Give Homemade: The DIY Guide to Gift-Giving

Don’t let this holiday season get the better of you! I say start now, gather supplies and ideas, and get to crafting the perfect DIY gifts for friends and family. The library is a great place to start looking for inspiration. No matter the recipient, I guarantee you can find a great DIY gift idea at the library.

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Whether you’re looking for your baby’s first holiday gift or you want to dazzle a mom-to-be, you need to check out Cutest Ever Baby Toys to Knit by Val Pierce. For adorable toys, check out Tusker the Elephant (cover image; project starts on p.86), Rainbow Butterfly (p.92), and Freddy Fox (p.78). For other cute baby items, try Little Bunny Bag (p.39), Goody Two Shoes (newborn booties-p.36), and Under-the-Sea Mobile (p.83). My favorite project by far has to be the Soft and Squishy Playbook (p.22). It’s a knitted play book with a different object (car, teddy bear, etc.) on each page. Research shows it’s never too early to introduce children to books and this is a sweet way to begin.

If you’ve always wanted to dabble in chemistry look no further than Homemade Nail Polish by Allison Rose Spiekermann. I’d never really considered what would go into making your own nail polish at home, but apparently it begins with a good face mask so the solvents don’t send you face-down on the work bench before you even get to the color mixing part. And speaking of colors, I learned you can use eyeshadow as a color base for nail polish and that there are many different types of glitter. Who knew?! There are sections in the back for troubleshooting and perfecting your mixes as well as tips for applying the perfect manicure and designing your own nail art. So maybe if you don’t have time to make your own nail polish you can at least set up a lavish manicure to pamper your BFF.

Do you know your away around a pair of pliers? Have you always wanted to use your butane torch on something other than crème brûlée? Then you’ll want to check out The Jewelry Maker’s Design Book: an Alchemy of Objects by Deryn Mentock of Something Sublime. The first section of the book contains descriptions of all the tools you’ll need, as well as techniques you’ll want to become familiar with before you start selecting beads. The bulk of the book, however, is packed with specific projects to help focus your efforts on a balanced and beautiful piece. I was really thrilled to see old pieces of jewelry, like brooches, used in designs for necklaces. I have a large amount of inherited jewelry that I don’t know what to do with–but now a plan is forming, and I think I like it.

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The pouches, bags, blankets, clothing, and accessories in Project Teen: Handmade Gifts Your Teen Will Actually Love by Melissa Mortenson definitely appeal to me, someone who hasn’t been a teen since The Cranberries were popular. Melissa is the genius behind The Polka Dot Chair, one of my favorite DIY blogs. Even if her book is checked out you can always hit up her blog for an amazingly creative selection of projects that range in both difficulty and time required. And, much like her book, there’s truly something for everyone. In particular, who wouldn’t want one of her Swim Bags (p.20)? The wide opening and flat bottom make this tote bag ideal for book lovers as we cart home our latest selection of library books each week.

Not ready to take up a needle and thread or put the pedal to the floor with a sewing machine? No Sew Love by Ashley Johnston of Make It, Love It is just what you need. There are 50 projects that require zero sewing and the finished products look stellar. The Fabric Wristlet Key Fob (p.122) is a cheery, practical gift that you could personalize for pretty much anyone on your gift list. The Leather Fringe Necklace (p.110) looks simple and chic enough to make for my entire gaggle of girlfriends. But the project that really has me sold is the Basic Skirt (p.130). It’s a skirt that requires no sewing, has an elastic waist, and is a decent length. Not only could I make a bunch for my friends but I could totally practice my technique on skirts for myself. Total win-win!

Bibliophiles and librarians alike will adore something from the Little Book of Book Making: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books by Charlotte Rivers of Lottie Loves. From simple binds to complex fold-and-cuts, there are a wide variety of projects inside this book. You’ll not only learn the skills to bind books, but you’ll also find beautiful and sometimes quirky designs for the cover. There are also interviews with artists where you’ll find even more inspiration. The one that really caught my eye was Cathy Durso (p.84) who specializes in embroidered book covers. If you’ve ever done embroidery or know someone who has, you understand how very special this is. The cutest image of one of my favorite animals, the narwhal, is featured on the opposite page. Mom, are you reading this? I would love a book embroidered with a narwhal, please!

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Got Sharpies? I have dozens of colors at home and plan to use them all to create projects found in Make Your Mark. Before diving in, you should pay attention to the suggestions for testing your pens on different materials before you get rolling. What looks great on glass may bleed like crazy on wood. For those of you experienced at what I call free-handed doodling, you shouldn’t have any problems. People like me, however, who dream of being an artist but tend to not quite have a brain for creating patterns will enjoy the pattern templates scattered throughout the book. I’m dying to make something like the Kitchen Word Canvas (p.32) because it looks like it could be a quick, simple, and inexpensive project that will cheer the home. The best part is that it’s completely customizable, so I could make a holiday-specific one, one for a guest bedroom, and the list just goes on. The ornaments on page 52, with their stark white-and-blue color combination and modern patterns, look like something someone would have hanging in their home year-round.

No DIY or crafting post would be complete without mentioning gifts created from mason jars. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know mason jars have made a huge comeback in recent years as the popularity of home canning has grown. However, you may be unaware that there are so many cute and creative ways to use them, including as gifts. DIY Mason Jars by Melissa Averinos and Mason Jar Crafts by Lauren Elise Donaldson cover everything from soap dispensers to terrariums. I feel like these are crafty gifts that will hold up over time, as that mason jar silhouette is just simply timeless.

In fact, you should really pay attention to this terrarium idea and check out the episode of DIY Dammit where Joselyn Hughes and Tyler Oakley made these adorable and portable pieces of earth. You’ll really get a feel for the technique, as well as how important it is to keep your sense of humor whenever crafting.

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If for some reason your best-laid plants don’t come to fruition or if you have to give gifts on a large-scale, you may want to check out the Urban Craft Uprising winter show, December 6th and 7th at Seattle Center. My friends and I go every year and I usually end up buying gifts for everyone on my list (and way too many for myself). Everything at UCU is handcrafted by artists and designers, most local to the Pacific Northwest. You can support the indie craft revolution happening in your own backyard!

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to unearth my hot glue gun, spray paint, and torch. It’s gift-makin’ time, and I mean business!

Crafty Double-take Titles

Cover image of I Felt AwesomeFuture me is an amazingly crafty and talented person. I owe this predicted success to the hours I’ve spent hoarding craft ideas on Pinterest. Unfortunately the current me is pathetically unskilled and can only dream of making the upcycled t-shirt tank tops, tiny felted owls, and clever Chicago map quilts my heart desires. Nevertheless, this momentary setback doesn’t stop me from trolling the craft section when I’m on my lunch break. During my most recent foray to the 746′s I found my attention grabbed again and again by book titles. More specifically, I kept doing double-takes at book titles written by authors who clearly shared my slightly off sense of humor. My conclusion? Crafters are a funny, sometimes naughty, group of people.

Here are my top ten favorite crafty book titles found at the EPL:

10. Wild with a Glue Gun by Kitty Harmon and Christine Stickler. My idea of getting wild with a glue gun involves frustration, cursing, burnt fingers, tears of rage, and a half-finished pompom snowman; thankfully the ladies who wrote this book are far more creative and coordinated than I am. Once I’ve acquired some welder’s gloves I’d love to try out their scallop shells party lights idea, or the tin art that’s featured.

Cover image of Men in Knits9. Men in Knits by Tara Jon Manning. If this was a tumblr, I’d subscribe to it. This title gives handy tips to more experienced knitters (or shoppers) about what kinds of patterns are most suitable to different male body types. Patterns featured in this book are best suited for experienced knitters, but the eye candy is nice for the rest of us.

8. Socktopus by Alice Yu. Though I love the name, this is written for experienced knitters. There are loads of really elegant knit patterns, but Socktopus is short on pictures of how to do the actual stitches. Some day.

Cover image of Stitch and Bitch7. Stitch ‘n Bitch by Debbie Stoller. Aside from the catchy title (or perhaps because of it), this series is pretty popular with people looking to learn how to knit and crochet (I purchased their crocheting title, The Happy Hooker, when it was featured in BUST Magazine). Featured within these pages are trendy styles, easy to follow diagrams, and amusing banter.

6. Sensual Crochet by Amy Swenson. This may be more of an unintentionally-funny title than deliberate, because there’s not much that seems sensual about crocheting, or the contents of this book. What it does have to offer are sophisticated, current styles that crocheters can try out. These elaborate patterns are best suited for more experienced hookers.

5. I Felt Awesome: Tips & Tricks for 35+ Needle-Poked Projects by Moxie. This book is useful for beginners and more experienced crafters alike. Early sections explain the equipment needed, and provide loads of great close-up color photos to illustrate step-by-step directions. For the experienced felter, there are many fun, offbeat project ideas, such as scarves that look like racetracks (complete with felted cars) and martini olive necklaces.

Cover image for Joy of Sox4. Sweaters from Camp from Meg Swansen’s Knitting Campers. Aside from the hiking name, this book is more or less window shopping for me until I develop some skills. For advanced knitters, there are many detailed patterns to explore.

3. Too Hot to Handle? Potholders and How To Make Them by Doris L. Hoover. Enter the fast-paced world of potholders, mitts, and other skin-savers with this helpful how-to title. Readers will learn a bit about the history of potholders, as well as where the potholder industry is headed. Later sections of the book are dedicated to a variety of unique pattern ideas, as well as tips on how to upcycle old clothing to make new potholders.

2.The Joy of Sox by Kinda Kopp. This saucy number is ideal for inexperienced knitters who may be interested in adding some pep to their sox life. Early chapters are dedicated to explaining terminology, demonstrating techniques with clear drawings, and helping knitters navigate patterns.

Cover image for Still Stripping1. Still Stripping After 25 Years by Eleanor Burns. This title coaxed an embarrassingly loud snort-laugh from me in the stacks. From the homey cover shot of the author saucily tossing a fabric strip over her shoulder, to action shots of her working her sewing machine in the company of her labs – I feel like I want to get to know Ms. Burns. Thankfully I can in a way because she has a YouTube channel that hosts a large collection of her ‘how to’ videos.

I hope this list has given you the motivation to bust out the pinking shears or home-spun yarn, or at least given you a chuckle or two.

Fail Magnificently

Here we are, firmly wedged into the month of January. The magical glow of New Year’s Eve and memories of our ambitious resolutions have already started to fade. While some just might make this the year that they actually stick to their three-times-a-week gym pledges, others may be looking for a way to gracefully bow out of their publicly-announced best intentions. Thankfully, the Everett Public Library is here not only to support us in our triumphs, but also to help us get through our moments of weakness. So, if you want to kill your resolutions softly by making the best of your surrender, I have a list of books for you.

Here are my recommendations for failing magnificently at some of the more common New Year’s resolutions.

The Butchers Guide to Well-Raised Meat

Eat Healthier and Lose Weight

This is the granddaddy of them all. Who hasn’t sworn, after a long night of New Year’s Eve snacking, that it was time to get the potbelly situation under control? Perhaps you’ve spent the last couple weeks faithfully logging calories and exercise on your new My Fitness Pal app, but today you find yourself caring less than usual. Before you hop in the car after work, blow by the YMCA, and hit the drive through, consider picking up one of the following books to help you break your resolution with a bit more class.

The Pastry Chef’s Apprentice, by Mitch Stamm, provides a really accessible introduction to creating delicious pastries in your home kitchen. Stamm includes a lot of what I like to call ‘action shots’ of what dishes should look like during crucial stages of each recipe. If you’re as lousy of a baker as I am, you know how valuable it is to actually see what the recipe means when it tells you to mix the dough to a certain consistency.

If you prefer savory over sweet, Warren R. Anderson’s Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage may be up your alley. The first half of this book is a richly-illustrated discussion of different methods of making and smoking sausages; the second is a collection of great recipes to try your hand at.

Other sweet and savory honorable mentions to consider:
Chocolate, from Practical Cookery
The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat, by Joshua and Jessica Applestone

Who knows? Perhaps making your own guilty pleasures from scratch might burn some calories in the process and ensure that you’re using healthier ingredients.

The Home Winemaker's CompanionDrink Less

This one generally goes the way of weight loss pledges, so in order to help you fail in the same spirit, I suggest the alternative of taking up home brewing, wine making,or distilling. You may find that in the end you’ll opt for quality over quantity because you’ll come to prefer the fruits of your own labor to a couple of Sessions. For the beer drinkers, I recommend checking out The Complete Joy of Home Brewing and The Brewers Apprentice. If wine is more your thing, you can try The Home Winemaker’s Companion. For those of you who secretly harbor dreams of bootlegging and rum-running, you can try your hand at hooch with Making Pure Corn Whiskey. Please remember to brew, stomp, and moonshine responsibly.

Fly SoloSpend More Quality Time with the Kids

Dads of the world, my apologies, because it looks like the fun books for breaking this resolution are more geared towards the ladies. A quick stroll through our travel books turned up these gems:

Fly Solo: the 50 Best Places on Earth for a Girl to Travel Alone, by Teresa Rodriguez Williamson
Best Girlfriends Getaways Worldwide, by Marybeth Bond
Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips, by Lea Lane

Get Rid of that Old Junk in the Garage

But isn’t one man’s trash another man’s treasure? Are you really going to let that other man steal your carefully horded booty? Absolutely not! American Junk and This Old House Salvage-Style Projects may give you the inspiration you need to turn mom’s odd obsession with fancy antique doorknobs into a lucrative business making pretty coat racks.

Driveways, Paths and Patios

Keep the Lawn and Garden Tidy

Technically my recommendations here won’t break this resolution, but they will help you fulfill it a way that you might not have intended. It may be that you love a serene outdoor environment but the closest you’ve ever come to having a green thumb was the result of a misguided attempt to paint the Silvertips logo on your garage door. If that’s the case, you can design your outdoor space to look tidy while being relatively maintenance-free by exploring other options. Walks, Walls & Patio Floors and Driveways, Paths and Patios will tell you all you need to know about designing an attractive, zero-gardening landscape. If you can’t bear the thought of having a yard that isn’t lovely and green, consider going au naturel with the help of Beautiful No-Mow Yards, by Evelyn J. Hadden. This approach will require you to put in a fair amount of gardening effort at the beginning, but after a while you should have easy sailing.

Swear Less

If you find that your cuss jar is rapidly filling once again, it might be time to let go and embrace the fact that you have a potty mouth and you find swearing amusing. To help you along the way to self-acceptance, I recommend a couple foul-mouthed titles that are designed to make you laugh. The F**king Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel tells the sometimes true, sometimes fanciful, and completely inappropriate story of the 2011 mayoral election in Chicago. If they ever made an audio book out of this title, you wouldn’t want to listen to it with the kids around. Speaking of audio books – my other recommendation, Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cortes, was just narrated by Samuel L. Jackson (the video is on YouTube – I recommend listening with earphones). I’m also happy to report that we carry ¡Duérmete, carajo!the Spanish-language adaptation of this recent best seller.

Machida Karate-Do

Manage Stress Better

Or just take up a contact sport to help let out your frustrations in a healthy way. I have never been very good at managing the different areas of life that cause me stress, so instead once or twice a week I go play ice hockey. Problem solved. So, if you need to get out some pent-up aggression, but you don’t have the budget to pick up an expensive team sport, consider some alternatives. May I suggest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Taekwondo, or Mixed Martial Arts?

Step Away from the Internet

If you’re reading this post, you’ve already failed at this resolution. That’s all right, you can still learn to spend your time online doing something more productive. We have many great books on creating and marketing an online business, using social media to make money, and using the internet to help you find a better job. Here are just a handful of titles that can get you started:

Social Networking for Career Success, by Miriam Salpeter
Likeable Social Media, by Dave Kerpen
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing, by Aliza Sherman
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Media Marketing, by Jennifer Abernathy

For those of you who are still sticking to you goals I salute you! Let me take this opportunity to remind you that the library also has books to assist you in leaving the rest of us in your dust. For my fellow magnificent failures out there, happy 2013, and have fun making lemonade out of your lemons.

Lisa