Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Book Review: Handprint and make your own Bags

Today I'm reviewing Handprint and make your own Bags by Jenny McCabe.

I met Jenny at the Renegade Craft Fair last year (where she was selling some of her lovely handprinted textiles) and said I felt terribly guilty for having not yet reviewed her book on my blog... and here I am, months later, just getting around to it! Tsk tsk.

Handprint and make your own Bags begins with a short guide to "design and inspiration" (designing your own fabric prints) and then has 6 pages of printing techniques: potato printing, lino printing, erasers, foam sheets, stencils, screenprints, photo transfers, leaf printing, sun prints... plus Jenny's top 10 printing tips.

As you might guess from the number of techniques squeezed into 6 pages this is not a super detailed guide to printing your own fabric but instead a basic introduction to some accessible techniques.

Then there are 4 pages of motifs - these do need to be enlarged, but it's great to be able to reproduce the exact designs shown in the book.


The bulk of the book is devoted to the bag-making, with 35 projects divided by the type of printing used to decorate the fabric: carved block printing, constructed block printing, resist printing, and other printing methods.

All the projects have step by step colour illustrations and there's a short guide to sewing techniques included at the back of the book. The projects are all helpfully marked with a skill level, and the guides are charmingly designed to match the print used for that particular bag. I love seeing nice touches like this in craft books! 


Like the motifs, the bag templates do need enlarging (though without a page of pull-out patterns, which is a rare thing to find in a craft book, this is only to be expected when making large projects like bags). There are also a couple of designs included to scan in and print to make photo transfers.


Jenny's designs are so lovely, with mostly nature-inspired motifs but also some fun designs like a space invaders pattern for a kid's bag and a stylish cutlery design to print onto a cutlery roll.

As well as the cutlery roll there are a couple of other "non-bag" projects included - coin purses and a wallet - but most of the book is, as you'd expect from the title, all about bag-making. The designs cover a wide mix of shapes, from a bucket-handled shopper, to a messenger bag, to a diaper bag with lots of useful pockets:

I need to get to grips with my sewing machine (after years of just hand stitching) and I'll definitely be getting this book off the shelf when I do - maybe starting with this bag, which looks lovely and super-useful.

Handprint and make your own Bags is a nice, versatile craft book - a simple introduction to printing but also a useful sewing book with lots of bag and purse patterns. Seeing the great results from the simpler printing techniques is especially inspiring - "ooh, I could totally do that!" is a very good feeling to have when looking through a craft book.

Personally though I think I'd want a more detailed guide to the more complex/advanced printing techniques before I felt confident trying them, so maybe this book would be a good one to pair with a book dedicated to printing techniques so you can learn about the more complicated techniques in more detail then use your knowledge to make bags with your awesome printed fabric.

Handprint and make your own Bags is published by CICO Books. RRP £12.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer: CICO Books sent me a free review copy of this book. They also publish my books but I am always honest in my reviews! The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Book Review: Makery

Today I'm reviewing Makery by Kate Smith.

Kate is the co-founder of The Makery, a craft workshop space and shop in Bath (which I really must remember to visit next time I'm there!)


As you might guess from the lovely cover (mmm... yummy colour coordinated craft supplies...) this is a very attractive, stylish book.


It contains 31 projects, divided into 3 sections with a short techniques guide at the end. The projects mostly involve sewing but there's also a mix of other crafts included: upcycling some tins, decoupage, carving rubber stamps and making shrinky dink jewellery.

Section 1 is "Fashion", including a clasp purse, wrist warmers, shoulder bag and tape measure brooch.


Section 2 is "Gifts", including a knitted cup cuff, a make-up roll, a toy truck pincushion and a lunch bag designed to look like a paper bag (such a simple idea but a great one).


Section 3 is "Home", including a fab felt cuckoo clock, embroidered bed linen, a knitted rug, button magnets, a patchwork pouffe and a pair of bookends decorated with text from your chosen book(s). The bookends are a little plain for my taste but I think one would make a great doorstop.


The projects are beginner-intermediate level, nothing too complicated but a nice mix of fun things to make, with a good balance between decorative/fun projects and practical/useful projects.

Kate emphasises the importance of using good quality crafting supplies, saying that "'Makery' is a lot like cookery - if you start with gorgeous, high-quality ingredients, you're well on the way to creating something beautiful." The focus on supplies continues throughout the book, with each project illustrated by one page showing the finished project and another page showing the materials used, all artfully arranged.


These are lovely to look at but I'm not sure how helpful it is give over quite so much space in a craft book to pretty pictures of supplies, especially as it means the instructions get less space so there are only a few step by step illustrations provided.

The book does have some great, useful features though. There are full size fold-out pattern pieces in the back of the book (you will need to trace these as they're printed double-sided and some of the templates overlap). The list of stockists at the back of the book are also helpfully listed by material, making it easy to track down the supplies you need.

Also very helpful is the inclusion of an estimate for how long each project will take, written in a friendly, chatty way rather as an exact time, e.g. "This project can take only a couple of evenings - although I took ages deliberating over what text to use".

Crafters looking for advanced projects or detailed step by step instructions probably won't be fans of this book. But if you fancy some modern, achievable craft projects and a book with a bit of a coffee table "ooh" factor this book will be a lovely addition to the craft section of your bookshelves.

Makery is published by Mitchell Beazley. RRP £14.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.
[Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links].

Monday, 21 April 2014

Book Review: Crafty Creatures

This week is Book Week! I've been planning one of these for aaaages but have been so busy with work deadlines that it's been pushed back later and later. Better late than never though, right?

So, I'll be reviewing a different crafty/creative book each day and then I've got a fab book to give away at the end of the week. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the books I review!

I'm kicking of the week with a very cute book: Crafty Creatures by Jane Bull.

Spoiler alert: everything in this book is ADORABLE.

There are 28 projects but many of these include variations, e.g. several different animals you can make using the same basic pattern or method, like these mini felt animals...

...  so if you made all the projects in the book you'd end up with a lot more than 28 creatures.

Every single page in the book is brightly coloured and cute, from the sweet endpapers...

... to the cheerful chapter headings...

... to the fun page layouts.


The book includes a wide mix of different techniques...

Chapter one is "Woolly Animals" with plaited and knitted projects and creatures made from gloves and socks. The glove animals are especially delightful!


Chapter two is "Friends in Felt" which includes chickens, owls, mice, ladybirds and other animals both big and small. As I am well known to be mad about felt it probably comes as no surprise to learn this is my favourite chapter. I love the idea of making a mini version of each animal that the bigger animal can carry round as a pet/toy/companion.


Chapter three, "Sew Cute" includes fabric projects like a giraffe that stands up on its own, a pony with a colourful yarn mane and "doodlephants", elephants decorated with your own hand-drawn patterns.

Finally chapter four is "Animals in Stitches", with cross stitch, tapestry and embroidery projects.

Each project has step by step photos and clear, simple instructions. The templates (when needed) are provided at full size ready to trace, and are dotted throughout the book and incorporated into the page designs.

Then the final chapter covers the kit and skills you'll need to make the projects in the book, with clear step by step guides for the different stitches and knitting techniques needed.

Crafty Creatures is what I'd call a "family friendly" craft book - while all the projects would be great for craft-loving kids to make but there are also lots of projects I'd love to make myself and which would make great quick-and-easy gift ideas (either for kids or anyone else you know who loves all things cute). The only problem I think would be that I'd find it hard to actually give them away after I'd made them because oh my goodness they are so darn cute.

Crafty Creatures is published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd. RRP £12.99 . It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links].


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