30 November 2013

Book Review: Handmade Gifts


Every year for Christmas/the Solstice my family and friends can count on getting a plate of homemade cookies and candy from me. I've received some great compliments over the years (the best being when my cousin told me my melomakarona--Greek syrup-soaked walnut cookies--were just like our grandmother's) but I don't think the recipients enjoy the treats nearly as much as I love making them. There's something utterly satisfying about making gifts. Taking the time and using your skills and creativity to make something is so much more meaningful than running to the store and picking up some impersonal item that, really, they could just go buy themselves.

Which is why I was more than a little enthused when DK sent me a copy of Handmade Gifts to review. Every year I vow to make more than just treats for the people on my gift list, but I never seem to manage it. Part of it is that I somehow always leave it too late (I swear time accelerates after Labour Day), but the bigger part is simply a general lack of ideas. There are only so many scarves and bath salts a person can handle, and searching through reams of craft books and magazines and blogs for projects gets pretty tiresome. But one solid book of awesome projects? I can handle that.

Handmade Gifts is divided into sections, each focusing on a different category of gifts: For the Home, Jewelry, Bags and Accessories, Pampering Gifts, For Pet Lovers, and Edible Gifts. There are also sections on Gift Wrap and Crochet Basics. The book includes templates, variations for each gift, and (one of the things I love about DK books) lots of detailed photos and clear instructions. The gifts aren't limited to Christmas, either--these are good for any occasion (even for yourself--I promise I won't tell).

As soon as I started looking through the book I knew I'd be making a lot of these projects. More often than not in craft books of the past the projects looked as though they were designed by (and for) Victorian spinsters or five year old kids. I don't know about anyone else but, much as I'd appreciate the thought and effort, I wouldn't be thrilled at being the recipient of a ruffled tissue-box cover or a plastic-canvas brooch. But in Handmade Gifts the projects look great--not only will your giftees be happy to get what you've made them, but they'll actually use it. Even better--the projects are doable. You don't need a degree in advanced soldering or obscure equipment and tools.

So what kinds of projects will you find in Handmade Gifts? Personalized journals, decorated ceramics, mosaics, really cool silver clay jewelry, knotted scarves (for you non-knitters), retro clasp-frame bags, luxury soaps, travel candles, applique pet portraits, colorful macarons (you know--those super trendy cookies that people pay ridiculous prices for), and more. The gift wrap section shows you how to make boxes and containers for your gifts, as well as printed gift wrap.

And if you're not particularly crafty but you have a friend who is? Get them the book. Maybe you'll be lucky and end up getting one of the gifts back!

Handmade Gifts, DK Publishing.

19 November 2013

Apron Strings 3

I just finished another apron using these instructions. I think it turned out nicely, although it's not my favourite apron that I've made. That bow at the top looks pretty but is kind of annoying when you're wearing the apron. I also found the instructions a bit fussy, so it wasn't the most fun to work on. I wouldn't use this particular pattern again but I am glad I used it once.