Cute Crochet World Book Review

Blogged under Good Books, crochet and knitting by Tammy on Saturday 12 April 2014 at 2:53 pm

Cute Crochet World: A Little Dictionary of Crochet Critters, Folks, Food & More by Suzann Thompson is published Lark and has a copyright date of May 2014. It retails for $17.95 (though, of course, you can get a discounted copy from Amazon.com). The book concentrates on making motifs and embellishment items, so the majority of the projects are two dimensional. They are made with the idea that you can then take them and add them to items like clothing and blankets or you can turn them into ornaments or jewelry items. There is a section in the book where the author gives lots of ideas for using the finished projects.

While I tend to prefer three dimensional projects, I have to say that I was impressed with the large number of projects in this book, over 50, as well as the variety. I’ve seen books like this before that are filled with one or two types of projects, like leaves and flowers, and that’s it. However, she has everything from cupcakes to mushrooms to televisions in here.

Most of the projects are small and not overly complicated, which means they are good short-term projects to attempt. Plus, another huge “pro” for these types of projects is the amount of yarn needed is minimal. In fact, if you are looking to bust out some stash or want to use up all those scraps you’ve been keeping because they were just too large to throw away, this is a good place to look for project ideas. For example, you could make some cute cupcakes using lots of different yarn colors and sew them (which is explained in the book) onto a pre-made baby blanket, and voila! You have a very fast baby shower gift that has a little hand-made quality to it.

i would feel comfortable recommending this book to anyone who already enjoys making embellishments, and I would even go so far to suggest beginners will enjoy this as well since none of the projects require a huge commitment as far as time.

Never Been Stitched Book Review

Blogged under Good Books, Sew Simple by Tammy on Thursday 10 April 2014 at 5:21 pm



Never Been Stitched: 45 No-Sew & Low-Sew Projects by Amanda Carestio is published by Lark and came out in February of 2014. Its publisher’s retail price if $17.95, and it is a 128 page paperback book that includes full-color photographs of the finished projects, some drawn illustrations to assist the how-to text, and templates in the back section of the book.

The subtitle says it has no-sew as well as low-sew projects, so this suggests very little sewing skill is needed to complete the projects in the book. Generally, I think that is true for most of the projects. If they do require sewing, you will be doing a lot of straight seeming. One project that I just can’t see as being “low sew” with the idea that the sewer would not have a very high skill level is the Teddy Bear Backpack. It’s adorable, but it requires a zipper to be sewn in, something a novice (I think) would find challenging. Otherwise, most of of the projects are very simple.

The projects are divided up into Wear, Decorate, Play, Carry, and Give. I would have to say the wearable projects were not to my personal taste, but if you are into refurbishing and pushing fashion boundaries, they may appeal to you. I think the Play and Carry projects have more going on to my liking. Though, in the Decorate section there is a cute project where you cover cardboard boxes with fabric, great idea! In fact, probably a lot of these project will get you thinking of other possibilities.

The list price is a lot more than the price available at Amazon, which at this point is running around $10 and even less for used copies. With that in mind, I would recommend this to anyone who likes working with fabric but whose sewing skills may not be that high and also to anyone who likes crafting with children. There are plenty of project in here they you could do together with a child around eight years of age and up.

Simple Soldered Jewelry & Accessories, Book Review

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Saturday 5 April 2014 at 1:01 pm


Simple Soldered Jewelry & Accessories: A Crafter’s Guide to Fashioning Necklaces, Earrings, Bracelets & More is published by Lark Crafts and written by Lisa Bluhm. It retails for $17.95 in the US and includes 40 projects that use a soldering technique similar to that used in stained glass. According to the data sheet that came with my review copy, this is a paperback edition of a previously published book that has been republished in this new form to accommodate a lower price point.

Often people new to soldering are afraid of using a soldering torch because they don’t want to deal with an open flame. With the technique used in this book, you use a soldering iron instead of a torch. While it is still very hot, you do not have to deal with a flame, so it might be a good alternative for those who want to work with metal but do not want to use a traditional torch. One big difference between the solder used in this technique versus that used in most glass work like stained glass windows is that the solder it lead free. In fact, it has to be since some of the projects are wearable pieces. This is explained in the beginning section of the book that covers the tools and supplies needed.

After a discussion of the tools required, many of which are not overly costly, the technique section covers the basics needed for making the projects in the book. This includes cutting the glass and working with the metal foils. Full color photographs are included here along with step by step instructions. Then there are a few pages of instructions and illustrations that cover the wire work you will need to be able to master like making loops and wire curls. These are used to connect many of the jewelry pieces.

Most of the projects are jewelry, everything from earrings to bracelets, though mainly pendants. However, there is a chapter called “Beyond Jewelry” that includes other types of crafts to make like bookmarks, frames, and candle holders.

While I think most of us are familiar with the idea of taking two glass slides, putting something in between them like decorative paper, and then soldering them on the sides to form a pendant, and you will find this common technique in here, there are a lot of other ideas for creating jewelry and other items using this soldering iron technique. I have played around with doing this myself, and I like the fact that you did not have to invest a ton of money into equipment. The biggest challenge I found was not to have the solder getting gloppy on me and end up with messy looking pieces. Like any new-to-you technique, this will take some practice, but Simple Soldered Jewelry & Accessories: A Crafter’s Guide to Fashioning Necklaces, Earrings, Bracelets & More is a good place to start.

Wizard of Oz Crochet Kit Giveaway & Review

Blogged under CFEs/Contests, Good Books, crochet and knitting by Tammy on Tuesday 25 March 2014 at 12:20 pm



I received an adorable crochet kit to review called The Wizard of Oz Crochet. It is produced by Thunder Bay Press and retails for $24.95; though, I saw it for sale as low as $14 on Amazon. The kit includes a 76 page book with 12 crochet patterns, a 4mm hook, two small balls of yarn (one gray one brown), a smaller amount of black yard, a little felt, stuffing, 2 pairs of safety eyes, and an embroidery needle. The 12 patterns include those for the Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy, Toto and a basket, Scarecrow, the Wicked Witch of the East (which is really a house with her legs sticking out from under it), the Wicked Witch of the West, a winged monkey, Glinda, the Wizard of Oz, ruby slippers, and a lolly pop kid. The supplies in the kit are supposed to be enough to make the Tin Man and the Lion.

So let me start with the pluses about this kit. First, it is so dang cute that I can’t stand it! Seriously! Who doesn’t love the Wizard of Oz? Then there are 12 patterns packed in the little book that is in the kit. If you purchased it at the $14 Amazon price, that is a deal, and then you also get supplies, so for the price, even considering the issues this kit has (which I will go into next) I think that is a great price. Another point of this kit that I like is the fact that the book has photos, not just written out patterns, so you get a little visual help. Finally, the finished characters are nice and big, not tiny like many amigurumi projects can be. For example, the Tin Man is 10 inches high when finished. I donate most of the toys I make, so kids actually play with them. For my purposes, then, tiny is not good since I want something large enough for a child to cuddle.




Now onto the minuses of this kit. According to the description on the box all of this comes in, this is “perfect for beginning crocheters.” While I think this kit is super adorable and would make a very cool gift for someone, I would never consider giving it to anyone who has not done a fair amount of amigurumi before. I looked over a few of the patterns, and probably the easiest would be the Tin Man and the Wicked Witch of the East, but even those I would not consider to be for a beginner. It is nice to have supplies ready to go in the kit, but the patterns call for worsted weight yarn, and to me the yarn in the kit is not thick enough to be consider worsted. I would say it is more sport weight. Finally, I did some looking around the web, and there are complaints that the patterns have errors in them. It is not necessarily unusual for crochet books to have errors, and most seasoned knitters and crocheters expect some errata to be published some time after a book comes out. However, so far the only errata I have found is from Makerknit.com’s blog. She bought the kit and made Dorothy, and she found a bunch of errors but was nice enough to publish the corrections on her blog. From what she said and from reading through a few of the patterns, it looks like the stitch counts included at the end of some of the rows is not correct. If you just ignore the number and follow the instructions, it works, but someone didn’t add up the stitches correctly when writing the patterns.

Okay, so like I said, I still like this kit, and I’m super thrilled that I get to give one away too! I know making crochet toys is not for everyone. Some think they are just too “fiddly,” but if you have some amigurumi experience and love the Wizard of Oz, then here is how you can win this book. Oh, and sorry, but I have to limit this to the continental US because of shipping costs (don’t hate on me hat on the PO!)

Here is how you can enter to win. Simply tell me who your favorite Wizard of Oz character is and why in the comments of this post. I will randomly pick a winner and send his/her name to the publisher who will ship out the kit. The deadline for entering is April 8, 2014. Make sure to leave your email address so that I can contact you, and I will give the winner 3 days to get back to me. And, of course, there is the usual “I’m not responsible for a darn thing contest gibberish so don’t sue me stuff.”

Wise Craft from Running Press

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Friday 21 March 2014 at 1:34 pm



Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects Into Stuff You Love by author and designer Blair Stocker is full of crafting projects primarily for the home, many made using recycled or everyday objects from your house. I counted 15 projects in each of the 4 project sections, which are organized per season: spring, summer, winter, and fall. That is a ton of projects! And they are all vary a lot as far as some are useful and some are simply decorative.

After the introduction, there is a section on basic tools you need for the projects. Then the book moves directly into the projects, and each project chapter starts off with a page full of thumbnail photos of the chapter’s projects. This book comes in hardcopy as well as Kindle form, so I’m guessing maybe the thumbnail photos are linked in the electronic version of the book. Still, it is nice to see them all on one reference page that includes the page numbers so that you can go right to a specific project if you see one you like.

As far as the projects go, they really range widely as far as skill level and use. For example, the “Mummy-Wrapped Vases and Votives” are obviously meant as decorations for Halloween, and they are a snap to make, easy peasy. But then there is the “Crocheted Treasure Bag” that doesn’t look super hard for anyone who knows how to crochet, but it is not an immediate gratification project either. Then there are projects that are more in the middle as far as time and skill required like the “Advent Calendar” that uses up lost of various wool and felt and other fabric scraps.

Lots of these project reuse materials, so if you are the type who enjoys recycling, especially when it comes to fiber, then you will find many of the projects in this book appealing. She recycles old sweaters a lot, bits of yarn, felt, etc. The author discusses this idea in this book trailer:

Wise Craft is published by Running Press and came out in March 2014. It is a chunky softcover book that is also available in digital format and retails $20 in the US and $23 in Canada. On Amazon, it is running around $15. The digital copy is $9.99. Along with all the interesting projects, it is a “pretty” book as far as the photography goes, though a few of the projects I would have liked to see more images of or more of the completed project. For example, the “Crocheted Treasure Bag,” which I could actually see myself making, does not show the bottom part of the bag. Maybe because the strap is so long this was an issue for the photo, but then a little sketch of the bag would be helpful, which is something done in some of the other projects, both showing a photo and illustration of the project.

Hand made and home and recycling are all wrapped up together in this unique craft book.

Book Review: Pretty Little Patchwork

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Saturday 8 March 2014 at 3:05 pm



Pretty Little Patchwork (Pretty Little Series) is published by Lark and retails for $9.95 in the US and $10.95 in Canada. The last time I check Amazon.com, it was a few dollars less than the publisher’s retails price. The 32 projects were created by 18 different designers.

Interestingly enough, I took a look at some of the reviews for this title on Amazon, and people seem to either love it or hate it. There were some complaints that there are not enough unique projects in it. While that may be the case, I still liked this book. It has a good range of projects that will appeal to both beginning and more advanced sewers. For example, some easy projects are the cute coasters, simple square sachets, and a few types of totes. More advanced projects include the Yoga to Go project, which is a yoga mat bag, and the laptop cover, which is another project that is a little more involved than something like making a simple coaster because the instructions explain that your dimensions (of course) will vary depending on the size of your computer.

While many of the projects are not overly difficult, this book still comes off to me as a book for someone with at least some sewing experience. The whole premise of the book is to create patchwork material from fabric scraps and then use this to create a functional or decorative item. Who but a seasoned sewer is going to have lots of fabric scraps to pick from? Plus, patchwork (as the book explains clearly) requires both knowledge of how to use a sewing machine and how to do some basic hand-stitches. My own experience with creating anything similar to the patchwork technique is that you have to be pretty exact when it comes to cutting and stitching the pieces together or you will have gaps and odd seams that don’t look right.

There is a basics section that covers areas like the “how to” of hand-stitchery and patchwork assembly. It also explains the type of hand tools needed and various types of fabric you may want to use. Templates in the back of the book are used for the projects that are sandwiched in between these two parts of the book.

I liked a lot of the projects in this book, and a few favorites are the Starlet Pin Cushion, Outside the Box, and the Sew Pretty Ornaments. The project instructions explain how to create the patterns needed (again, some use templates provided in the back of the book) and then there are step-by-step instructions for assembly and sewing. The photos clearly show the finished projects, and in come cases there are illustrations to help with the instructions.

So for those who don’t like the book, maybe they were expecting something very different. The projects are very much on the side of function: totes, potholders, coasters, a scarf, hat, headband, coffee cozy, crochet hook holder, etc. But you can add your own style by selecting your own scraps to incorporate into each one, and there are tons of small gift-giving possibilities here.

Book Review: Croceht at Play

Blogged under Good Books, crochet and knitting by Tammy on Saturday 15 February 2014 at 2:02 pm


Crochet at Play: Fun Hats, Scarves, Clothes, and Toys for Kids to Enjoy is published by Running Press and came out this past October. It’s written by Kat Goldin and focuses on fun patterns for babies and toddlers. It retails for $20 in the US and $23 in Canada, though the current Amazon price is about $15. There are 30 projects included, all of which vary as far as difficulty and size, but considering the number of projects, I think the price is pretty good.

The beginning part of the book covers a lot of crochet basics such as how to do the various stitches and techniques, starting with chain and moving up to working in the round. It also covers the “anatomy” of a stitch, which is a super important concept for beginners. While I did not see anything unusual in the illustrations for this section, I do think with maybe a few YouTube videos to supplement, a beginner could learn to crochet with this book. Plus, there are a lot of beginning level projects.

Beginning level projects (hats and wearable toys for example) are mixed also with a few more advanced ones, such as sweaters. These are marked mainly as “intermediate,” but I would say some of those (like the Wolf sweater) are probably more leaning towards the advanced level, just my opinion there. Many of the projects (like a number of the hats) are stitched using amigurumi style stitching in the round.

All of the projects are really super cute. They mix functionality with fun. For example, the Wolf sweater project I mentioned earlier has a hood with little wolf ears on it. The Baby Ballet Slippers project can be teamed up with the Tutu project. The Witch/Wizard/Princess hats are some examples of the easy design that a beginner could tackle, or if you are more experienced and need a quick gift for a new mom, who wouldn’t love a cute wizard hat?

I like that there is a good range of designs here (both for girls and boys), so you can make something fast and simple, or if you want to go all out, you can take on something more challenging. For anyone who regularly finds her/himself needing to whip up a baby gift, this would be a great book to have in your library. Your gifts would be easy to make but very unique and whimsical too.

Book Review: InstaCraft

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Sunday 2 February 2014 at 1:04 pm

InstaCraft: Fun and Simple Projects for Adorable Gifts, Decor, and More is written by Alison Caporimo with photography by Meera Lee Patel and is published by Ulysses Press. It retails in the US for $16.95 and in Canada for $19.95. The Amazon price at the time of writing this is $9.99 for the Kindle version and $13.44 for a paperback. Since receiving my review copy, I have sat down a number of times and flipped through the 50 projects in the book.

The title, InstaCraft, is perfect for this because all of the projects are amazingly fast and simple to do. Most are very child friendly, so I could see this as a great resource for days when you want to get your kids off the computer and have them actively create something with you. Besides the fact that these are all very easy and fast projects, one of the big points that I like about this book is that most of the supplies are easy to find and inexpensive. She recycles a lot of items too like empty jars, Tic Tac containers, glass bottles, and torn tights. I’m just naming a few here, and those items that you would need to purchase are not pricey at all, such as acrylic paint or card stock.

Though most of the projects are very easy, a few that use fingernail polish I am not too sure about as far as longevity. She uses fingernail polish in a few project to paint on metal. I’m not an expert on polish, but I would worry about it chipping and flaking off like it eventually does on nails.

Other than that, however, I found most of the projects to be very clever. Most are geared toward decor items or products you might use in the kitchen. For example, she shows how to turn cookie cutters into picture frames, how to make an instant collage with photos and a clip board, and how to turn light bulbs into glittery ornaments. Each project is set up so that it has a minimum amount of instructions, and these are very visual. So not much reading is involved. The photographs of the finished crafts are also really good. They clearly show the finished items and are not overly “artsy” to the point that you don’t get a clear view of what you are attempting to make.

Crochet Love Book Review

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Wednesday 22 January 2014 at 3:23 pm



Crochet Love: 27 Sweet & Simple Zakka-Inspired Projects is written by Jenny Doh and published by Lark. It is a 128 page paperback book with an October 2013 publication date and retails in the US for $17.95 or in Canada for $19.95. The word “zakka” as mentioned in the subtitle is a Japanese term for “crafts for the home,” and that is the focus of this how-to style crochet book.

The first 19 pages cover the basics of crochet from materials to stitches, and I am pretty impressed with the techniques part of this section. There are a generous number of photographs that really “show” as well as the text along with it that “tells” you how to crochet. This section assumes you are a novice. It even explains briefly how to read a patterns. I also give a big “yeah” for one photograph of single crochet stitches that are shown with numbers next to each stitch. It is so important to be able to count your stitches (to be able to “read” your fabric) as you crochet, and I know many beginners get confused with this. That is why their first pieces often start becoming triangular shapes because they will accidentally skip the last stitch and thus drop a stitch each row.

Along with the projects being super duper cute, they all look really easy and fun, perfect for beginners or anyone who wants some immediate gratification. I am not sure if I would be inclined to make every single one, but there is a little in here for every taste. The “Soap Saver and Washcloth” project uses hemp yarn, and these would make a nice small gift for someone. Or you could make a paperweight using a rock and the instructions for the “Pretty Paperweights” project. A few other projects that stood out to me as something I might be inclined to make are the “Heart Purse,” the “Upcycled Plastic Tote,” and the “Binder Duvet.” Beginners will be able to make some small and fast projects like the “Birthday Cake Bunting and Cupcake Picks” and the “Lemonade Coasters and Glass Cozies.”

I’m actually thinking of giving my review copy to my sister who is just learning how to crochet. So if you have wanted to learn, this might be something to consider. In fact, Amazon has this available for just a little over $12, which is a great price! Plus, there is a “look inside” option there as well.

Book Review: How to Start a Home-Based Etsy Business

Blogged under Crafting a Career, Good Books, etsy by Tammy on Tuesday 7 January 2014 at 11:52 am

As you may or may not know, I have dabble over at Etsy.com for awhile. I pretty much have lately just tried to sell my pdf jewelry making tutorials, but in the past, I have sold finished jewelry, kits, and supplies. I have found, like most business endeavors, that the more time you put in the more money you can earn. But, “time” is not something I usually have an abundance of, so I tend to spend time on it when I have some and then pull back to just a dabbler when it just doesn’t work for me.

Since I joined Etsy has a seller, lots of changes have happened. They usually tend to be controversial in the crafting world, and so people are not very happy about it. Whatever you say, though, about Etsy, love it or hate it, you have to admit that it is still one of the market leaders when it comes to selling hand-made items, supplies, and vintage products.

In a new book written by Gina Luker, she tackles the what, how, when, and why of becoming an Etsy shop owner, hopefully a successful one too: How to Start a Home-based Etsy Business (Home-Based Business Series) . Unfortunately, as I write this review right now, her shop is closed while she is on vacation, so I was not able to see it. However, her sales are impressive, 4,950.

I received an e-copy of the book, and felt is was very thorough, full of nuts and bolts information. This would especially appeal to anyone who is not very familiar about how the site works. In fact, before I opened my own shop, I have to admit that it took me a long time to get a feel for how it all worked, so this can be a real time saver since she sets it all out for her readers. Generally, I found her approach very helpful, again especially for anyone very new to Etsy or selling on line. One little thing I would have liked to see added were photographs. For example, in the section on “Perfecting Your Photography,” it would have been nice to see examples of good and bad photographs.

If you have been thinking of opening an Etsy shop but had problems understanding where to begin, then this book could get you started in the right direction.

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