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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?

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Book Review: Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross

Reported by Rachel Johnson
I received Weekend Sewing: More That 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Sewing from my mom as a Christmas gift. I always love receiving craft books as gifts, not only because they have great projects in them, but because I always enjoy the inspirational photography. For me, photography is one of the most important aspects of a craft tutorial book, and Weekend Sewing does not disappoint!
Heather Ross, the author of Weekend Sewing, is an artist and author. This is her first sewing book, but that does not mean it is a book for only beginner seamstresses. The patterns contained in the book range from simple napkins to formal dresses – and each project is accompanied by beautiful, full-color photography and detailed, hand-drawn diagrams. Ross explains in the introduction how each of the projects are meant to be completed in a weekend, or less, and how she meant for each of the items to have a relaxed, weekend feel.
The book is well organized with three distinct sections (home goods, adult clothing, and children’s clothing), as well as approximately twenty pages of basic sewing information, and a lovely “Resources” spread (seen below) with store information and suggested websites. Another very helpful and generous feature of Weekend Sewing is that is comes with all of the patterns printed in their full size on large sheets of paper that are tucked into the book cover–no need to photocopy tiny diagrams at 400% at Kinko’s like with other pattern books.
Now, I must confess: I have only basic sewing skills, due mostly to my own impatience. I own a sewing machine (a 30-year-old, heavy, metal Kenmore that has survived my amateur tinkerings ever since I was a child) and I use it regularly, but I don’t think I have correctly followed a sewing pattern since 8th grade HomeEc class. I sew lots of simple, fast things, like curtains and patches on torn jeans–things that don’t require a lot of ironing and measuring. Knowing this about myself, I choose one of the easier patterns in Weekend Sewing as my first project: the Sunday Dinner Hostess Apron.
I gathered my supplies: fabric from my stash (which I DID wash and iron first–go Rachel!), tracing paper, scissors, etc. Notice that I do not have tailor’s chalk or fabric shears–which would have been helpful, but not totally necessary. I traced the apron pattern (the apron skirt, the waistband and waistband facing, and two ties with facing) and cut the pieces from my fabric. Then, I started sewing, very proud of myself for following the instructions exactly!
I wish I had taken better photos of the finished product, because it really did turn out to be a very cute apron. I love it. It looks nearly professional and is quite feminine and sweet. The entire project took me about four hours and the whole process went smoothly thanks to the detailed instructions and diagrams in the book.
I look forward to attempting more Weekend Sewing projects, maybe even the wrap dress! I would definitely recommend the book to anyone (with at least some basic sewing skills and access to a sewing machine) who is looking for simple, but beautiful sewing project ideas.
Pros:
  • Over forty sewing projects, from napkins and tote bags to blouses and smocked dresses.
  • Lovely color photos and very detailed, hand-drawn, step-by-step diagrams for every project.
  • Full-size patterns included with the book on large, separate sheets of paper.
  • It has a laid-back, easy-going weekend attitude that encourages the reader to really enjoy their sewing time.
Cons:
  • Not exactly a con, but you must have access to a sewing machine to complete most, if not all, of the projects.
  • I would not call the projects in Weekend Sewing extremely advanced, but they are not for absolute beginners, either. Some sewing knowledge and skills are necessary.
  • Also not a con, but something to note: 2/3 of the book is devoted to clothing projects, and half of those projects are children’s clothing. If you are looking for more housewares or functional items, this may not be the sewing book for you.
Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching
 has an MSRP of $27.50 and is sold at most major book retailers. Do you own this book and have you created any of the projects? If so, please share links to photos of your finished products. What other sewing books do you suggest for a beginner-to-intermediate seamstress?
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