Christmas is in less than a week: is all of your shopping done? It's getting a bit late to order anything (especially if you don't want to pony up for pricey overnight shipping), but if you're shopping for crafty friends, there's probably a lot available in your own town.
However, bead, paint, and yarn choices are completely subjective, you may not know what tools your loved ones need (beading loom? spinning wheel? umbrella swift? easel?), kits can be hit-or-miss, and I'm not sure anyone needs craft-themed sweatshirts. (Ever.) Have major advances in the world of crochet hooks or embroidery hoops really been made in the past year? Probably not. So when I thought about what makes a great holiday gift in the DIY realm, I kept coming back to one thing....
Please join us after the break to find the best of the latest craft books! There's certainly something here to please almost every creative person on your list: beaders and jewelry makers, people straddling the mixed-media art/craft divide, knitters, crocheters, scrapbookers, and anyone else who likes to learn how to make interesting things with their hands.
(Even better, you shouldn't have any problem finding most of these books at 4:00 in the afternoon on December 24th.)
It seems like the largest number of newer books by far are in the knitting category (and boy, has Interweave been busy lately). Most are pattern books. If you're looking for good beginners' books and reference books in this category, please see the recommendations in our article DIY Toolkit: Knitting & Crochet.
Knitting New Scarves by Lynne Barr - Think scarves are simple, boring projects for beginners only? Prove yourself wrong by trying this collection of 27 jaw-dropping experiments in form, which will teach new techniques and shapes to all but the most jaded knitters.
(For: the Möbius knitting enthusiast, the lover of mosaic knitting, the person who plays with short-row shaping at every opportunity, the scientist- or mathematician-at-heart.)
The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes - More than you ever thought you wanted to know about yarn: fiber, ply, spin, behavior, the dyeing process, etc. But that doesn't account for this book's impressive size. It also features at least a few patterns for each variety of yarn (two-ply, cabled, brushed, etc). You may know Clara from Knitter's Review, where she reviews a different yarn or knitting tool almost every week.
(For: enthusiastic newer knitters who are fascinated by how yarn behaves, and stash-a-holics who are storing yarn in their ovens -- or might as well be. An essential reference.)
Son of Stitch & B!tch by Debbie Stoller - This fourth book in the popular series is all about the boys. It's a collection of hip, youthful, mostly-unfussy patterns, and lots of advice for ladies looking to knit stuff for men they know and love. However, its appeal is not a one-way street: guys looking to knit things for themselves will appreciate the wide range of patterns, and ladies will want to steal some of the scarves, socks, and sweaters for their own wardrobes. Another winner for Stoller & company.
(For: The collegiate or twentysomething knitter, but knitting parents and grandparents can get ideas from it, too. See also: The Knitting Man(ual) by Kristin Spurkland and Knitting With Balls by Michael Del Vecchio.)
The Best of Interweave Knits: Our Favorite Designs from the First 10 Years by Pam Allen & Ann Budd - Wonderful patterns from the magazine's first decade. If you have been a long-time subscriber, you already have these patterns, but newer knitters will appreciate the opportunity to add them to their collection. Salt Peanuts (my favorite IK design ever) and Simply Marilyn (PDF link) are representative of the quality of the designs in this book.
(For: The devoted new knitting enthusiast.)
Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave by Ann Budd & Anne Merrow - Gorgeous sock designs. As with the "Best of" book above, longtime subscribers to Interweave Knits will recognize some of these patterns, but not all are Interweave Knits reprints: some are from Piecework or Spin-Off, and six are original to this volume. Cables, lace, colorwork, and even illusion knitting are addressed, with no major knitting technique cast aside, and all the big names in sock knitting (Nancy Bush, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, Ann Budd, etc) are here.
(For: the person who can't stop buying limited-edition sock yarn.)
Bag Style by Pam Allen & Ann Budd - From Interweave's "Style" series. Knit and crochet cool, practical bag designs in patterns that are graphic, interesting, and sometimes visually arresting. Critics of this title claim that the bags here aren't trendy enough, but isn't that sort of timelessness a good thing?
(For: people who like to hear, "Where did you get that bag?")
Lace Style by Pam Allen & Ann Budd - Another one from the "Style" series. While it includes all sorts of garments done in a variety of yarns, the cardigans in this book are particularly nice.
(For: your favorite sweater girl.)
Knitting Classic Style by Veronik Avery - The former costumer turned star knitwear designer offers her first book. The title is apt: Most of its subtly retro designs look good and should be relatively immune to changing trends.
Kristin Knits by Kristin Nicholas - Another star knitwear designer showcases her lively style. Scarves (and an afghan), hats, mittens, socks, and sweaters, mostly knit with a Fair Isle technique.
(For: anyone who loves color and pattern. Nobody will go unnoticed in any of these designs.)
Felt Forward by Maggie Pace - Until pretty recently, most felting projects were not all that sleek: plenty of large, shapeless tote bags and slipper-socks, echoing patterns that have been popular since the beginning of the trend. Now there's a new generation of felting books, and this one, with an eye firmly on very modern design, will suit those knitters who can't resist daily visits to sites like Decor8 and Design Sponge. It's a relatively small book, but there are patterns for items ranging from stylish pillows to comfy sweaters to jewelry.
(For: the one who's "always been a shoe made for the city": wonderfully edgy and urban pieces here.)
Not as new as these, but a wonderful seasonal gift for any knitter who doesn't yet have a copy, is Melanie Falick's Handknit Holidays: Knitting Year-Round for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice.
Crochet Me by Kim Werker - Not a repetition of the web site, this book features youthful, stylish crochet designs. A great supplement to Stitch & B!tch Crochet: The Happy Hooker -- the only other crochet book in recent memory comparable to this one, but where that one was cheery and bright, Crochet Me is elegant and subdued.
(Not for: Vanna fans, because this book is the antithesis of traditional mainstream crochet design. Also not for: plus sizes, as the size range is not very broad.)
Everyday Crochet by Doris Chan - If the sweater designs in Crochet Me are too avant-garde for you, or the size range too small, you'll appreciate this collection of pretty, elegant crochet designs for day- and night-wear.
(For: Any crochet princess.)
Amigurumi!: Super Happy Crochet Cute by Elisabeth Doherty - A range of cheerful patterns for crocheted animals, ranging from quite simple (sandwich cookies and a loaded hamburger on a bun) to complex (humanoid animal characters wearing clothes and shoes). Not only will you make adorable dolls, you'll learn new shaping techniques that will help you design your own.
(For: anyone who wants to learn to make amigurumi; the crocheter who loves modern art plush.)
Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts: Amigurumi by Tomoko Takamori - The first English translation of a genuine Japanese amigurumi book. Some of the animals in this book are so ugly that they're cute, while others are almost unbearably adorable.
(For: authenticity junkies, cute toy lovers, and newer crocheters.)
More plush toys
There's something akin to amigurumi in these books, but they can't be classified as "crochet" by any means.
Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves by Miyako Kanamori - The title says just about everything you need to know about this book. Other sock-creature books have focused on monkeys or on monsters based on the writer's own illustrations. This translated book from Japan has amazingly cute designs and clear instructions for thirteen animals; it even includes suggestions for different facial expressions. Also, it's inexpensive compared to other books of its kind. A winner on every level.
(For: anyone who loves Cute Culture.)
Plush You! by Kristen Rask - Rask curates an annual plush art show called Plush You! at her Seattle shop, Schmancy; this book is a catalog of sorts. Don't let the negative feelings of Amazon reviewers dissuade you from giving it a look: some people are disappointed that it doesn't have more patterns, but it was intended more as an art book, showing off people's creations, than as a craft book that would help you make every design shown in it. If you'd like to see a broad sampling of modern plush, this is a very inspiring book. And there are patterns.
(For: Etsy shoppers who can't resist those little button eyes.)
Softies by Therese Laskey - People disappointed by Plush You! have warmed to this book, which shows a smaller breadth of creations, but has instructions and patterns for just about everything, and a spiral binding that makes the book easy to use. Along with sewn softies, you'll find a pincushion or two, a needle-felted bear and bunny, and a crocheted amigurumi rabbit. Very cute contributions from multiple artists.
(For: the crafter who has several techniques under their belt, and can't resist adorable things.)
Jewelry & Beading
Bead Love: Simply Fabulous Jewelry with Big Beautiful Beads by Jane LaFerla - There's a problem in most bead books and magazines, and that is that most "jewelry" designs in them succeed as art objects, but are a little too fussy to be fashionable. On top of that, strung jewelry -- what most people wear -- is looked down upon, because it's not as complex as woven pieces like those done in peyote or Ndebele stitch. Bead Love, intended to show you what to do with larger beads, doesn't have that problem: just about every design looks high-end and totally wearable. There is some metal wire work, but you'll see plenty of stylish stringing in this one, too.
(For: beading fashionistas.)
The Practical Illustrated Guide to Beading & Making Jewelry by Ann Kay and Lucinda Ganderton - Previously published as Kay's Make Your Own Jewelry and Ganderton's Beadwork and Ribbons, this full-color volume has 175 projects and over 1700 color photos. The title is a bit of a misnomer: not every project involve beads or jewelry (the 100-page section on ribbon work is probably the book's weakest, if beading is what you're looking for). You'll still find a staggering wealth of designs here, in all sorts of materials. Felt, clay, glass, metal, paper, leather, fabric, and other materials combine to create jewelry, home accessories, even garments.
(For: the frequent crafter.)
See also: Altered Curiosities, in the Mixed Media section below. It has a few jewelry projects.
Sewing & Embroidery
S.E.W.: Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp - Exhaustive beginning sewing manual with included patterns for garments, household items (pillows, sewing machine cozy, etc), even an adorable elephant doll. However, the patterns come only in a limited size range (up to a 40" bust, 34" waist), so it's not plus-size friendly and may not be hip and funky enough for some teens.
(For: the relatively slender twenty-something with a new sewing machine. Teens might prefer AlterNation by Shannon Okey and Alexandra Underhill instead, or possibly Subversive Seamster: Transform Thrift-Store Threads into Street Couture by Melissa Rannels et al.)
Sew Pretty Homestyle by Tone Finnanger - Hearts and flowers, gingham and kittens. These motifs combine in an utterly charming book full of small sewing projects. (Other apt words used in the publisher's description: lovable, delightful.) More retro than country, yet neither cutesy nor insipid, with designs that completely repay the small amount of work they require. I was bowled over by this book, and I think you might be, too.
(For: Cath Kidston fans and other lovers of sweet and quirky vintage looks. See also: Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol, a similarly pretty book with more simplistic projects, mostly based on rectangles.)
Material World: Home Decor Projects for the Fabric-Obsessed by Cat Wei - A companion to Material Girls, the excellent show on the DIY Network, this book is full of fun, youthful ways to use fabric... not all of which require sewing. Humorous and fun projects include fabric-topped tables, cleverly printed pillows, and a patchwork "bear" rug, among others.
(For: the kitschy domestic diva; the habitual Reprodepot customer.)
Doodle Stitching: Fresh & Fun Embroidery for Beginners by Aimee Ray - Crafters are in love with this book's sweet designs, meant to be stitched on everything from linens to lampshades. Solid instruction for novices is included.
(For: the constant embellisher, who never met a thing they couldn't customize. See also: Sublime Stitching: Hundreds of Hip Embroidery Patterns and How-To by Jenny Hart, and Colorful Stitchery: 65 Hot Embroidery Projects to Personalize Your Home by Kristin Nicholas.)
Mixed media & paper art
How to Make Books by Esther K. Smith - There are plenty of books on the market about the various ways to hand-make books and their bindings (accordion books, Japanese stab binding, tape bindings, Coptic bindings, and so on), but most are standard full-color perfect-bound craft books, and few succeed as beautiful books in their own right. How to Make Books has a gorgeous, letterpress-printed board cover, and what's inside it is no less inspiring. The instructions for books range from simple paper booklets to complex artistic bindings. It's no accident that almost every site's list of crafty gifts this year has included this book.
(For: You, me, and everyone you know. Everyone who likes books, anyway.)
Paper Cut It by Marion Elliot - Nifty paper projects with a ton of templates, mostly in the tradition of papel picado and silhouette art. Make a gingerbread house, a skeleton banner for Halloween, a decorative storage box with Arthur Rackham-style fairy silhouettes, pirate banners, a three-dimensional Christmas tree, wreaths, bags, etc.
(For: the one you always lose in the fancy paper section at the art supply store; the Day of the Dead enthusiast.)
In This House by Angela Cartwright and Sarah Fishburn - Lovely mixed-media paper house-shaped books in various popular styles, and tutorials showing how to achieve some of the effects.
(Not for: people growing bored with common mixed-media tropes like crowned vintage photos, but great for the Somerset Studios crowd and anyone who likes sheer eye-candy.)
Mixed-Media Collage by Holly Harrison - Tutorials, interviews, and examples of... well... mixed-media collage. This is not as "Somerset Studios-ish" as some other books in this category: it seems to share elements with that style, but have a foot more firmly in the traditional, mainstream art world. However, you'll still see some wings and crowns here and there.
(For: Budding artists who like to glue things to other things.)
The Art of Personal Imagery by Corey Moortgat - Detailed and visually inspiring tutorials, getting Somerset-style mixed media art into scrapbooking... without the books.
(For: Your favorite "alternative scrapper" who already loves stuff by companies like BasicGrey and Cosmo Cricket. This book will help them step off of the page and further into their own creativity.)
Altered Curiosities: Assemblage Techniques and Projects by Jane Ann Wynn - Strange and beautiful relics are created with Wynn's advanced assemblage techniques. If you've ever wanted to use plastic figurines and epoxy putty to create a two-headed calf, or enshrine a lost tooth in gilded royal splendor, this book has a lot to teach you.
(For: Medievalists, antiquarians, wunderkammer enthusiasts, steampunks, and art geeks, mostly the latter.)
Secrets of Rusty Things by Michael DeMeng - Complex metal assemblage art creates jewel-like treasures. This is more about DeMeng's work, and how he goes about creating it, than it is about showing you how to do any particular project.
(For: Arty dudes, and people who love "the process.")
Anticraft: Knitting, Beading, and Stitching for the Slightly Sinister by Renee Rigdon and Zabet Stewart - A book from the creators of the popular web zine (which always merits a language warning, if you're sensitive about that kind of thing); it lives up to its subtitle. Anticraft is full of funky patterns that don't pander to beginners, as in so many multi-craft books, across a variety of disciplines: knitting, sewing, even metalwork. What could have been a silly gimmick of poorly-conceived "spooky crafts" is actually worth your time -- at least, if you're of a certain disposition. (Has anyone in your social circle ever smoked clove cigarettes or had a mohawk?)
(For: "The Slightly Sinister" probably means someone who dyes their hair black and listens to Joy Division or The Cure a lot; your niece who wears a lot of eyeliner and worships My Chemical Romance may qualify. This is also a good bet for anyone you know who is celebrating "Yule" rather than "Christmas.")
Craft, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco - If you know someone who has been trying to sell their handcrafted goods or patterns, and you want to express your support, you won't want to miss this book. It has helpful, commonsense advice for people starting their own craft businesses, including information on finding suppliers, dealing with wholesale clients, pricing their wares, working the craft fair scene, and just about anything else they'll need to know. Solid information is interspersed with interviews with successful craft entrepreneurs.
(For: The Etsy hero in your life.)
If in doubt, a magazine subscription is the crafty gift that keeps on giving all year long, and most magazines allow you to order a subscription right on their web sites. Here are a few we like:
Happy shopping! And Happy Holidays from us here at DIY Life.