Crafts & DIY reviews, June 1, 2012


Campanario, Gabriel. The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing on Location Around the World. Quarry: Quayside. 2012. 320p. illus. ISBN 9781592537259. pap. $26.99. ART INSTRUCTION

Campanario founded the nonprofit organization Urban Sketchers, and this book showcases the work of over 100 artists worldwide who draw scenes from the cities where they live and travel, posting them at The concept caught on fast, and new groups are forming around the world, connecting with each other online. Here, Campanario offers guidance on tools, techniques, the urban environment, and drawing styles, but the main strength of this book is the 500-plus full-color examples of successful sketches drawn in metropolises and towns all over the globe. VERDICT Part travel book, part art instruction, this is a great guide to look at before (or instead of) your next vacation.

Lardner, Joel & Paul Roberts. The Digital Art Technique Manual for Illustrators and Artists: The Essential Guide to Creating Digital Illustration and Artworks Using Photoshop, Illustrator, and Other Software. Barron’s. 2012. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9780764147906. pap. $29.99. ART INSTRUCTION

In this comprehensive guide, Lardner and Roberts, senior lecturers at Arts University College at Bournemouth (UK), survey the current range of digital illustration applications and techniques. While Photoshop and Illustrator are discussed in considerable depth, the manual does not ignore traditional media, offering many possibilities for incorporating drawing and painting into digital processes. A variety of projects encourage readers to experiment with new digital tools, and a short section on professional practice describes what it takes to earn a living as an illustrator. VERDICT Best for intermediate and experienced artists who would like to become more comfortable using computers in the creative sphere.


Wilson, Suzann Sladcik. Simple Beginnings: Beading; A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating Your Own Custom Jewelry. Design Originals. 2012. 96p. illus. index. ISBN 9781574214154. pap. $14.99. CRAFTS

Bead store owner and jewelry-making teacher Wilson introduces the fundamentals of creating beaded jewelry in this slim yet information-filled volume. She focuses on familiarizing novices with the tools and equipment used in jewelry making, then follows up with simple projects that can be made with basic equipment and supplies available at most craft stores. VERDICT Experienced beaders may not learn anything new here, but beginners will find a solid introduction as well as straightforward, confidence-building projects.



Landscaping: The DIY Guide to Planning, Planting, and Building a Better Yard. Skills Inst. Pr., dist. by Fox Chapel. (Homeowner Survival Guide). 2012. 288p. illus. index. ISBN 9781565236998. pap. $24.95. DIY

This landscaping guide covers too much territory in a cursory fashion‚ from landscape design to patios to plant lists and more. Topics range from planning and prep to features like walls and patios. The few glamour shots and drawn illustrations of project details are insufficient, the lists of tools incomplete, and the planting charts tiny and woefully inadequate. VERDICT Instead of this guide, which tries to address too many subjects in too little space, invest in books specifically on garden planning, such as DK’s Garden Design; inspirational books like Taunton’s New Front Yard Idea Book; and plant guides specific to your region, e.g., Western Home Landscaping.

Meisel, Paul. Bird-Friendly Nest Boxes & Feeders: 12 Easy-To-Build Designs That Attract Birds to Your Yard. Fox Chapel. 2012. 112p. illus. index. ISBN 9781565236929. pap. $14.95. DIY

Invite feathered visitors to your yard with these simple projects. Meisel (Wild & Wacky Birdhouses and Feeders) here offers a range of unfussy birdhouses and feeders. Each project is well organized, including lists of materials, templates with dimensions, and instructions. Knowledge of woodworking is assumed, though Meisel provides lots of useful information about materials and the birds themselves. VERDICT This slim volume delivers, with great dimensional charts for attracting specific bird species. While more bare-bones than fanciful birdhouse books like Richard T. Banks’s Designer Birdhouses, this is a solid addition.



starred review starBestor, Leslie Ann. Cast On, Bind Off: 54 Step-by-Step Methods. Storey. Jun. 2012. c.216p. illus. index. ISBN 9781603427241. pap. $16.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Designer and knitting teacher Bestor covers a wide variety of ways to start and stop your knitting projects, from the tried-and-true to new favorites such as Judy’s Magic Cast-On and Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, along with specialty cast-ons and bind-offs designed for lace and color work. Her collection is comprehensive and well organized, and the directions are easy to follow. VERDICT In the era of YouTube, how useful is a print guide to knitting cast-ons and bind-offs? Very, especially if you’re designing your own knits, looking for alternate cast-ons or bind-offs to change an existing pattern, or trying to choose among a variety of options in a pattern.

Shaughnessy, Katherine. The New Crewel: The Motif Collection. Lark: Sterling. Jun. 2012. 112p. illus. index. ISBN 9781600597954. pap. $16.95 with CD. FIBER CRAFTS

Shaughnessy’s 2005 book of the same name brought crewel embroidery into the 21st century, and this collection of modern crewelwork motifs should win over younger crafters looking to explore new techniques. The contemporary-retro aesthetic here suggests a cross between midcentury modern and Spirograph, with a touch of the natural world thrown in for variety. A guide to basic stitches and materials is provided, as are a number of easy projects featuring crewel embellishments. VERDICT Shaughnessy’s sequel is as good as the original, and the included CD contains printable and resizable versions of all the motifs, which will allow stitchers to combine and remix them.

starred review starWe Love Color: 16 Iconic Quilt Designers Create with Kona Solids. Stash: C&T. Jun. 2012. c.148p. ed. by Susanne Woods. illus. ISBN 9781607055440. pap. $23.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Modern quilting is as much a marketing buzzword as it is a real movement in fiber craft. It’s strange, then, that one of the best collections of modern quilt patterns isn’t touted as a modern quilting book. The designs range from striking minimalist color studies (Cherri House’s Centered) to cheery riffs on classic quilt blocks (Rita Hodge’s Lady of the Lake) to explorations of geometry (Malka Dubrawsky’s Sweet as Pi Baby Quilt; Emily Cier’s Lupine). Broken down into pieces, none of the quilts is as complex as it first appears. VERDICT The variety and versatility of the designs, combined with excellent instructions, make this a must-have for quilting collections.


GAYLE A. WILLIAMSON, Fashion Inst. of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles

Conran, Terence. Eco House Book. Conran: Octopus, dist. by Hachette. Jul. 2012. c.272p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781840916027. pap. $24.99. INTERIOR DESIGN

This reprint of English designer, restaurateur, and retailer Conran’s 2009 book offers a detailed look at residential green design. He delineates the various eco-friendly considerations for energy (including heating and cooling), lighting, water, windows, floors, walls, furniture, landscaping, and waste reduction. Conran (The Ultimate House Book) then discusses the application of these design choices to homes, whether one is remodeling, adding on to an existing structure, or building anew. Studies of 17 homes located in Europe, the United States, and Australia are accompanied by color photographs, floor plans, and elevations and include lists of materials to show how green design has been applied to actual homes. VERDICT Given the comprehensive information and the continued interest in green design, this book will be useful to professionals and amateurs alike.