review: Modern Roots

Modern Roots

Modern Roots: Today’s Quilts from Yesterday’s Inspiration by Bill Volckening

One of the charms of vintage and antique quilts is that they were often made by hand without the use of rulers and rotary cutters, so they aren’t as technically perfect as some quilts made today. They can feel more person-made and the connection to the quilt-maker can feel stronger. This book takes inspiration from those handmade quilts and shows how to make your own, whether you choose to make it using contemporary techniques or not. Many of the dozen patterns here will be familiar to quilters: Log Cabin, Lone Star, Stacked Bars, Barn Raising, and many others. Each pattern features a full page, full color photo of a vintage or antique quilt along with notes about its origin; a materials list; and instructions for cutting, construction, assembly, and finishing. Diagrams are provided for piecing and assembly. A smaller version is also provided for each pattern. Only two of the original quilts are tied but note that they can be finished however the maker desires.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Galesburg Charleston Memorial District Library through the awesome MeLCat interlibrary loan system


Review: I Draw on Cats

I Draw on Cats: A Connect-the-Dots Activity Book by A.R. Coffelt

I Draw on Cats

If you love cats, pictures of cats, connect-the-dots of cats, cats who look like they’re a gangster/vampire/doctor/fill-in-your-character-of-choice-here, or instagrams that have been turned into books, this book will not disappoint! It consists of 48 pages of cat photos with dots ready for you to connect, as well as some lines already drawn in for you. It’s a cat-filled book for those who love cats!

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


Review: Paris Street Style

Paris Street Style: A Coloring Book

Paris Street Style: A Coloring Book by Zoe de las Cases

The grown-up coloring book trend means that there is a coloring book for every interest these days, and this one will appeal to those who love fashion and Paris. The coloring pages feature garments, street scenes, buildings, and floral patterns in a style reminiscent of fashion design sketches. The book itself is petite compared to a traditional coloring book, and has a stylish gold-printed black cover – with elastic band to keep it closed and a satin ribbon to mark your page. The coloring pages are printed on both sides, so a non-bleed-through medium is recommended – colored pencils or pastels would be a perfect fit for these outlines.

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


review: Little Felted Dogs

Little Felted Dogs

Little Felted Dogs: Easy Projects for Making Adorable Pups by Saori Yamazaki

I am super predisposed to love this book – it’s got dogs, it’s got cute tiny things, it’s got fiber, and it’s got making stuff. My only complaint is that there isn’t a Boston Terrier included among the two dozen breeds here. (The cuteness of the other breeds is off the charts, though, which almost makes up for that.) I haven’t done this type of wool needle felting before, but the instructions are clear and detailed, with lots of tips at the beginning for getting the necessary techniques down pat. Each pup is assembled from a series of smaller pieces (legs, bodies, heads, and so forth), which seems like it would make achieving the overall look easier. I don’t have a source for this type of wool locally (that I know of! If you know otherwise, please share!) but I hope to find some in the future so I can make some of these little cuties.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books.


review: The Rooftop Growing Guide

The Rooftop Growing Guide

The Rooftop Growing Guide: How to Transform Your Roof into a Vegetable Garden or Farm by Annie Novak

Rooftop gardening is not a thing I have a venue for at present, but the concept is very interesting. Perhaps it’s due to all the dystopian media I’m exposed to or maybe just my innate desire for efficiency, but it seems like rooftop growing is a great way to take advantage of area that is otherwise under-utilized. (On that note, hey Walking Dead! Prime opportunity for a walker-free food-growing space. Get on it!)

This book takes you through all the details you need to consider when planning a rooftop growing enterprise, whether it be a small garden or large-scale food growing operation. What kind of climate exists on your rooftop? Do you want open air or a greenhouse? What structural concerns do you need to be aware of? What municipal codes and zoning restrictions will you need to abide by? How will you irrigate? How much money do you have to throw into this project? All of these questions and more are addressed here.

Interspersed throughout the book are examples of actual rooftop gardens, highlighting the methods they use, what they grow, and some history of their project.

Much of the information provided here works specifically for rooftop gardens but is also applicable to other garden settings. Dealing with pests, making and using compost, crop rotation, attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects, and saving seeds are just a few of these concepts useful for many gardeners.

I’d generally recommend this book primarily for those with a rooftop gardening opportunity, but there’s definitely a lot of useful information for all gardeners who might pick it up.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books.


wish I’d gotten to know her before I fell in love

I’m mixing my references with the title of this post – it is a lyric from a They Might Be Giants song that references Xenia, OH, but I named this dress for a character, Zenia, from The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. The lyric isn’t not appropriate for that character, though! (Listen to the song, it’s great! Read the book, it’s one of my fave Atwoods!)

Zenia Dress for Blythe

Moving on! I’m happy to show you my first ever knit dress pattern for Blythe!

Zenia Dress for Blythe

I designed this dress to fit reverse-cardigan style, like most of my sweaters for Blythe. It’s just so much easier when you can fit her clothing on front to back (or back to front). The bodice has ribbing which gives it a nice fitted look. I think that it works especially well in contrast to the a-line shape of the skirt. I also tried some embellishment on the short-sleeved version I made (the pattern includes both short and long sleeves). I’ve been hoping to try my hand at making silk ribbon flowers for awhile, and I finally did it! These are a pretty basic start, I’m sure, but I’m pleased with the something special they add to this dress.

Zenia Dress for Blythe

Steal over to Etsy, Ravelry, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy to snag this pattern.


review: The Water-Saving Garden

The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water by Pam Penick

The Water-Saving Garden

Though we haven’t experienced much if any actual drought in this area, I’m still always concerned about how much water my garden will require. This is probably 90% out of pure laziness – I want the rain to provide virtually all of what my plants need so I don’t have to do as much work. I also feel like plants that thrive without extra water are stronger than those that rely on me to coddle them. With climate change, though, I do feel that it’s likely that we will have more dry spells and other unpredictable weather, so I want to design my garden with that in mind. This book is a perfect resource for this! It also made me think of my friends who live in California and are faced with actual serious drought conditions on the reg.

This book runs the gamut of topics related to water-saving gardens, including examples of low-water-need gardens, info on xeriscaping, rain barrel how-tos, basics of designing and maintaining a rain garden, how to use landscaping to reduce your water needs (berms, swales, terraces, hardscaping, etc.), using grey water, irrigation options, adding shade and windbreaks, reducing lawns and other water hogs, using native and other well-adapted plants, the best timing for planting to reduce water need, low-water-use container gardening, creating a lush look despite low water use, and a list of 101 plants recommended for water-saving gardens. Whew! There’s a ton of info in less than 250 pages, and that includes clear full-color photographs of many of the materials and techniques described.

There are definitely a bunch of things from this book that I’m going to incorporate into my garden planning for Firefly Cottage. I was already planning on lots of native plants and we added two rain barrels when we had the roof and gutters redone last fall, but there’s so much more to think about. Have you used any water-saving techniques in your yard or garden? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you!

Full disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books.


Review: Knitting Block by Block

Knitting Block by Block

Knitting Block by Block is Nicky Epstein’s latest book of knitting stitch patterns. Knitters will recognize Epstein‘s name, as she has written numerous books and many, many patterns. I’m admittedly already a fan of her edging books and was excited to see a new stitch pattern book from her.

Since I’m increasingly writing patterns of my own, I love books like this where I can get inspiration for stitch patterns. The projects and stitch patterns here are beautifully photographed, which also provided me inspiration for improving my own photography skills (always a work in progress!). As many of you know, K and I are hoping to buy our next home in the near future and I have dreams of setting up a nice photography spot with great lighting and space to do photographic justice to my larger knitting and sewing projects.

The basic building blocks here start with the most simple and work from there, but even the most basic garter and stockinette stitches look gorgeous. Each block is listed with a color photograph of a sample, written instructions, and a chart. It’s one of the best designed stitch dictionaries I’ve seen and it’ll be a pleasure to use as a reference. There’s plenty of white space on each page, so it doesn’t feel as cluttered and claustrophobic as many stitch dictionaries do.

One of the goals I’ve set for myself this year for knitting is to practice my colorwork. I’ve already completed one project (it’s a swap-package secret until the recipient has it in hand!), but I’m super looking forward to trying some of the neat designs in this book.

In addition to the stitch pattern blocks, there are also a baker’s dozen of full patterns for projects including bags, hats, toys, and more. I’m very happy to have added this to my personal library of knitting books!

Full disclosure: reviewed from a complimentary copy provided by Blogging for Books.


How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

I’m a way big fan of Simon Pegg, and a pretty big fan of Jeff Bridges, but even the combination of those two powerful forces (not even considering Jeff Bridges’ hair, which is unstoppable here) could not save this movie. Kirsten Dunst is her usual ho-hum self, crossing the line into annoying more than once, and the plot is as predictable as possible.

I know that I read the book (by Toby Young) shortly after it was published, but it clearly failed to make an impression on me as I really couldn’t tell you how the movie differed from the original. Meh.