How To Sketch, Build Miniature Gardens, Make Handbags, & More | Crafts & DIY Reviews

ART instruction

HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

Rani, Ruzaimi Mat & Ezihaslinda Ngah. Sketching Masterclass. Quarto. 2014. 226p. illus. ISBN 9781592539345. pap. $24.99. art instructionSketching Masterclass

This book employs the same minimal text and highly visual format as the other “Masterclass” works on drawing and on perspective. While still relying heavily upon techniques for the latter, this title covers a wider range of subjects than the volume on drawing, including the human figure and irregular shapes. A helpful introductory chapter discusses tools, materials, and basic mark-making techniques. ­Step-­by-step exercises often show multiple views of the same subject. VERDICT Beginning, intermediate, and experienced artists alike can benefit from the lessons in this guide.



Duchars, Sara & Sarah Marks. Boy Craft: Loads of Things To Make for and with Boys (and Girls). Frances Lincoln. 2014. 128p. illus. ISBN 9780711234895. pap. $19.95. crafts

Coauthors Duchars and Marks (cofounders, Buttonbag; ReCraft) are the moms of boys who enjoy crafting—and who aren’t interested in the ­princess-­and-glitter projects commonplace in most children’s books on the subject. Divided into six sections—stitch, paper, creepy, wood, woolly, and model—the book presents a variety of gender-neutral ideas, many using recycled or repurposed materials. Highlights include the Egyptian mummy model made out of a plastic soda bottle, the decorative “bug hotel” made out of cut bamboo canes, and folded-paper water bombs that can also be used as decorations. The directions are simple, and there’s plenty of pictures (including boys and girls playing with the finished designs). VERDICT Parents, teachers, and caregivers of middle-grade children who are looking for appealing craft projects will enjoy this creative collection.

Ganaden, Cindy Ann. Just Us Girls: 48 Creative Art & Craft Projects for Mothers & Daughters To Do Together. Quarry: Quarto. 2014. 144p. illus. ISBN 9781592538904. pap. $24.99. crafts

Just Us GirlsCorporate art director–turned–full-time blogger Ganaden is a lifelong crafter who shares her passion for handmade, ecofriendly ideas with her daughter. In this collection, she presents a variety of easy projects for moms to share with their children. The focus is on earth-friendly crafts, and natural and upcycled components are a major feature—think gathered and foraged pinecones, sticks, and rocks—and since these are children’s crafts, they’re generally quick and easy. Ganaden acknowledges girls’ wide-ranging tastes with arrangements that appeal to the feminine and frilly set (cute worry dolls and floral nature crowns) as well as more rough-and-tumble girls (a bow-and-arrow set, a nature scavenger hunt), along with crowd-pleasers like salt dough and dream catchers. A few of the crafts, such as the “peaceful mind globe,” a glitter-and-glycerine-filled snow globe that girls can shake as a stress reliever, seem to be tailored toward moms who want to raise their daughters’ self-esteem. VERDICT Moms looking for interesting projects to make with their grade-school daughters will enjoy this compendium of crafts to share.

Do It Yourself


redstarElzer-Peters, Katie. Miniature Gardens: Design & Create Miniature Fairy Gardens, Dish Gardens, Terrariums and More-Indoors and Out. Cool Springs: Quarto. 2014. 192p. bibliog. ISBN 9781591865759. pap. $22.99. diy

Miniature GardensMiniature is the next gardening movement. Tiny gardens, creative terrariums, and container planting are all covered in this fun title. Elzer-Peters, horticulturist and gardening author, provides a great introduction. Drawing on the author’s considerable expertise, the book covers design, plant selection, containers, themes and decorations, and plant care. Following these basics is coverage of 14 sample gardens, illustrating construction and tying all elements together. Also included is a list of resources for supplies. Illustrations are large and clear, with lots of useful step-by-step instructions for creation of the minigardens. ­VERDICT The strength of this work is the plant information and the skill of Elzer-Peters. The project garden samples are certainly doable, but designs like those in Janit Calvo’s Gardening in Miniature and Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow’s Tiny World Terrariums are more inspired and more fanciful. Still, one can’t have a garden of any sort without the foundation provided here. Highly recommended for adults and teens alike.

Fiber Crafts


Ellis, Cassandra. Cloth: 30+ Projects To Sew from Linen, Cotton, Silk, Wool, and Hide. STC Craft. 2014. 192p. illus. index. ISBN 9781617691096. $35. fiber crafts

Ellis is a fiberphile, and her first book is a celebration of cotton, wool, silk, hide, and linen. Each chapter is devoted to a fabric, and includes an overview of history, production, uses, and types, as well as a selection of projects designed to highlight the unique qualities and beauty of the material. Attractive home decor ideas, including upholstered chairs, pillows, and curtains, appear side-by-side with handbag and accessory patterns. The style is minimalist but not simple—the eye is drawn to details in the fabric or the design. The majority of the projects require significant sewing skills, and though some tips for working with each type of fabric are provided, experience is assumed. VERDICT This exploration of the history and beauty of fabric is a unique addition to sewing collections, and savvy sewists will enjoy the challenging proposals.

Johnson, W.J. Yarn Works: How To Spin, Dye, and Knit Your Own Yarn. Creative Publishing Int’l: Quarto. 2014. 192p. illus. index. ISBN 9781589237889. pap. $29.99. fiber crafts

Yarn WorksKnitters and crocheters are often drawn to handspinning as a way to further connect with the materials that they use. In this beginner’s guide, fiber arts instructor Johnson introduces the basics of fiber selection, spinning, dyeing, and knitting with hand-spun yarn. Each part of the process has its own dedicated chapter that addresses historical context, basic supplies or techniques, and “workshops” that delve more deeply into the hows and whys of the technique. The information in the fiber selection and preparation chapter is fairly standard, but specific chapters include a lot of useful information, particularly on using spinning wheels and employing natural or acid dyes. Johnson places a good deal of focus on the meditative nature of handspinning, which is ideal for knitters who use their craft as a way to relax. VERDICT This guide provides an excellent jumping-off point for those who are curious about handspinning and hand dyeing.

Mallalieu, Nicole. The Better Bag Maker: An Illustrated Handbook of Handbag Design. Stash: C&T. Apr. 2014. 192p. illus. ISBN 9781607058052. pap. $26.95. fiber crafts

Bags are a popular project for sewists of all levels—they’re a great way to showcase favorite fabrics, without all the fuss of garment fitting. The first third of Mallalieu’s book focuses on step-by-step tutorials for techniques specific to sewing bags, such as choosing interfacing, preparing and attaching pockets (including zippered pockets), and attaching hardware such as snaps, clasps, purse feet, and strap rings. These lessons are followed by a basic tote pattern with detailed instructions, placing the techniques within the context of an actual bag pattern and allowing novices to build confidence. The other ten designs feature a variety of styles, from chic overnight bags to a stylish satchel to a convertible backpack-tote, and all of the patterns expand on the skills and methods covered at the beginning of the book. Pattern sheets are included. VERDICT While these plans are useful, the technique tutorials are the highlight here—they contain information that can be applied to many bag patterns, not just the ones in this collection. Sewists of every ability level will appreciate having a wealth of bag-making information in a single volume.

This article was published in Library Journal's April 1, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.