review: Rock Gardening

Rock Gardening

Rock Gardening: Reimagining a classic style – gardens – techniques – plants by Joseph Tychonievich

Reducing water use is an increasingly popular topic as relates to gardening and landscaping. Though this author lives in Michigan, he traveled to a variety of locations in the United State and United Kingdom to explore rock gardens in a variety of climates. Many of these featured gardens are quite large and contain both rock and traditional gardens, but the focus here is on the former. Color photographs highlight both wide shots and close-ups of particular plantings. The second section focuses on techniques including constructing rock gardens in various styles, preparing and maintaining the soil, choosing containers, knowing your climate, and obtaining and propagating plants. The third and final portion of the book is a list of types and genii that are generally suited to rock gardens, such as cacti, campanulas, dianthus, sempervivums, and more. Several pages of description and color photographs are provided for each.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Genesee District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: Knits from the Heart of Norway

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Knits from the Heart of Norway: 30 sweaters, hats, socks, and mittens inspired by the Telemark Region by Irene Haugland

Scandinavian knitting has such a distinctive style and rich history and this book celebrates both. All of the designs are advanced in terms of colorwork (I’m not sure you could do justice to Norwegian knitting otherwise) but you do feel as though any of these items will become family heirlooms, so the effort put in is worth it for the gorgeous results. All designs are pictured in full color photos with close-up shots of specific details, and the photographs are taken out in nature in beautiful settings that only enhance the beauty of the knitwear.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Capital Area District Library through the MeLCat ILL system


review: Of Cats and Men

Of Cats and Men

Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen by Sam Kalda

Ever wondered about the love of cats held by some famous dudes? This book showcases 30 guys who love (or loved, as some are no longer living) cats. Lots of writers and artists are included, and for each a few paragraphs describe the part that cats played in their lives. Some cat-related quotes are highlighted, and portraits of each man also feature at least one cat. The illustrations are attractive, modern compositions that depict the subject in their milieu. All of these fellows are very well-known, most are white, and most are American, and I’m not sure that the world needs more books focused on this pretty narrow range of humanity, but the art is appealing.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books


review: 501 Enchanting Embroidery Designs

501 Enchanting Embroidery Designs

501 Enchanting Embroidery Designs: Irresistible stitchables to brighten up your life by Boutique-sha

I’ve been hoping to do some more embroidery and this wealth of mini patterns will certainly provide fodder for my upcoming projects. A wide variety of embroidery designs are grouped into themes including cute cups, a cozy room, a tidy kitchen, a visit to the flea market, Scandinavian forest designs, adorable items from Eastern Europe, the music’s playing, I love fruit!, sweet things for girls, stripes and polka dots (which actually includes a lot of outdoor/park elements), Japanese celebrations, birds & flowers, tasty tea time, and lace patterns. These are followed by some cross stitch collections including Scandinavian style cross stitch, a cross stitch alphabet, cross stitch cats and dogs, continuous cross stitch patterns. Ideas for using these elements are part of full projects are then provided, including pouches, pin cushions, dishcloths, and more. A short how-to guide includes color photographs for the very basics like threading the needle. The second half of the book is printed in monotone on matte paper and provides somewhat bare-bones instructions for each of the patterns.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Capital Area District Library through the MeLCat ILL system


review: Simple Matters

Simple Matters

Simple Matters: Living with less and ending up with more by Erin Boyle

Decluttering and simplifying are the name of the game these days – everyone wants to live without extra stuff in the way, taking up space and creating a mess. There’s definitely a sort of puritanical value to living minimally, and I’m not sure that it really follows (if you get rid of every spare thing, you end up rebuying stuff [IF you can afford to], and it seems like this cycle probably creates more waste than it saves – I also think that equating sparse living with goodness is along the same lines as thinking that if you only eat “clean” foods, your body will be superior – it’s all pretty classist). Despite all this, though, I do think that living with visual clutter isn’t great for one’s mental health, and we can all probably stand to be at least a little more organized. Boyle begins her introduction with a disclaimer that she hopes to avoid that privileged narrative and provides stories that she feels illustrate her modest start. Her perspective here comes from a desire to help others figure out how to be an adult – how to make choices that will make life easier and happier. Throughout the book, Boyle offers personal anecdotes that relate to each topic. The aesthetic here is natural, with lots of neutral colors and natural materials. DIY recipes for cleansers and tips for how to keep a tidy home with a minimum of equipment are also included.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local Chippewa River District Library system


review: Landscape and Garden Design Sketchbooks

Landscape and Garden Design Sketchbooks

Landscape and Garden Design Sketchbooks by Tim Richardson

This book contains sketches, landscape plans, and photos of 3D models of 37 gardens all over the world. A brief overview provides background about the garden and its planning process. The plans and sketches use a variety of media and are presented in relatively large format (the book is oversize) – it feels like an art book combined with a high-end designer’s sketchbook. It is gorgeous to look through and the only thing I wish it had included were photos of the completed gardens to compare with the designs. One bonus: this book is essentially a list of gardens that one might want to visit.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the James White Library at Andrews University through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution: Inspiration from around the world for creating art in multiple mediums and style (with 450 portraits from the artists of Julia Kay’s portrait party) by Julia L. Kay

Author Julia Kay challenged herself to do a three-year project in which she made a self-portrait every day. At the close of those three years (in 2010), she started JKPP: Julia Kay’s Portrait Party, which she defines as “an international collaborative project in which artists all over the world make portraits of each other.” She created a flickr group (which now includes around 1000 members) and participants began making portraits of one another and the discussion and interaction became quite lively (this project started on flickr at a time when it was much easier to form communities there and in the years since, changes to the site have made it more difficult in my experience). Between 2010 and the creation of this book, artists from over 50 countries created and shared over 50,000 portraits, highlights of which are included here. Chapters arrange the portraits by media, by style, and by theme, and each portrait includes the title (first name and country of the subject), artist, media (physical and digital techniques are both included), original size, and a brief statement from the artist about the piece. The portraits are reproduced here in varying sizes, from just a couple inches square to an entire page (~9×7″). In some cases, a variety of portraits based on the same photograph are included, offering half a dozen or so interpretations. A separate chapter features a few portraits created by each of 15 artists with a paragraph or two of information each shared about their own style and process. The final chapter discusses things to think about and choices to make when creating portraits. A directory of artists, general index, and index of subjects are included.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books


review: Simple Color Knitting

Simple Color Knitting

Simple Color Knitting: A complete how-to-knit-with-color workshop with 20 projects by Erika Knight

Working with beautiful, colorful yarn is one of the joys of knitting. Even a monochrome project can be gorgeous if the color is pleasing. The introductory sections of this book give background on color theory, various techniques for using colors, and a gallery of swatches illustrating different techniques. The projects then start with a monochrome throw, with the intent that the yarn color used will make a statement when juxtaposed with the furniture (of a different color) it will sit on. The following projects use phasing, stripes, color-based stitch patterns, and other techniques to create a sweater, pillows, mittens, throws, and more. The intense colors used and the quality of the photographs will provide inspiration as well.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Capital Area District Library through the MeLCat ILL system


review: Love the House You’re In

Love the House You're In

Love the House You’re In: 40 ways to improve your home and change your life by Paige Rien

It seems like there’s a cottage industry based around people who don’t like the house they bought (I tried watching Love it or List it but the hosts annoyed me so much I couldn’t stand it). This book offers a guide to assessing your home and explores ideas for making improvements. The content covers home improvement considerations including resale value, municipal codes and requirements, planning for your family’s future, and so on. It looks at that type of big picture but also gets to the nitty-gritty of choosing durable fabrics and paint colors. This book refers often to finding inspiration in magazines and online, but does not provide that kind of visual help itself, keeping strictly to the informational content.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Millington Arbela District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: The Quilter’s Paper-piecing Workbook

The Quilter's Paper-piecing Workbook

The Quilter’s Paper-piecing Workbook: Paper piece with confidence to create 18 gorgeous quilted projects by Elizabeth Dackson

I have not done much paper-piecing yet myself, but though I usually like to freehand things as I go, I’m interested to learn more about this technique to expand my repertoire. This book starts with practice mini-projects and moves from there to rookie, adventurous, and daring levels of projects. Each project comes with cutting charts that show exactly how to cut the fabric and piece it together. As a newb, this seems the most intimidating part so these charts are reassuring. The rookie level projects include blocks that could easily be created without using paper-piecing, which is a nice way for someone like me to see the differences in construction between methods. A CD is included with printable templates.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Bay County Library System through the MeLCat ILL system