Crafts & DIY Reviews | November 15, 2013


HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

Baker, Fez. More Supercute Chibis To Draw and Paint. Barron’s. 2013. 128p. illus. index. ISBN 9781438003269. pap. $21.99. ART INSTRUCTION

Baker, a founding member of the comic book studio Windflower Studio, sheds light on chibis, or the simple, cute, Japanese caricaturelike figures that depict humans, animals, robots, or fantasy creatures. This follow-up to Joanna Zhou’s Supercute Chibis To Draw and Paint: Giant-Sized Fun from a Micro-Sized World provides a refresher on drawing technique and the use of color, digital and traditional media, and offers up suggestions for how readers can present their artwork. Step-by-step drawings show the reader many new characters with which they can experiment. VERDICT Aspiring artists of all ages will have fun with these big-headed, adorable beings.

McNeill, Suzanne & Cindy Shepard. The Beauty of Zentangle. Design Originals: Fox Chapel. Nov. 2013. 184p. illus. index. ISBN 9781574217186. pap. $24.99. ART INSTRUCTION

Zentangle is a type of pattern-based black-and-white drawing that incorporates ritual and meditation. In this simple book, authors and artists McNeill (Joy of Zentangle; Zentangle Basics) and Shepard (Stash and Smash: Art Journal Ideas) provide inspiration in the form of hundreds of Zentangle drawings created by artists around the world as well as dozens of patterns that readers can borrow from. VERDICT While some readers will appreciate the highly methodical process of Zentangle drawing more than others, many will enjoy the possibilities for visual creativity and relaxation that this technique can foster.



DeCristoforo, Jennifer (text & illus.). Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts. Jennifer DeCristoforo. 2013. 136p. illus. ISBN 9780988464803. $26.99. CRAFTS

This collection of projects for children and teens was inspired by the author’s love of Chinese culture and her desire to keep her adopted daughter connected to her roots. The projects are grouped into themed sections, including traditional fine arts, festivals and holidays, performance and dance, Chinese folk toys and games, and simple Asian crafts, and each section begins with an introductory overview of the theme. Entries are assigned a skill level ranging from one (for children age three to six) to four (for tweens and teens). Most of the projects require basic arts and crafts supplies, plus some easily accessible craft materials such as calligraphy brushes, bamboo chopsticks or skewers, and rice fiber paper. The directions for each project are tailored toward the intended age group and are illustrated with line drawings and photographs. Facts about China and Chinese traditions are interspersed throughout. VERDICT Teachers, children’s librarians, parents, and child-care providers with an interest in Chinese-inspired crafts projects will find a wealth of information and ideas in this collection.

redstar Heid, Jenny & Aaron Nieradka. Mixed Media Masterpieces with Jenny & Aaron. Page Street. Nov. 2013. 176p. illus. ISBN 9781624140280. pap. $19.99. CRAFTS

Heid and Nieradka’s crafty partnership started almost 20 years ago, and their designs have been sold at major craft stores as well as at their own retail shop. Here, in their debut, a companion to their blog Everyday Is a Holiday, they focus on paper and mixed-media art. There’s a very particular aesthetic to these projects: think bright pastel colors, vintage photos, cheery kitsch, and a tasteful (but not insubstantial) amount of glitter. However, the ideas can be adapted to suit a variety of tastes. The directions are lavishly illustrated with step-by-step, full-color photographs, so even crafters who don’t know what a spouncer is or who have never frosted a Styrofoam cake with paint-tinted caulk can follow along. The best thing about this volume? The authors are obviously having fun with their art; this title is infused with a sense of joy. VERDICT Ideas and inspiration abound in this clever collection aimed at scrapbookers, jewelry makers, and mixed-media crafters.

LaFosse, Michael & Richard L. Alexander. LaFosse & Alexander’s Dollar Origami. Tuttle. 2013. 96p. illus. ISBN 9780804842747. spiral. $15.95 w/DVD. CRAFTS

LaFosse and Alexander (both, cofounders, Origamido Studio; Trash Origami: 25 Paper Folding Projects Reusing Everyday Materials) show readers ways to create a variety of folded objects from a dollar bill. The 20 projects range from a simple money pouch reminiscent of old-school rubber clamshell change holders to a complex and surprisingly detailed dragon. Knowledge of origami basics is assumed; however, the accompanying DVD fills in most gaps with its step-by-step video tutorials for each project. Short on cash? Several pages of perforated faux dollar bills are included so that folders can practice their technique. VERDICT Money folding is an easy way to get started with origami, and these projects, combined with the DVD’s excellent instruction, will appeal to beginners.

do it yourself


redstarBarker, Margaret A. & Elissa Wolfson. Audubon Birdhouse Book: Building, Placing and Maintaining Great Homes for Great Birds. Voyageur: Quayside. Nov. 2013. 160p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780760342206. pap. $24.99. DIY

North American native birds are picky homeowners. Barker (coauthor, The Feeder Watcher’s Guide to Bird Feeding) and freelance writer Wolfson present a useful guide perfect for backyard bird watchers. The book starts with historical content on invasive species, introduced predators, and habitat loss. In addition, readers will find territory maps and material on bird food sources and identification. These projects cover all skill levels and are enhanced by wonderful illustrations. Contributor Chris Willett, a carpenter, provides clear blueprints with exploded views and detailed cut lists. Like Birdhouses You Can Build in a Day, this informative volume tailors designs to specific species. However, what sets this work apart is the inclusion of research and scientific study results on what makes a home suitable for a particular type of bird. VERDICT The designs here are for enthusiasts who prefer to serve the needs of the birds rather than human aesthetics. This well-organized and meticulously researched book is a winner.

fiber crafts


Baby Knits from Around the World. Creative Pub. Nov. 2013. 144p. ed. by Kari Cornell. illus. index. ISBN 9781589237896. pap. $24.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Baby knits are the perfect way to try out new techniques or styles: they’re small and quick to knit, and they almost always look cute, even if crafters have made a few mistakes along the way. In this collection, freelance writer and editor Cornell (editor, For the Love of Knitting; Modern Knits) and her fellow designers explore knitting traditions from all over the world, through a variety of garments and accessories sized for babies and toddlers. Many of the projects feature stranded colorwork in folk motifs, including a Finnish-inspired newborn hat and mitt set, a traditional Fair Isle sweater, and a cap with an Andean bird motif. There’s also a lovely Spanish crib blanket, a lacy Peruvian chullo, and a traditional Aran sweater. Because knowledge of each method is assumed, no specialized directions are provided. VERDICT Adventurous beginners and intermediate knitters who want to explore folk traditions and colorwork on a small scale will enjoy this title.

Jashanmal, Buffi. Buffi’s Dress Design: Sew 30 Fun Styles. Storey. Jan. 2014. 208p. illus. ISBN 9781612120300. pap. $19.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Fashion designer Jashanmal has been designing for over ten years, but she made a name for herself as a contestant on the reality show Project Runway. In her first book, she shares tips and tricks for sewing dresses to fit and flatter women of all shapes and sizes. The key is taking precise body measurements and using those measurements to create a sloper, or a type of pattern template that can be used accurately to draft dress patterns. Each of the dress designs falls into one of three basic categories (shift, sheath, or princess-seam), and a number of variations are presented, allowing sewists to choose the style, length, and embellishment that work best for their body type and their personal preference. Jashanmal’s own style is flirty and feminine, and she injects her personality into the whole book—even the rundown of basic sewing supplies. VERDICT Patternmaking is an essential skill for sewists who want to make the step toward designing their own clothing, and Jashanmal’s advice and guidance is top-notch.

Mollie Makes Eds. Mollie Makes Crochet: 10+ Cute Projects for the Home Plus Handy Tips and Tricks. Interweave. 2013. 143p. illus. index. ISBN 9781620330951. $19.95. FIBER CRAFTS

This compendium of crochet projects from Molly Makes (a popular UK magazine, beloved for its contemporary twists on traditional crafts) features designs that fans have come to expect—bright, cheery riffs on granny squares, crocheted doilies, and amigurumi—with easy-to-follow directions and plenty of bright, well-styled photographs. Though the projects are the heart of the book, the how-to-crochet guide, which follows the projects, is surprisingly extensive and contains enough information to get beginners started. ­VERDICT Rather than pushing crochet into “modern” territory, this volume revels in fresh, reimagined retro styles. The result is a collection that will appeal as much to today’s hipster crafters as it will to those who have been hooking since the 1970s.

Playful Little Paper-Pieced Projects: 37 Graphic Designs & Tips from Top Modern Quilters. Stash: C&T. Dec. 2013. 160p. ed. by Tacha Bruecher. illus. ISBN 9781607058205. pap. $26.95 w/CD-ROM. FIBER CRAFTS

Bruecher helped make English paper piecing a go-to technique for modern quilters with 2012’s Hex-a-Go-Go, and in this new collection, she enlists a group of well-known, modern quilting bloggers and pattern designers to help her do the same for foundation paper piecing. The centerpiece of the book is a quilt featuring a paper-pieced block for each month of the year, such as an April umbrella, a vintage camping lantern for June, and a snowboarding rabbit for November. Each of the monthly blocks is also incorporated into a separate project, with additional options for using a favorite block. Readers will also find a number of paper-pieced household accessories (e.g., a sewing machine cover, an artist’s portfolio, and a roll-up backgammon board). Full instructions are provided, and printable foundations are included on the accompanying CD-ROM. VERDICT Foundation paper piecing has caught on with modern quilters in a big way, and the pictorial blocks in this collection will appeal to quilters who enjoy the work of Ayumi Takahashi (Patchwork Please) or other zakka-style sewists.

interior design

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

1000 Home Details: A Complete Book of Inspiring Ideas To Improve Home Decoration. Firefly. Nov. 2013. 295p. ed. by Francesc Zamora Mola. photos. ISBN 9781770852136. $29.95. INTERIOR DESIGN

The title pretty much says it all: this volume is filled with more than 1,000 gorgeous color photographs showing primarily European furniture, fixtures, and decorative accessories found in modern interiors. Though every room of the home is depicted—including bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, kids’ rooms, and gardens—the focus is on the individual items, with captions explaining how each piece enhances the look. A directory to manufacturers’ and retailers’ websites is also provided. VERDICT Those interested in modern furniture and decorative accessories will find plenty of inspiration here.