review: Garden Revolution

Garden Revolution

Garden Revolution: How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher

This title really appealed to me. I am for sure all about designing our garden to support the environment and am always keen to learn more about how to do that. Lucky for me, the ways that Weaner and Christopher recommend doing this fall right in line with my lazy gardening philosophy. There’s lots of surface-sowing, use of native plants, creating/encouraging plant communities, and minimal need for watering and weeding. The focus is on working with what nature wants to do, rather than fighting it. In everything here, the goal is for self-sufficiency, which makes for stronger plants and for reduced workload for the humans. There are also lots of large color photographs, both wide shots and close-ups, which provide inspiration and ideas for things I might do in my own garden. Many of the gardens featured here are expansive prairies and meadows but smaller gardens are also included. Seed lists and resources are provided.

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

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review: Perspective in Action

Perspective in Action

Perspective in Action: Creative exercises for depicting spatial representation from the Renaissance to the Digital Age by David Chelsea

Do you remember sitting in a school hallway drawing lockers to learn how to capture perspective? I can totally recall the big brown drawing surface balanced on my knees and the quiet concentration of a class of middle graders focused on something that seemed like a Very Important Life Skill. This book takes a practical approach and uses sequential art (it looks like a comic book/graphic novel) to take the reader step by step. Many of the panels show not just what’s being drawn but the artist or artist’s hand as well, giving a really easy to follow demonstration of the technique being described. It even has a chapter on motion perspective, so you can draw your own animated gif!

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

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review: Big Dreams, Small Garden

Big Dreams, Small Garden

Big Dreams, Small Garden: A Guide to creating something extraordinary in your ordinary space by Marianne Willburn

A small garden is not really the challenge I’m facing these days (my issue is how to turn our huge lawn into a big garden) but there is a lot of great info here that applies regardless of your space. Much of this book is devoted to the part of gardening that happens before you actually do any gardening: planning. There is much encouragement for letting go of preconceived notions and using other gardens as inspiration, as well as finding creative ways to achieve goals like creating privacy, growing food, and many others. Willburn’s friendly, conspiratorial tone invites the reader to connect with the ideas and images – just as Willburn tells us “why garden porn is good,” the photos here provide inspiration and ideas for the reader’s own space. This book is fun to read as well as informational.

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

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review: Japanese Paper Embroidery

Japanese Paper Embroidery

Japanese Paper Embroidery by Atsumi, Minako Chiba & Mari Kamio

This book offers ideas and inspiration for embroidery on paper (and cardstock, etc) in the form of cards, ornaments, folders, notebooks, frame-able art, and more. The first half of the book consists of color photographs showing the many projects and the second half, the motifs. The motif templates include some basic stitch instruction (the Olympus 25 embroidery thread color number, the number of threads, and type of stitch used) along with (if applicable) instructions for assembling the item. The feel of the whole book is sweet and will be familiar to fans of Japanese culture. The designs include abstract designs as well as letters and numbers, creatures and items from nature, and an assortment of other types of cute things.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Kalamazoo Public Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Pen to Thread

Pen To Thread

Pen to Thread: 750 hand-drawn embroidery designs to inspire your stitches by Sarah Watson

Watson, an illustrator and designer, has collected her favorite motifs to create using embroidery. Also included are instructions for getting started and basic embroidery techniques, illustrated with both color photographs and hand-drawn diagrams. These introductory and instructional sections are robust and well put-together and will be an asset for anyone learning (or improving their skills in) embroidery regardless of whether the motifs are to their taste. The motifs are grouped into categories: made in the USA, food, craft room, tools of the trade, school days, in the kitchen, in the garden, around the house, fun!, the great outdoors, by the sea, animals, plants, frames & borders, and alphabets. With more than 750 designs included, a wide variety of subject matter is covered. I know I often find myself wishing for a specific motif when working on a craft project, and I love to have so much variety in one source. Each set of color photographs of completed motifs is followed by one of black and white outlines for those designs and others not pictured in color. Specific instruction for each motif is not included – it is up to the reader to look at a design and determine which stitch is used where and in what order, and for the designs not pictured in color, up to the reader to make that part up themselves. The style of these motifs is sweet and not fussy. Includes a CD.

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

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review: Cut Flower Garden

Cut Flower Garden

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, harvest & arrange stunning seasonal blooms by Erin Benzakein with Julie Chai, photographs by Michele M. Waite

I have not done much with cut flowers. I love growing flowers in the garden, but I’ve usually just left them where they grow rather than cutting them to come inside. I do enjoy cut flowers in the house, though, so I’d like to be able to grow enough to have them inside without denuding the garden. This book starts from scratch with information about testing your soil and designing your garden. It then moves in to work by season, starting with spring including tasks, things that bloom in that season, and projects (mostly arrangements). For me, the best use of this book is as a guide to what blooms when and what combinations will look nice. I definitely want to keep adding things to our gardens so that we have blooms throughout the seasons and this will help me make a list of future additions.

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

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review: The Aromatherapy Garden

The Aromatherapy Garden

The Aromatherapy Garden: Growing fragrant plants for happiness and well-being by Kathi Keville

I haven’t really explored the concept of aromatherapy before, but I definitely like to grow fragrant plants and find it satisfying to walk through the garden and smell them around me. This book starts off with some history of the use of fragrant plants and the basics of essential oils. Annoyingly there are a few comments that put me off, such as, “Primrose contains a trace of cinnamon scent, which is favored by men,” and “what women do not care for is the scent of cherry.” Really, though? Did you find some peer-reviewed data that prove this to be true? There are references to studies, but no specifics and I find these kind of generalities difficult to believe. This makes me skeptical of the other claims contained in this book, so I ended up using it as inspiration via the lovely color photos of plants and gardens and as a source for making a list of fragrant plants I might want to grow.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Baldwin Public Library via the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: The Quest for Shakespeare’s Garden

Shakespeare's Garden

The Quest for Shakespeare’s Garden by Roy Strong

Shakespeare is already a romanticized figure, but thinking about his garden is, if possible, even more so. This book is lovely, with a sturdy cover that looks ready to age gracefully (like a book you’d find and know just by holding it that it contained valuable information) and thick pages with full-color illustrations from a variety of historical sources dating back to 1616. Strong explores the world of nature, the Victorian language of flowers, garden history, and more as relate to Shakespeare and his works. The combination of illustrations, highlighted quotes, and informative text create a nicely balanced work as easily read start to finish as flipped through casually. Also includes Francis Bacon’s ‘Of Gardens’ essay. Fully indexed and with a detailed list of illustration sources.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Hillsdale College Library via the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Favorite Fabric Bowls, Boxes & Vases

Favorite Fabric Bowls, Boxes & Vases

Favorite Fabric Bowls, Boxes & Vases: 15 quick-to-make projects * 45 inspiring variations by Linda Johansen

Patterns for six bowls, five boxes, and four vases are included, with a few variations as part of each pattern. They use stiff interfacing (as opposed to clever engineering) to provide the structure of each item, and rely heavily on satin stitch for the seams. This uniformity of construction means that the projects all look fairly similar (the bowls especially seem just barely distinguishable from one another). The boxes would make nice vessels for gifts, but the look of these projects is just not my aesthetic.

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

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review: Learn How to Knit with 50 Squares

Learn how to Knit with 50 Squares

Learn How to Knit with 50 Squares: for beginners and up, a unique approach to learning to knit by Che Lam

Making a swatch is often the first step in a knitting project (or it should be, technically, even if many knitters don’t do it regularly). Making a swatch will provide you with an example of your gauge (how many rows and stitches you get per inch) and let you see how the stitch pattern will look in that yarn on that needle size. It can save a huge amount of time and is super useful, even if it’s not as much fun as just diving in to the project you’re excited to make. This book takes the approach of having the beginning knitter practice and learn by making, essentially, a ton of swatches. You start out with garter stitch, then move to stockinette, then start learning decreases and increases, and so forth. There are 50 squares followed by five projects for the starting knitter, all of which are made using square pieces. This is a different approach to learning to knit than I’ve seen before, and I feel like encouraging swatch-making will only benefit the knitter in the long run.

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

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