We try. We really do. But sometimes we just can’t bring together the common thread between the books that we pick, except that we just plain old love them.
And that’s what we have here. Three well-crafted and fun books that inspire us in different ways.
Steampunk Softies: Scientifically Minded Dolls From a Past that Never Was
Ivy Press Limited for Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011
Softcover, 80 pages, $14.99
As if the title wasn’t enough, let’s just say that the clever, fun images of handmade steampunk dolls on the cover compelled one of us to plunk down our green and take it home! These eight little darling eccentrics give lots of room for variations on their fantastical themes. All are small–less than 9″ tall–and are crafted with hand and machine sewing techniques.
For those not in the know, steampunk is a fiction genre that blends science fiction with fantasy, Victorian history and creative engineering. Plot elements include mechanical findings adapted into other-than-originally-intended purposes and settings operating in Victorian era sensibilities and styles. (Think of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as examples.) From this, a design aesthetic and sub-culture have emerged, one that’s creative, imaginative and fun, in our humble opinions.
These dolls, with names like Geronimo Bore (who has a drill bit for an arm), Charity Storm (who flies on her own set of mechanical wings) and Floyd Fastknight (who explores the Arctic with one eye made from a compass and the other from a clock), will surely bring squeals of delight from the adults playing with them, and they allow for a lot of creative changes on the maker’s part. Moreso, if you’re as taken with them as we are, they can become your launch point into other steampunk-themed creatures. Can’t think of a better way to use up your scraps!
Quilting Modern: Techniques and Projects for Improvisational Quilts
Interweave Press, 2011
Softcover, 176 pages, $26.95
We can hardly sit still for this one! Jacquie’s been a buddy for a while now and to see much of her work gathered between two covers, and supplemented by the talented Katie Pedersen, is to pretty much die and go to modern quilt heaven!
This book is all about taking the common and the tried in quilting and turning it into something less–less planned, less structured, less predictable. And the results are something so much more than their parts suggest.
Jacquie and Katie use techniques such as free-piecing, log cabin assembly, slice-and-insert and more to create modern quilts that are unique and beautiful in their simplicity and punch. What we really like about this book is this duo’s deep respect for traditional quiltmaking and their oh-so-true advice to master the foundational techniques for making quilts in order to better manipulate them for your improvisational masterpieces. (We’ve been saying this for years!)
There are 21 projects in here, included pillows, placemats and many, many quilts. Yes, even with the improvisational approach, you can almost recreate their quilts. (Winter Windows and Fiesta Wall Quilt are two of our faves.) But that’s not really the point of what Jacquie and Katie are trying to inspire. Instead, consider practicing their techniques and then turning them loose on your own creations. You’ll release your inner artist in no time, and have fun doing it!
Sew the Perfect Gift: 25 Handmade Projects from Top Designers
Softcover, 112 pages, $24.99
Maybe you’ll give these pretties away when you’re done making them. But you’d be smarter to make two at a time and then keep one for yourself because these small sewn projects range from useful to just darn pretty!
Simple and stylish, the projects include pincushions, totes, handbags, pillows, small quilts, table runners and aprons. There’s a range of styles reflecting the many different designers who lent their talents to this book. From country to contemporary, all of these projects can be adapted to your particular style of the moment with a change of fabric and approach.
Our favorites are the Green Thumb Gardener’s Apron (we see it suited for sewing classes too), Dungaree Denim Scarf (think scraps–lots of scraps) and the Knitters Tote Bag (easy-peasy construction here). Go for it. You’ll get your money’s worth the next time you need a last-minute gift that makes the recipient weep with appreciation.