Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Book Reviews

I've bought some great arts and crafts books lately and have been meaning to share the titles with you but keep forgetting. So today, in lieu of a proper post, I thought I'd go link crazy and share them all at once. I'm using my Amazon affiliate links because I love that you can just click on the picture and be taken to the web page for the book. It's not a money making thing. I haven't even made a penny in the three years I've been an affiliate; it's an ease of use thing.

Inspiritu Jewelry:

Admittedly, this book is a little bit hokey with the whole premise being that you can do 'medicine' with objects as well as herbs and science; but somehow she makes it work. Her projects are gorgeous and I love the idea of making yourself (or someone else) something beautiful to remind you of an area in your life you're working on or need help with - like for me, my health. The author opens each project with some back story of who the jewelry was for, what was troubling them and why she chose the items she did to include in the piece.  It's a real personal way to share the content and I was completely drawn in to her world and world view - almost like you can be when reading a great novel.
The only downside with this book is it's reliance on found objects. If you don't have the time or resources to run about finding things, it can be a little bit frustrating. But that's why we've got Etsy, right? She dodges this issue a bit with very general materials lists for each project (bead, metal discs, wire... deer skin!), but in my opinion, if I went to JoAnn and picked up the needed supplies the piece wouldn't have the same worn, history-filled characteristics. 
One thing I LOVED about this book was the different creams and teas she supplies recipes for as well as the positive mantras like, 
"One step at a time, one day at a time, life can become better and better."
 As a person suffering chronic pain, I'm very interested the soothing and the positive. I first got this at the library and was so sad to part with it that I bought it. At under ten bucks it's cheaper then most magazines I read.
Creative Bloom

What can I say about Jennifer Swift's book other then she inspires me like crazy and makes the coolest things out of wire. If you recall, I made this from one of her tutorials to dip my toe in the water of wire bending:

Her book has eight chapters chock-full of projects ranging from badges to flowers and nests. My favorite is a the art journal with a wire coiled binding... or the assemblage... or the wall hangings. 

It's all very cool and colorful; complex but do-able. Jennifer's writing style imparts confidence in the reader and makes you want to drop everything and make something - with wire. 

Sewn By Hand

This was another library book that I renewed the maximum number of times (nine weeks!) and still couldn't get enough of. I've been working through the projects in it and absolutely love her quiet confidence and simple, endearing style. While I'm not entirely sold on the "sewn by hand" emphasis on hand sewing being superior to machine sewing, she makes her case well - portability is certainly a plus. I've hand-sewed her sewing kit (I'll post it soon) and was very pleased with the instructions and results but I'll probably make her gorgeous pillows on my sewing machine *gasp* and do all the decorative work by hand. In life, you need balance and for us, pillows need the toughness of machine stitching - plus I don't have unlimited crafting time. Oh, that I did! (Did anyone else just have a shudder of fear that in some Monkey's Paw-esque twist of fate something horrible is going to happen providing me with the luxury of time on my hands? That story messed with my head.)  

I took my project to Starbucks one night and sandwiched myself in amongst the sea of laptops and text-ers; I felt a little self-conscious that someone was going to wonder if I am Amish or a Luddite (J/K), then I realized how frantic and intense everyone seemed. I sat there, sipping and stitching and knew Susan Wasinger had won me over to the hand stitching side.

Zakka Style

Rashida Coleman-Hale's first book, I Love Patchwork: 21 Irresistible Zakka Projects to Sew is a favorite of mine and her palette pin cushion that I made is one of my most used and prized sewing items.
Wanna see:

So when her new book came out I was hitting refresh four times a day at the library website hoping to see it arrive. Well, it never did so I bought it, sight unseen, brewed myself a cup of tea and settled in to devour it thoroughly. My first reaction was shock and disappointment as the book is compiled by Rashida, the projects are not hers. Once I stopped freaking out I calmed down enough to realize that this is a GREAT book full of the sort of things you would expect this author to associate her name and reputation with. 

The projects all have an abundance of zakka style and pair natural linen with funky modern, bright fabrics. They run the gamut from coasters to quilts with a lot of interesting additions like a bread carrying bag and hand warmers. While none of the projects vary too much from things I've seen before - I read a lot of books featuring this style - I love having so many high-quality instructions in one place and I can easily imagine making several of the patterns this spring. For me, that's the sign of a very good book. 

Dusty Diablos

I'm a massive fan of Michael DeMeng as you can see by these projects of mine:

But somehow, I've never bought any of his books. Huh? So when I ran across Dusty Diablos: Folklore, Iconography, Assemblage, Ole! I didn't hesitate to snatch it up. In addition to containing a GIRORMOUS amount of inspiration... on every single page... he has awesome materials lists that include things like chips, salsa, beer and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy so you can pass the time pleasantly while your bottle caps are "aging" and what not.

 I'm totally in love with this book. Seriously. At the conclusion of my first read-through I asked my husband for a blow torch. Yeah... it's good like that. My favorite thing about this books that he covers a lot of basic knowledge you need if you want to make any kind of aged, grungy, distressed assemblage. Sections include , "tricky burnt paper routine" and "Techniques to age stuff in less than five hundred years" or "mysterious frozen caveman trick" plus much more.

While there isn't a ton of stepped out projects, there is an abundance of process, teaching and story-telling that immerses you in his wonderful, strange, magical world. 

Wow! This post was a monster. If you got this far, thanks for hanging out with me. 

What good arts and crafts have you read lately?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Project Life Pages 2/6-2/13

Here are my pages for Project Life 2/6-2/13. Did you see that I used one of my quilted ATCs as a page embellishment?

I didn't journal as there really wasn't much to say. Sure, I could have typed on a cute card that we all had the flu and stayed home all week but I don't want my PL to end up as a record of the unending string of illness we've been having. That's not fun.

It was my birthday so I made a full page birthday LO. It was fun to use pink - not a lot of pink in my life. I'm still keeping this very simple. As soon as I start thinking "artsy" or " this would be really awesome if I just..." I end up setting it aside and getting behind. I like using it as a 'pretty photo album' with notes and bits of our daily life. 

And that's not stressful at all.
Do any of you include full scrapbook pages in your PL projects?
I like it, I miss scrapbooking.

Rolled roses... will these things ever go away? LOL. 
They're just so cute and easy, I couldn't help myself.

This page LO is one of my favorites. I love the eight 3x3 pics and the big 6x12 space in the middle. It just seems so full of promise and possibility.

My goal for my PL is to include more things like the books we're reading, our menus, the TV shows we're into. Now that our birthday/anniversary/birthday/birthday season is over I think I'll be able to fit it in better.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Little Preparation Equals A Gift in Moments

I'm a huge fan of Bonita Rose's Brown Paper Packages wrapping kits and consider each one of them to be a little present for myself. This month I didn't have a lot of gift giving opportunities so I decided to take my kit and make up a batch of tags that can easily be converted into a heartfelt gift with very little time or effort.

I didn't stress too much about the size - just eyeballed a basic shape that would be large enough to dress up a gift bag and small enough to fit (more or less) on the front of a card.

Here's what I made:

It's a pillow! I thought a little stuffing went well with the "Dreamland" theme.

This morning I wanted to send some Caramel Frito Snack Mix to a friend... (great recipe, I used pecans and peanuts for the nuts and a lot more cereal and pretzels so it wasn't so sweet. Heaven!)

Doesn't it look good? Yummy!

And all I had to do to make it look special is attach one of the pre-made tags to a kraft box. Done. No stress whatsoever.

In addition to what I get in the kits, I keep on hand a selection of kraft gift bags, glassine bags, bread bags and card blanks. By staying with a simple base (I LOVE kraft) I never have to worry about matching my tags to the packaging.

Here's another gift I made with my kit contents. Including the time it took to round up my supplies, I put this together in under five minutes. And it looked like a million bucks. Monochromatic is such a simple way to make a great impression.

The paper lace is just darling when you layer it. 

For this tag, I layered the blue and manilla tags and stamped my image with Azure Staz-On. Then I popped up the blue tag from the manilla one with an adhesive foam dot. Very quick, very easy and so effective.

Hope this post gave you some ideas on how you can plan ahead and then be able to make a gift extra special with very little additional effort.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Present Ball: A Gift that Thrills All Ages

My youngest celebrated his birthday yesterday and his big present was a pet lizard and a tricked out terrarium with all the accessories.

That meant that his other presents needed to be a lot less expensive - but I still wanted to wow him. 

My solution - a present ball.

All you need is small presents and several rolls of streamers. 
For this ball I used most of three rolls; pink, red and fuchsia - because I love him :-)

I made a tab to show him where to start unravelling and let him have at it. Everyone was a little skeptical at first.

Then the first gift started to peak out. Excitement!

Make sure to completely hide each layer so what comes next is absolutely unknown.

This is so fun.

My other two boys were on the edge of their seats watching to see what was coming next.

Fancy marshmallows, hot drinks, imported cookies...

A Yo-Yo!

And as the streamer pile grew, so did the smiles.

It looks pretty darn festive, don't you think?

In the end, I think we spent close to fifteen minutes opening this present and every little treat was met with squeals and joy. You know that wouldn't have been the case had I wrapped it up in a box.

Afterwards my kids were talking about all the fun things you could put in a present ball. 

Some of the ideas:

Sewing: charm pack, pattern, fat quarters, scissors, rotary cutter, refill blades
Crafts: Ink pads, rubber stamps, glue gun, embellishments
Baking: cupcake liners, baking mixes, spatula, whisk, candy decorations, candles, extracts
Beach: inflatable beach ball, sunscreen, chapstick, drink mix, drink cozie, water gun
Reader: book, bookmark, tea, hot drinks, cookies, 
Movie Buff: DVD, popcorn, boxes of candy, cans of soda
Romance: Candles, soft music CD, tickets to an event, jewelry, coupons
Cyclist: Mini Bike Pump, CO2 cartridge, wrench set, tire patch, GU, shot blocks, sunscreen, Clif bar
Young Child: Stuffed Toy, Ball, Yo-Yo, Playdoh, plastic cookie cutters
Traveller: small fancy shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, neck pillow, book, iTunes card, votive candles, trail mix

I hope you try making one of these. While it can be a little frustrating at first, the reward is well worth the effort.