Crafts & DIY Reviews | November 1, 2013


HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

McNaughton, Maureen. The Brushstroke Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Decorative Painting Brushstrokes. North Light. 2013. 143p. illus. index. ISBN 9781440323935. pap. $24.99. ART INSTRUCTION

This attractive manual explains more than 50 different and distinct brushstrokes. Art instructor, freelance writer, and author McNaughton (Beautiful Brushstrokes Step by Step) begins by providing short overviews of materials and tools, then clearly lays out the major types of brushstrokes for both round and flat brushes, offering many variations of each. The strokes are described methodically and sequentially, with arrows and diagrams to guide the reader. Sections on creating full-color borders, patterns, and complete compositions are also included. VERDICT Beginning and intermediate decorative artists will appreciate this compact volume.

Weightman, Stephanie. Painting Flowers on Cakes. Search. (Modern Cake Decorator). 2013. 80p. illus. index. ISBN 9781844489510. pap. $17.95. ART INSTRUCTION

Decorative painter Weightman (Decorative Painting; Stencilling on Cakes) here introduces readers to a unique technique for decorating cakes that she developed, which borrows heavily from acrylic painting and makes use of paintbrushes to apply edible food colors onto icing and other sugary surfaces. Readers need not have prior cake-decorating experience to try their hand at these projects; copious close-up photos detailing the process step-by-step will make this book accessible and easy to follow, even for beginners. ­VERDICT Good crossover potential among fans of art instruction, cooking, and crafts.



DK Eds. Handmade Gifts: More Than 70 Step-by-Step Ideas To Make and Create at Home. DK. 2013. 251p. illus. index. ISBN 9781465408402. $22. CRAFTS

Most crafters love giving gifts—after all, there’s only so much space in one’s home for handmade objects. This title offers ideas for small, customizable craft projects that make great presents. Very few require specialized supplies, and almost all are beginner friendly. The projects are divided into categories by type of gift rather than by technique, but an index provides an easy way for those seeking a specific method (paper craft, for example) to find what they are looking for. Each project includes step-by-step instructions, with color photographs illustrating each stage, and most items also list suggested variations, allowing crafters to create the perfect gift for everyone on their list. VERDICT Covering everything from soap making and candle making to hand sewing and crochet, this volume is a useful addition to general craft collections.

Ellenwood, Everett. Woodcarving: Techniques & Projects for the First-Time Carver. Fox Chapel. 2013. 135p. illus. ISBN 9781565238008. pap. $14.99. CRAFTS

Aimed at beginners, this collection from woodcarving instructor Ellenwood (The Complete Book of Woodcarving) introduces fundamental techniques by way of 11 progressively more difficult projects. The majority of the book is devoted to the basics, with a focus on wood selection, supplies, and a variety of methods ranging from cutting to finishing to keeping knives sharp. This volume starts off with straightforward projects, such as a boat carved out of soap that Ellenwood recommends as a good entry-level project for young people, and then moves on to classic wooden toys (a whistle, a musical frog) and traditional projects such as wooden plaques. Color photographs provide ample guidance, and the author’s love for the craft is apparent from his friendly yet authoritative tone. VERDICT This solid overview will give novices a chance to start simple before tackling more complicated carvings.

redstar Lock, Jane. The Art of Beadwork: Techniques and Inspirational Projects for Creating Exquisite Pieces. Running Pr. 2013. 160p. illus. index. ISBN 9780762450190. pap. $20. CRAFTS

Jewelry designer Lock offers readers an overview of bead-weaving techniques, with a focus on off-loom methods such as peyote stitch, right-angle weave, netting, and herringbone stitch. The introduction, which goes over tools, supplies, and basic skills, is beautifully presented and will be useful to both novices and experienced jewelry makers. The material is brief but informative; it’s enough to whet readers’ appetites and help them decide if they want to learn more. At least one project is included for each technique, and though these designs are intended for beginners, they have a very polished look. A short chapter discusses bead weaving with a loom. VERDICT Few jewelry-making books provide such comprehensive coverage; this title is like a buffet for jewelry makers. An excellent addition to beadwork collections.

do it yourself

KAREN ELLIS, Taylor P.L., TX Eds. Souped Up: Do-It-Yourself Projects To Make Anything Better. Skyhorse. 2013. 416p. ed. by Michael Huynh. illus. ISBN 9781620875629. pap. $16.95. DIY

Another extraction from DIY website, this quirky collection of projects is comprised of ideas for crazy food, décor, furnishings, science, toys, and more. The book makes up for its lack of an index with a detailed table of contents. Some of the projects are on the technical or electrical side, but there is plenty of variety. The chapter on food innovation features bacon Jello and liquor-infused Gummi bears. Readers will find a clever skateboard coffee table/lazy Susan in the section on woodworking, while the science-related projects boast a working solar death ray and magnetic Silly Putty. The bike modifications and accessories are not as exciting, and the chapter on toys includes the unfortunate use of a condom to fix a GI Joe action figure. VERDICT Instructions and picture quality are decidedly mixed. The better projects make use of technology or recycled/repurposed materials. The target audience for this compendium is college students or teens.

fiber crafts


redstar Budd, Ann. Scarf Style 2: Innovative to Traditional, 26 Fresh Designs To Knit. Interweave. (Scarf Style). 2013. 175p. illus. index. ISBN 9781596687813. pap. $24.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Scarves are a common first project for beginning knitters, but there’s much more to these accessories (and their close relatives, cowls and shawls) than row after row of garter stitch. In her latest collection, Budd (The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweater Patterns) recruits a number of prominent knitwear designers to provide their take on neckwear. Most of the projects feature intermediate-to-advanced techniques such as entrelac, stranded colorwork, brioche knitting, lace knitting, or cable knitting; standouts include Galina Khmeleva’s whisper-light Star Palatine lace shawl, Laura Nelkin’s geometric Duplex cowl, and Courtney Kelley’s Fair Isle–style Sylvie scarf. The title also contains a “design notebook.” VERDICT The variety of patterns in this collection gives knitters plenty of options from top-tier designers, and scarves are ever popular among knitters. Like others in this series, this book is a must for knitting collections.

Causee, Linda. T-Shirt Quilts. Leisure Arts. 2013. 64p. illus. index. ISBN 9781464712395. pap. $17.99. FIBER CRAFTS

T-shirt quilts are popular projects that provide a fun way to reuse these garments when they’re no longer wearable. Editor and author Causee’s collection includes patterns for seven quilt designs using T-shirts as the focal fabric, incorporating other fabrics as borders or as additional quilt blocks. The designs are simple enough for beginners to handle and allow plenty of room for customization with regard to size or layout. Because T-shirts are knit fabric, they require special handling in a quilt, especially when combined with woven quilters’ cotton. Most crafters will find this title helpful: the tips are handy, the directions are straightforward and no-frills, and any complex steps are illustrated with photographs or drawings. VERDICT There are surprisingly few books available on this subject, and though this volume is small, it contains all the information that novices will need to get started.

Handmade for Christmas: Easy Crafts and Creative Ideas for Sewing, Stitching, Papercraft, Knitting, and Crochet. Fox Chapel. 2013. 96p. illus. ISBN 9781574215083. pap. $14.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Christmas-themed crafts are popular both as gifts and as decorations. This title has a broad focus, with a few projects from several crafts: sewing, cross-stitch, paper craft, knitting, and crochet. The layout and content are reminiscent of a crafting magazine, with short blurbs promoting products or describing techniques, feature articles highlighting well-known crafters, and brief descriptions of each project, along with some cursory directions. A few of the ideas in the needle-arts section include more extensive instructions. Most of the projects have an obvious Christmas tie-in, but some are merely filler material. VERDICT This book provides plenty of inspiration but little in the way of instructions for crafters interested in re-creating the projects.

Sew Beautiful Eds. Sewing for a Royal Baby: 22 Heirloom Patterns for Your Little Prince or Princess. Sew Beautiful. 2013. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781878048813. pap. $28.95 w/CD-ROM. FIBER CRAFTS

Thanks to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (better known to tabloid readers as Will and Kate), royal baby mania is everywhere. This collection of sewing patterns features vintage-inspired garments and accessories for special occasions in children’s lives, such as christenings, formal parties, and weddings. The materials are luxe—lace, silk, and fine cotton—and the old-fashioned techniques (smocking, hand embroidery) add character and appeal. The main focus is on christening gear, including booties, bonnets, and gowns, but there are also formal outfits for boys and girls (a sailor suit–style onesie and a charming dress with a Peter Pan collar). Printable patterns are included on a CD-ROM; most of the designs are sized for infants and toddlers. VERDICT These aren’t clothes designed for your average playdate, but crafty parents seeking patterns for formal children’s wear will be enchanted by the genteel, traditional garments in this book.

interior design

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

Carlson, Julie with Remodelista Eds. Remodelista: A Model for the Considered Home. Artisan. Nov. 2013. 400p. photos. index. ISBN 9781579655365. $37.50. INTERIOR DESIGN

Carlson, founder and editor in chief of the interior design and home remodeling website ­, visits 12 homes that exemplify her signature style, which is light filled and uncluttered, containing a mix of modern furnishings and vintage finds. The book also takes a closer look at an additional nine kitchens and five bathrooms. These 26 residences—none of which have appeared on the website and are located primarily in California, New York, and London—are shown in close to 500 color photographs. The author provides simple design projects, storage ideas, and a list of 100 Remodelista-recommended everyday items such as lamps, dinnerware, glassware, cookware, and linens. A guide to remodeling offers practical information on handling budgets and contracts and straightforward advice from professionals, while a list of resources completes this comprehensive volume. ­VERDICT An excellent source of inspiration for those interested in renovating their house or just revamping a room.