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Book Review: Every Day’s A Holiday

Reported by Amy Anderson

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: Playful Patchwork

Reported by Amy Anderson

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!

Vendor Spotlight: Lifestyle Crafts Epic Six and L Letterpress (1 of 3)

Reported by Amy Anderson

I adore the look of letterpress.  If you don’t know what it is, it’s a printing process that embosses and inks at the same time, giving your paper an interesting texture and beautiful finished look.  You may have seen letterpress cards; I have seen them in stores on many an occasion and wondered how I could make them myself without a large, professional machine.  I was more-than-thrilled when Lifestyle Crafts released L Letterpress – a printing platform you can use with their Epic Six machine to recreate the look of letterpress at home.  Note that the L Letterpress and the Epic Six are sold separately; but what I love about Lifestyle Crafts is that they designed L Letterpress to work with their existing machine rather than creating a whole other machine you have to purchase.  I gave both the Epic Six and the L Letterpress a go, and I’d love to share my results.  I have to tell you upfront that I was pleasantly surprised.

I first laid out all the goods.  I’m not necessarily an instruction book reader, but there are a lot of components to the letterpress process.  That’s not a bad thing, I just want to strongly suggest that you read the instruction book completely before beginning.  You may be disappointed if you jump in, or you might screw something up.

I decided to go simple for my first card – so I picked two plates from the Posy Kit to try.  I really love lollipop flowers!  For about five minutes I didn’t understand that the adhesive didn’t come on the back of the plates.  What you need to do is use the adhesive sheets that come with the kit to adhere the plates to the printing system.  The kit comes with 4 adhesive sheets in clear, and in between two white sheets is the sticky stuff.  To use the adhesive, peel off the top layer of white and stick your printing plate to the clear.

After you do this, cut around the plates as closely as possible.  The posies had a lot of places to cut, but I’m not patient, so what you see above is about as good as it’s gonna get.  I was hoping my lack of patience would not cause problems, but I was willing to take the risk.

When I was ready, I used my jazz hand to peel off the second sheet of white paper to expose the tacky and adhere the plates to the clear side of the press.  As you can see, there are very clear guides to help you get the measurements just right – it’s truly letterpress for dummies (which is great for me).  I ended up removing the word “Love” so that I could just try the posies first.  I felt like for my first try, I was being too ambitious.  My assumption was that I was going to mess it up.

The kit comes with a clear plate for you to spread your ink out on.  NOTE: A little ink goes a LONG way!  I selected Navy, and it’s a vibrant, gorgeous shade.  A little dab is all you need.  I used the brayer that comes with the kit to smooth out the ink on the plate, then I rolled it onto the posies.  I kind of made a mess so you don’t see the picture – but that is what the Cleansing Cloths are for.  These are a must have.

I positioned my paper on the opposite (right) side of the press.  I used the A2 Flat Paper which is awesome stock.  I’ve actually worked with a lot of paper stock in my job, and this is thick and nice.  I would definitely use it for any sort of occasion, including weddings.  It’s that good.

The kit comes with little sponge-y stickers to keep your paper in place.  Using the guides makes matching up the paper to the printing plates a snap.  I rolled out the ink on the left side before I actually got my paper in order, but the ink takes awhile to dry, so I was safe.  I closed the hatch and rolled it through the Epic Six, not knowing what was going to come out . . .

Oh my goodness, I was super pumped!  It came out perfectly!  Feeling kind of bold, I decided to do another plate and a second color on my paper.  I took my brayer and clear plate to the sink, and this is when I learned a valuable lesson.

This ink does NOT come off with soap and water.  I got it all over my hands and counter trying to scrub it off.  The Cleansing Cloths, as I said before, are a MUST have.  I abandoned a sinking ship and used the cloths to clean everything up.  That is the way to go.

After getting cleaning up and repeating the printing process with Gold, I added “Thank You” to the card.  I’m tickled!

For my second project I decided to combine letterpress with Lifestyle dies.  Hey, the Epic Six does both, so why not take advantage?  Again I used the Posy Kit, and I added in the Spray dies for some texture and fun.  As you can see, I played with the placement before doing any printing or cutting.

I did the same adhesive process with the printing plates as before, and placed my card.  Before inking I placed my dies in the letterpress “sandwich” to make sure everything was where I wanted it.  Looking good.

I used even less ink that before.  Just a touch.

I rolled it out – going back and forth over the plates a few times.  I can’t emphasize enough how little ink this process takes.

Once I was done with the card, I set it aside to test the cutting capabilities of the Epic Six.  It works like most die cutters: just put your paper on top of the dies between two plates and then run it through.  I LOVE the Lifestyle dies.  They cut better than a lot of dies on the market.  There’s nothing worse than having to go in and trim paper when you thought it cut all the way through the first time.

I ran printed paper through the first time, then stepped down a size with my flowers and ran solid paper through.  I adhered my flowers with Glue Dots.  I’m loving my two new cards.

Conclusion?  Lifestyle has created a brilliant, easy way to print letterpress on your own.  I am a total slob when it comes to crafting, and even I couldn’t beat the system.  I love the ink colors and the crispness of the images after the

Pros:

  • Easy way to letterpress for the beginner
  • High quality product – I was impressed with how sturdy all of it was
  • Paper was thick and took the ink and embossing perfectly
  • Great instructions
  • Bold, graphic, trendy images for printing plates
  • Epic Six is easy to use
  • Dies cut very well – better than others I’ve used on the market

Cons:

  • A lot of parts to keep up with – you’ll need a good storage system
  • You must have the wipes to clean up, and they don’t come with the kit

You can buy the L Letterpress kit and dies separately if you already have an Epic Six, or you can purchase the Epic Combo Kit.

Special Deal for our readers:
Use the promo code: CRAFTCRITIQUE – for 20% off Lifestylecrafts.com through the end of April!

GIVEAWAY!
Our friends at Lifestyle Crafts have generously offered an Epic Combo Kit as a giveaway to one of our readers! Answer this question in the comments below to be entered:

Take a look at all of the L Letterpress Printing Plates that are available…. which one is your favorite? What would you make with it?

One comment per person, per Vendor Spotlight: Lifestyle Crafts article (there will be three). Winner will be chosen on Saturday, April 23, 2011.

Disclosure

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