Crafts & DIY Reviews, June 15, 2012


Baldwin, Mariella. Botanical Painting. Crowood, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Jul. 2012. c.144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781847972774. pap. $29.95. ART INSTRUCTION

Botanical artists’ primary aim is to portray their subjects as realistically as possible, focusing on nuanced, accurate color representation and the structural details of plants. This book focuses on the painting process, with special attention paid to tools unique to botanical art, such as magnifying glasses, microscopes, and pruning shears. A section on plant handling details the best ways to cut plants and preserve flowers for extended study. The bulk of the book is organized according to plant parts: roots, leaves, flowers, and fruit. VERDICT Stands alone as a guide to the technique of botanical painting. Also complements Lizabeth Leech’s Botany for Artists (below) very well.

Leech, Lizabeth. Botany for Artists. Crowood, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Jul. 2012. c.224p. illus. index. ISBN 9781847972781. pap. $34.95. ART INSTRUCTION

This book reflects Leech’s dual loyalties to science and art; she worked as a botanist before becoming a botanical artist. Though this introduction to plant science is written primarily for artists, readers will not find discussion of specific techniques or materials here. Instead, they will find many close-up photos and diagrams of plants, explanations of specialized vocabulary and classification, comparison charts, and questionnaire forms that readers can use to focus and clarify their observation. VERDICT Aspiring botanical artists hoping to improve their plant renderings will learn much from this guide, as can any visually oriented person who is interested in plants.


Neuburger, Emily K. Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities To Spark Children’s Storytelling. Storey. Sept. 2012. c.144p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781612121482. $26.95. CRAFTS

Creative play is vital for children’s development, and teacher and craft blogger Neuburger focuses on a variety of crafts designed to inspire and encourage creative play in children from grade school through early adolescence. The craft projects are generally simple and low-cost and do not require specialized supplies, and age ranges are provided both for crafting and using the finished product. Neuburger supplies prompts and directions for each craft, as well as a variety of tips specifically for teachers using these projects in their classrooms. VERDICT Parents, teachers, and child-care providers will find plenty of inspiration in these projects, and children will enjoy using them in their creative pursuits.

Wallenfang, Patti. Go Crazy with Duct Tape. Leisure Arts. 2012. c.48p. photogs. ISBN 9781464704581. pap. $9.95. CRAFTS

Wallenfang’s collection, which showcases the various designs of Duck brand duct tape, demonstrates that duct tape isn’t just for quick household fixes. After a brief introduction to the basics of crafting with duct tape, Wallenfang presents an array of projects, ranging from jewelry to embellished cowboy boots to a duct-tape-covered recliner. As you might imagine, most of the projects involve neatly applying tape to an existing surface, often revitalizing something old and worn. All of the projects are easy and require no special skills or supplies, other than the duct tape. VERDICT These projects may not interest most adults, but teens and tweens will enjoy giving old objects new life. Some of the smaller projects would also make inexpensive, easy-to-clean-up library craft programs.


Shanks, Daimeon. Essential Bicycle Maintenance & Repair. Human Kinetics. Jun. 2012. c.208p. illus. ISBN 9781450407076. pap. $19.95. DIY

Bicycle use and bike commuting have become increasingly popular. Shanks, a professional mechanic and first-time author, brings his considerable knowledge to this manual. Instructions are very technical, with necessary close-up photos. Snippets on the history and development of bike elements are engrossing. The lack of an index and list of resources is unfortunate, though the table of contents is detailed. Despite these oversights, the instructions and text are excellent.VERDICT This in-depth manual may be too complicated for the casual enthusiast. More general instruction is provided in Chris Sidwells’s highly illustrated Bicycle Repair Manual (2008). However, if you serve a serious cycling population, this insightful guide is an excellent resource. Recommended.


Baxter, Mary Jane. Chic on a Shoestring: Simple to Sew Vintage-Style Accessories. Perigree: Penguin. 2012. c.160p. illus. index. ISBN 9780399159596. pap. $22.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Baxter, a UK-based milliner, is passionate about vintage style and high fashion. In this guide to vintage accessories, the focus is on repurposing articles from thrift stores, flea markets, and even readers’ own wardrobes using basic hand and machine sewing. With projects ranging from embellished shoes and handbags to brooches and hair accessories, the book has ample variety, and most of the projects are easy enough to complete in a day or, at the most, a weekend. VERDICT Like most collections of vintage-inspired accessories, this one is hit-and-miss, but the hits are quite nice and the recycled/ecofriendly approach is easy on frugal fashionistas’ pocketbooks.

Bellows, Nora J. Noni Flowers. Potter Craft: Crown Pub. Group. 2012. c.176p. illus. photogs. index. ISBN 9780307586711. pap. $24.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Bellows, an avid knitter and gardener, combines her two passions in this collection of patterns for intricate and detailed knitted flowers. The 40 flowers included are mainly favorite garden flowers, such as roses, tulips, crocuses, lilies, and daffodils, as well as a few exotics and wildflowers. Bellows uses the botanical terms when referring to the parts of each flower, so knitters will learn as they create. All of the specialized techniques used in these patterns are illustrated in the introduction, along with tips for making the finished objects look professional. As a bonus, six patterns for flower-inspired accessories are included.VERDICT Both beautiful and botanically accurate, Bellows’s designs would make lovely gifts, and the flowers would also be suitable for wedding bouquets or table arrangements.

Bruecher, Tacha. Hexa-Go-Go: English Paper Piecing. Stash: C&T. Jun. 2012. c.160p. illus. ISBN 9781607053576. pap. $23.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Fat Quarterly e-zine cofounder and quilt blogger Bruecher introduces contemporary quilters to the classic art of English paper piecing in this collection, which focuses on paper-pieced designs made with hexagons. The projects, which range from a beginner-friendly, seven-hexagon needle case to a king-sized bedspread that uses 1,666 pieced hexagons, implement fabric choices to make an old technique fresh and modern. Hexagon templates, as well as easy-to-follow basic directions for paper piecing, are included. VERDICT The modern quilt movement is at its best when it finds creative ways to make classic techniques fit in with modern tastes. Bruecher has done just that with this collection of patterns, and a new generation of quilters will benefit from her expertise.


Packham, Jo & others. Where Women Create: Book of Organization. WWC, dist. by Sterling. Jun. 2012. c.176p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781402791512. $24.95. INTERIOR DESIGN

The quarterly magazine Where Women Create explores the studio spaces of designers, artists, and crafters of both sexes (despite its title), providing looks into their creative environments. Packham ( Where Women Create: Book of Inspiration) focuses specifically on the ways more than 50 artisans organize their supplies. Close to 400 photographs depict the various storage methods and spaces‚ such as shelving, cabinets, containers, and entire rooms‚ favored by each craftsperson. A brief explanation is given for some of the entries. VERDICT Although the photographs reveal a bounty of storage ideas, Packham’s previous book and Cate Coulacos Prato’s Inside the Creative Studio would offer a more holistic approach to a successfully organized creative space.