Friday, 11 September 2015

Book Review: Reuse Crafting Edition

I spend more time on websites like Pinterest than I'd care to admit, looking up interesting DIY projects and home decor ideas, yet invariably ending up on boards about cats. I sometimes need reminders that there are these things called books that are also excellent sources of information and ideas on all kind of subjects, including reusing and repurposing everyday items. I recently made a trip to my neighbourhood library, where I found a treasure trove of craft books that feature ideas to make use of everything from empty cereal boxes to wooden pallets. I'd like to tell you about three books, presented here from most to least helpful, for an inexperienced crafter.

The most helpful book of my recent haul is Create, Update, Remake (Transcontinental Books, 2011), from the editors of Canadian Living. Some of the projects which require sewing or knitting are, frankly, beyond the scope of my abilities. However, this book also has some completely simple craft ideas that are suitable even for children, like turning ugly ties into tea cozies, or salvaging the back pockets of worn-out jeans to make a wall organizer. Every craft is accompanied by detailed instructions, and some of the more complicated projects, like wooden bird feeders and window boxes, have additional diagrams in the back. I'm definitely going to be trying my two favourite projects: turning an old china cup and saucer into an elegant bird feeder (p.78); and making wastepaper baskets out of actual waste paper (p.153).

Another helpful find, if a little more geared towards an experienced crafter, is Eco-Chic Home (Skipstone, 2010) by Emily Anderson. One thing I really appreciate about this book is the comprehensive introduction on rethinking how we relate to materials generally considered disposable, and where we can find these items outside of our own homes, such as estate sales and even school libraries (neither of which, I confess, had ever occurred to me before). Every craft is accompanied by wonderfully detailed instructions, which will make projects like the braided t-shirt rug (p.57) that I’ve always wanted to try so much more possible. The helpful instructions even make some of the more complicated projects, like reupholstering chairs, seem less daunting. My biggest problem with this book is that the photography is beautiful, but about fifteen percent of the projects have no pictures, which means that if you’re interested in making them, you have no examples of how it’s supposed to turn out.

Finally, the least helpful book that I brought home is Remake, Restyle, Reuse (Watson-Guptill, 2006) by Sonia Lucano. I should clarify that an inexperienced crafter, such as myself, is kind of out-classed by the skill required for most of these projects. Like Eco-Chic Home, the photography is quite stunning, and every craft is followed by specific instructions. Unlike the other two books, certain projects in Remake, such as the admittedly cool geometric carafe (p. 21), require the use of things like glass engraving tools, which are not readily available or simple to use. Other crafts, like the spring-inspired pillowcases (p.55), require only fabric paint, tracing paper and a steady hand, none of which I possess, but could more reasonably acquire. Overall, I thought this book had some truly beautiful ideas for breathing new life into old things, but they just seem a little too daunting to attempt for a crafter of my skill-level.

All in all, it's important that you find a book that's right for you. A simple book provides no challenge for an experienced crafter, and a difficult book might scare away a newbie before they've even really begun. For my lackluster crafting talent, the books with big pictures and ludicrously simple directions work best. As soon as I read words like "engraving tools" and "turpentine", I start wondering where I can just buy the finished project, which rather defeats the purpose.

- Nichole (Volunteer)

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