Crafts & DIY Reviews | January 2014


HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

van Vliet, Rolina. Abstracts: Techniques and Textures. Search. 2013. 160p. illus. ISBN 9781844489558. pap. $25.95. ART INSTRUCTION

abstracts013114This guide encourages readers to treat reality as merely a starting point for their creativity. Artist and teacher van Vliet (The Art of Abstract Painting) considers not just style or technique but rather a complete visual language involving method, skills, perceptions, expression, and originality. Fifty step-by-step exercises with hundreds of illustration of works in progress and completed nonrepresentational paintings are included. Chapters address techniques for drawing and water-based painting, ways to apply heavier paint, use of textures, and mixed media. VERDICT Advanced beginners and intermediate amateur artists interested in making the leap to abstract art should start here.



Descamps, Ghylenn. Origami & Other Paper Creations. Search. 2013. 159p. illus. ISBN 9781844489930. pap. $19.95. CRAFTS

Descamps, a designer for the French crafts magazine Marie Claire Idées, focuses on decorative and useful objects made using origami and paper craft. Crafters whose minds first go to paper cranes when they think of origami may be surprised by some of the household objects Descamps features here, such as the wall tidy stationery organizer or the small gift boxes, but there are also plenty of traditional origami pieces incorporated into larger projects, such as the mobile featuring origami birds. What’s missing is an explanation of origami basics—types of folds, how to read a folding diagram—making this book more appropriate for dabblers than for crafters who are serious about origami. VERDICT Descamps’s creations are pretty, and the directions for the simpler projects are easy to follow, but novices may find themselves lost without an overview of the essentials.

Doh, Jenny. Stylish Weddings: 50 Simple Ideas To Make from Top Designers. Lark: Sterling. Jan. 2014. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781454704126. pap. $19.95. CRAFTS

Doh (Craft-a-Doodle: 75 Creative Exercises from 18 Artists) enlists the help of six crafters or lifestyle bloggers, each with her own personal style, for this collection of easy wedding-themed crafts. Each of the experts focuses on a wedding theme (e.g., “Rustic and Elegant,” “Vintage Glam,” “French Countryside”) and provides tips, projects, and advice on everything from cutting costs to choosing flowers. Some of the topics seem interchangeable (there’s not much difference between the outdoorsy Farm Chicks and the Natural and Organic sections), and a few of the ideas are so precious that they’re downright off-the-wall, but crafty couples with a taste for quirky wedding decor will find some inspiration here. ­VERDICT If Pinterest is any indication, handmade wedding favors and decorations are popular. Purchase accordingly.

Irish, Lora S. Pyrography Basics. Fox Chapel. Jan. 2014. 31p. illus. ISBN 9781574215052. pap. $9.99. CRAFTS

pyrography013114Pyrography uses wood-burning tools (which resemble a calligrapher’s pen attached to a heat source) to burn designs onto wood or other natural surfaces. In this workbook-style guide, artist Irish provides an overview of some of the basics of pyrography, including variations in temperature (which introduces lighter and darker colors to the finished artwork), texture, and stroke. Each of the six exercises includes step-by-step instructions with photographs of most steps, and the result is a finished piece of art. Irish also explores the use of practice boards, which allow pyrographers to practice textures or designs prior to starting a project. ­VERDICT This is a great quick-start primer for aspiring pyrographers, but crafters looking for a more comprehensive work may prefer the author’s 2012 title The Art and Craft of Pyrography.

do it yourself


Jones, Derek. Woodworking from the Scrap Pile: 20 Projects To Make. Taunton. 2013. 176p. illus. index. ISBN 9781627100267. pap. $22.95. DIY

This book offers several smaller projects that take advantage of wood leftovers. Woodworker and author (French Polishing: Finishing and Restoring Using Traditional Techniques) Jones provides a mix of familiar and novel designs. From the necessary tools and equipment discussed, it is clear that this book is for the experienced woodworker with a fully equipped shop. Readers will also find instructions for a couple of jigs to complete some projects. While there are very strong illustrations and step-by-step directions here, Jones skimps on some parts, such as technique. Projects vary: standouts include a cookbook easel, a desk organizer, and a meat tenderizer, but a wooden desk lamp, sans electrical wiring, is an odd addition. VERDICT The mix of unique and pedestrian projects is elevated by the quality of illustrations and construction details. This volume assumes knowledge of method and implements, despite the author’s belief that those skills can be learned here. Though this work has some flaws, overall, it would certainly add variety to woodworking project collections. Recommended for seasoned woodworkers.

fiber crafts


Dick, Jenifer. The Modern Appliqué Workbook. Stash. 2013. 136p. illus. ISBN 9781607057635. pap. $24.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Quiltmaker and blogger Dick (Stories in Stitches) was drawn to the look of appliqué but found traditional techniques too fussy. After a demonstration at a quilt guild meeting, she found a solution: freezer-paper appliqué using invisible polyester thread to machine sew the pieces. In this guide, Dick explains her methods step-by-step, using a practice project for beginners to follow, describing each stage and including photographs to highlight important details. After giving readers enough information to master the basics, she moves on to more advanced strategies, followed by a variety of ideas incorporating machine appliqué. The projects are in a modern, minimalist style and focus on geometric shapes, but the lessons taught here are appropriate for traditional machine appliqué as well. VERDICT Like the author, many quilters may feel that appliqué is too difficult to attempt, but this technique is accessible to any quilters or sewists with basic patchwork skills.

Ho, Elean. Handmade Leather Bags & Accessories. Fox Chapel. 2013. 111p. illus. index. ISBN 9781574217162. pap. $19.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Ho, a Taiwan-based artisan, designs and creates handbags and accessories with a high-end look and a handmade price tag. The bags here come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from slouchy hobo bags to roomy totes to a classic school satchel, but all are made primarily from leather. In keeping with the style of the original title, which was first published in China, images and descriptions of the projects are presented in the first section of the book, followed by directions for each of the bags. Photographs of each design include both action shots and photos of the decorative detailing. Though readers will find pictures of some common leatherworking tools, basic tips aren’t discussed here. Leather isn’t as forgiving a material as fabric, so novices may want to refer to a leatherwork reference, such as Valerie Michael’s Leatherworking Handbook, before diving into these projects. VERDICT This is the first in Fox Chapel’s series of translated East Asian craft books, and while the projects are attractive, the lack of fundamental information is a letdown. Still, experienced leatherworkers (or adventurous beginners who are willing to go elsewhere for the essentials) can use Ho’s directions to fashion the handbag of their dreams.

Hubert, Margaret. Granny Square Flowers: 50 Botanical Crochet Motifs and 15 Original Projects. Creative Pub. 2013. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781589237803. spiral. $24.99. FIBER CRAFTS

grannysquareflowers013114Hubert (The Granny Square Book) returns with a second dose of granny squares in this colorful collection of crochet motifs inspired by nature. Many of the projects require intermediate to advanced crochet skills, and each design includes both written and charted directions as well as a color photograph of the finished square. An assortment of 15 projects incorporating the squares in the book completes the package. Some feature interesting and unexpected uses of the motifs, such as the tasseled ski hat (the squares make up the ear flaps) and the children’s blocks and coordinating hassock. VERDICT Granny squares are the building blocks of crochet, and this work contains a number of pretty designs that are ready to mix and match.

Interior design

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

Davies, Alice & Kathryn Tollervey. The Style of Coworking: Contemporary Shared Workspaces. Prestel. 2013. 159p. photos. ISBN 9783791348575. pap. $29.95. INTERIOR DESIGN

styleofcoworking013114An emerging trend in office design is the idea of coworking, or creating a communal space where individuals who would typically work from home can come together to work and share ideas in an informal setting. Former interior designer Davies and Tollervey, who has been involved with book and art production, take an international tour of 30 spaces with each of the founders or designers, describing the building, clientele, atmosphere, and locales. Although some of the spaces have traditional office elements, such as conference rooms, the 170-plus color photographs depict environments that have been created in former industrial buildings and that have a more informal feel (e.g., the former cod-drying warehouse of the HUB Bergen, MAKE Business Hub in Dubai). VERDICT Ideal for professional interior designers looking to create this kind of shared working environment.