washi tape, and she sings the praises of this versatile craft supply with a variety of small, easy projects ranging from the obvious (use washi tape to embellish a card) to the interesting (apply it to boring black heels for a pop of color) to the questionable (cut fake “rosy cheeks” out of washi tape and apply them to vintage photos). There aren’t any instructions, but applying washi tape to a surface doesn’t require a whole lot of direction, so the projects are pretty much self-explanatory. VERDICT The book resembles a printed Pinterest inspiration board more than anything else—lots of style and not a whole lot of substance. It’s just a collection of pretty pictures of things people might want to make, all centered on the theme of washi tape.
Deeb, Margie. The Beader’s Guide to Jewelry Design. Lark: Sterling. 2014. 152p. illus. index. ISBN 9781454704065. pap. $24.95. CRAFTS
Deeb (The Beader’s Color Palette) explores jewelry design through six essential elements that elevate a piece from a hobbyist’s craft project to a professional-looking work of wearable art. These elements—unity, focal point and emphasis, balance, movement, shape, and color—are described in detail, with plenty of examples in different styles, ranging from minimalist wirework to intricate bead weaving to over-the-top statement pieces that incorporate mixed techniques. Deeb also presents a series of challenges for jewelry makers that engage their creativity and encourage them to think carefully about jewelry design. One of the most useful aspects of the book is that her lessons aren’t specific to a particular jewelry-making technique, which gives this book a wider audience than most such titles. VERDICT Deeb’s passion for design and practical advice, combined with the copious sample pieces, will help jewelry makers refine their design process and create high-quality, marketable pieces.
Mikkelsen, Todd. Paracord! How To Make the Best Bracelets, Lanyards, Key Chains, Buckles, and More. Skyhorse. Jul. 2014. 176p. photos. ISBN 9781629148199. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781629148205. CRAFTS
First used during World War II, paracord (or parachute cord) is a very strong nylon cord that can be used in lieu of shoelaces, bungee cords, or rope in emergency situations. Paracord bracelets resemble friendship bracelets—if the string used to make friendship bracelets were several times thicker—and they’re popular among outdoor types, survivalists, and preppers because many designs can be easily converted back to rope if needed. In this collection, Mikkelsen (Paracord 101; Prepper Paracord) provides directions for 21 different paracord projects—the majority of the entries are bracelets, although there are a few other projects included. Most of the techniques involve little more than basic knotting, and since the cord is so thick, the projects are quick to make. Paracord is available in many colors, so crafters can make a variety of colorful accessories to suit their personal style. Mikkelsen’s directions are excellent, with plenty of close-up photographs of each knot or weave, making the creations easy to replicate. He does a good job distinguishing among accessories that are suitable for survival purposes (i.e., can be unraveled and used as rope) vs. those that are simply something fun to wear. VERDICT It’s a rare book that has the potential to interest young people who like to make bracelets and lanyards out of colorful cord as well as the survivalist/prepper audience, but this one just might.
KAREN ELLIS, Taylor P.L., TX
Marrone, Teresa. The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods: Preserve Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, and Meat with a Dehydrator, a Kitchen Oven, or the Sun. Storey. Jul. 2014. 352p. illus. index. ISBN 9781612121796. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603429276. DIY
This book addresses one specific task related to the current trend of urban farming and self-sufficiency: drying your own food. Experienced cookbook author Marrone (The Back-Country Kitchen; Slow Cookers Go Wild!) covers the topic in painstaking detail. The science behind drying is explained and is accompanied by the best methods to use for each foodstuff. A plan for making a home food dryer is provided, along with an evaluation of commercial dryers. This book goes beyond the normal fruits and vegetables and includes grains, herbs, flowers, and meat, and there are considerations for different diets—gluten-free, vegan, etc. Also provided are a series of recipes and uses; the recipes are a general collection but do feature some camping mixes and gifts-in-a-jar. This title compares favorably to Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ‘Em Up! and will be useful to home and urban gardeners. VERDICT This thoroughly useful book offers a wealth of information on a very wide variety of foodstuffs, including when to use different produce for best drying results.
NANETTE DONOHUE, Champaign P.L., IL
Binder, Brigitte & others. McCall’s Essential Guide to Sewing. Sixth & Spring: Sterling. 2014. 320p. illus. index. ISBN 9781936096725. pap. $24.95. FIBER CRAFTS
For brand-new sewists, a comprehensive sewing reference is a must-have. The latest entry in this crowded field comes from McCall’s, one of the world’s largest sewing pattern companies, and publisher of several lines of patterns, including Butterick and Vogue. As with other sewing reference guides, the focus here is on brief, factual information about a wide variety of topics—from fabrics to sewing machine needles to basic techniques for fashion and home-decor sewing. Color photos, some with call outs highlighting details such as parts of a sewing machine, are included throughout. The organization is straightforward, and an index provides quick access as needed. VERDICT In terms of design and content, this branded how-to-sew reference is similar to guides bearing the Simplicity and Singer names, and the choice comes down more to personal tastes (and perhaps the brand of sewing machine used) rather than substantive differences in content. A solid purchase to replace old or outdated sewing references.
Field, Anne. Learn To Weave with Anne Field: A Project-Based Approach to Weaving Basics. Trafalgar Square. 2014. 208p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781570766183. pap. $29.95. FIBER CRAFTS
The late Field (1940–2013), a New Zealand–based spinner and weaver with 50-plus years of experience, published a number of weaving books during her storied career as an author and teacher. This title brings her gentle guidance and quality advice to a new audience of beginning weavers. From selecting a loom (Field’s advice: try as many as you can before buying) to warping to weaving, she provides a master class in weaving with ample photographs; clear, easy-to-follow instructions; and expert advice. The author isn’t afraid to discuss her own missteps, which is encouraging to beginners who may be trying to make sense of a loom for the first time. After the how-tos have been fully covered, Field presents a selection of projects, all with clear objectives, that teach weaving techniques beyond the basics. VERDICT High-quality beginner guides to weaving are few and far between, and many of the best are out of print. Field’s book stands beside such classics as Mary E. Black’s The Key to Weaving and Deborah Chandler’s Learning To Weave. It imparts the knowledge of one of the craft’s greats to a wider audience.
Wild, Denise. Mend & Make Fabulous: Sewing Solutions & Fashionable Fixes. Interweave. 2014. 160p. illus. index. ISBN 9781620335345. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781620335369. FIBER CRAFTS
Everyone has a favorite article of clothing that has been worn so much that it’s torn, worn, or in need of repair. In this dual-purpose guide, Wild, the creative director for the U.S. edition of sewing magazine BurdaStyle and its companion website, provides easy-to-follow tips for repairing garments, as well as embellishment methods that can be used to cover up everything from tears to broken straps. The tips are divided into broad categories (e.g., runs, rips, and flaws; closures; hems and fittings), then further subdivided by the type of fabric or damage. Most of the fixes are easier than they seem at the outset—it turns out that a lot can be done with fusible interfacing and simple hand-sewing techniques. Each of the chapters also include a variety of suggestions for covering up or restyling clothing; these range from simple patches and appliqués to adding darts or a brand-new lining to a garment. Wild’s conversational tone and “you can do this” attitude makes even the most daunting of repairs seem like a breeze. VERDICT Repairing or reinventing old clothing goes hand-in-hand with upcycling and creative repurposing, and this well-organized book is appropriate for sewists (and nonsewists) of all skill levels.
Wood, Myra. Knit in New Directions: A Journey into Creativity. XRX. 2014. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781933064284. pap. $24.95. FIBER CRAFTS
Wood (Crazy Lace) aims to liberate knitters in her latest book, which celebrates creative knitting—though despite a section in the introduction entitled “What Is Creative Knitting?” this reviewer is not entirely sure what it actually is. Based on the designs, however, readers will discover what it isn’t: single-color, tailored, sedate garments and accessories. Wood’s toolbox of techniques includes modular knitting, in which pieces are knitted individually and seamed together (or, if you dislike seaming, picked up and knit from a finished edge); strip knitting, in which the modular pieces are long strips attached with i-cord or seamed together; quilt block knitting, in which individual components (similar to quilt blocks) are seamed together to form a garment; and creative short rows, which make use of the properties of short-row knitting to simulate undulating waves in a garment. Wood’s techniques lend themselves most to boldly colored, improvisational, boxy garments where the shaping is provided by the placement of the panels, rather than by traditional means. If that isn’t your taste, this book won’t be either. VERDICT Knitters who enjoy garments similar to those featured in Knitter’s Magazine, as well as knitters with an interest in exploring improvisational and hybrid techniques, will be drawn to Wood’s funky, functional knitwear.