Monday, July 26, 2010

Printmaking 101

Simple Printmaking by Sarah Roberts
Morse-Brown Publishing, pub. 2010
ISBN: 9781907615009 

This second "how-to" book from How2Crafts in a fantastic series of books is a craft I've always admired. I absolutely love hand printed cards, stationery, and other paper products. I often purchase it for those "just in case" scenarios when only a hand printed card or note will do. I haven't yet been adventurous enough to try it myself because it seemed a bit daunting. However, after reading this step-by-step guide I'm feeling more confident.

This book is a wonderful resource for a beginner print maker because it introduces you to three different processes. Lino printing, potato printing, and stencil printing are all covered with great step-by-step instructions and photographs. The equipment needed is clearly laid out and everything from prep to clean up is covered!

I think the thing I like most about this book is the simple prints they use to demonstrate the processes and how professional it all looks in the end. You'll definitely be inspired to create your own designs after picking up this little piece of art. 

Overall, a valuable addition to any craft or hobby enthusiast's book shelf. An added bonus for those tech-savvy crafters - it is available to purchase as an ebook.

Don't forget to upload a photo of your creation to the How2Crafts website for a chance to get yourself in print when the next edition of the book is made! In addition, they are currently asking people to vote on the topic of their next book and I highly suggest you visit their site and add your two cents!

Skill Level: Beginner
Rating: ★★★★★

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lather Up!

Make Your Own Soap by Joy James
Morse-Brown Publishing, pub. 2010
ISBN: 9780955024177 

I've recently picked up some "how-to" books; so my next few reviews will be focused on the wonderful crafts they feature. I was extremely lucky to have two books sent to me from How2Crafts in the UK. They have a fantastic series of books on a great many crafts. In addition, they are currently asking people to vote on the topic of their next book and I highly suggest you visit their site and add your two cents!

Make Your Own Soap, is a topic I've wanted to know more about for some time.  I purchase handmade soaps and have always admired the craftsmanship of well made soap. Not only am I looking for quality ingredients and a soothing scent, I also want my soap to look like a bit of artistry went into it. This book will help you achieve all of these things.

This book is a wonderful resource for a beginner soap maker. It gives readers the steps to making soap using the "cold process" and walks you through it from the very beginning. Everything from equipment needed, an explanation of base oils, additives, fragrancing, and colouring to clean up, it is all covered!

The photographs are excellent illustrations of method and will assist you with the process. Supplies needed are easily identifiable and my favorite part is the "troubleshooting" section at the end. Does your batter look curdled? Have your additives sunk to the bottom? There's help with that.

Overall, a valuable addition to any craft or hobby enthusiast's book shelf. An added bonus for those tech-savvy crafters - it is available to purchase as an ebook.

Don't forget to upload a photo of your creation to the How2Crafts website for a chance to get yourself in print when the next edition of the book is made!

Skill Level : Beginner
Rating: ★★★★★

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crafty Fiction

Why not combine your love of crafts with your love of books?

I've only read a handful of crafty fiction and while they aren't winning any literary awards, they are easy and entertaining reads with familiar relatable content for us craft enthusiasts. Some of them even include recipes and patterns as an added bonus! If nothing else, these books make me want to run out and open my own yarn shop!

These are just a few suggestions if you're looking for something to read at the beach, on a plane, or at the park. I haven't read all of these so I won't rate them but I am listing books whose author or publisher I am familiar with. Consider it a reference if you're looking for something new.

Dropped Dead Stitch by Maggie Sefton
Prime Crime, pub. June 2010
ISBN: 9780425235195

From the Publisher:
"Seventh in the national bestselling Knitting mystery series. Spring has sprung for the knitters of Fort Connor, Colorado, and the House of Lambspun. But for one of Kelly Flynn’s pals, things are unraveling...After Kelly’s friend Jennifer is attacked by a stranger, their close-knit group of friends escapes to a ranch retreat in the mountains to stitch and talk. But they’re in for a shock when the owner of the ranch turns out to be Jennifer’s attacker—and he’s found dead a few days later." Prime Crime

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
Berkley Trade (Penguin), pub. 2008
ISBN: 9780425219096

From the Publisher:
"Juggling the demands of her yarn shop and single-handedly raising a teenage daughter has made Georgia Walker grateful for her Friday Night Knitting Club. Her friends are happy to escape their lives too, even for just a few hours. But when Georgia's ex suddenly reappears, demanding a role in their daughter's life, her whole world is shattered. Luckily, Georgia's friends are there, sharing their own tales of intimacy, heartbreak, and miracle making. And when the unthinkable happens, these women will discover that what they've created isn't just a knitting club: it's a sisterhood." Berkley Trade

The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee
Prime Crime, pub. August 2010 
ISBN: 9780451230966

From the Publisher:
"First in a new mystery series that will have readers stitching—and itching for more
When Marcy Singer opens an embroidery specialty shop in quaint Tallulah Falls, Oregon, she throws a soiree and a Stitch-In. Soon, Marcy’s sign-up sheet for embroidery classes fills up and everyone in town seems willing to raise a glass—or a needle—to support the newly-opened Seven Year Stitch.
Then Marcy finds the shop’s previous tenant dead in the storeroom, a message scratched with a tapestry needle on the wall beside him. Now Marcy’s shop has become a crime scene, and she’s the prime suspect. She’ll have to find the killer before someone puts a final stitch in her." Prime Crime

Diva's Don't Knit by Gil McNeil
Bloomsbury Publishing, pub. 2007
ISBN: 9780747581642

From the Publisher:
"Gil McNeil's hilarious and heartbreaking new novel is about family life, celebrity and knitting.

Jo Mackenzie needs a new start. Newly widowed with two young sons and a perilous bank balance, she has to leave London to take over her grandmother's wool shop. They arrive in the pouring rain and Broadgate Bay is the kind of Kentish seaside town where the tide went out a long time ago and the dusty old shop is full of peach four-ply. Marmalade mohair, an A-list actress moving into the local mansion and a 'Stitch and Bitch' group will help, but it's not going to be easy.
Very Large dogs, celebrity, small town intrigues, packed lunches and romance all loom large in Gil McNeil's funny and uplifting novel. Divas Don't Knit turns prejudices and assumptions upside down and tells it how it really is in the world of knit-one, purl-one. Knitting has never been so much fun." Bloomsbury Publishing

Waking Up in the Land of Glitter: a crafty chica novel by Kathy Cano-Murillo
Grand Central Publishing (Hachette Book Group), pub. 2010
ISBN: 9780446509244

From the Publisher:
"With glue guns, glitter, twigs, or yarn, the ordinary can become extraordinary . . . especially at La Pachanga. Owned by Estrella "Star" Esteban's family, the restaurant has a rep for two things: good food and great art. La Pachanga brings people together-even when it looks like they couldn't be further apart.

One ill-fated evening, Star jeopardizes her family's business, her relationship with her boyfriend, and her future career. To redeem herself, she agrees to participate in a national craft competition, teaming up with her best friend, Ofelia-a secretly troubled mother whose love for crafting borders on obsession-and local celebrity Chloe Chavez-a determined television personality with more than one skeleton in her professional closet. If these unlikely allies can set aside their differences, they'll find strength they never knew they had, and learn that friendship, like crafting, is truly an art form." Hachette Book Group 

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Most Fun You'll Have With a Dictionary

400 Knitting Stitches by Potter Craft
Potter Craft, pub. 2009
ISBN: 9780307462732

Every knitter; whether a newbie or an oldie, should have this book on their shelf. Before I picked it up I couldn't have even name 10 stitch patterns, so I was delighted to have in my hands 400 stitch patterns all in one book!

It is a bit difficult to review a dictionary of stitch patterns because the content is self explanatory, but I can comment on the wonderful layout and photos.

The book is divided into ten sections:
1. Knitting basics
2. Knit-purl stitches
3. Crossed stitches and cables
4. Slipped stitches
5. Lacy stitches
6. Double stitches
7. Twisted stitches
8. Cast-off stitches
9. Fancy stitches
10. Symbols

As you can see from the categories anyone of any skill level can pick up this book and start simple. I haven't yet braved cables, twisted or fancy stitches and I still find new stitches to try every time I flip through it. The photos of the stitches are so very helpful and the patterns are easy to follow with both text and symbol grids. 

Skill Level: Beginner - Advanced
Rating: ★★★★★

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Knit Me a Picture

Picture Perfect Knits by Laura Birek
Chronicle Books, pub. 2008
ISBN: 9780811860680

I remember the first time I tried was frustrating, confusing, and ended up in disaster! Needless to say, I wasn't following one of the patterns from this absolutely lovely book. Luckily, I was determined to figure out how to knit intricate pictures and tried again and again. I started with small patterns with little complexity and worked my way to where I am now; which is by no means advanced, but I'd say intermediate. I picked up this book a year and a half ago and with its help I've improved my intarsia knitting immensely.

One of the highlights of this book is the first section where intarsia is explained and techniques are laid out with helpful graphics and tips. This section also includes advice on choosing yarn and how to make your own patterns. Very helpful!

The patterns themselves are beautiful! The photos (by Sheri Giblin) are wonderful and display the projects well. There are also over 50 pages of stand alone patterns and a blank grid for you to photocopy and make your own patterns. Every time I open the book I see a new pattern I want to try!

Overall, a well thought out book with great contributors and projects. There is something for everyone!

Skill Level: Intermediate
Rating: ★★★★★

Friday, July 2, 2010

Doodling Isn't a Waste of Time!

Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray
Lark Books, pub. 2007
ISBN: 9781600590610

I can't say enough about this book! I purchased if for the library I was working at in early 2008 and we could barely keep it on the shelf! Sure, I had it checked out for an extended period of time, but it was definitely a book worth waiting for in the hold queue!

What I love about this book is its inspiring photos, the practical projects, and most of all that a beginner can pick it up and learn everything they need to know about embroidery to complete every project in the book. I've used some of the embroidery ideas myself on some Blythe clothes I made and loved the result. You can take any old piece of clothing and make it totally unique. After picking up this book you'll be trying your hand at doodle embroidery in no time!

You can purchase this wonderful book from Aimee Ray's Etsy Shop or visit her blog to see what else she's up to!

Skill Level: Beginner
Rating: ★★★★★

Get Your Own Odd-Bod

The Knitted Odd-bod Bunch by Donna Wilson
Cico Books, pub. 2009
ISBN: 9781906525422
This isn't a brand new book (published Feb 2009) but I absolutely love it. It's been on my bookshelf for a while and I pull it down every so often and wish I had time to make them all! I have made a few of the odd bod bunch as baby gifts for friends and I loved the end result.

The patterns are easy to follow and the photos are very inspiring! I bet you can't look through it and be able to resist knitting one up for yourself! I've looked through a lot of books on knit toys and I think this one is my favourite. No more boring teddy bears (no offense to the classics) two heads are better than one...right?

Check out Donna Wilson's blog for more inspiration!

Skill level: Intermediate / Advanced
Rating: ★★★★★