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The Gift Wrapping Book: Over 150 Ideas for All Occasions, by Caroline Birkett

15 Nov
Four of Five stars

Four of Five stars

This is a great book for non-creative people like me, and also for more creative people who can probably take these designs to a higher level. It’s definitely a great, basic book for beginner wrappers and anyone who wants to put some extra effort into their gifts.

It gives the very basics of wrapping, even for round boxes. Some basic ideas of how to create and design your own paper, and a great section on all different types of bows and ties. There are many examples for recycling materials, and using items such as corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap and newspaper.

My favorite section was on creating your own gift boxes, and I really loved the design of the self-closing box. There are templates for the boxes in the back of the book as well as several of the stencil designs to copy.

I would give this to anyone from a creative child to a crafty adult. It is definitely a pretty comprehensive book about wrapping and has quite a lot of great examples and ideas. I am only giving it four stars though because I wasn’t really blown away by any of the designs. However for a beginner – medium level wrapper this is 100% a great book to have.

Thank you to NetGalley and Dover Publications for allowing me an advance copy for review.


Art Quilts of the Midwest, by Linzee Kull McCray

11 Nov
Four of Five stars

Four of Five stars

I requested this book from NetGalley to review because I make quilts and love the gorgeous art quilts that I see in magazines and museums – and look at this beautiful cover! Most art quilts are not something that I have the time or patience to create, and I really appreciate the hours and hours and hours of painstaking work that many of them require.

I had thought this book was going to contain page after page of photographs that would leave me in awe. But this is not exactly that type of book, so as soon as the reader accepts that fact, the sooner you can appreciate it for what it is: a really comprehensive look at the artists who create the art quilts, and their processes.

Make no mistake, there ARE many photographs of quilts here, ranging from simple to intricate, from easy to impossible to recreate, and many with close-up details. I was not in awe of most of the quilts though, and many of them were not nearly close to my taste. I also wish there were more close-ups of some of the examples. I take one star off for not really feeling amazed as I went through this book.

But the interviews in the book make up for a lot. You get to hear about the artists, and their processes and inspirations. Many of the interviews are quite in depth – none of them are just simple biographies.

And reading about their processes gave new life to some of the quilts I hadn’t been exactly interested in. Art quilts often use extraordinary materials, and the quilts here definitely do, along with several different interpretations of what a quilt is.

I do not presume to be an artist myself by any means, but there was one really unique “quilt” made with fabric strips and grommets, twisted and threaded onto metal rods. I think I can create something like this for my own home and look forward to giving my own interpretation to this idea.

I think this particular book is less for the person who just enjoys quilt visuals, and more for the serious quilter who can really appreciate the work, and is interested in the people behind these works of art. People who are artists but not official “quilters” should also enjoy this book and the interviews inside. Definitely recommended and consider this Four STRONG stars of five.

And now I’m off to find my fabric scraps.

The Making of a Milliner: Hat-Making Projects, by Jenny Pfanenstiel, Steve Squall (Photographs)

11 Nov
Four of Five stars

Four of Five stars

Well if this book was supposed to make me think I could start up a hat-making hobby, it did not, but it sure did make me appreciate the work that goes into the craft.

Make no mistake, this is not a How to Decorate a Hat book. This is a How to Make a Hat from Scratch book.

This book covers all aspects of millinery, or at least as many as I can think of. From measuring the head, to obtaining the materials and tools, to caring for your hats, it is all here. There is even a section on setting up your own hat studio.

Each chapter goes over how to create a certain shape of hat, and then how to decorate it in the way of the example. The examples are incredibly gorgeous, with vibrant colors and some really unique embellishments. I chose each consecutive hat as my favorite, and then kept changing my mind again. After mastering each hat shape, the reader would then be able to continue on and decorate their own hats in any way they wish.

If I were to have the time and inclination to get into hat-making, I would definitely choose this book for my library. However it is such a beautiful book I believe any hat lover would love it for display in their home.

Many thanks to NetGalley for letting me see an advance copy for review.

Meditations through Coloring, by River Grove Books

9 Nov
Four of Five stars

Four of Five stars

I received an e-copy from NetGalley for review. As an eBook I am unable to color it myself, but I can sure see the beautiful drawings and am heading over to Amazon to get a paper copy!

This book has drawings that are intricate and Southeast Asian oriented. There are several mandalas, and many that are variations of flowers/paisley/abstract. There are also a couple of elephants, hummingbirds, several henna-type hand drawings, and an absolutely gorgeous peacock at the end.

This book is too intricate and “grown-up” for small kids, but for teens to adults this one is great. Coloring is a wonderful meditation and stress-reliever for adults, so if you haven’t picked up a crayon since you were young – go get yourself some colored pencils, markers, or a giant box of Crayola and get started! It’s certainly cheaper than therapy!

Elgin Park: Visual Memories of Midcentury America at 1/24th scale, by Michael Paul Smith, Gail K. Ellison

9 Nov
FIVE of FIVE stars

FIVE of FIVE stars

I don’t even know how to begin to review this book. It is Five Stars times Five Stars to Infinity and Beyond. I have long been a fan of Michael Paul Smith’s work on Flickr and loved flipping through his first book, Elgin Park: An Ideal American Town. It is possible he has topped even that one.

Michael Paul Smith creates tiny little scenes, usually including model cars, and photographs them in a way that confounds the brain in trying to believe they are not real. The only way to understand what he does is to look him up on Flickr or find one of his books – and I recommend you do so immediately. This particular one is ideal and a winning choice no matter how you look at it.

I found myself not only holding my breath while looking through this book, but just being overwhelmed with the love that it took to create these scenes, and that Smith continues to exhude as his process continues. Because it does not end after he takes the picture and posts it. On Flickr, commenters help create imaginary stories around each scene, which Smith also adds to or creates his own. In this book he includes several commenters’ stories, comments and questions. Readers also add and/or photoshop their own pictures into the scenes, dressed for the occasion and participating in the action.

Reading through this book is a process:
1. Look at and take in the picture.
2. Appreciate it for the scene it creates.
3. Try to coordinate in your brain that this is not a real scene but one created by hand.
4. Read the comments and stories from Smith and other readers.
5. Turn the page and see how the scene was created.
6. Sit and wonder if you could do the same thing.
7. Take a closer look and realize no, no you can’t.
8. Put on a costume and start ‘shopping yourself into a scene.

The detail in these photos has to be seen to be believed. You can practically smell the rain in the wet streets. The lighting is gorgeous – just spectacular in most cases. There was one photo that included sun coming through a tiny chain link fence, creating a perfect shadow on the street – this is one of those tiny details that prevent your mind from accepting that this is 1/24 scale, and not full size.

Later in the book Smith shows how he made that fence, as well as many other details in the scenes. So many things are handcrafted just from small metal washers and spare earring parts. Interview questions are added throughout the book with several long sections included as well.

This book is for just about everyone:
Lovers of old cars
Model train enthusiasts
Doll house creaters
People who love scenes from the past
People who appreciate hard work
People who appreciate perfection
Curious and intelligent teens
Any interested human being of any age

There are not just scenes of old buildings and beautiful cars, there are scenes with robots from outer space, and crashed flying saucers. Car and train crashes (with amusing stories to go with them all). Nostalgia and Americana. The photographs just fill your heart with wonder. You too will find your breath being held as you take in each scene.

This book is perfect as a gift – for ANYONE. And a perfect gift to yourself as well.

I was given access to an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review – and this is about as honest as I can give: FIVE STARS.

Go here to view a documentary about Michael Paul Smith and his process.

Follow Michael Paul Smith on Flickr.

Pure Soapmaking, by Anne-Marie Faiola

9 Nov
FIVE of FIVE stars

FIVE of FIVE stars

I received an advanced copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review, and although the publish date is not until early 2016 at this time, I am afraid I will forget to write the review so I must do it now. Plus, it is available for pre-order on Amazon for $15 at this moment, and *Spoiler Alert!* it’s totally an amazing book that you should look into as a post-Holiday gift.

I wanted to take a look at this book because I LOVED the cover, and I figured if I can make soap like what’s on the cover, then I am totally going to be ordering lye immediately. Well, the soaps inside this book are 100X even more amazing and gorgeous as what is on the cover, however the process is much more than I want to get into right now. So I recommend you all get this book, make a bunch of the soaps, and then send them to me, ASAP.

Although soapmaking seems to be more work than I want to deal with right now, this book goes into every detail and aspect that I could possibly think of. All the soapmaking terms are explained fully, there is a full resource section, and very detailed instructions for each soap including hundreds of pictures to show how to make an incredible assortment of imaginative and beautiful varieties. There are soaps made with coffee, tea, herbs, wine and loofah. Soaps with swirls, stripes, hearts, flowers and stamped letters. Soaps of every shape and size. And they are all natural and, hopefully, made by you in your home with loving care.

If I were to decide to take up this hobby, I assure you this is the first book (and probably only) I would pick up to get started. There appears to be enough detailed instructions for a beginner, but also many very complicated instructions for the more advanced soapmaker.

All in all, I see no reason to take off any stars. Even if I didn’t want to make the soaps in the book I’d still love to spend time on the couch just taking in all the gorgeous pictures. And I will definitely be buying it for friends, just in case they want to make ME a few beautiful bars. 😀

Doll Junk: Collectible and Crazy Fashions from the ’70s and ’80s, by Carmen Varricchio

1 Nov
5 of 5 Stars. Actual cover may differ.

5 of 5 Stars. Actual cover may differ.

I was provided an advance copy of this lovely book in exchange for a fair review.

As a woman in her late 40s, I was immersed in the Barbie world throughout the 1970s and even into the 1980s. I had only a few and I treated them with utmost care. As well the few “real” Barbie clothes I had. Those real clothes were so treasured and rare that when I turned 14 and started pulling in a bigger allowance, I chose to go to Best Products and purchase some gorgeous new dresses. I no longer “played” with the Barbies, but I sure did dress them up.

I also had a treasure chest of clothes that my mom sewed for Barbie. Maybe it was just the decade of the 70s, but my mom sewed some awesome clothes.  These held just as high a place in Barbie’s life as the Mattel clothes.

But then there were the “other” clothes. The off-brand, the no-brand, the flea market, and the junk my friends’ less talented mothers made. These clothes had their own specific purpose though: they’re the Barbie outfits I let my little sister borrow. The clothes Barbie was allowed to wear when she was a jungle guide through the muddy dammed up gutters of my street.  The clothes she wore when Barbie was playing “the mother” LOL. The clothes she wore when she was Cinderella, or a “poor” woman, or the maid.

So they weren’t really junk, they had specific purposes, and I needed those off brand clothes to complete the stories my Barbies were telling.  And so this book was an AMAZING look back at my childhood.  So many of the outfits in this book look so very familiar, it was a really special trip down memory lane. Just as fascinating are all the different off-brand Barbies that we all had, and they included every single doll I can remember and many more.  From Dawn to the Sunshine Family, to dolls and clothes from all over the world, they are all included here.

It’s the most complete book I can imagine.  There are no Mattel Barbies in this book, so it is not a history of Barbie in any way. But it IS a history of my childhood. It is incredibly complete. If you grew up with Barbie, or if your mother or grandmother did, this would be a very special gift.  I’m sure any Barbie lover would also love this, as it’s almost impossible to collect Barbie as a child without also collecting the “junk”. Well done!