Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book report! Two crafting books worth Amazon-ing

I buy a lot of "indulgence" things on "Indulgence" items are pretty much anything that isn't groceries, utilities, or gas for the car. I don't have a lot of extra cash; I'm the main breadwinner for my family of four, and being a Warranty Fairy isn't a six-figure thing. (In recent years, it's barely been a five-figure thing, actually.) As a result, I had to get creative to get the things that allow me to be, well, creative. I do a lot of online surveys, for a bit of side-pay. Most of the places that I do them for will cash me out with Amazon bucks. And I dearly, dearly love Amazon. If you need a craft book (and I do, pretty much all of the time!), you can usually pick 'em up, used, for dirt cheap. That's how I got these two!

First, let's look at Jewelry with Wire, Design Originals No. 3362by Suzanne McNeill. 

Technically, it's not really a book. It's a large pamphlet, 19 pages in all. But it is quality- very dense with designs, good color pics, fair descriptions of how the items are made, and frankly, I'm fairly impressed with the designs. That's saying a lot. I am a stickler, when it comes to the wirework designs that I make, m'self, so I'm highly critical when it comes to wirework design books. There is a lot of what I consider to be absolute garbage out there. My criteria are: Is it going to be pretty? Is it going to be durable? Will it catch on clothing / hair / children / pets / spouses? And finally, can it be made without a jig? (I have a thing about being able to make things completely by hand, with a simple hand tool. I can't explain it. It seems like cheating, to use a jig, somehow.) If a component's design meets those criteria, I'll give it a go. Most of the components in this mini-book met all of the above, which surprised me. Most of them are quite pretty, to my jaded eyes (I mean really, what is truly new, in wirework? This is an art that dates back to the beginnings of metalworking. In other words, to the beginnings of mankind as we know it. An ancient art has a tendency to repeat itself, y'know?) But this booklet had surprises, and that made me very happy. All of the designs are attractive, and usable in multiple ways. Almost all of them are durable- they're inherently strong, due to how they're made, although some could be improved on with the application of a hammer. None of them have overtly impractical sticky-outy-bits that'll catch on family members or mohair sweaters (not that I have one!) None require the use of a jig setup, either. And finally, (and most surprisingly!), they were all designed with 20 gauge wire, the most available and least-expensive of the larger-gauge wires. You can do this stuff on the cheap, with craft wire, and not feel quite so bad if you waste wire in the learning process. Originally published in 2003, this one's a few years old, but it's had more to offer than much, much more expensive (and full-sized!) books. For an intermediate or experienced wire-crafty artist, this is a treat. You can find it here, on Amazon, or look for it at your local used book stores or thrift shops. This one totally gets 5 stars- it was a complete surprise to me, and I couldn't be happier with it- really gave me a fresh perspective.

The other book that I'd like to talk about is Graded Lessons In Macrame, Knotting, and Netting (also known as Varied Occupations in String Work), by Louisa Walker. 

This book's a lot of fun, a real blast from the past- originally written in 1895, it was republished in 1971 (the year I was born!), and I found it mostly by accident, through my local library. The author wrote this book for schoolteachers, in order to teach their young charges some real-world skills- at the time of publishing, knot-tying was still very much a practical household and working-world skill. She outlines everything from a simple netted shopping bag to making gimp cording for sewing trims to Fly Rests (more on that in a minute!) to full-on household items like newspaper stands, baskets, wall's a pretty impressive collection of projects! A relatively simple thing really caught my eye- a project for an entire classroom of mixed-age children called a Fly Rest. I kept looking at the illustration, knowing that I'd seen that somewhere...but where? I looked up "fly rest" and couldn't find it anywhere, just a lot of bars and taverns in Florida (why, I have no idea!) I hit Google Images, and still found nothing. A few days went by, and I ran across an article about pajaki...AHA! Pajaki = Fly Rest! It was quite interesting to read Louisa's take on the item- part of her lesson for kids states that basically, these "fly rests" are a place for flies (which I imagine could be a real problem, back then) to hang out, so they won't land on people and objects closer to the floor, while also looking festive and pretty. It also sheds a little light on the possible origin of the word pajaki, which means "straw spider"- while it wouldn't exactly trap the flies, if it at least kept them out of your face for a little while, it'd all be to the good! But like I said, that's just one project of many. There's a lot of great stuff in this book, and the instructions are an improvement on many macrame, crochet, and other string-oriented crafting books from more modern times- these lesson plans are do-able, and kinda fun. Because string is string, the items that she calls for are mostly still available, and what isn't can be substituted for, easily. I've gotten a real kick out of this book, and was able to pick it up dirt cheap (used) online. If you'd like to learn macrame and associated crafts, this is a great book to begin with- the lessons start simply, and work up to some complex and nifty projects. This is a great addition to any crafter's library.

Note, folks: I am not being paid or otherwise compensated for any of the above- these are completely and totally my own opinions. I am not affiliated with Amazon, or the publishers of either of these books. If you have any questions about either book, or how I get 'em, drop me a line at, or make a comment- I'd be glad to refer you to the online sites that I do surveys for.

Happy Sunday!

Linking up to Craft-O-Maniac Monday!

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