Newest Crafts Reviews

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Review of

This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain's Knitted History by Esther Rutter

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It was December and Esther Rutter was stuck in her office job, writing to people she'd never met and preparing spreadsheets. The job frustrated her and even her knitting did not soothe her mind. January was going to be a time for making changes and she decided that she would travel the length and breadth of the British Isles with occasional forays abroad, discovering and telling the story of wool's history and how it had made and changed the landscape. She'd grown up on a sheep farm in Suffolk - a free range child on the farm - and learned to spin, knit and weave from her mother and her mother's friend. This was in her blood. Full Review

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Review of

Make and Play: Nativity by Joey Chou

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I always feel a slight disappointment for children at Christmas when they're presented with a tree to decorate with a box of ornaments and a nativity scene (sometimes quite precious, so it's Not To Be Played With) which is set up Somewhere Safe. Where's the imagination, the creativity, the sense of pride in that? How much better to have a child create their own nativity scene, which they can then play with? That's exactly what they get with Joey Chou's Make and Play Nativity. Full Review

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Review of

Can You Draw the Dragosaur? by Peter Lynas and Charlie Roberts

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You're going to get a hint of what this book's about very quickly. When you see the title page, you'll find out what the book's called and that it's been written by Peter Lynas. Then we move on to who has done the illustration - and there's a gap. You are going to put your name there. It's your responsibility to provide the pictures for this book about one of the largest creatures ever to roam the earth. There's some help available, but your name is on the title page - and you have work to do! Full Review

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Review of

Why We Quilt by Thomas Knauer

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I've often wondered about the story that patchwork quilting began as a way for women (and myth would have it that it was always women) to make an extra blanket out of material which would otherwise go to waste. This undoubtedly did happen but when you think about it, you need an awful lot of material to make a quilt and the time could have been better spent if all that was required was bedding. Like Thomas Knauer, I've come to the conclusion that it began as an art and has largely continued down that same road with fluctuations in popularity over the years. Full Review

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Review of

The Mitten Handbook: Knitting Recipes to Make Your Own by Mary Scott Huff

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I love mittens - they're so convenient and much easier to get onto (and off) cold hands than a pair of fiddly gloves. They're not something you regularly see in shops, so I knew that if I wanted new pairs I would have to knit them myself. Well, actually, that's my rationalisation of the situation: in truth, I love knitting mittens. They have just enough technique to make them satisfying, plenty of quick work and a pair of warm mittens in a few days. Patterns, though - where do you get them from? Full Review

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Review of

Handbag Workshop: Design and Sew the Perfect Bag by Anna M Mazur

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I love handbags, but I resent paying the prices demanded by manufacturers of 'good' bags. Additionally, I often find a bag I like but the colour/shape/size/capacity/internal layout isn't quite what I had in mind, so I end up spending rather a lot of money and compromising. The solution is to make my own bags and whilst I was confident about sewing fabric bags, I was nervous about using leather, not least because leather isn't very forgiving when it comes to mistakes and it's usually more expensive than fabric. I needed help. Anna Mazur's The Handbag Workshop came to me free through NetGalley in return for an unbiased review. Full Review

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Review of

The Knitter's Dictionary: Knitting Know-How from A to Z by Kate Atherley

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I've been knitting for well over sixty years, following patterns of varying complexity with success. I've knit Aran sweaters, socks by the dozen and I'm currently knitting blankets for a charity to sell. There hasn't been an occasion when I've been stuck and people have often come to me for help when they've been stuck. Would a knitter's dictionary really be of any help to me? I was surprised by just how much I got out of it. Full Review

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Review of

Modern Patchwork Home: Dynamic Quilts and Projects for Every Room by Vivika DeNegre (Editor)

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The problem with a craft which is largely based on traditional designs is that what results from your labours is also traditional, or - depending upon what light you shine on it - old-fashioned. Vivika DeNegre has curated a collection of patterns from today's top designers. As a word of warning, if you read Modern Patchwork Magazine you may well find that there's nothing new in the book, but if you're new to the magazine this could well prove to be a delightful collection from the back catalogue. Full Review

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Review of

Star Wars Millennium Falcon Book and Mega Model by Katrina Pallant and Neal Manning

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One of the unexpected results of making a rough-and-ready sci-fi film back in the 1970s, was that George Lucas left a whole generation capable of spelling Millennium. In amongst all the iconic inventions for the film, his design team left him – and us – with a very loveable, very fast and very asymmetrical space ship. How is it balanced when the cockpit is stuck out one side? What is that dish-like array doing on what seems to act as the top? And where can you get your own? Well, beyond the rarity and great cost of the Lego model, I can at least provide one answer to those three pertinent questions, and that answer is… here. Full Review

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Review of

Press Out and Decorate: Unicorns by Kate McLelland

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It's the weekend and I've been indulging myself. There's something about a unicorn which appeals to me and a little bit of research into a book of press-out unicorns, clouds and rainbows seemed like the ideal way to spend a Saturday morning. You get twenty designs in the book and they're all decorated with pink foil: even if you don't want to add any further colouring they're still going to look great, but because the pages are a substantial card you have the opportunity to use crayons, felt tips or even paints to add your own personal touch. Full Review

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Review of

Embroidery: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum

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In Embroidery: A Maker's Guide we get a brief introduction to the craft by James Merry, embroidery artist, information on the tools you'll need, materials you can utilise and a guide to the stitches you'll be using. If you're just thinking about starting embroidery and not certain which type will suit you best or someone who's experienced in one area but wanting to branch out this book could be an ideal starting point. There are over 230 glorious photographs (of items from the V&A collections) and illustrations covering 15 styles of embroidery and giving all the information and designs you'll need for 15 projects. Full Review

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Review of

Patchwork and Quilting: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum

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Patchwork is a magical craft: you can take relatively small pieces of material and turn them into another piece of material with an entirely different pattern. Quilting converts a topper and a backing fabric with some wadding in between into a fabric of an entirely different weight. Combine the two crafts and you have something more than magical, occasionally fashionable but always deeply satisfying. But where to start, when there are so many different styles of both crafts? One answer is to read Patchwork and Quilting: A Maker's Guide which looks - as the cover says - at styles from Italian trapunto to Korean jogakbo and then delivers fifteen projects inspired by the V&A collections. Full Review

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Review of

Origami, Poems and Pictures by The British Museum

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Sometimes you find a delight of a book. On an afternoon when it was unseasonably cold and decidedly wet I discovered Origami, Poems and Pictures and I was transported to Japan. As the title suggests we're looking at three celebrated arts and crafts: the ancient art of paper folding, haiku poetry and painting. I'll confess that it was the origami which caught my attention, but I was surprised by the extent to which the rest of the book caught my imagination. We begin with something very simple: a boat and in case you're worried, all the entries have a degree of difficulty (from 'simple' through to 'tricky') and this one is at the lowest level. Full Review

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Review of

Build a ... Butterfly by Kiki Ljung

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I love butterflies: they're one of the delights of my garden and it's always a pleasure when there are children there and they see a butterfly close up, possibly for the first time, as it rests on a flower. Kiki Ljung has given us the opportunity to learn about butterflies and also to build a 3D model of our own. The book is primarily aimed at the five to eight-year-old age group, but I have to confess that I had a great deal of fun building my own painted lady. I learned quite a bit too! Full Review

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Review of

Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations by Eilidh Muldoon

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Have you ever tried wrapping a small gift, or those handmade sweets or biscuits you've prepared for a friend? It's not easy, is it? If you use wrapping paper the gift tends to lose presence and once you start to use glass jars the gift becomes really quite expensive and less easy to transport. Do you find colouring relaxing and rewarding but somehow it feels just a little bit too indulgent if all you do is turn to the next page and start colouring that? Would you get more out of it if you could use what you've coloured for a practical purpose? The ideal solution to both problems is Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations by Eilidh Muldoon. Full Review

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Review of

Pug-a-Doodle-Do! by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

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I was reading a book so utterly different to this the other day, it has to bear mention. It was an exceedingly academic book about graphic novels and comics for the YA audience, and it featured an essay picking up on the way books like the fill-in-bits-yourself entries in the Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries series (such as this one) let you interact with the franchise, and also to create your own content. There was some weird high-falutin' academic language to describe such books – but you know what? I say (redacted) to that – let's just hang it and have fun. And this book, spinning off from the four books this partnership has so far been responsible for, is certainly a provider of that. Full Review

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Review of

The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Unicorns and Rainbows by Rebecca Jones

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I have a problem with many colouring books for children: some initial effort goes into the colouring, but the chances are that little will be kept on a long-term basis and it's not particularly satisfying. How much better would it be if the colouring produced something which could be sent to someone else, who would appreciate that it's unique and that effort and care has gone into the card? How much better to give a child something like The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Unicorns and Rainbows than an ordinary colouring book which will soon be discarded? Full Review

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Review of

My Year in Small Drawings: Notice, Draw, Appreciate by Matilda Tristram

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In recent years there has been an upsurge in the publication of 'interactive' books, designed to spark our creativity. Colouring books for adults, as well as my teenage daughter's current favourite: Wreck This Journal, seek to tap into our creative side, whilst promoting mindfulness and relaxation. By actively encouraging us to slow down and look at the world around us, books like these enable us to take time out of our busy lives and just enjoy the present moment. And this method must be working because they are proving incredibly popular. I was intrigued, therefore, at the idea behind My Year in Small Drawings, which invites readers to create a visual diary of the world around us by creating a series of small pictures on a given subject. Full Review

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Review of

Around the World Colouring Book by Thomas Flintham

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Colouring books are a useful way for children to relax, develop manual dexterity and explore colour, but in the dash to appeal to the child so many miss the opportunity to be gently educational and to still appeal to the young. The two are not mutually exclusive! Look for instance at this colouring book: it's got page upon page of pictures to colour (with just a little narrative to set the scene) with the added attraction of four pages of stickers. You'll see grey shapes - and that's the signal to get stickering! Full Review

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Review of

Rainforest Masks: Ten 3D Rainforest Masks to Press Out and Make by Gavin Rutherford and Tanya Batrak

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I have been having the most tremendous fun making rainforest masks: you know the effect that you get when a really talented face artist does a young child's face and you see the tiger? Well, this is an even better result and it's in 3D. All the creatures are, as you would expect, from the rainforest regions of the world, but there's decidedly more here than the usual suspects. You get a green iguana, toucan, jaguar, emperor tamarin, blue morpho butterfly, red-eyed tree frog, Brazilian tapir, giant otter, blue-and-yellow macaw and the emerald tree boa. Never heard of some of them? Well, don't worry: the book is gently educational, with a paragraph telling you just enough about the creature. Full Review

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