Missbeecrafty’s latest crafty finds

I love me a good craft book. Sometimes I take them home just to drool over, and sometimes I actually make some of the things! In the last couple of months, I’ve found some really wonderful craft books, and I just had to share. Maybe you’ll find something to make too!

9781607058861First up, is Felt Wee Folk by Salley Mavor. This book is full of adorable little figurines, with the sweetest faces, little acorn cup hats, and beautiful felt clothes. I really wanted to make some fairies for the Christmas Tree, and a Nativity, and maybe a winter scene, too. I found it before Christmas, and I really would have made some if I hadn’t discovered book number two just a week later…

Book number two is Happy Quilts! by Antonie Alexander. This book looked so bright and fun I couldn’t resist bringing it home, and as I pored over the cute projects, I realised that here was the perfect inspiration for the Young Lad’s homemade Christmas present. Even though this is a book of quilts, I didn’t make him a quilt (remember I took this book out just before Christmas, even I wouldn’t contemplate making a whole quilt with just three weeks to do it. I may be good, but I’m not that good!)

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I thought about one of the soft toys, but the Young Lad has just turned eight, and I wasn’t sure how well a rag-doll would go down, even if it was a superhero rag-doll.  So I decided to use one of the robot quilt blocks, and make him a cushion. I had a lot of fun choosing colourful fabrics from my stash, and was really pleased that the only things I ended up buying was background fabric and buttons. The huge grin on his face, and the bear hug he gave the cushion when he opened it told me I’d chosen just the right thing to make!

9781784943301The last book I want to tell you about is Wedding Jewelry by Sian Hamilton. I spied this book on the new books shelf and couldn’t stop myself from picking it up and flicking through. See, my little brother is getting married this year, and I want to make something for his fiancée. Even though the brides in the book all have rather pained expressions on their faces — according to Miss Missy, several of them look like they’ve just noticed bird poo on their shoulder — the instructions are really clear, and there are lots of interesting techniques. When I showed the book to my future SIL, we came up with a plan for me to make a beaded hair comb, and I’m really excited about getting started on it!

Have you discovered any great crafting books lately? If so, please tell me your finds!

Knit ME! Knit ME!

Cover of Knitted Animal CoziesOne of the best things about being a librarian has got to be unpacking the boxes of new books. It’s like a little bit of Christmas every week!

As soon as I pulled Knitted Animal Cozies out of the box, I just knew this was my latest favourite craft book. The animals are so desperately cute and adorable, I just wanted to knit them right away. I found myself wanting to take up drinking coffee just so that I could knit myself a woolly Sheep Cafetière Hug. Or even golf, because who wouldn’t want cute, fluffy, puppy cozies for their golf-clubs?

Once I recovered from the cuteness overload, I realised it’s written by Fiona Goble, who just so happens to have written several other crafty favourites of mine. I actually like Fleecie Dolls so much I bought my own copy! And once I’ve knitted all the cozies I need in my life (maybe I’ll skip the Tortoise Stool Cozy) I rather think I’d like a Knitivity.

Cover of KnitivitySince most of the cozy projects are knitted in chunky or aran weight wool, or are pretty small, they should be quick to make — unlike Grandpa’s socks which I’m still working on 10 months later (the end is in sight, though, I’m 7 inches down sock number two)!! And if you’re new to knitting, the book has great, clear instructions on how to knit, including how to do the various stitches in the patterns.

Go on, you know you want some knitted animal cozies too!

 

The lazy crafter’s guide to Christmas

Sound the klaxons! It is officially two months until Christmas day. Ah-oooh-gah! Panic! Panic stations! PANIC!

But actually, don’t…because unless you’re in charge of the annual Santa parade, two months is plenty of time to get organised for Christmas. Having said that, if you’re on a limited budget and want to bulk out your gifty offerings with some homemade fare, then now is actually a pretty good time to start getting organised in a non-panicky, totally on top of it way. At least that’s the theory.

And that’s how I ended up pulling a bunch of Christmas books off the shelf before Halloween. Because homemade may be cheaper but it also takes longer… What I’m looking for is stylish inspiration, but stuff that’s not too fiddly or requires a lot of expensive ingredients/materials.

Here’s how my festive five lined up:

Cover of Christmas craftsChristmas crafts: 35 projects for the home and for giving – This scores high in the “stylish photography/inspiration” category. If you are the kind of person who likes large paper pom-poms and chandelier drops as tree ornaments you’ll do well with this book. There’s a whole section on place-setting related crafts that I would never do in a million years… however the edible gifts and kids crafts are all cute and achievable. Cookies that can also be tree decorations? I can whip those up in an afternoon, no worries.

Cover of Christmas crafting in no timeChristmas crafting in no time – I picked this book due to the title because I have no time to do anything. Most of the projects within (50 in total) do seem simple to moderately fiddly, but a lot of them feature felt and needlework so if that’s not your aesthetic/strength you might prefer something else. That said, there are some bright, cheery decoration options and pretty idiot proof gift ideas (e.g. flavoured vinegars, vanilla sugar), though typically very northern-hemisphere appropriate (cosy baby boots, hot water bottle covers and so on).

Cover of Christmas joys: Decorating, crafts & recipesChristmas joys: Decorating, crafts and recipes – This book wins in the “who has the best photos of effortless-looking rustic holiday cabins” competition by a Country Living mile. Everything in this book looks beautiful… however most of us cannot pull off hanging beribboned pine branches from our living room doorknobs, or sprigs of artfully placed pine in old jars without it looking mildly ridiculous. The recipes though are mouthwatering, and the gift ideas, very chic – sugar cookies shaped like buttons! Espresso sugar cubes! Bespoke embroidered gloves! Gourmet marshmallows! Rosemary honey! Gifts I’d be happy to receive and only slightly less happy to make.

Cover of Kirstie's Christmas craftsKirstie’s Christmas crafts – I have always enjoyed Kirstie Allsop’s sense of style both in her fashion choices and in her crafty television outings like Kirstie’s vintage home so had high hopes that she would solve all my Christmas gift problems in one fell swoop. Alas, no. This book rates the highest in fussy/fiddly factor. One project involved screenprinting. Making my own silkscreen is several steps too far for this lazy crafter. Saving graces come in the form of a dead easy recipe for summer favourite, limoncello, a rather good looking chutney, and a mulled cider, and a spiced pear martini that I can’t stop thinking about. So mainly the booze and food section.

Cover of Washi tape ChristmasWashi tape Christmas: Easy holiday craft ideas with washi tape – I went washi tape mad a couple of Christmases ago so I am not immune to its easy, removable adhesive charms. Unfortunately the crafts in this book do rather depend on you having acquired vast quantities of washi tape in a variety of Christmas-themed patterns, which I cannot be bothered with, frankly. And the appeal for me is how easy washi tape is to use but somehow they’ve managed to make it all fiddly. I reckon you could make most of the projects with patterned paper and some spray adhesive so if you’ve the time and skill and a fully stocked crafting toolkit, this could be your Christmas crafting inspiration.

Any sure-fire Christmas crafts you want to share or favourite Christmas inspiration type books?

Present heaven

Cover‘Tis the season to buy presents. How you feel about it may depend on who you are buying for. I love buying presents for children, but young men stump me every time. No matter how much I love them they’re enigmas to me and it doesn’t seem to help to ask their parents – they’re just as much in the dark.

Recently I bought dresses as birthday presents for two of my great-nieces and they were a roaring success. I delivered them on Saturday, and on Wednesday their grandmother rang to say they were still wearing them because they refused to take them off. Forced to give hers up to be washed, one of them would only wear her knickers until it was ready to wear again. The Force is obviously with me, so it’s Christmas shopping here I come.

One bibliophile writing in the New Zealand Herald recently  said she got her passion for books from a great-aunt who unfailingly bought them as birthday presents for each of a large brood of great nephews and nieces. She sounds like the perfect great-aunt to me and I intend to emulate her. For me it’s Christmas that means books though, and it’s a tradition I mean to maintain.

CoverSo how am I going to reproduce my recent success? Well I’m probably not, but my best chance lies with consulting some lists on the library website. For the children the Award winners list is a good bet, although I may need advice on as to what is age appropriate. A good holiday read always goes down well, but perhaps best of all is to get if from the horse’s mouth – on the kids blog. For young adults, try the Pulse holiday reading

For adults our website has put together Best Reads with staff recommendations and ‘best books lists for 2011. If your adult has specialised interests try our booklists on the catalogue, they cover all sorts of  areas from cyberpunk, to the 2011 Man Booker longlist and New Zealand’s top cooks.

None of which helps with a 22 year old male who doesn’t read at all, sigh …

Secret Santa

Find "Last minute knitted gifts" in BiblioCommonsWhat is it about Secret Santa that causes me to break out in a cold sweat? Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas giving and receiving as much as the next sane adult, but it’s just that my Secret Santa track record has been pretty woeful to date.

“What can possibly go wrong?” I hear you ask.

There are only two variations on the Secret Santa theme. In the first you buy a gift but you have no idea who will receive it. It’s all meant to be very jolly and spontaneous. Here’s how it played out for me one year. At the last minute, in a frenzied mall dash, I bought four toilet rolls printed with cheerful Father Christmas faces. I had a recipient in mind – a terrific Kiwi bloke with  the best sense of humour ever. I knew he’d love them. Sod’s Law, on the day and contrary to type, he chose the littlest gift, leaving my toilet rolls to be selected by a desperately private, terribly refined English teacher. There was a palpable awkwardness to the whole event.

The other way is to draw a name out of a hat and buy a gift with a particular person in mind. This should work better, but you absolutely NEVER get the person you could buy for most easily.  The problem here is that if the gift is less than perfect, you don’t have an excuse. Twice in my life under this system I have received those brightly striped socks with individual toe compartments and I have no idea what it is about me that inspires this choice.

Two types of gift buyers really score at the Secret Santa tradition – those who buy gifts at the sales in January (that’s right, the same January that comes right after December) and keep them the whole year in readiness – and those who make their own Secret Santa gifts. These talented individuals make it all seem so easy and have no need of the many library resources that could help with creating your own Christmas gifts should you be that way inclined. My favourites are  Handcarved Christmas  (as in “thanks, but no thanks”) and Last-minute knitted gifts  which seems like a complete oxymoron to me.

Still, only once did I nearly reduce a gift recipient to tears of frustration and that was the time we were asked to write a little cryptic poem about the gift. The idea being that you could only open the gift when you had worked out what it was. This went to my head in a very unattractive way. My poor gift receiver couldn’t work what I was getting at and in the end viewed my carefully selected bright green, froggy-shaped watering-can with something approaching quiet despair.

Now you know why I have such a nervous reaction to Secret Santa. But be warned, I’m out there buying three of them this year. Be afraid, be very afraid!

Making baby’s…gifts

There are a few new library babies who’ve made an appearance on the scene in recent weeks, and I, and several other people around the place find themselves wondering how best to welcome the new arrivals. Luckily there are plenty of books that’ll give you a few ideas. Now if I can only find some spare time and hithertofore unknown crafting skills then I’ll be set –

Oh, and congratulations to all the new parents!