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Author Archive | Amy Anderson

Vendor Spotlight: Handmade Weddings; Chronicle Books

Reported by Amy Anderson

When I say that Handmade Weddings by Chronicle Books is the coolest handmade wedding project guide I’ve ever seen, I mean that sincerely.  It’s AMAZING.  I know what so many of you are thinking: “I want a beautiful wedding, but I don’t have the bucks to do it.”  Well, you don’t need as much money as you think.  If you use Handmade Weddings… if you take the time for some planning… and if you get a little help from friends and family, you can have the wedding of your dreams on a budget.  I’m drawn to the whole idea of an upscale crafty wedding because it’s so much more personal. I never realized that crafty could look so elegant.  Here are my five favorite things about this book.

1.  Weddings are organized by themes. Whether you are Retro Homespun or Modern Classic, there is a style for you in Handmade Weddings.  Several of the themes appeal to me, and I’m guessing they will to you as well.  Not only that, but there are many projects under each theme.  This is not a small book – there’s a little something for everyone.

2.  Color palettes.  I love putting together colors, but then again, I also have a brightly striped sock collection.  So I probably shouldn’t ever put together a wedding palette.  Luckily, each theme has a color palette, and they are all gorgeous.  You will not end up with burgundy and gold bridesmaids dresses to match your decor.

3. The projects are attainable.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not into making 17-tier cupcake stands with a special saw and nail gun.  It’s not going to happen.  What will happen is painting, gluing and even a little bit of sewing.  I promise that you can do everything in this book, and the instructions are clear (with drawings).  There’s also a budget listed for each project.

4. The projects are unique.  Were I to get married today, I wouldn’t want a cookie-cutter wedding.  I like unusual and interesting things, and I think most women want their wedding to be the same.  If you are interested in a wedding craft project book, then you likely want to customize.  Handmade Weddings will help you go a little non-traditional.

5. The felt boutonnieres.  These are so, so cute.  I have a secret, which is that I’m going to make these for myself – for bags, for t-shirts, for every single piece of my wardrobe.  I also love the embellishments on the pillow too.  I can see so many of these projects being applicable not just for weddings, but for parties and even for everyday life.

How did you make your wedding unique? Could you have used a book like this? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Book Review: Paper + Craft

Since I work daily with paper (it just goes so well with Mod Podge), I was excited at the opportunity of reviewing Paper + Craft, published by Chronicle Books.  It was written by Minhee and Truman Cho of Paper + Cup, a unique stationary company you should visit if you haven’t already.  Not only do I love their goodies, I love their cute little baby Jr.  You can see him on their blog.

As paper experts, the Chos bring a different perspective to the crafting world – they even admit in the introduction that their initial impression of the world of crafting was “yarn-spun doilies and Grandma’s needlepoint.”  Crafts didn’t equal art.  Their impression changed as they realized how deeply meaningful and heartfelt the process of crafting really is.  I like the Chos, and I like their book.  Here are my five favorite things about it.

1.  The wide variety of projects.  I don’t just mean the number (25), but there are many different types: home decor, gifts and party as a few examples.  I have SO much paper you wouldn’t believe it.  You probably do too.  It’s great to have a lot of different project options so I can use up that stash more often.

2.  Step-by-steps for each project.  Each project step has illustrations underneath the photo that are almost as cute as the projects themselves.  I love mini-drawn pushpins and pinwheels.  Who doesn’t?  I’m definitely visual, as most crafters are, so these really help.

3.  Additional project ideas.  I’m going to be honest my friends.  I get blown out when it comes to crafting.  I need help sometimes; every crafter does.  After every project, there are some additional ideas, and I’m very thankful.

4.  Downloadable templates.  When you purchase the book (or win it, as the case may be), you get a web address to download templates for all of the projects that require them.  This means that you can print extras in case you mess up (guilty as charged), change the size if you need . . . and if you are really fancy, can add graphics before you print.  Yay!

5.  The mommy and me shoe toppers.  I always choose a favorite project, and this one definitely rocks.  I know you will also be fond of these floral shoe toppers and want to decorate every pair you have.

Have you read Paper + Craft? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

Disclosure

Book Review: Every Day’s A Holiday

If you haven’t visited Heidi Kennedy’s blog My Paper Crane then you are missing out.  The blog is named after her first project ever, a paper crane – and she has kicked some big time crafting butt since then.  Can I say “butt” on Craft Critique?  Ha! [editor’s note: watch yourself, Anderson ;-)]

Since all the kiddos are home from school, I thought it would be a perfect time to review Heidi’s book, Every Day’s a Holiday: Year-Round Crafting with Kids.  It’s published by Chronicle Books, and there is literally a project for every occasion, including some of the lesser known ones.  Who knew there was a Watermelon Day?  Every Day’s a Holiday is a great read, and I can’t believe how many awesome crafts that Heidi came up with for children.  As far as I’m concerned, coming up with kids’ craft ideas is no easy feat.  Here are my five favorite things about this book.

1.  Some of the projects don’t need adults, and Heidi has indicated those.  A kid not needing you for every. single. step?  I’m guessing many of you parents won’t have a problem with that.

2.  The sheer number of projects and holidays in this book.  I know I said it before, but you won’t believe when you flip through the text how many great ideas are included.  Many can be modified with items you already have, or already use those type of supplies.

3.  These are actually fun projects for kids, and they aren’t all potholders.  Remember those string potholders?  While I loved making them, I didn’t love stringing them 17 times a year.  New ideas are always appreciated.  This book delivers.

4.  The crafts are amazingly gender neutral.  I see A LOT of children’s craft projects that are girly, but not as many for boys.  And I know young boys love to craft because I grew up with four brothers, and they all liked making things.  I guess they get to that point where crafts are for chicks, but I’m pretty sure a book like this would keep their interest a little longer.  Check out the robots.

5.  The woodland gnomes.  I’ve always had a thing for pine cones.  Heidi, shut up – these are way too cute!

You’re going to enjoy this book.  If you are a parent, you may one day rely upon this book to save you.  A little dramatic maybe, but I can only imagine what it’s like to have children and get stuck on a rainy day with nothing to do.

Have you picked up Every Day’s a Holiday? What’s your favorite project? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Book Review: Sublime Stitching

I want to be a hip embroider-er, I really do.  My issue is that I am intrigued with the finished look, but I really don’t know WHAT to embroider.  I feel like I don’t have time to think of patterns, and even if I did, I would certainly pencil a disaster worthy of Craftfail.  Luckily Sublime Stitching by Jenny Hart provides the perfect solution to my embroidery woes – I don’t have to think of one pattern, because there are hundreds in this book.  In fact the official title is Sublime Stitching: Hundreds of Hip Embroidery Patterns and How-To, and it’s published by Chronicle Books.  And that’s exactly what the book is.

Before I begin, I want to direct you to Jenny’s website, Sublime Stitching.  She’s been in the business of hip embroidery for ten years now, so I would say that you can consider her the expert.  Her site features patterns, supplies, a gallery and her blog.  It’s a must-see.  Now for my five favorite things about this book.

1.  The variety of patterns.  There’s a little something for everyone, and for every surface: baby/kid, home decor, gift ideas, fashion and more.  There are also A TON of patterns.  You’ll find more than a few that you want to embroider.

2. The transfer paper.  Thank you Jenny and Chronicle – I’m so happy that I don’t have to get transfer paper and figure out how to get the pattern to the fabric.  All the pattern pages are transfer paper, and there’s even a pocket in the front to hold the patterns once you’ve taken the pages out.

3.  The how-tos for several different stitches.  I honestly don’t know much about hand embroidery (since I’ve never tried it) – but I’m picturing a huge wad of floss on the back of my project.  I was very thankful for the clear instructions at the front of the book, and now know I can avoid this thread wad.  You too can learn to embroider in an afternoon.

4. The additional resources section.  Um, I had no idea there was so much information out there for embroidery.  Yay!  I like it when resources are in one place and I don’t have to go searching around.  Who wants to spent 3 days on Google to find the best online and offline sites for a hobby?

5.  The doggie patterns.  You know I’m a sucker for dogs, and the picture above will show you why I love pattern.  Although I highly recommend not becoming the weird dog lady and embroidering pooches on everything.

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Book Review: Playful Patchwork

I have been obsessed with patchwork for a long time – I think it reminds me of the clothes my mom sewed for me when I was little.  I had the cutest patchwork vest.  I still love it after all these years, and I’ve always wanted to know how to sew patchwork successfully.  For those of you who don’t know, I have been sewing since I was ten.  Yep, I’m not just a Mod Podger!  It was delightful to review Playful Patchwork by Suzuko Koseki, and before I go on, I want to mention that the author is from Japan and I’m praying big time for her whole country.  Thumbs down to natural disasters.

This book was a delight to review, and more than lived up to its title of “happy, colorful and irresistible.”  Koseki studied with a master quilter starting in the 70s, so if there’s one thing I can say about her it’s that she’s the expert.  You can definitely tell from this book.  Here are my five favorite things about Playful Patchwork.

1.  It’s a modern approach.  I think sometimes patchwork and quilting get a bad rap because they have been around so long – but there are ways of making old crafts new again, even with simple geometrics.  Koseki’s designs are fresh, simple and pleasing to the eye.

2.  The book consists of smaller projects.  I don’t have a lot of time to sew (the Mod Podge is always calling!) so I appreciate quick and easy projects that make a big splash.  I see a lot of great home decor and gift ideas in this book.  I also think it’s a great way to learn to patchwork if you are interested in quilting – this book can be the foundation before you try a bigger quilt.

3.  Each chapter consists of a gallery followed by projects.  The galleries are awesome and inspirational, and then after the gallery section you actually get the projects.  The projects are divided into lessons, so you learn one thing at a time.  It’s less overwhelming and by the end you have a completed piece without having been stressed.

4.  The how-to photos are some of the best I’ve seen.  I really know nothing about patchwork and quilting, so the hand shots are HUGE for me.  I read through several sets of instructions and I feel very confident that I could mimic the steps – I also feel that the author showed the most important steps so that I won’t get lost.

5.  A full-sized pattern sheet is included with the book.  Thank you, thank you Ms. Koseki.  I have to admit that a lot of times when I’m sewing I don’t like to think.  Giving me patterns not only helps me not to have to think, but also saves me time.  I appreciate that.

Have you read Playful Patchwork? What are your favorite quilting books?

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Crafty Business Week – Social Media Sites for Crafters

Reported by Amy Anderson

With so many tools in the blogosphere, it’s hard to know what you should use and why. You could spend all day engaging in social media or bookmarking, but does that help you grow? Here are four social media tools that I use regularly. For each I explain what it is, how to use it, and how it can help your business. Keep in mind that these tools, while not necessarily complicated, require a little more investigation to make sure that they are right for your business. I hope the basics will help you decide if they are worth checking into.



What is it? I’m so pleased to talk about StumbleUpon first, because it is one of my favorite online communities EVER. StumbleUpon is a personalized recommendation engine that helps you find your favorites on the internet by ranking your preferences. It’s a filter and also uses social networking (just like Pandora).


How do I use it? Create an account and choose your favorite categories. Once you are set up, you will “Stumble” by pressing a button, and you will be taken to a website in one of your categories. You can choose to thumbs up or thumbs down the website. If you thumbs up the website, then StumbleUpon knows to give you more like the site. The more sites you rate, the more StumbleUpon can refine and give you what you like. You can also friend people and have their favorites come into your filter. I highly recommend downloading the toolbar so that you can easily thumbs up and thumbs down sites.


How can it help my business? StumbleUpon is one of the most useful tools I’ve EVER used to grow. It takes awhile to get going and to have your sites “discovered” (added to the StumbleUpon engine), but once you do, your site (or shop) will come up in relevant Stumble streams. Being a part of this discovery tool will allow potential customers to find you who might have never known you existed.

What is it? Have you ever had a corkboard where you have pinned your favorite magazine cutouts, ideas and inspiration? Same concept applies here, except virtually. On Pinterest you create collections of your favorite things and then follow collections by others to find more cool stuff.


How do I use it? Right now you have to request an invitation, but once you’re up and running, Pinterest is super easy. Simply find things that you like and “pin” them – I recommend using the “Pin It” toolbar for one-click pinning. Pinterest is easily searchable for items of interest, or finding friends to connect.


How can it help my business? I like it when sellers use Pinterest as a more indirect tool. My advice is to start collections of your favorite things and incorporate some of your own items into “style guides” like the fashion magazines do. For instance, if you are a jewelry seller, it would be nice to include a collection of your pieces with handbags, shirts and summer sandals to inspire people to buy. You can share these collections via your social media and blog. This method says “here’s how my items go with current fashion trends” rather than “buy my necklace and earring set.” It shows that you care about how your customers will use your items.

What is it? Flickr is an online image hosting website and a vibrant online photography community. Flickr is used by a lot of bloggers (including myself) to host images to later embed into blogs or other social media. The basic Flickr is free (but there are upload limitations), or you can upgrade to a pro account without upload limitations for $24.95 per year.

How do I use it? Simply open an account at www.Flickr.com and start uploading your photos. You can tag photos with keywords that will make then show up in searches, and you can also organize photos into sets so that viewers can easily browse. Another cool feature is “Notes,” which is basically putting a note on top of the photo that you can see when you hover your mouse. If you do use Flickr, I recommend using the Groups feature as much as possible. Sharing your photos with interested parties gives you a lot of exposure.


How can it help my business? There are a few reasons to use Flickr. First of all, it lets you host large images of your products without using up all the bandwidth on your blog. Secondly, tagging photos helps them to come up in Flickr AND Google/Yahoo! searches, so you have a good chance of being “discovered” by participating. This can, of course, lead to additional purchases! Finally, I host a Mod Podge Rocks Flickr group so that participants can easily share their photos and possibly be featured. You could do this as well – have customers share the photos wearing/featuring your product, and host a contest. It all builds buzz!

What is it? Instagr.am is a free iPhone application (yes, iPhone only at this time) that allows you to take pictures, apply a filter and then share the image via various social media.

How do I use it? Download the application from the App Store and install (it’s free!). Take a photo and select a filter from one of 16 filters used to transform the look and feel of the photo. Select the social media to broadcast your photo – choose between Twitter, Facebook, E-mail, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare and Posterous.

How can it help my business? You can use your Instagr.am stream to capture photos of your product, and also do special previews for customers. Instagr.am actually realized earlier this year that a lot of people were adding hashtags (e.g., #modpodgerocks) to their photos, and have made it easy for people to find photos based on your hashtag. I recommend thinking of a business hashtag and adding it to the title of each of your photos.

Once you integrate the hashtag, you can add the photo stream to your business fan page or Twitter stream using the following address:
http://instagr.am/tags/[hashtag name]/feed/recent.rss

To sum up? You can sit in your studio and take photos of your new projects, then broadcast them out to your followers using your cell phone.

I highly encourage you taking the time to check out each of these tools and see what will work for you.  It’s worth the time and trouble for increased sales.

Which of these social media tools are you using? What do you love/hate about them? We would love to know what YOU think in the Comments section below!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Book Review: Pulp Fiction, Author: Mark Montano

Reported by Amy Anderson

I always get tickled when Mark Montano releases a new book – if I had to choose a crafting idol, he would be the one.  It’s a little like a pre-teen getting the latest issue of Tiger Beat with Justin Bieber on the cover, only there is a lot less obsessing and screaming.  I’m honored to be one of the first to review Pulp Fiction: Perfect Paper Projects by Mark – published by Design Originals.  Mark and I have something big in common: we LOVE paper.  It’s my favorite medium too (paired with Mod Podge, of course).  The fun part about this book review was browsing all of the Mod Podge projects.  Nearly all of them use our favorite decoupage glue!  Per usual, Mark’s projects are brilliant and I find myself asking “why didn’t I think of that.”  Here are my five favorite things about this book.

1.  The use of book pages.  I typically forget how fantastic book pages are as a decoupage paper.  They look fabulous in mixed media, on journals, furniture… so many uses.  They are so perfect – Mark shows you how to use them to their best potential with decoupage.

2.  Mark’s techniques with lace.  I always think of lace as old-fashioned, and I certainly never think of bringing it into my craft projects.  His take on lace is a little different, and I appreciate that.  Let’s just say that I’m reconsidering lace.

3.  The budget aspect.  Let’s face it, Mark is the budget project king.  This book follows suite with his others in that most of these use household goodies, and if they don’t you’ll be spending a few pennies to make the project.  They are “cheap” projects that look like a million bucks.

4.  Sewing on paper.  Like using book pages, I ALWAYS forget about sewing on paper.  I love the technique – love, love, love.  There’s a project in this book that will really inspire you to bust out your sewing machine and get cracking.  I’m now thinking “what paper can I sew?”

5.  The double print IKEA table.  It’s a secret process that is super cool, and no, I can’t tell you what it is.  You have to buy the book to learn about my favorite project in it.  The best part is that it’s sealed with Mod Podge.  This is why we love Mark.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of this for yourself and your favorite Mod Podger.  Pulp Fiction is just as awesome as  his “Big Ass” series, and the projects are so unique.  A lot of designers tend to find their “schtick” (myself included) and stick with it.  A read through this book may help you start to think outside your comfort zone a little.  It did me.

Have you read Mark Montano’s latest offering? Do you have his previous books? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!