If at the end of the year your creativity needs a boost, here's a baker's dozen of recent titles that'll surely help.
Let's start with a charmer: In "Playful" (STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book), author Merrilee Liddiard uses her skills as an illustrator to give children's crafts some modern flair. Many of the crafts, which include wooden doll-face necklaces and trucks made from recycled cracker boxes, may be made with kids. Others, such as the machine-sewn tent and trapeze doll, may be more appropriate to make as gifts.
Amanda Kingloff's "Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun" (Artisan) provides similar crafting entertainment for families, and children can learn some basics, from fringing paper to threading a needle. The most crafts-inclined will enjoy choosing projects from this heavy compendium.
Hello Kitty has never been more adorable than in "Hello Kitty Crochet: Supercute Amigurumi Patterns for Sanrio Friends" (Quirk Books), by Mei Li Lee. The book includes more than a dozen patterns, from easy to advanced. A crocheter could get stuck in this Sanrio world for quite some time.
In "Petit Collage" (Potter Craft), author Lorena Siminovich offers crafts for family playtime and home décor, with easy-does-it templates in the back. For play, there are customized baby blocks, a cardboard playhouse and animal masks. For the home, there's a growth chart, veneer headboard and stepping stool. And much more.
"Let's Sew Together" ( Potter Craft), by Rubyellen Bratcher, offers 30 projects for kids and adults to work on together. Children might contribute artwork to decorate a dress, zippered pouch or party bag, or even work the sewing machine (safety tips are included).
For playful adults and children adept with a sewing machine, there's also "This Is Mouse: An Adventure in Sewing" (C&T Publishing), by Brenna Maloney, which includes amusing instructions for making the character Mouse and others (Elephant, Whale, Robot), along with accoutrements Mouse may need to go on safari, to the South Pole and into outer space. This is Maloney's fourth book aimed at the sewing-kid crowd.
For the quilter who could use a kick of novelty, Rachel May has written "Quilting with a Modern Slant" (Storey), which focuses on the playful and improvisational in modern quilt design. The book features expert quilters and images of their work, patterns and techniques, and other tips, such as how to open a quilt shop.
STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book produced this year's picturesque coffee table tome for quilters and collectors: "Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950-2000," by Roderick Kiracofe. It includes full-page images of rule-breaking, unconventional quilts, and essays by expert quilt-makers, historians, curators and teachers.
The book to thrill new and intermediate knitters is "The Knowledgeable Knitter" (Storey), by Margaret Radcliffe, which opens with "knowledge is power." In this case, it's power over one's work, culled from a deeper understanding of the knitting process. Radcliffe helps knitters develop the confidence and control to eventually adapt a pattern to one's own creativity.
For those who love flower arranging, the beautifully photographed "The Flower Recipe Book" (Artisan), by floral designer Baylor Chapman, is both inspirational and easy to follow. While some plants are seasonal — the tulip, for example — others are easy to track down any time of year.
These two titles from Penguin/Random House are designed to bring out the artist in anyone: "Sketch!", by France Belleville-Van Stone, and "Daily Painting," by Carol Marine. These portable paperbacks — each filled with colorful ideas and illustrations — invite readers to sketch or paint, respectively, as a daily habit to increase skill or reduce creative blocks.
Finally, there's "The Little Spark" (Stash Books), by Carrie Bloomston, which calls itself an interactive workbook for igniting creativity. It's peppered with tales from dancers, yogis, artists and more, and is filled with fun ideas. Bloomston's point: Unleash the "spark" of the creative life.
It's a fine motto for embracing the new year.