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 It was published in 2012, so sadly a lot of the online links included are either gone or out of date (many of the blogs, for example, have been abandoned in the intervening years) but many of them will still lead to further information.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: 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: 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

review: Garden Made

Garden Made

Garden Made: A Year of Seasonal Projects to Beautify Your Garden & Your Life by Stephanie Whitney-Rose

Divided by season, these projects are made using and reusing commonly available items and range from decorated pots and signs to things that are more fully created from start to finish, like seed paper. Stylistically, they fall into either the cottage garden or shabby chic aesthetic. Most of the projects are designed to live in the garden but several winter projects are suited to the indoors, including a variety of terrariums. A list of resources is provided for vendors offering the materials needed for some of the more specific projects.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Marine City Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL service

review: HomeMade Modern

HomeMade Modern

HomeMade Modern: Smart DIY Designs for a Stylish Home by Ben Uyeda

The idea behind this book is that anyone can have beautiful, stylish things in their home without spending a lot of money. Uyeda encourages the reader to make things from other things they already own, in fact, further reducing the amount of purchases required and amping up the sustainability at the same time. A guide is provided for collecting raw materials and making purchases when necessary. Thirty projects are detailed for most rooms in a home: living room, dining room, kitchen, home office, and bedroom, as well as the outdoors. Most projects are in the $50-150 range, assuming you already have the required tools on hand. Some of the projects exceed $200, though, and may make the reader question whether it’s worth it to DIY. All of the items featured showcase the bare wood/metal/concrete aesthetic that seems at home in an urban loft.

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

review: Forgotten Ways for Modern Days

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Forgotten Ways for Modern Days: Kitchen Cures and Household Lore for a Natural Home and Garden by Rachelle Blondel

This is one of those books that is totally practical but for me personally remains aspirational. I just never seem to find the time to gather the necessary ingredients for these types of projects – I might remember to buy the glycerin and essential oil that I wouldn’t have on hand to make wood wipes, but will I take the time to actually make the wipes before I want to use them? Probably not. This is purely my own lack of effort, though, and I’m sure that many other folks will appreciate the limited ingredient lists required to make most of these items. For cleaning and other chores, I just don’t spend any more time on them than I have to, so preparing in advance is unlikely to actually happen. Recipes are included for cleaning, laundry, kitchen, household, and garden items, as well as those used for health and beauty. The book is lovely to hold and look at and most of the recipes only require half a dozen ingredients, making them pretty reasonable in terms of preparation and cost. The paper it is printed on and the design all lend themselves to a natural feel that jibes with the book’s intent.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Hart Area Public Library using the awesome MeLCat interlibrary loan system