Reviews: Inspiring craft books to check out as we wait for spring

by jennifer


I considered taking some time off to regroup after my weekly newspaper column was canceled, but then I remembered that it’s not my style to sit and chill for any length of time. I like to do what I love continuously.

Plus, I didn’t want there to be a break in the action for you folks who are now kindly looking for my work online where I plan to continue to post columns about art and craft, books, tools, trends, and creative technology and home goods mixed in with project tutorials, art documentaries, animated shorts (I’m super exited about these!) and the stories behind some of my own creative adventures. I will be featuring people from around the globe as well as Michigan-based artists and crafters who I can visit and interview in person.

So, to kick things off, I’m going to tell you about some of the art and craft books that are piled up on my desk and tempting me to drop everything else and create.


Kinder taxidermy
Knitters with a sense of humor, be sure to check out “Faux Taxidermy Knits: 15 Wild Animal Knitting Patterns” (128 pages, $14.99) by Louise Walker. As a vegetarian and animal lover, I’m not a big fan of taxidermy, however, I’m quite fond of this book and adore the animal-friendly way knitted pelts are swapped in for the real ones. The fox stole on the cover is darling and officially on my projects to knit list.

As I paged through “Faux Taxidermy,” I really appreciated the undercurrent of humor that runs through the book. Using Walker’s book, knitters can fashion a raccoon hat out of faux fur and a lucky rabbit’s foot for their key ring without injuring any of our four-legged friends. And there’s a polar bear mitten pattern for folks who want to put their paws up and stay warm at the same time. I’m not sure I could pull off the wolf headdress look, but if you see me wearing it, you’ll know I decided to answer the call of the wild.

Actual hunting trophies give me the creeps (no offense to all the crafty big game hunters out there), but Walker’s comical knitted moose head trophy is one I’d mount on my wall. With the exception of the pheasant instructions to knit what appears to be a limp bird, Walker’s patterns are appealing and fun and it appears that she saved the cutest project for last. The bear coasters, resembling bear rugs, are super cute and look very much alive to me.


Time for something new at home?
If you have craft supplies stashed away and you’re looking for ways to use them to update your decor, “Materially Crafted: A DIY Primer for the Design-Obsessed” (176 pages, $24.95) by Victoria Hudgins was written for you. This book provides detailed instructions for making 35 projects organized by materials used. The project categories include spray paint, Plaster of Paris, concrete, paper, thread, wax, wood, clay, glue, fabric and metal.

In her book, Hudgins, creator of A Subtle Revelry blog, offers guidance for selecting colors, supplies, and translating inspiration into creative action to add “beauty, value and function to your home.” From colorful rolled wax tea lights and metal candlesticks fashioned from plumbing supplies to indoor clouds and a list of the best plants for home decorating, this book serves up plenty of inspiration and supports readers with what they need to know to execute their creative plans. (I’m looking forward to trying out the recipe for milk paint.) This a great book to keep on the reference shelf for times when inspiration is running low and your home needs a pop of color here and there.


Sample some printmaking styles
Anytime we launch into a new creative medium, it takes a bit to develop our own personal style and it helps to study successful work created by others. As an aspiring printmaker, I appreciate books like “Contemporary American Print Makers” by E. Ashley Rooney and Stephanie Standish (240 pages, $34.99) that showcase 75 artists and 30 print shops demonstrating a wide range of artistic styles that illustrate what is possible within the art form.

From examples of Japanese wood block printing to etchings, linoleum and screen prints, this book is great to page through and keep on the shelf as a reference. (It’s important for me to note here that this book is edgier than the others on my list as it contains some images unsuitable for children.) It’s also nice for traveling artists who want to scope out some collaborative print shops visit during an upcoming road trip.


Inspiration for transformative quilting
“The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously” (176 pages, $27.50) by Sherri Lynn Wood is one of the best quilting books I’ve ever read. Why? Because this book empowers readers to tap a creative vein and improvise with scissors and a pile of stash fabric.

I read an advance copy of this book on my iPad after my column was cut from the newspaper. I was feeling bad and this book inspired me to immerse myself in a modern quilt project quite different from my initial plan. I kept sewing for about five days and it felt magical because I didn’t have any idea how my quilt was going to look when I started and I really loved the spontaneity of the whole process. And in true CraftSanity spirit, I made something pretty while processing one of life’s disappointments and the improv process worked especially well on this occasion.

There are no strict step-by-step instructions in “The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.” Instead, Wood (who was featured on episode 156 of the CraftSanity Podcast) presents “scores,” or sets of instructions similar to the lead sheets used as guides by jazz musicians who improvise during performances. While step-by-step quilters may find this more abstract guidance a bit unnerving at first, those who surrender their quilting rulers and templates and dive in with wild abandon have the most to gain. Wood encourages quilters to improvise by making intuitive color choices and by practicing mental exercises to improve spontaneity. She also tells readers how to create their own score.

With projects ranging from beginner to advanced, this book provides photo-illustrated instructions for 15 piecing techniques including curve piecing, darting, string piecing and patchwork without a ruler. “The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters” would be fun to work through with a quilt bee or as an independent study. And, if you like quilts and fabric, there’s a good chance the photography by Sara Remington, will intoxicate you.

Know about a book you think I should feature or have another story idea? Leave a comment below or email me at because I’d love to hear about it. : ) 

You may also like


Rashida September 20, 2017 - 8:44 am

You made a few good points there. I did a search on the subject matter and found nearly all people will go along with with your blog.

Lizabeth September 20, 2017 - 7:05 pm

Hi there, simply became aware of your weblog through Google, and located that it’s really informative. I am gonna be careful for brussels. I will be grateful when you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

Leave a Comment