review: Take a Ball of String

Take a Ball of String

Take a Ball of String: 16 Beautiful Projects for Your Home by Jemima Schlee

These projects are divided into categories of kitchen, office, porch, and bathroom, and include a variety of items made from standard twine or household cotton string. These creations are crocheted, knit, woven, or glued. Instructions for crocheting and knitting are provided in a separate sections, while the other techniques are detailed within the project instructions. All projects have a homespun, earthy quality.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Troy Public Library through the MeLCat ILL system

review: Hello, Cutie!

Hello, Cutie

Hello, Cutie! Adventures in Cute Culture by Pamela Klaffke

As you have probably gathered, cute things are fully within my area of interest. And you know that the first thing I did with this book was flip through to see if Blythe was included. Good news! She’s first mentioned on page 17, and Klaffke is clearly a fan, too. She writes about finding Blythe forums online, which fed her enthusiasm for the doll. I turned the page and there’s a photo of several of the Blythe enthusiasts I follow! How cool! She goes on to write about meeting up with Blythe folks in her area and the things that make Blythe cute. There are a few short digressions into Forum Drama, which feel a little out of place amidst the book’s general tone of positivity, but mostly it’s about why people love Blythe and other cute things. Throughout the book, short features highlight people who make or collect cute things. The whole thing is really a celebration of cute things and an exploration into why we love them. It was published in 2012, so sadly a lot of the online links included are either gone or out of date (many of the blogs, for example, have been abandoned in the intervening years) but many of them will still lead to further information.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Mott Community College Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

review: Happy Home Outside

Happy Home Outside

Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outdoor Life by Charlotte Hedeman Gueniau

The focus here is on bringing the comforts of the indoors to the outdoors with a very colorful, cozy aesthetic. The DIY projects mostly reuse found objects and range from quite simple to a bit more involved. A number of recipes are scattered throughout along with ideas for gatherings and parties. I was annoyed to see a tipi and racist terminology in the accompanying text, which pretty much ruined this book for me. Not recommended.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Ann Arbor District Library through the MeLCat ILL system

review: Cross-stitch to Calm

Cross-stitch to Calm

Cross-stitch to Calm: Stitch and De-Stress with 40 Simple Patterns by Leah Lintz

I feel like many of us could use some calming in our lives these days – I know that I rely on knitting to take me to a good head space – and what a bonus to produce something at the same time. Lintz offers 40 patterns that are more modern than most commercially available patterns. These are not designed to be cute (though some are in the broad sense of the term) and have a more no-frills look. Most of these designs are monochrome and may benefit from being stitched on fabric in colors other than white. Patterns include flora, fauna, symbols, objects, and words. My favorite design is the rainbow-color word Smile, though I do also love the Bird on a Branch, Flock, Pretty Kitty, Abstract Dandelion, and Bonsai.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Kent District Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

review: Planting Design for Dry Gardens

Planting Design for Dry Gardens

Planting Design for Dry Gardens: Beautiful, resilient groundcovers for terraces, paved areas, gravel and other alternatives to the lawn by Olivier Filippi

Filippi starts off with a history of lawns, concluding with a look at the relatively recent movement toward ecological meadows and other alternatives. Then he moves on to a look at groundcover plants as they grow in the wild all over the world. The next section details a variety of groundcover gardens including those that are walkable, for an alternative that is quite similar to a lawn but without the water or mowing requirements. Many of these groundcovers bloom once a year, so they actually have an added beauty that a lawn does not. Filippi also explores other variations, such as a grassland that features cultivated weeds, flowering steppes, gravel gardens, green plants used to enhance stone surfaces, flowering meadows, and more. The second half of the book provides instructions for preparing the soil, planting, and maintaining these gardens (with a particular focus on reducing the amount of maintenance required as time goes on), followed by a listing of groundcover plants for dry gardens. Color photographs illustrate throughout.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Sturgis District Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

review: 20 to Make: Modern Needlepoint

20 to Make: Modern Needlepoint

20 to Make: Modern Needlepoint by Jayne Schofield

This book is just what the title says: 20 needlepoint patterns (and not a lot more). There is a brief 2-page section listing useful information on materials, how to start, how to read a chart, finishing, and blocking, but otherwise the book assumes that the reader is already experienced in needlepoint and/or is a quick study. The patterns are charted in full color with symbols and are easy to read, though personally I’d prefer it if they had row and column numbers (being a knitter, I’m used to that – I’m not experienced enough in needlepoint to know if it’s the norm there). The patterns are cute (some a little on the country-craftsy side) and feature a range of subjects from flowers to animals to homes and more.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Jackson District Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

review: New Wild Garden

New Wild Garden

New Wild Garden: Natural-style planting and practicalities by Ian Hodgson

Just as I like to use native plants, I also like to create gardens that fit together naturally, and this book is all about doing that. This type of garden – inspired by those that exist naturally without human intervention – provide such robust habitats for insects and other small wildlife. The large color photographs used here offer a great look at what different plant combinations will look like. I find this especially useful since not everything will be blooming at the same time, so it’s nice to see a garden where some things are blooming, others have already bloomed, and some have not bloomed yet. Hodgson also covers planning and planting how-tos throughout, for a variety of types of sites and plants. There is even a section here on how to use these philosophies in container gardens. Finally, a gallery showcases ideal annuals, biennials, perennials, grasses, sedges, rushes, bulbs, climbers, trees, shrubs, water plants, and bog plants.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Kent District Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

review: Grow Native

Grow Native

Grow Native: Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden by Lynn M. Steiner

I’m already on board for using native plants in the garden – they tend to be lower maintenance, thrive with little attention, sustain habitat for butterflies and birds, and fit into my cottage garden aesthetic. Besides, they belong here, right? This book focuses on identifying plant communities that would have existed in your area before it was developed and recreating them in your gardens. A several page chart offers ‘instead of that, plant this’ suggestions to avoid weedy and invasive flowers, groundcovers, grasses, shrubs, vines, and trees. Throughout the book, color photographs show both individual plants and gardens with a combination of plants, providing lots of inspiration. About half the book is instructive and the other half provides one-page entries for a variety of recommended plants. This is one that I may purchase for myself because it has such a wealth of information and ideas that I know I’ll want to refer back to it.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Fenton Branch of the Genesee District Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

review: Quilt Giving

Quilt Giving

Quilt Giving: 19 Simple Quilt Patterns to Make and Give by Deborah Fisher

Many people, myself included, love to make quilts to give as gifts. It’s fun and gratifying to create the quilt in the first place, but sharing it with someone else is gratifying on another level. The nineteen projects outlined here are relatively easy to cut and put together, so the time investment shouldn’t be too daunting. Some quilting basics are provided, including a few piecing techniques used in some of the quilts. Also included is a short section covering things to consider when making a quilt as a gift, such as considering size and shape and selecting materials. Most of the patterns are minimalist and/or modern but designs have been included for a range of audiences – some are clearly aimed at children or parents of infants, for example. I’m usually one to make up my own pattern rather than following someone else’s, but many of these quilts are very appealing, so I might make an exception in this case.

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

review: Simply Stitched

Simply Stitched

Simply Stitched: Beautiful Embroidery Motifs and Projects with Wool and Cotton by Yumiko Higuchi

The projects in this book combine wool embroidery thread and cotton embroidery floss. Most of the projects I’ve seen use either one or the other exclusively, so this combination allows for a different look than many other embroidery projects. Fourteen projects and sixteen motifs are included here, all inspired by nature, mostly plants and animals. The motifs and finished projects are shown in large color photographs while the project and motif instructions are provided in black and grey illustrations. The floral motifs are pretty but not fussy and have a classic feel. The creature motifs seem simple but perfectly represent their subjects without anthropomorphizing. I especially love the bees (with segmented legs and french knot bodies) and roosters.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Sterling Heights Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system