Book Report

I found this book at a Little Free Library near and I knew I just had to add it to my collection of craft-related books.

IMG_20181215_172542Creative Gift Wrapping by Public International, LTD has 40 fun and inspiring, not to mention beautiful gift wrapping projects for all occasions. Every project has easy to follow step by step instructions with accompanying photos.

This book also offers the basics on gift wrapping, gift wrapping resources and templates. A lot of the materials can be found at art and craft stores, thrift shops, dollar stores and maybe your own home.

The only negative is there is mention of online resources buts that’s probably because this book was published in 1991. A quick Google Search can remedy that situation.

Grade B

Off the Books: My Handmade Bijoux

As many of you know crafting is a passion of mine and I design jewelry. I get a lot of compliments and positive feedback on my handcrafted wares and now people are encouraging me to start a little business selling my jewelry. I organized my jewelry, attached some blank tags and a branding consultant is going to advise me on pricing my work and other marketing issues.IMG_20181015_171920



Book Review: Crafting With Feminism- 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy by Bonnie Burton


“We can glue it!” claims feminist and crafter Bonnie Burton. And as a fellow feminist and crafter, can I get an Amen? Or should I say an A-Women?

When it comes to crafting and feminism I don’t know what came first for me? Crafting or feminism? Perhaps it was the same time. I had my first feminist-related click moment when I was five years old and been crafting ever since my mother gave me my first box of Crayolas and I designed clothing for my paper dolls. Both feminism and crafting has allowed me to express myself in so many ways, and a constant refuge in my life in times of triumph and tragedy.

So imagine my utter delight when I found Ms. Burton’s book Crafting With Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy. I quickly picked it up and the moment I opened it up I just knew I found a true treasure for creative crafters and fierce feminists alike.

For the most part, most of these projects are inexpensive and fairly easy, so most crafty types, whether experienced or novices can do them. And no matter your crafting style, you will find at least one project you will want to do.

Into needle crafts? Most likely you will be drawn to Feminist Badges of Honor, Em-broad-ery Hoop Art or  Next-Gen Feminist Onesies.

You can decorate your lady lair with with Peace and Equali-tea Aromatherapy Candles, a Grrrl Coat of Arms or Strong Female Prayer Candles featuring the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Detective Olivia Benson or Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek. Of course, these characters are just suggestions. You can pick you own feminist faves. Mine? The Bad Ass ladies of the BAU from Criminal Minds.

As a fashionable feminist I delighted in the Queen Ring Bling and Super Heroine Wrist Cuffs. And you can  crash the glass ceiling with Girl Band Cassette Business Card Holders and a “Male Chauvinist Tears” coffee mug.

After hours, end the day with Drinking Dames Flask and eat some nibbles off of Food For Thought Plates.

As for other potpourri for defying Patriarchy? Crafting With a Feminism is a primer in making Heroes of Feminism Finger Puppets, Monster Week Tampon/Pad Cases, All Hail the Queen Crowns and Power Panties.

Burton also provide a list of crafting needs. Most likely you have most of this accessories, but they include such things as beads, glitter, fabric, hot glue gun, Mod Podge, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, a sewing kit and X-acto knife.

Like me, Burton is a big fan of Crafternoons and she has some great ideas on how to make your Crafternoons the place to be. She includes ways to plan a Crafternoon including ways to making them really entertaining.

When it comes to music Burton offers selections like Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill, Q.U.E.E.N by Janelle Monae (featuring Erykah Badu), Cherry Bomb by the Runaways, Respect by Aretha, and Typical Girls by the Slits. Some of my picks? Invincible by Pat Benatar, Sisters Are Doing It By Themselves by Annie Lennox and Aretha and Ladies First by Queen Latifah and Monie Love.

When should you have your Crafternoons? Burton provides some key lady-friendly dates including Galentines Day, February 13th inspired by Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, International Women’s Day on March 8th, the birthday of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the Notorious RBG) on March 15th, Glitter Day, which is the second Saturday of January and June 11th, International Yarnbombing Day.

Watch some feminist-minded films like Advanced Style, Persepolis, Bend it Like Beckham, Real Women Have Curves and 9 to 5. My picks? Impromptu, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry and The Legend of Billie Jean (because “Fair is Fair!).

Now one can’t always craft; one must also read books. Burton suggests books like Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Craftivism by Betsy Greer and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. To this list I’d like to add Backlash by Susan Faludi, Bust DIY Guide to Life: Making Your Way Through Every Day, Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris.

Crafting With Feminism also provides tips on crafting for change, teaching others and how to make crafting a money-making venture.

This book is slim, but is big on projects, ideas, and practical advice. Burton writes in humorous, down-to-earth fashion. Crafting With Feminism is a welcome addition to feminist-minded crafters and feminists alike.



Book Review: Craftivity: 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle by Tsia Carson

craftivityTsia Carson should be a gal after my own heart. She was a founder of the crafting website, and taught at both Yale and the Rhode Island school of design. So I was super psyched over finding her book Craftivity: 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle at a local rummage sale. I thought it would give me lots of cool crafting ideas and inspire my creativity.

And for the most part, it offer some inspiration, but some of Craftivity just inspired a whole lot of “No, just no.”

Craftivity is divided into six sections focused on different types of crafting. Part One focuses on yarn and string. Part Two focuses on Fabric and Thread. Paper and plastic is the focus of Part Three and glass and ceramics is the focus of Part Four. Part Five focuses on the world of wood and metal. And finally Crafitivity winds up focusing on all things recycled and thrift in Part Six-Lost and Found.

Craftivity started out strong with its recipe for dying wool yarn using unsweetened Kool-Aid. I’m not a knitter but I know plenty of people who are, and I bet they would have lots of fun doing this project. In fact, I’m thinking of photocopying the pages to this project and giving them to my knitty friends. I also liked the idea of crocheted flower brooch and making a blankie because who couldn’t use a blankie these days? There is also a segment on the old-school art of spinning one’s wool. I’ve seen this in practice and it’s pretty cool.

Other crafty and clever ideas in this book I liked were making tables using old suitcases and wheels on casters. The end result is both practical and visually quite clever. Remember Shrinky Dinks from your childhood? You can use them to make a Mary Quant-inspired mod necklace. I also liked the projects on how to etch glass to make a lovely decorative pitcher, vase or wine glasses, reviving a moth eaten sweater through embroidering and silk screening poetry onto silk fabric, making beautiful scarves (I was thinking I would do this to make pillows). And a bedazzled table cloth might look fetching on one’s dining room table. There is also a segment on felting.

The segment on paper and plastic had a great idea for a button cuffed bracelet. I know a lady who makes a lot of pretty bling with buttons, and this would be right up her crafty alley. And simple paper bags can make lovely gift bags, but considering I’ve been making my own gift wrap for over a decade this did not surprise me in the least.

But a lot of the projects in Crafitivity seem like a waste of time at best and completely ridiculous at worst, like a crocheted skull? I guess this might appeal to some too-cool-for hipster type, but I thought it was a complete waste of time and materials. I guess a like my crafts a little more useful. The charms of a Tyvek basket were lost on me. You can probably find really cute baskets at Goodwill or at the dollar store. And the project shown on the cover of Craftivity, a crystal encrusted “chandelier” hurt my feelings. I also questioned turning an old T-shirt into a pair of panties, especially ones that don’t look like they’d hold up even on the curviest of hips and butts.

Still, I think some people will find value in this book. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a bunch of plastic bags taking up room in my pantry and with these plastic bags one can make a cute tote bag. For the more ambitious crafters among us, Craftivity shows how one can make a hammock or a wooden bed frame.

In the end, I think Carson’s crafty heart is in the right place. I appreciate her focusing on crafts that can be made with items found around the house, recyclable materials and items found at any thrift store. And though these crafting ideas aren’t the best (in my humble opinion) I do appreciate how they respect a limited budget.




Book Review: Craft Corps-Celebrating the Creative Community One Story at a Time by Vickie Howell

craft corpYears ago, if you would have told me I’d become an avid crafter, I would have laughed. I thought crafts were a pastime for little old ladies to sell at church bazaars. Then I visited Art vs. Craft in 2006 here and Milwaukee and the Chicago version of Renegade Craft fair in 2007. I was blown away by the wares people were selling. Around the same time, I got interested in learning how to make my bath and beauty products. I took a class on soap making and haven’t stopped. I haven’t bought a bar of soap at any shop or store for nearly ten years. I also make a lot of handmade jewelry and other assorted bling. Along the way I’ve met many other like-minded ouls and together we have creative network of multi-talented crafters, designers and artisans.

For me, crafting isn’t just a way to fill a Sunday afternoon — it’s a bit of an addiction — and I was only too happy to find Vickie Howell’s book Craft Corps-Celebrating the Creative Community One Story at a Time, highlighting the work of Do-It-Yourself-ers across the nation. Howell interviews needle-workers, jewelers, greeting card designers, scrapbookers, potters and other assorted crafty and arty types.

Ms. Howell’s name might be familiar to you knitters out there. She hosted the show Knitty Gritty, writes the celebrity knitting column for Knit.1 magazine and has also penned several books. She also founded the first LA-based Stitch n’ Bitch club in 2001. In Craft Corps, Howell interviews crafters from all walks of life to find out why they craft and what inspires them, talking with a few notable artists along the way.

Howell talks with a few of the bigger names in the craft world, including Mary Engelbreit, whose charming illustrations you’ve most likely seen on greeting cards, coffee mugs and calendars. There’s a section with Carol Duvall, who began hosting TV crafting shows when some of us were in diapers. Hipster crafters like Jenny Hart from Sublime Stitching and Mark Montano author of The Big Ass Book of Crafts are also featured. And I’m very happy to say that Faythe Levine, founder of Milwaukee’s late Art vs. Craft and creator of the documentary and accompanying book Handmade Nation, is also interviewed.

A majority of the people profiled are lucky (and talented) enough to make a living this way. They sell their creations at fairs and via sites like Etsy and Buy Olympia. Some crafters are formally educated, but many of them are self- taught or have been crafting since childhood. Faythe Levine’s earliest craft memory? Making friendship bracelets and lanyards at Girl Scout Camp.

Sprinkled throughout the book are small snippets of amateur crafters from the United States but also places like Ireland, Sweden and Australia. At the end of the book, Howell gives us a brief bio of each crafter interviewed, a wealth of crafting resources including websites and craft fairs, and even offers up some book discussion questions.

That said, Craft Corps can be a bit overwhelming. I found it best to read it piecemeal rather than from start to finish. Still, it’s a worthwhile read whether you’re a seasoned crafter or just someone who likes to peruse Etsy on your lunch hour.

Book Marks

lets read book markWell, done Svetlana Alexievich, well done!

Girls creator, Lena Dunham, talks about writing about women at Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls website.

Another Humans of New York is coming out on the 13th!

Amazon to open bricks and mortar store in Seattle.

Speaking of Amazon, they are going to start their own version of Etsy, which will be another way for crafters and artisans to sell their wares.

Author James Patterson to offer holiday bonuses to booksellers throughout the US. So cool!

Okay, Chrissie Hynde; I won’t buy your book! Neener, neener!

Ten books that should have gender-swapped main characters.

Creative writing prompts for every day of the year!

Need a good cathartic bawl-fest? Read these books.

Writer’s Block


Well, hello everyone. I hope everyone is having a happy May. Once again, I have been very busy. There is a lull at work until we have a major uptick with a new upcoming assignment, so I’m working an abbreviated schedule. Having some time off has encouraged me to tackle some projects at home. I’m currently organizing and cleaning by drawers, cupboards, closets and desk. It’s a huge undertaking, which is going to take several weeks to truly get done, but already I’m feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. Just seeing my book shelf all organized is making me want to do the happy dance.

And I’m also feeling a huge surge of creative adrenaline. I love to make beaded jewelry and in the past couple of weeks I have made over a dozen pairs of earrings, a statement-y necklace, and a bracelet for one of my dearest friends. This friend also commissioned me to make a necklace for her niece.

As for this blog, the publisher who sent me an advanced copy of In the Company of Legends sent me another book to review and read, so look for a blog post on that shortly. Plus, a lovely on-line acquaintance of mine is writing a guest book review that I hope to receive shortly. I met this potential reviewer through an message board devoted to one of our favorite TV shows. She writes wonderful fan fiction based on the characters of this TV show, so I’m really looking forward to her guest review.

And what else? Well, on July 3rd I, along with two great friends of mine, will be at the U2 show at Chicago’s United Center. Can’t wait.

Reading to Reels: Handmade Nation

handmade-nation-dvd-lgSeveral years ago, my friend Kristine and I got to see the documentary of Handmade Nation at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I wrote a review of the book of the same name, now I have a review of the movie. Enjoy!

Handmade Nation is the brainchild of Faythe Levine, a local indie crafter, musician, entrepreneur and film maker. Levine, who has been involved in the DIY art, craft and design scene for years, wanted to find others who shared her passion. She traveled throughout the United States to interview talented, passionate, creative and inspiring men and women who shun the homogenized mass-produced for something handmade and personal.

Handmade Nation grabs you from the opening credits where stop-motion animation shows the creation of handmade embroidered graphics. And throughout the just over an hour-long film, we visit crafters in places like Austin, Chicago, New York, and yes, my hometown, Milwaukee. We meet them at their personal work places and at craft fairs. We meet them in galleries and in garages. Some of them make a living doing their crafts, and others work bread and butter jobs while selling their wares on places like

But one thing binds them, passion, and it is this passion that makes Handmade Nation so absorbing. In the film we meet a young woman who is setting up her wares the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago. We meet the guys behind Buy Olympia, a one-stop shopping website for independently made products. One crafter designs erotic hook rug patterns, and another creates embroidered pictures of objects like sushi and celebrities like Loretta Lynn. Seeing one crafter create glass beads and another create intricately cut paper cut-outs was riveting. I really admire both their artistry and devotion to their craft. I was thrilled to see JW and Melissa Buchanan from Little Friends of Printmaking. As Imentioned in my book review of Handmade Nation, the three of us toiled together at Discovery World. And Levine pulls a major coup in getting an interview with one of my she-roes, Debbie Stoller, the founder and editor-in-chief of Bust and the goddess behind the Stitch and Bitch books.

These crafters got into their work for a multitude of reasons. Many of them were put off by the mass-produced stuff they found at places like Wal-Mart. Some of them wanted to make a living out of something they loved to do. Many of them expressed interest in supporting fellow crafters and artisans. But so many of them do it because it’s so much fun. They can look at their work and say, “I created this. This is mine.” Crafting very empowering. For me personally, making my own soap is more about making something that will keep me clean. It’s about experimenting with scents and colors and making something uniquely my own. And when I cut my soap into smaller bars, and none of the sizes are perfectly uniform, it’s okay. Imperfection is part of the charm of crafting.

When Handmade Nation was over, Kristine and I could not stop talking about how inspiring it was. Every once in a while Kristine and I have “crafternoons” where we drink wine, watch a DVD, and yes, make crafts.

But I don’t think you have to be a crafter to get something out of Handmade Nation. I think anyone who appreciates artistry and creativity will like this charming documentary.

Book Review: Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl

Handmade NationYears ago, if you would have asked me to go to a craft fair, I would have laughed. Why would I want to go to a craft fair? Weren’t craft fairs filled with crocheted toilet cozies and gingham-clad rag dolls made by blue-haired grannies? That wasn’t my scene. Well, my attitude changed when I attended my first Art vs. Craft Fair here in Milwaukee in 2006. I was overwhelmed by the multitude of interesting and creative crafts made by young men and women (some with blue hair). I was so impressed by the T-shirts, candles, jewelry, toys, journals, knitwear and assorted artistic items. I bought a few things, and talked to the crafters about their wares. Crafting to them wasn’t just a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon; it was a calling.

Art vs. Craft was the brain child of Milwaukee crafter, musician, documentary film maker and boutique owner, Faythe Levine. And along with Cortney Heimerl, Ms. Levine has written the book Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design. In Handmade Nation, Levine and Heimerl interviewed various crafters throughout the United States and tells their stories in the crafters’ own words. The crafters make everything from jewelry to toys to clothing. Some of the crafters are able to support themselves through their work while others have regular day jobs and work on their projects in their spare time. In the essays, the crafters explain how they came to crafting and why they create. And they don’t just describe the nuts and bolts of crafting, they describe the philosophy behind their work. Many of the crafters profiled said they got into crafts not only for the creative aspect, but because its also an escape from the generic and mass-produced. There is more joy in purchasing something unique at a craft fair than the same-old thing at the mall.

Crafting is also a community, with many crafters talking about the support they receive from other crafters, sharing ideas and advice about all aspects of crafting. The crafters profiled aren’t just funky artistic types; they’re also business people, organizing craft fairs and setting up their own shops on And I’m happy to say that I know two of the people profiled in Handmade Nation, JW and Melissa Buchanan from Little Friends of Printmaking. JW and Melissa have been designing art posters for years and they also teach how to create silk screen prints. I was fortunate to work with them at Milwaukee’s Discovery World where they ran the print lab and I was a copywriter. To see two such talented people profiled in Handmade Nation is quite a thrill.

Aesthetically, Handmade Nation is wonderfully designed. The photographs lovingly capture the crafters’ themselves, their work and their workspaces. The words give life to what each person profiled creates. I also liked the hand-drawn timeline of the DIY crafting scene. Not only is the timeline charmingly drawn, it’s also very informative. Even after I was finished with this book, I found myself looking through it again and again. Sure, I was jealous of the huge workspace some of the crafters had. It can be a bit toiling and trying to make my soap and other bath products in my tiny kitchen. But mostly I felt inspired to do more crafting, and not just making bath soap. Now I just have to get some of my crafting supplies more organized and figure out what I want to create. My brain is filled with possibilities.

Still, Handmade Nation left me wanting more. I wanted to learn more about the crafters and other crafters throughout the United States. And Handmade Nation isn’t just a book; it’s also a documentary. *

In the end, Handmade Nation is an excellent primer on the world of crafting and DIY projects, and an interesting read for both crafting veterans and crafting novices.

* I was fortunate to see this documentary when it was shown at the Milwaukee Art Museum a few years ago, and I will post a review of it shortly.