Projects To Create Joy, Geek Knits, Freeform Wire Art Jewelry, plus Bohemian Homes | Crafts & DIY Reviews, June 1, 2015

Art Instruction

HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

Nelson, Mark Daniel. Learn To Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings: Pick Up the Skills, Put on the Paint, Hang Up Your Art. Quarry: Quarto. 2015. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781631590566. pap. $22.99. ART INSTRUCTION

fiftysmallpaintings6915Anyone who has ever found themselves intimidated by a full-sized canvas or at loss as to what to fill a large painting surface with will be relieved to encounter this guide by artist Nelson. Fifty short exercises walk the reader through creating tiny five-inch square paintings of lots of different subject matter using a wide range of techniques. The small format can foster experimentation and learning, while the medium of acrylics is more immediate and easy to use than oils or watercolors. Most of the projects will take an hour or less to execute, and by the end of the book, a handsome body of work will have been produced. After an introductory chapter on tools, materials, and basic techniques, subsequent chapters present exercises to familiarize the reader with acrylics, show how to represent space realistically, how to construct abstract compositions, and how to render form and surfaces. Each two-page project features a handy sidebar, which details the specific materials used, the exact shades included in the color palette, and notes other similar projects in the book. VERDICT There is something here for beginning and experienced artists alike.

Woolley, Peter. Hills & Mountains in Watercolour. Search. (What To Paint). 2015. 112p. illus. index. ISBN 9781782210894. pap. $21.95. ART INSTRUCTION

A keen hiker, Woolley (Drawing Towards Watercolour) shares here many tips and tricks for realizing the settings of his pastime, hills and mountains, in the medium of watercolor. Techniques detailed in the guide, such as transparent washes and counterchange, help sharpen one’s watercolor skills. Two dozen short designs are included that focus on Earth’s high places. As is customary for titles in this series, the projects consist of finished paintings, a specific color palette list for each, and schematic line drawings of each work, which readers can use as a starting point for their own projects by photocopying and tracing. They may practice their skills by reproducing the author’s paintings as faithfully as they please or altering the compositions and color palettes as creatively as they wish. VERDICT Beginning and intermediate artists are the best audience for this guide.



Cho, Joy. Oh Joy! 60 Ways To Create & Give Joy. William Morrow. 2015. 256p. illus. index. ISBN 9780062344489. $27.50; ebk. ISBN 9780062406767. CRAFTS

Lifestyle blogger Cho (Blog, Inc.) celebrates pattern, texture, and color in this collection of tips and projects intended to bring whimsy to everyday life. Cho gives a brief overview of her personal aesthetic in a series of photo spreads dedicated to color, pattern, and charm, followed by a number of projects ranging from cooking ideas to gifts and gift wrap to home decor. Some suggestions skew toward oddball territory, such as her “edible confetti” made out of salad greens and fruit skins cut with a hole punch, but several of the others are clever (if a bit cutesy) ways to add sparkle to even the most average day. Though the directions are bare bones, none of the projects are tremendously difficult, and few require specialized skills or supplies. VERDICT Like many lifestyle blogs, there’s a diversity of content that makes this book feel scattered—is it about interior decorating? Cooking? Crafting? Personal style? But Cho, who has been blogging since 2005, has enough of a following that her fans will be interested.

The Irish Countrywomen’s Association Book of Crafts: 40 Projects To Make at Home. Dufour. Jun. 2015. 192p. ed. by Irish Countrywomen’s Assn. illus. ISBN 9781781172346. $36. ebook available. CRAFTS

irishcountrywomen6915The Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) was founded in 1910 to help improve the lives of rural women in Ireland by providing instruction in a variety of homemaking-related skills, including cooking, sewing, and handicraft. The organization is still in existence today, and continues to offer guidance on a variety of topics, with a focus on maintaining traditional Irish culture. This collection, curated by ICA members, celebrates the work of the group by presenting projects using an array of techniques, including hand embroidery, crochet, knitting, patchwork, beadwork, and sewing. Some traditional Irish crafts, such as ­Carrickmacross lace and Irish crochet, are also included. Many of the projects have a timeless, vintage appeal, and the styling of the photographs, which feature props such as old spools of thread and antique sewing machines, adds to this effect. Knowledge of basic techniques is assumed—the directions are often minimal. VERDICT The assortment in this book will appeal to crafters who like to sample a taste of everything, and the beautiful handiwork of ICA members is inspiring.

Fiber Crafts


Joan of Dark (text) & Kyle Cassidy (photos). Geek Knits: Over 30 Projects for Fantasy Fanatics, Science Fiction Fiends, and Knitting Nerds. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2015. 176p. index. ISBN 9781250051387. pap. $21.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Geek culture, which encompasses several genres in a variety of media, used to be the province of, well, geeks. But geeks are fans, and they’ve been coming out en masse to support their pop-culture favorites. Toni Carr (Knits for Nerds; Knockdown Knits), who writes under the name Joan of Dark, was a born-and-raised geek whose parents introduced her to sf and Star Trek as a child. Her lifelong love of geek culture, combined with her passion for knitting, is celebrated in this collection of patterns. The emphasis is on pop-cultural geekery, and the book is divided into sections for sf, fantasy, and “everyday” (everything from books to gaming). The models are geek-culture icons, including authors George R.R. Martin, John Scalzi, and Neil Gaiman, as well as actors, comedians, and the robots from the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000. Skill wise, there’s plenty of variety, including a number of beginner-friendly patterns, and the projects range from a straightforward sweater inspired by the television show Firefly to more fanciful creations such as a Star Trek uniform for a cat and a Captain America–style sweater dress. VERDICT There’s a lot of crossover between geek culture/fandom and knitting, and interest in Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who shows no signs of waning, so this is likely to be a popular title.

Kingwell, Jen. Quilt Lovely: 15 Vibrant Projects Using Piecing and Appliqué. Fons & Porter. 2015. 128p. illus. index. ISBN 9781440240584. pap. $26.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Australian quilter Kingwell uses a mix of traditional techniques—including hand piecing and hand quilting—to create bright, scrappy quilts that resonate with contemporary quilters. In her first book, Kingwell presents 15 new projects, including quilts and pillows, in her signature style. At first glance, the finished quilts look delightfully random, but upon further inspection, there’s a method and organization that keeps the quilts visually pleasing. Kingwell’s advice on choosing fabric is common sense: select fabrics you like, because in the end, most colors work perfectly well together. The elements of many of the quilts are familiar—churn dash, pinwheel, and courthouse steps blocks all make an appearance—but her fabric and setting picks and construction techniques elevate these traditional elements into fresher territory. And there’s good news for quilters who are intimidated by the intricate piecing and appliqué that Kingwell’s patterns commonly require—there are a few quilts in this collection that feature simpler piecing, still in her signature style. An appendix provides an overview of the basics, including hand piecing and appliqué principles. VERDICT Kingwell is a familiar name for quilters, and her fans, many of whom are used to paying $25 for a single pattern, will love the variety in this collection.

Ringquist, Rebecca (text) & Johnny Miller (photos). Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshops: A Bend-the-Rules Primer. Melanie Falick: STC Craft. 2015. 160p. ISBN 9781617691416. $29.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Ringquist came to embroidery through fine art—it’s a skill she learned in a feminist art history class—and her take on the craft is that it’s not a pursuit of tidy perfection but a way to tell stories and to connect with our past. In her first book, Ringquist teaches basic hand and machine embroidery stitches and techniques, applying these skills to diverse projects that will appeal to the contemporary crafter. There aren’t any fussy alphabet samplers and there’s no focus on keeping the back of your work free of knots—rather, this is a celebration of the range of ways that embroidery can be used to embellish everything from paper to T-shirts to linens. A printed cloth sampler is included with the book; when it disappears (as it inevitably will), there’s a full-color photograph that can be transferred to fabric using the techniques provided in the book. VERDICT Ringquist is a skilled instructor with a great deal of experience. Crafters who are intimidated by embroidery will find her free-spirited approach refreshing.

Interior Design

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

Blakeney, Justina (text) & Dabito (photos). The New Bohemians: Cool & Collected Homes. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781617691515. $35. INTERIOR DESIGN

Design blogger Blakeney shares 20 interiors that define a style relying heavily on flea-market finds, as often revealed in country design but exuding a hippie vibe. The details that unite all the looks is the use of nature—succulents, driftwood, and the like—and touches of ethnic accessories, such as a Spanish shawl bedcover, Moroccan rugs, or kilim-covered pillows. With more than 350 color photographs, Blakeney presents the inhabitants’ design outlook (and keeping with the theme, their astrological sign and spirit flora or fauna), concluding with tips on how to achieve particular aspects of the style in these dwellings primarily located on the East and West Coasts of the United States. Twelve projects are provided with basic instructions that will require a bit of do-it-yourself know-how. Rounding out the information are lists of plants in the interiors and resources for finding one’s own vintage furnishings. VERDICT The youthful exuberance shown in these interiors will encourage amateurs to discover their own bohemian style.

additional crafts

Bird, Gayle. Freeform Wire Art Jewelry: Techniques for Designing With Wire, Beads and Gems. Fons & Porter. 2015. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781440241338. pap. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781440241390. CRAFTS

freeformwireart6915Author Bird aims to teach crafters how to create jewelry using a freeform style of wire manipulating techniques. The first section covers fundamentals by outlining required materials and tools and explaining color theory and design principles. The author also makes budget-friendly recommendations for purchasing wire. The second part demonstrates how to execute basic wire working skills, with emphasis on the author’s signature style of “organic” techniques. This freeform method looks like drawing with wire as curls, spirals, and loops create a graceful flowing effect. Wires are wrapped together, not soldered. The third section has 30 projects to make an assortment of earrings, rings, pendants, and necklaces. Each introduces specific skills and techniques that are repeated and expanded upon as designs progress to more complexity. Pieces may be plain wire, or incorporate beads and gemstones. The projects are clearly presented in a textbook-like, step-by-step format, with photos and accompanying text. VERDICT The amount and type of information provided here should enable readers to attain skills needed to assemble this eye-catching jewelry. Using the book, a wide range of hobbyists will be able to expand their artistic abilities and find inspiration to create and show off their designs.—Deborah A. Broocker, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Dunwoody

Chanin, Natalie. Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns: A Guide to Customizing a Hand-Stitched Alabama Chanin Wardrobe. Melanie Falick: STC Craft. 2015. 180p. photos. ISBN 9781617691362. $35 w/CD. FIBER CRAFTS

Chanin’s (Alabama Studio Style) latest focuses on helping sewists alter and customize her patterns for better fit or to make their dream garments. The author includes helpful information about how to measure one’s body accurately, how to adapt a commercial pattern to create Alabama Chanin–style garments, and how to find a bra that fits well, which will make home-sewn garments look and fit better. She includes directions for altering a garment’s waistline, using and moving darts, creating a fuller sweep in a skirt, raising or lowering a neckline, and changing the shape of the sleeves, among others. A chapter on technique and embellishment is clearly illustrated and will be useful to anyone interested in exploring Chanin’s style of embroidery or garment construction. The included CD contains all of the patterns from her earlier books as well as three new ones. Unfortunately, the files are only available as oversized PDFs that must be printed professionally on large-format printers. ­VERDICT The information contained here will be welcomed with open arms by Chanin’s many fans. Unfortunately, not being able to print the patterns at home or at the library will be an impediment to their use for many people.—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

This article was published in Library Journal's June 1, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Gerry Aubin says:

    Hi there,

    Thanks for the review on Freeform Wire Art Jewelry. I’ve been looking for a guide in order to start learning this method of making jewelry.

    I’m from the other school of wax carving and casting to manufacture diamond jewelry.

    That said, there are always times when knowing how to do this type of wire work would be beneficial.

    I’m checking this one out for sure, and thanks again!