Crafts & DIY Reviews | October 1, 2013


HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

Birch, Helen. Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art. Chronicle. Oct. 2013. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9781452119779. pap. $18.95. ART INSTRUCTION

Employing the formula of examples + explanations = inspiration, journalist and artist Birch presents the work of dozens of practicing contemporary artists, highlighting prominent techniques so that the reader can emulate and build upon them. Illustrations can be found on nearly every page, including many close-up views that break down for the reader what is happening in the more elaborate drawings. The book also contains category and visual indexes that will be helpful for those who prefer to skip around rather than read from start to finish. VERDICT There is something in this guide for advanced, intermediate, and beginning artists alike.

McNeill, Suzanne. Ideas & Inspirations for Art Journals & Sketchbooks. Fox Chapel. 2013. 64p. illus. ISBN 9781574213799. pap. $16.99. ART INSTRUCTION

This guide addresses the basic and finer points of keeping a visual diary, such as choice of subject, sketching from life, storytelling, composition, and materials. Crafter, designer, and publisher McNeill (Joy of Zentangle: Drawing Your Way to Increased Creativity, Focus, and Well-Being) walks the reader through the range of sketchbook and journal possibilities (including recording personal memories and travel experiences), providing encouragement along the way. VERDICT This highly accessible work will have broad crossover appeal among those interested in art making, hobbies, creative writing, and scrapbooking.



Bond, Chris. Precious Jewellery from Plastics: Methods and Techniques. A&C Black Visual Arts: Bloomsbury. 2013. 144p. photos. index. ISBN 9781408134450. pap. $27.95. CRAFTS

If you hear “plastic jewelry” and think “shrinky-dinks on a ball chain,” think again—this book is for jewelry artists with extensive jewelry-making experience and specialized tools, not for dabblers. Jeweler Bond’s exploration of the use of plastics in jewelry tackles everything from selecting and working with plastic to forming and assembling finished pieces. Technical information is at the heart of the book; there’s plenty of coverage on types of plastics and best practices for using them in jewelry projects. VERDICT The focus is on technique rather than projects (there are only two included). However, most jewelry makers shouldn’t have a problem using what they learn here to design their own works of art.

Lewis, Perri. Material World: The Modern Craft Bible. Virgin. Nov. 2013. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9780753540657. pap. $29.95. CRAFTS

One of the latest trends in the world of crafting is thinking about why we craft. Call it the curse of the craft blogger: the incessant need to ponder our motivation for embroidering a TARDIS on a tote bag. In this examination of contemporary craft, Lewis, who writes for the Daily Mail and the Guardian, explores 15 different crafts, from the popular (knitting, patchwork) to the more obscure (quilling, macramé, millinery). Each chapter includes an overview, interviews with well-known artists and crafters, and a selection of projects intended to whet adventurous novices’ appetites. There’s plenty of consideration of the role of crafts in today’s world, and Lewis and her contributors come to some fascinating conclusions about our crafty motivations. VERDICT The combination of artist interviews, ruminations on the reasons for the popularity of crafts, and projects with hipster appeal is a lot of fun, but there’s so much coverage of so many different techniques that the book becomes a dilettante’s guide to handicraft. Despite this flaw, readers will enjoy following Lewis down the rabbit hole of craft.

do it yourself


Cool Springs Eds. HomeSkills, Plumbing: Install & Repair Your Own Toilets, Faucets, Sinks, Tubs, Showers, Drains. Cool Springs: Quayside. 2013. 128p. illus. index.

ISBN 9781591865834. pap. $14.99. DIY

Aimed at the beginner, this manual promises to help homeowners avoid the costs of calling in specialists. The book starts off with a quick introduction to basic home plumbing systems before presenting a wide array of specialty tools and materials. Small projects are outlined to build familiarity with techniques involving pipes and waterlines but are insufficient to rework the plumbing system of an entire house. The final two-thirds of the volume cover a few kitchen- and bathroom-related plumbing repairs, although the repair and installation of a freezer ice maker makes for an unusual extra. VERDICT Many of the instructions have been extracted directly from The Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair, part of the Black & Decker repair series, but with less detail and fewer photos, resulting in a bad rerun. Instead, try Ultimate Guide: Plumbing, 3d ed., or just stick with The Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair. An additional purchase only.

Frye, Soleil Moon (text) & Meeno Peluce (photos). Let’s Get This Party Started! DIY Celebrations for You & Your Kids To Create Together. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Oct. 2013. 176p. illus. ISBN 9781617690341. pap. $22.50. DIY

Former child actor Frye (Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting and My Perfectly Imperfect Adventures in Between) presents ideas and inspiration for 21 generally and specifically themed children’s parties. While Frye doesn’t specify the age range for these parties, based on the photographs (provided by Frye’s half-brother, former child star Peluce), they appear to be for elementary school–age children. Some parties are geared toward boys and girls; others are aimed at just girls. Each selection includes some food or drink options, activities, and a few crafts. The projects and recipes lack detailed instruction, but most are simple. Some projects require several hours to set or dry, but not all the parties are that intensive. The author doesn’t discuss the cost of supplies or the availability of equipment or materials. Several of the ideas are quite charming, but others are more puzzling, such as the odd inclusion of mashed potatoes and fried chicken at a Christmas celebration. VERDICT Quality children’s party books are in high demand, so this may be a welcome resource for families with young children, despite some flaws. Recommended.

redstar King, Jim & Beth Oberholtzer. False Graining Techniques: How To Add the Rich Look of Wood to Your Next Project.Fox Chapel. Oct. 2013. 40p. illus. ISBN 9781565237971. pap. $11.99. DIY

In their first book, craftsman King and photographer Oberholtzer demonstrate how plain wood can be artfully transformed through the process of false graining. The authors present numerous possible tools—from corncobs to fingertips—that produce a variety of effects. Organization is clean, with outlines of supplies and tools provided. Instruction on techniques is accompanied by recommended practice projects to fine-tune skills with different tools. Large, clear photos illustrate each step as well as the final results of the completed projects, while a gallery of images at the end show other examples. The focus here is on surface technique, not wood construction, and this approach will make false graining accessible and doable. VERDICT King and Oberholtzer successfully walk the novice through the entire process, making stunning results attainable. This fantastic title on an underrepresented topic is a must for any woodworking collection; highly recommended.

fiber crafts


Diaz, Maria. Ultimate Cross Stitch Projects. Fox Chapel. 2013. 127p. photos. ISBN 9781574214444. pap. $19.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Diaz, a popular cross-stitch designer in her native England, makes her U.S. debut with this collection of artistic cross-stitch patterns. The themes she has chosen are typical of traditional cross-stitch: florals, pastoral scenes, baby projects, and Christian iconography. The compendium was originally published in the UK as a magazine, which means that each project is self-contained. Instead of introducing the basics and then presenting followed projects for the reader to try out, Diaz lists tips for fabric and floss preparation with each individual pattern that are specifically tailored to the needs of that project. The stitch charts for each project include both color and symbols, with a floss color key listing numbers for DMC, Anchor, and Madeira brands. ­VERDICT Book-length collections of cross-stitch patterns are still a rarity, even though hand embroidery is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Diaz’s intricate yet accessible designs will be in demand among stitchers who like traditional or realistic patterns.

Eichler-Messmer, Kim. Modern Color: An Illustrated Guide to Dyeing Fabric for Modern Quilts. Stash. Nov. 2013. 144p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781607056928. pap. $25.95. FIBER CRAFTS

One of the hallmarks of modern quilting is the bold, unexpected use of color, and even though there’s a veritable rainbow of colorful fabrics available for purchase, there’s something special about dyeing one’s own fabric. In this guide, textile artist Eichler-Messmer introduces quilters to the basics. The first section gives a step-by-step breakdown of the dyeing process, from setup to fabric preparation, followed by some tips for creating custom dye recipes. The majority of the book focuses on dyeing projects, with how-to’s for shibori dyeing and gradient dyeing, as well as further instruction on fundamentals. Readers don’t have to dye their own fabric to make the projects here, but it’s an effective way to personalize them. VERDICT There are plenty of titles on dyeing yarn but few that focus specifically on fabric. This useful overview of the essentials will appeal to quilters and sewists with an interest in creating their own hand-dyed fabric.

Mowat, Katie. Grannies, Inc. Guide to Knitting: Learn Tips and Techniques from the Best. Ebury. Nov. 2013. 191p. illus. index. ISBN 9780091943615. $22.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Mowat, whose knitwear company relies upon the skills of a team of “grannies” who produce custom knits made to order, collects the expertise of the knitters in her employ in this beginner’s guide to knitting. The focus is on basic to intermediate techniques, with ample coverage of cast-ons, basic stitch patterns, cabling, color work, and finishing. The approach is ideal for crafters who learn by reading detailed descriptions, as Mowat gives in-depth explanations of each technique, with line drawings provided. The instruction takes up the bulk of the book, with a number of beginner-level projects in the final third. Tips are interspersed throughout, breaking up the text and adding a bit of levity. ­VERDICT Mowat and grannies have produced a serviceable introduction to knitting that offers enough information to get beginners going.

Peck, Jessica. Felt Toys for Little Ones: Handmade Playsets To Spark Imaginative Play. Stash. Dec. 2013. 144p. illus. ISBN 9781607057673. pap. $25.95. w/CD. FIBER CRAFTS

Former interior designer Peck presents a lively collection of felt toy patterns that focus on imaginative play organized around themes such as an ice cream social, a baseball game, a grocery store, or a camping trip. Each topic contains several easy-to-sew toys featuring whimsical takes on real-life objects. Basic sewing skills and a small selection of sewing supplies are required, and all necessary materials and techniques are covered in a brief introduction. Photographs show children at play with the finished toys, and printable PDF patterns are included on a CD. VERDICT Sewists who enjoy making handmade toys for the ten-and-under crowd will gravitate toward this guide. For additional felt craft fun, see Jeanette Lim’s Big Little Felt Universe.

Schapper, Linda P. The Complete Book of Crochet Border Designs: Hundreds of Classic & Original Patterns. rev. ed. Lark: Sterling. 2013. 256p. illus. index. ISBN 9781454708100. pap. $17.95. FIBER CRAFTS

This revised and updated edition of crafter and author Schapper’s (The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs: 500 Classic & Original Patterns) 1987 stitch dictionary focuses on crocheted edgings and borders. A brief introduction summarizes the basic crochet stitches in the book, as well as the symbols used in the charted instructions. The borders are organized by stitch type and shape, allowing designers to select the border most appropriate for their needs. Each of the 342 borders in the collection includes both written and charted instructions, as well as a full-color, close-up photograph of a six-inch swatch crocheted in a neutral-colored yarn. VERDICT This well-organized stitch dictionary is ideal for crocheters looking for decorative edgings for garments, accessories, or afghans.

interior design

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

Buatta, Mario with Emily Evans Eerdmans. Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration. Rizzoli. Oct. 2013. 432p. photos. bibliog. ISBN 9780847840724. $75. INTERIOR DESIGN

Dubbed “the Prince of Chintz,” renowned American interior designer Buatta is known for his distinctive interpretation of the English country style, which involves saturating homes in bold colors and filling them with overstuffed furniture and an abundance of decorative accessories, as well as the copious use of chintz. Buatta shares personal reminiscences of his early life and career and includes many anecdotes of his dealings with other designers and clients. The majority of the book shows, through more than 400 color photographs, his most evocative interiors for well-heeled clients, primarily for residences located in New York City but also in wealthy enclaves such as Southampton, NY. Eerdmans’s conclusion fills in more of Buatta’s work, recounting clients, commissions, and successes. VERDICT This biography of an important American interior designer is recommended for those interested in late 20th- and early 21st-century interiors.

Cregan, Lisa. House Beautiful Color: The Perfect Shade for Every Room. Hearst: Sterling. Oct. 2013. 336p. photos. index. ISBN 9781588169792. $40. INTERIOR DESIGN

House Beautiful Colors for Your Home presented 300 colors—each with a color swatch, manufacturer, and name or number of the paint—that were designers’ favorites and provided a helpful guide to paint color for the home. Here, House Beautiful contributor Cregan (House Beautiful Blue) offers even more information about how interior designers who have been featured in House Beautiful tackle color, presenting more than 400 color photographs of professionally designed interiors and gardens. Cregan includes comparisons of how a particular color is used in contemporary vs. traditional styles and its use for walls and as an accent in various rooms of the home. There is also a section in which designers describe how they employed a specific hue as they decorated a room, along with examples of various color schemes. VERDICT Whereas Tricia Guild’s Tricia Guild Decorating with Color highlights her own use of color, this volume gives an abundance of examples from numerous designers offering a variety of ideas and practical advice to inspire readers to tackle their own residences.

CORRECTION The LJ Crafts & DIY review of Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Cabinets & Countertops (9/15/13) stated that the book was published by Quarry: Quayside. The book was published by Cool Springs: Quayside. We regret the error.