Crafts & DIY Reviews | October 15, 2013


HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

Forman, Deborah. Paint Lab: 52 Exercises Inspired by Artists, Materials, Time, Place, and Method. Quarry: Quayside. (Art Labs). 2013. 136p. illus. ISBN 9781592537822. pap. $24.99. ART INSTRUCTION

In this latest title, artist and art instructor Forman offers readers 52 exercises designed to open up their painterly thinking and introduce them to a broader range of materials and techniques. Readers can explore painting by following step-by-step exercises in chapters on time, place, unusual materials, and color. Each lab is based upon a finished piece by either a working contemporary artist or by a 20th-century master such as Frida Kahlo, Paul Klee, or Helen Frankenthaler. Throughout, Forman emphasizes the value of play in creative endeavors. VERDICT Beginners and more experienced artists alike will benefit from this guide.

Sonheim, Steve with Carla Sonheim. Creative Photography Lab: 52 Fun Exercises for Developing Self-Expression with Your Camera. Quarry: Quayside. (Art Labs). 2013. 144p. illus. ISBN 9781592538324. pap. $24.99. ART INSTRUCTION

The 52 assignments here will nurture readers’ photography skills by acclimating them to photographic technology and by encouraging them to make this largely digital and mechanical medium more their own. Commercial photographer Steve Sonheim and artist, instructor, and author Carla Sonheim (Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises To Make Drawing Fun) believe in the significance of a photograph, even in this age of ubiquitous cameras. Sections on observation, light, storytelling, portraiture, and more will help readers realize photography’s creative potential. Assignments allow readers to use their choice of digital single-lens reflex, point-and-shoot, or smartphone cameras. VERDICT This highly accessible guidebook will have broad appeal.



Gilsdorf, Bob. Zany Wooden Toys Reloaded! More Wild Projects from the Toy Inventor’s Workshop. Fox Chapel. 2013. 111p. ISBN 9781565237308. pap. $12.99. CRAFTS

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but “fun” is also a valid reason to invent. In his latest collection, Gilsdorf (Zany Wooden Toys That Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly) presents nine new wooden-toy projects that will delight and entertain children and adults. Most of the projects combine wooden components with basic mechanical ones, turning the everyday into something whimsical (e.g., transforming a crayon holder into a mechanized crayon dispenser powered by a lever system). Other highlights include a modern, homemade take on the classic Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, a foot-powered “pirate coin maker,” and a desktop flickerer that would be a hit at most offices. Children are bound to be intrigued by the process of inventing and building toys, so Gilsdorf provides tips for getting young people involved. VERDICT Gilsdorf’s projects have built-in appeal for woodworkers who enjoy making toys for the children in their lives, but adults will also appreciate these lighthearted creations.

Wick, Kristal. Metal Clay 101 for Beaders. Lark: Sterling. (Jewelry & Beading). Oct. 2013. 128p. illus. index. ISBN 9781454707592. pap. $24.95. CRAFTS

Metal clay provides an easy way for amateur jewelry makers to create metal pieces without investing in expensive metalsmithing equipment. In this basics-and-beyond guide, Wick (Foxy Epoxy: 44 Great Epoxy Clay Projects with Serious Bling) introduces novices to the world of metal clay, with an emphasis on metal clay–based components used in beading or wirework. After offering an overview of the specialized tools and techniques involved, she presents a variety of projects that incorporate pieces made from metal clay. The directions for the bead and wirework components of each item highlight the metal clay pieces, so some knowledge of basic beading and wirework technique is assumed. VERDICT Wick’s focus is as much on building beginners’ confidence in metal clay technique as it is on the projects; she makes the material accessible to jewelry makers who want to try out a new medium without a huge investment.

Zamrzla, Erin. Handmade Books for Everyday Adventures: 20 Bookbinding Projects for Explorers, Travelers, and Nature Lovers. Roost. 2013. 195p. illus. ISBN 9781611800081. $26.95. CRAFTS

Zamrzla (At Home with Handmade Books) specializes in creating unique hand-bound books through Japanese binding techniques, and this collection of projects made from repurposed or recycled materials highlights these sturdy hand-sewn bindings. This title emphasizes the use of repurposed, and sometimes unexpected, materials, from different-size scraps of paper bound together to make items such as a magnetic notepad or a pocket-size notebook with baseball cards, bicycle inner tubes, or boarding passes as the cover. Each of the 20 projects includes step-by-step directions for assembly, and a lengthy appendix covers the various binding techniques. Zamrzla encourages crafters to remix the projects as needed and to select the method that they deem best for their needs. VERDICT The lovely presentation will attract those interested in bookmaking, and the detailed yet accessible instructions will help beginners get off to a good start with this fascinating craft.

do it yourself


starred review star Kelsey, John. Woodworking: Techniques & Projects for the First-Time Woodworker. rev. ed. Fox Chapel. Oct. 2013. 112p. illus. ISBN 9781565238015. pap. $14.95. DIY

You’ve never touched a hammer and don’t know how to cut wood? Author and woodworking expert Kelsey (Practical Projects for the Yard and Garden: Attractive 2×4 Woodworking Projects Anyone Can Build) fills an essential need in every woodworking collection: bare-bones woodworking introduction. Aimed at nine-year-olds through adults, this beautifully arranged title starts logically with wood selection and tool overviews and contains simple skill-building tasks that will develop DIYers’ confidence and help them to learn technique. The quality of instruction is high, with large color photos showing each step. Included are 20 easy projects, from wooden toys to a butterfly house and shelving. ­VERDICT Though similar in coverage to Craig and Barbara Robertson’s The Kids’ Building Workshop: 15 Woodworking Projects for Kids and Parents To Build Together, Kelsey’s book can comfortably sit with either adult or children’s collections. This is an important beginning woodworking title; however, for those who already have the 2008 edition, this revision is not significant enough to merit replacement.

Turner, Robert. Flint Knapping: A Guide to Making Your Own Stone Age Toolkit. History Pr. Oct. 2013. 168p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780752488745. pap. $24.95. DIY

Flint knapping is the process of shaping stone by hand into an edged tool, such as an Indian arrowhead or a flint blade. Turner, flint knapping expert and instructor at Sussex University in England, introduces the creation and history of these prehistoric tools. This British import shows some general knapping techniques, but the black-and-white line drawings are small and pixelated. The organization is not linear and meanders between history and instruction. While there is a small gallery of color photos, there are none where it really matters, particularly for stone and material identification. VERDICT There are no step-by-step or detailed illustrations to assist the beginner, and the focus on history crowds out instruction. Sadly, Turner’s book does not live up to its promise. For a better selection, try Monte Burch’s Making Native American Hunting, Fighting, and Survival Tools.

fiber crafts


Brown, Nancy. The Crocheter’s Companion. rev. ed. Interweave. (Companion). 2013. 131p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781596688292. spiral. $19.95. FIBER CRAFTS

This updated edition of crocheter Brown’s beginner-friendly guide takes a basics-and-beyond approach, starting with the bare essentials (choice of hook and yarn, how to determine gauge, and how to read instructions), followed by a step-by-step guide to crochet stitches and techniques. The presentation is straightforward, with illustrated directions and an uncluttered layout. Like others in this popular series, this title serves as a quick reference, featuring basic information about supplies, stitches, and techniques. Its portable size makes it handy for travel, and the lay-flat spiral binding allows crocheters to keep the book open easily while following directions. VERDICT This excellent reference to crochet technique contains enough material to satisfy crocheters who need a quick overview of a specific topic.

Cameron-Dick, Dawn. Quilter’s Handy Guide to Supplies & More. C&T. Nov. 2013. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781607057697. $19.95. FIBER CRAFTS

In every craft, project books have the most appeal, but references provide a different level of information with more depth. In this pocket-size guide, quilter and teacher Cameron-Dick (Invisible Machine Appliqué) explores the basic supplies that appear in most quilters’ stashes, going into more detail than most how-to books. Each section focuses on a different supply or notion—thread, sewing machine, batting—and explores that topic thoroughly, guiding readers to a deeper understanding of the various components that make up a quilt. Though the organization is straightforward and the book is surprisingly readable for a reference work, the lack of an index is disappointing. VERDICT Though there’s material here that all quilters will appreciate, beginners are likely to benefit most from this volume.

Chapin, Kari & Kerri Wessel. Feltlicious: Needle-Felted Treats To Make and Give. Sixth & Spring. Oct. 2013. 144p. photos. index. ISBN 9781936096640. pap. $17.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Needle felting is an easy craft to pick up; crafters merely need a few colors of wool roving, a felting needle, and an appropriate working surface so they don’t stab themselves or their furniture. In this quirky collection, author Chapin (The Handmade Marketplace: How To Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and On-Line) and needle felter Wessel tackle needle-felted food. Most of the projects are small-scale and decorative, and Wessel’s style is photorealistic, so readers can see the shine on the apple or the shimmer of cream in the cup of coffee. As the authors demonstrate, the projects are made from a few basic shapes, and the fun is in the detail, which is lovingly and thoroughly described. Sure, it’s all adorable, but what would most people do with miniature needle-felted food? Fortunately, the authors answer that question with a selection of suggested projects that demonstrate how to transform these felted creations into pendants, pins, headbands, and even a paperweight. VERDICT These charming projects fit in with the trend for small, cute accessories, and the theme will be a welcome break for those who are tired of the same old felted animals.

Knight, Choly. Sew Me! Sewing Basics. Fox Chapel. Nov. 2013. 143p. illus. index. ISBN 9781574214239. pap. $19.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Veteran author Knight (Sew Kawaii! 22 Simple Sewing Projects for Cool Kids of All Ages) takes beginner sewists under her wing with this informative collection of projects aimed at teens and young adults. The first third of the book focuses on the basics, with topics ranging from choosing the right machine to color theory to types of fabric and their uses, and has enough straightforward content to help new sewists confidently choose notions and material for their first projects. The rest of the book consists of beginner-friendly ideas with a youthful slant, including simple fabric flowers, embellished hand towels, a mobile phone case, and a small zippered pouch. Each project has step-by-step directions with photographs of each stage, as well as tips for working with any new notions, such as interfacing or zippers. VERDICT Though this guide is not as thorough as Deborah Moebes’s excellent Stitch by Stitch: Learning To Sew, One Project at a Time, young novices will find these projects very appealing.

Murphy, Marilyn. Woven To Wear: 17 Thoughtful Designs with Simple Shapes. Interweave. 2013. 143p. illus. index. ISBN 9781596686519. pap. $26.95. FIBER CRAFTS

There are plenty of how-to books for weavers, but in this collection Murphy (founder, Textile Arts Centre; The Weaver’s Companion) combines weaving instruction with patterns for garments and accessories made with handwoven cloth. Designed to take advantage of the unique characteristics of such material, the projects tend toward soft, drapey shawls, ruanas, and tunics. Each project contains draft diagrams, yarn information, and design notes, as well as directions. Beginners (or experienced weavers who could use a refresher) will appreciate the thorough introduction to weaving tools and technique. Brief profiles of prominent weavers and designers are included, along with inspirational photographs of their work. VERDICT Handweaving is poised for a comeback, and this title will appeal to those seeking patterns that don’t look like relics from the 1970s.

Schreier, Iris. Iris Schreier’s Reversible Knits: Creative Techniques for Knitting Both Sides Right. Lark: Sterling. 2013. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781454708421. pap. $14.95. FIBER CRAFTS

“Reversible knitting” sounds a little intimidating, but at its most basic it’s garter stitch, in which each row is knitted, or a simple ribbed pattern, where a predictable knit-purl pattern is offset but equal on both sides. At its most complex, reversible knitting includes advanced techniques such as double knitting or cablework on both sides of the item. Schreier (Lacy Little Knits: Clingy, Soft, and a Little Risqué) explores the possibilities of reversible knitwear and accessories in this collection of contemporary patterns. Many of the projects are suitable for beginners, and most are small and quick to make, allowing knitters new to reversible knitting the opportunity to experiment with new methods on a small scale. Schreier’s yarn choices add to the interest of many of the projects and can be unexpected, as is the case with the cabled collar knit with superfine mohair. ­VERDICT There’s enough here to get novices started with any of the reversible knitting techniques, but those who get hooked on double-knitting should look for Alasdair Post-Quinn’s Extreme Double Knitting: New Adventures in Reversible Colorwork, which is a more thorough guide.

interior design

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

Grant, Jason (text) & James Greer (photos). A Place Called Home: Creating Beautiful Spaces To Call Your Own. Rizzoli. Oct. 2013. 256p. photos. ISBN 9781742704999. $39.95. INTERIOR DESIGN

Sydney-based photo stylist Grant’s work requires him to arrange interiors for photo shoots appearing in such magazines as House and Garden, Real Living, and Elle Decoration UK. Here, he shares his philosophy for a simple style filled with flea market finds. A minimum of text is accompanied by more than 300 photographs depicting beach-inspired, light-filled interiors. Grant counsels homeowners to look around the environment for inspiration, be unafraid to use color, and style a home to reflect one’s personality, and he shows examples of kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, baths, and gardens designed by homeowners who have followed his advice. A directory of resources rounds out the book. VERDICT This title will inspire those interested in a casual residential style.