book review

November (and a little bit into December) is book month at

The Art-Full Tree; ornaments to make.  Jan Gilliam and Christina Westenberger.  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2011.

If your thoughts are turning to decorating your tree this year, you might like to have a look at The Art-Full Tree, which is inspired by objects in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

The book begins with a quick history of the museum, that was started by Abby Aldrich Rockerfeller who started collecting and exhibiting folk art in the 1920’s, at a time when common crafts and amateur arts were not highly valued.  She left her collection to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and this collection forms the core of the current Folk Art Museum in Willamsburg, Virginia.

The museum has had a long and treasured tradition of decorating a holiday tree every year with ornaments made by staff, volunteers and guests of the museum.  Some of these ornaments are inspired by items in the collection, and others are based on the skills of each contributor.

The Art-Full Tree presents 33 ornament projects that have been inspired by some of the most popular items in the museum collection.  The book is an interesting combination of museum catalogue, inspiration notebook, project instructions and stitch guide and template sections.

Each project features the original artwork, with a short history of the item and some information on the artist or style of art.  There is a very detailed materials list, and step by step instructions and photographs on making each ornament.

There is a wide range of crafting techniques used in the creation of the ornament projects, including needlepoint, paper craft, punch needle embroidery, foil work, metal punching, painting and collage.  My favourite ornaments are Recycled-Card star (inspired by a compass design quilt), Scherenscnitte Birds (inspired by a cutwork picture), and Aluminium Butterfly (inspired by a metal weathervane).

I really like the process of taking a formal artwork in a formal setting, that is meaningful to the people around it, and appropriating all or part of the work to inspire the creation of anther objet, in this case tree ornaments.  I feel that readers of The Art-Full Tree will be inspired to look around them, in their local museums, public spaces, or around their own treasured and meaningful objects, and to create ornaments for their own family trees that are small and perfect reminders of things that they love.

To win a copy of The Art-Full Tree, please leave a comment on this review.  The comments will be open for 72 hours, and a winner will be selected at random.  Good luck!  Congratulations to Becky!

About the reviewer: Kate is a busy mother of four with many craft projects on the go, including, but not limited to, crochet, knitting, sewing, dyeing, paper making, spinning, felting and bookbinding. Kate has challenges in the areas of finishing things, saying no and craft supplies storage. She also has a very very patient and tolerant husband.




Sockupied Spring 2011, Interweave Press, 2011.

At the moment my knitting is all about socks, so I was pretty excited to get to have a look at Interweave Press’ latest e-zine Sockupied Spring 2011.  I hadn’t played with an e-zine before, and it really feels like fun playing with this one.

Like ordinary paper magazines, or magazines published in .pdf format, this issue of Sockupied has a contents page, articles, patterns, featured products, readers contributions and interviews.  Unlike ordinary paper magazines or magazines published in .pdf format, Sockupied is interactive.  There are videos embedded into each article and pattern, so you can experience a technique being demonstrated, such as how to use one or two circular needles for sock knitting, or unusual stretch bind offs, on the same e-page as the article.  I felt I was a bit like a Muggle reading a Harry Potter-esque wizarding magazine, with the people right there doing their stuff on the page in front of me.  Other interactive elements in this issue of Sockupied include skeins of yarn that bloom onto the screen when mousing over the swatches of silk sock yarn, a great calculator for converting heel types from top down to toe up and back again, and a design template for creating a colour palette for knitting your own version of the included argyle sock pattern.

This issue of Sockupied includes 5 sock patterns, each with a downloadable .pdf patterns, and each with options such as a range of sizing or heel construction choices, or unusual construction elements such as Belgian braid or a sideways cuff, or the option to knit the one pattern from the top down or the toe up.

Like all magazines, Sockupied has some advertising, in this case for other Interweave products, but this magazine is largely content and little advertising.  Being a thrifty lover of free online content, I know that I can find most of what I want or need to do with knitting online, either on YouTube, Ravelry or one of countless knitting blogs and websites, and I wondered if it would be worth paying for an e-zine full of stuff I could get for free.  On sitting down with Sockupied and investigating every article, pattern, and click on feature, I have decided that I quite like having a wealth of information in one place, and with lots of detail, video instruction and photographs all there for me without having to look for it.  I will still be scouting around the www for free and interesting sock knitting resources, but I will be keeping my eye out for the next issue of Sockupied and investigating the other crafting e-magazines that are available.

[You can read more about it here on the Knitting daily site – and read what others are saying in the comments section too]

Title: Sockupied Spring 2011 For Windows PCFor Macintosh
Publisher: Interweave Press
Format: eMag; Requires Adobe Air (FREE Software)
Approximate Retail Price: $14.97
Craft: Knitting (Sock)

About the reviewer: Kate is a busy mother of four with many craft projects on the go, including, but not limited to, crochet, knitting, sewing, dyeing, paper making, spinning, felting and bookbinding. Kate has challenges in the areas of finishing things, saying no and craft supplies storage. She also has a very very patient and tolerant husband.

Disclosure: Interweave Press provided reviewer Kate with a free review copy of Sockupied Spring 2011 eMag.


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Little Green Dresses: 50 Original Patterns for Repurposed Dresses, Tops, Skirts, and More by Tina Sparkles. Taunton Press (September 14, 2010).

If you are into refashioning / diy fashion you will love this book. With 50 designs – including tops and skirts as well as super cute dresses you will never have to buy your clothes again. Tina Sparkles definitely has an eye for 80’s fashion verging on the cuter side of trashion – for the younger refashionistas I think.

With so many patterns and ideas in here there is a style suited to you – while I didn’t love everything (ie all the bows, lace and frills) this is mostly a taste thing and nothing that couldn’t be adjusted with a different fabric and a bit tweaking. There is a lot to love in this book – lots of make-from-scratch patterns, but also lots of tips to refashion classic styled thrift finds. With a big intro on ‘rethinking your shopping’ which includes how to buy quality, fair-trade and eco clothing and fabric – as well as how to use what you already have in your wardrobe!

Yes there is a techniques section – explaining how to identify which way the grain runs – how to use knit fabric and some tips on how to ‘refresh’ your wardrobe. Explanation of technical dress making terms, accompanied with illustrations will help those new to making clothes traverse this new world of diy fashion.

I definitely recommend this book for newbie clothes makers, young folk just starting out or anyone wanting to freshen up their wardrobe with a bit more style.


The New Crewel: Exquisite Designs in Contemporary Embroidery by Katherine Shaughnessy Lark Books (November 1, 2005)

Artist and master embroiderer, Katherine Shaughnessy, is pushing embroidery into the 21st century. Without being able to find any modern how-to books on embroidery, an unsatisfied Shaughnessy set out to make one herself. With 30 practice designs with easy instructions for any new beginner embroidery enthusiast, crewel is a great intro into the sewing and craft worlds. Since crewel has no counting, grids, or cross stitch technicalities, this embroidery is just fun hip design from the point of view of a true connoisseur.

I particularly enjoy the layout and organization of the book. Shaughnessy, begins with a brief history of crewel and covers all the basic of the craft from thread, to purpose to origins. The majority of the book is filled with short how-to’s for specific designs like the Tulip Tops, Snow Shoes and Chainlink Pink. It is apparent throughout the book just how dedicated Shaughnessy is to the craft and how in awe she is of the background and traditions as well as giddy and excited about redefining this grandma past time. An inspiring work for the inspired crafter.

About the author: Kendra is a native southerner from Atlanta, Georgia and instinctive writer and crafter. She’s been working with threadbanger since August 2007 and is still at it.


The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman (Author), Gris Grimly (Illustrator), published by HarperCollins (April 29, 2008) and Bloomsbury (May 2008) distributed in Australia through Allen and Unwin.

‘The dangerous Alphabet’ appears to be a great idea and a very clever book – but perhaps a bit too clever for its intended audience.

The illustrations and the poetic nature of this book are excellent, it is visually a gorgeous book. The idea of two children with their pet gazelle who travel through a maze deep underground in order to solve a mystery, would certainly give the impression that this book is a winner. And it has received rave reviews from acclaimed authors who have said things like “delicate horror of the finest fairy tales”, “weird, and frightening” and “a fascinating and disturbing story that frightened me nearly to death”.

Alphabet books are intrinsically aimed at pre-readers and young children, and while I don’t doubt the cleverness of this book – it is not appropriate for the age group that would be interested in an alphabet book. If this is meant to be a book to help teach children the alphabet, it definitely misses the mark.

About the reviewer: Paul has been teaching primary school students for 20 years and has two young children of his own.

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