TRADITIONAL CRAFTS: CROCHET, SOAP, JEWELRY
As a longtime knitter, my New Year's resolution is to learn how to crochet. Storey Publishing has obliged with the fifth in its One-Skein Wonders series, an enticing grab bag of a book called "Crochet One-Skein Wonders," edited by Judith Durant. The idea is clever: Provide an eclectic mix of projects, including purses, toys, hats and shrugs, that require only one skein (or ball) of yarn, proving there's more to crochet than you can shake a hook at.
Also on my list: "Crochet at Home," edited by Brett Bara (Interweave), with 25 projects, including four small nesting dolls and a copper wire-crocheted bowl. Although I'll need to start with something simpler, I can aspire to these.
"Resin Alchemy," by Susan Lenart Kazmer (Interweave), is aimed at mixed-media and jewelry artists and bursts with fantastic ideas. Learn the basics for using resin, and then let your imagination take flight in jewelry-making and other projects.
Handmade soap pops up at farmers and crafts markets with increasing regularity. In "Soap Crafting" by Anne-Marie Faiola (Storey), the entire process, including moulds and additives, is explained in a simple format and with lots of photos. If you've wanted to try "saponification" (the chemical reaction that occurs in soap-making) but shied away from the caustic materials, particularly lye, this book might entice you to explore the basics.
FOR KIDS, AND THE YOUNG AT HEART
"Martha Stewart's Favorite Crafts for Kids" (Potter Craft) surveys years of the magazine's projects and packs the best for kids into one handy tome. There are friendship bracelets, sewing projects and tie-dye. Some of the best are scientific experiments, such as growing salt crystals and making a giant bubble wand.
"Photo Doodles" (Quirk Books), by ViiZ — the creative team of Vahram Muratyan and Elodie Chaillous of Paris — provides pages of black-and-white photographic images for kick-starting creativity, from blank postcards to a garden gnome who needs a home.
"Fabric Paper Thread," by Kristen Sutcliffe (C&T Publishing), offers simple crafts primarily for teens and anyone new to embroidery. Basic stitches are explained, and the copious photos help. My two teenage girls liked the no-sew leather bracelet and the beaded tassel necklace.
"Pom-Poms!" by Sarah Goldschadt and Lexi Walters Wright (Quirk Books) puts the easy-to-make, soft-and-squishy pom-pom to new use: in bouquets, on pillows and curtains, and made into rings and brooches. Three methods for making pom-poms are explained, and suggested materials include recycled T-shirts and plastic bags.
"Beastly Crochet," by Brenda K.B. Anderson (Interweave), includes 23 scary-cute critters for play and wear. The sugar skull shoulder bag may appeal to the teen crowd, while younger kids might enjoy wearing the fanged bunny slippers.
Two books from Amphoto Books help parents, bloggers and others take better photographs. "Your Child In Pictures," by Me Ra Koh, shares tips for catching toddlers and young children at their best. For photographing older kids, her tips include inviting creative collaboration, asking permission and allowing for prep time. She offers guidance on which everyday moments deserve capturing, and her technical advice shines. Meanwhile, "A Beautiful Mess," by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, covers portraiture, lighting, backdrops and other tricks for getting a professional look. The book stems from the sisters' blog of the same name.
"Tie-Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It" by Shabd Simon-Alexander (Potter Craft) comprehensively covers the history, dyes, fabrics and methods of tie-dye. Nearly two dozen patterns are shown in projects that give tie-dye an upscale appeal.
"Fabric Surface Design" by Cheryl Rezendes (Storey) describes techniques such as stamping, silk-screening and image transfers for designing one's own fabric. It's thought-provoking, and the section on traditional marbling techniques is intriguing (there are even instructions for marbleizing with shaving cream, which might be fun to do with kids).
"Creating Art at the Speed of Life" by Pam Carriker (Interweave) encourages artists to take risks, stretch skills and explore new media. It begins with advice on handcrafting an art journal for exploring colour, texture, light and more during Carriker's 30-day plan.
There are few crafting books as gorgeous as "Lena Corwin's Made by Hand" (STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book), a hefty hardcover teeming with projects from this textile designer and illustrator and her creative friends (including the author of the tie-dye book above). From weaving and knitting to printing and beading, the projects are fitting for solo work or a crafting party. Crochet's five basic stitches are illustrated, so I may be learning crochet sooner — and faster — than I'd planned.