HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York
James, Yellena. Star, Branch, Spiral, Fan: Learn To Draw from Nature’s Perfect Design Structures. Rockport: Quarto. Feb. 2017. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781631591495. pap. $22.99. ART INSTRUCTION
Here, artist James focuses on four fundamental forms that can be observed throughout the natural universe, from microorganisms to galaxy-scale: the star, the branch, the spiral, and the fan. Every section is loaded with colorful examples of each shape and compositions combining them. Pencil, ink, charcoal, and paint are demonstrated in dozens of sequential exercises. Accompanying text clearly summarizes steps, while diagrams break down the underlying geometric elements. Occasional blank spaces on a few page spreads intended for readers to draw directly into the book will not detract value from loaned library books, as these negative spaces add considerable visual drama. VERDICT This book will inspire those of all artistic skill levels to create artwork based on these few, simple organic forms.
Jones, Andrea. The Garden Photography Workshop: Expert Tips and Techniques for Capturing the Essence of Your Garden. Timber. Feb. 2017. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9781604696691. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781604697865. ART INSTRUCTION
Jones, a professional photographer who specializes in gardens, here provides a bounty of advice and tips for capturing gardens. The first section imparts crucial information on techniques, equipment, software, workflows, and editing. The remaining bulk of the book presents ten photographic essays of gardens from around the author’s home country of Scotland, as well as Ireland, England, Spain, and the western United States. These profiles features many images for each featured garden, which include wider landscape views, close-ups that highlight individual plants, portraits of gardeners within their creations, and architectural images that display interaction between buildings and surrounding gardens. Images within the profiles are all accompanied by details explaining how they were made. VERDICT This guide holds excellent crossover potential for gardening enthusiasts and budding photographers of all skill levels.
NANETTE DONOHUE, Champaign P.L., IL
Mizutama. Hello Origami: 30 Fun & Easy Origami Designs for Secret Notes & Special Messages. Zakka Workshop. Jun. 2017. 80p. tr. from Japanese by Ai Jirka. illus. ISBN 9781940552316. pap. $12.99. CRAFTS
Many of us know a little bit of origami—generally from folding notes in middle school or making cootie-catchers on the playground. The designs in this collection build on these traditions, demonstrating the possibilities of folded paper for letters, tags, and decor. Artist Mizutama’s projects use both square and rectangular paper sheets, and the finished pieces are as much about the colorful paper and the embellishment as they are about the folding. The designs are basic, using simple folds, but they surprise and delight just as much as a more complex fold. VERDICT It’s rare to find a craft book that appeals to children, teens, and adults, but these fun, kawaii-style projects are ideal for crafters of all ages with an interest in cute, quirky paper crafting.
KAREN ELLIS, Taylor P.L., TX
Bainbridge, Max. Heirloom Wood: A Modern Guide to Carving Spoons, Bowls, Boards, and Other Homewares. Abrams. Mar. 2017. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781419724763. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781683350842. DIY
The old craft of hand carving is revisited in this stylish and attractive book, first published in the UK. Bainbridge, cofounder of sustainable craft business Forest + Found, displays a selected collection of hand-carved pieces, including spoons and utensils, a cutting and serving board, and a small bowl. Detailed instructions on tool use and finishing techniques are included. A great section on tool care completes the book. While some of the resources and woods are only available in England, the projects and instruction are excellent. Similar to Joshua Vogel’s The Artful Wooden Spoon, Bainbridge’s work provides excellent detail in illustrations and technique. VERDICT Highly recommended, and especially appealing to Millennials.
Holladay, Martin. Musings of an Energy Nerd: Toward an Energy-Efficient Home. Taunton. Mar. 2017. 272p. illus. index. ISBN 9781631862564. pap. $24.95. DIY
An energy-efficient house provides long-term savings and comfort. In his first book, Holladay, who writes for Fine Homebuilding magazine, offers many factors to consider when building a new home, from design basics to energy ratings. Construction standards are described, and materials such as windows and insulation are examined. However, despite its abundance of advice and philosophy, this book lacks practical instruction, making it great for research, but not for beginners. VERDICT For solid home improvement how-tos, see the Ultimate Guide to Home Repair and Improvement by the editors of Creative Homeowner.
NANETTE DONOHUE, Champaign P.L., IL
Breclaw, Emily. Adventures in Hexagons: 11 Quilts, 29 Blocks, Unlimited Possibilities. C&T. May 2017. 112p. illus. ISBN 9781617452826. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617452833. FIBER CRAFTS
Hexagons (and their component parts) are the focus of this first book from quilting blogger Breclaw, who uses a variety of cutting and piecing techniques in her colorful designs. Breclaw begins with step-by-step tutorials for English paper piecing and hand- and machine-sewing rotary-cut shapes. The majority of the quilt components are assembled, medallion-style, out of triangles, half-hexagons, and diamonds, which combined form intricate shapes in a kaleidoscopic style. While some of the patterns lend themselves to one technique or the other, most can be sewn using either method. VERDICT Though constructing these quilts takes a lot of time, they are much less difficult than they appear, and Breclaw’s thoughtful instruction and logical processes for assembly will guide both beginners and experienced quilters.
Friend, Amy. Improv Paper Piecing: A Modern Approach to Quilt Design. Lucky Spool. Feb. 2017. 144p. illus. ISBN 9781940655239. pap. $28.95. FIBER CRAFTS
Improvisational piecing, which is generally associated with patternless, freehand sewing, and paper piecing, which is often precise and symmetrical, seem to be polar opposites. Quilt designer Friend (Intentional Piecing) brings the two together in this collection of projects and tutorials inspired by traditional quilt blocks, geometric design, and everyday objects. Quilters can use the reproducible paper-piecing templates included in the appendix, or follow the “exercise” that appears at the beginning of each design to draft their own templates in keeping with the spirit of improv piecing. VERDICT These projects are appealing, and the peek inside Friend’s design process will resonate with creative quilters.
Healey, Elizabeth. Stitch, Fabric & Thread: An Inspirational Guide for Creative Stitchers. Search. Mar. 2017. 160p. illus. index. ISBN 9781782212850. pap. $24.95. FIBER CRAFTS
In this guide, crafter Healey explores embroidery supplies and techniques, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, including vintage textiles, street art, textile arts from around the world, nature, and modern art. A variety of stitches and fabrics are used, and her exploration of non-Western embroidery, such as Japanese boro textiles, Indian shisha, and South Asian kantha, will introduce these traditional techniques to a broader audience. The projects serve as an excellent jumping-off point for creative stitchers; Healey’s willingness to stitch with just about anything will inspire embroiderers to see the potential in everyday materials. VERDICT Embroiderers are a natural audience for this guide; however, crafters interested in crazy quilting will also find some interesting ideas.
Van De Car, Nikki . SereKNITy: Peaceful Projects To Soothe and Inspire. Running Pr. Apr. 2017. 120p. illus. photos by Steve Legato. index. ISBN 9780762461912. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780762461929. FIBER CRAFTS
Van De Car (What To Knit) encourages crafters to slow down and appreciate the process with a series of small- to medium-size projects that are straightforward enough to use for relaxation. Despite the insertion of the word knit into the title, the projects are evenly divided between knitting and crochet, and feature generic-yet-useful items such as fingerless gloves, hats, and small blankets. The “tips and meditations” interspersed throughout are directions for skills such as working in the round and casting on. Readers expecting guided meditation, as seen in other mindful-knitting volumes, may be disappointed. VERDICT Those looking for mindful crafting will find a superficial treatment of the topic here. Tara Jon Manning’s Mindful Knitting is still the gold standard.
Wang, Cindy. Literary Yarns: Crochet Projects Inspired by Classic Books. Quirk. May 2017. 112p. illus. ISBN 9781594749605. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781594749612. FIBER CRAFTS
Amigurumi—the Japanese art of crafting small figures—meets classic literature in this delightful collection from crochet designer Wang, who blogs as The Geeky Hooker. From American icons such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne, to tragic Shakespearean characters including Julius Caesar and Hamlet, there’s a nice representation of the literary canon, both human and, in the case of Moby Dick, the White Rabbit, and Napoleon the pig, animal. Each pattern is broken into logical, bite-size pieces, and key steps are shown in photographs. The designs are great on their own, but amigurumi fans will also appreciate Wang’s in-depth tutorials and tips on a variety of common techniques. VERDICT Amigurumi is ever popular among crocheters, and the combination of books and crochet has wide appeal.
gayle a. williamson, Fashion Inst. of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles
Lifford, Jennifer. The Home Decluttering Diet: Organize Your Way to a Clean and Lean House. Page Street. Feb. 2017. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9781624143267. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781624143403. INTERIOR DESIGN
Despite the popularity of Marie Kondo’s decluttering system, there are still those who never quite get the house organized or do, and then backslide into chaos. Lifford, creator of the lifestyle blog Clean & Scentsible, provides a detailed, step-by-step guide for an alternative strategy. She begins with a monthlong plan in which surface clutter is eliminated daily from sections of the home. Then she tackles each room of the house, including the outdoors and garage, with specific recommendations on what to keep, what to toss or donate, and how to organize what’s left. More than a dozen easy DIY projects for storage or display are presented. Lifford concludes with tips on how to maintain the order created. VERDICT With the concrete, comprehensive information for a clutter-free home, this just might be the “diet” that works.