Nature Craft – Fiona Hayes

This book is adorable! I’ve come across so many kid’s craft books that contain instructions that I doubt I could follow, let alone the child that’s supposed to be able to construct the marvellous creations. Thankfully this isn’t one of those books.

With step by step instructions accompanied by step by step illustrations and photos of the final masterpieces this is the type of book that makes me want to borrow one of your kids so I’m not the only one having fun making all of this cuteness. There are also templates included for the shapes you need to cut out. I love that the basics of each project come from nature so there’s a built in excuse to wander outside and rummage for an assortment of items including feathers, twigs and seashells.

While each project also requires additional crafty items there’s nothing overly expensive on any of the lists and a lot of items are used for multiple projects. Besides the items specific to each project you’ll also need:

  • PVA glue or a cool-melt glue gun
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Felt-tip pens
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Ruler.

The animal projects in this book are “Aww!” worthy with sweet little faces and googly eyes. I can definitely see kids wanting to make these for themselves and if I was a parent my kidlet would earn a serious amount of brownie points if I received any of these critters as a gift.

I anticipate this book being a hit with parents, babysitters, teachers and child care workers, along with adults like me who will most likely be pretending we’re buying the items at the craft store for our non-existent children. I want to make the owl, the tortoise, the rabbit, the dragonfly, the mice, the penguins, the tree frogs, the lizard, the hedgehog, the dinosaur, the mushrooms … Okay, fine! I want to make everything!

If you’re like me and your crafty enthusiasm outweighs your crafty expertise then it looks like the worst that could happen is that your finished critter will have more character than intended. I can definitely see a craft day with my mother coming soon.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – QEB for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Make fun animals and objects from nature’s finest materials! Collect twigs, fir cones, feathers, leaves, shells, and pebbles from your yard, park, or vacation, and create animals and objects with them.

Stunning projects included are a bird nest bowl made with feathers and leaves, a nut mask and feather mask, seed pod flowers, and fir cone owls, a feathery bird bookmark, fir cone fish mobile, painted snail shells, and a twinkling night light jar. Learn about the nature around you whilst being creative.

Perfect activities for parents and children to do together. Over 40 crafty makes feature a well-balanced mix of techniques, materials and colours for a range of ages. 

Paper Quilling Four Seasons Chinese Style – Zhu Liqun Paper Arts Museum

I went to a craft expo with my mother about 15 years ago and that was where I first encountered genius level artists who can transform twirly swirly pieces of coloured paper into masterpieces. I was shown cute little puppies and stunning flowers, and after I picked my jaw off the floor I bought Mum a quilling kit for beginners. She was equally fascinated, looking for a new hobby and decided that quilling was the thing for her.

Unfortunately I never got to see any of Mum’s masterpieces because as lovely and gorgeous as she is, she doesn’t have the best track record in actually using the majority of the things she really wants me to buy her (sorry Mum, but it’s the truth 💕). So, like the special book to write treasured recipes and the colouring books after them, the quilling paper and tools remain unused in a drawer, if she still has them at all.

I’d forgotten all about quilling until I saw this book listed in my library’s catalogue of new releases. It turns out that those quilling masterpieces I was shown by the sweet craft ladies over a decade ago were the elementary Quilling 101 showpieces. As soon as I saw the cover of Paper Quilling Four Seasons Chinese Style I knew my jaw was in imminent danger of dislocation. The name of the front cover image is Godess of the Four Seasons and maybe a proofreader should have picked this up but they were probably blinded by the awesomeness of the artwork so can easily be forgiven.

This book takes you through the history of quilling and gives you a photographic tutorial for how the various shapes are made. I adore that rather than just making pretty pictures (although that would be remarkable in itself), Chinese-style paper quilling …

has given birth to many novel techniques of creation and borrowed wisdom from the traditional profound cultural essence ranging from folk arts, paintings, myths, poetries, auspicious symbols, idioms to time-honored solar terms which are still used today. In this sense, it is an art form that integrates tradition and innovation.

How cool is that?! The designs in this book are inspired by the 24 solar terms of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, so besides looking amazing they also have deep meanings. Each quilling design is accompanied by an explanation of that solar term.

For anyone who can look at some photos, read instructions and then go forth and create, the step by step guides are clear and concise. For people like myself who looks at the photos and immediately switch into hyperventilating mode, it may be best to watch a video tutorial or better still learn from someone crafty in person first, just to get the techniques down before turning the easiest tutorial of a duckling into something amusingly grotesque.

Disclaimer: My artistic ability is equivalent to sometimes being able to draw a stick figure that looks like a stick figure if and only if the stick figure is just standing there. The poor guy is probably standing there praying I won’t try to animate him in any way because I may break him but he’s safe because I know I would break him.

So now that you know details of my artistic prowess I looked at the categories of difficulty and thought:

Beginner – Yeah, right. Once I’ve spent the next year or so mastering the individual techniques of lines, scrolls, coils, loops and crescents with a long suffering (emphasis on the suffering) crafty tutor, only then would I dare attempt this.

Intermediate – I may have snort laughed when I read Intermediate and then turned the page. The stunning blue bird in Spring in the Air and the elegant lines of Swan on Water are extraordinary. The idea that one day many years from now I may be able to create something this breathtaking is intoxicating, I’ll admit, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Advanced – Would someone please make a Summer Water for me and frame it in some drool resistant material? The teensy tiny surfers riding the huge waves have this serenity in motion feel about them. I adore this one!

The twirly swirly bottom line: If you want to make gorgeous art, quilling may be for you. This book’s designs will make you look like a quilling genius if you can pull them off. It seems like once you’ve sorted out your scrolls from your coils and your loops from your crescents, the only limit to how creative you can be is your own imagination. If you want to drool over the creative genius of someone else and fantasise about ‘One day …’, I highly recommend this book.

My favourite is a girl standing under a tree. She’s looking off into the distance. It’s called Waiting and there’s something so haunting and wistful and beautiful about it that makes me want to look at it for hours.

If I ever master the art of twirly swirly pieces of paper, this is the first masterpiece I’d like to recreate. One day …

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Create stunning papercraft works of art for every season with this creative and easy-to-follow Chinese paper quilling book.

Quilling, the art of coiling and shaping narrow paper strips into 3-D designs, has been popular with crafters for some time but the art form is hundreds of years old. This seasonal guide links beloved Western crafting with traditional Chinese Arts. 

Paper has a flexibility and elasticity that gives it endless possibilities. All you need to get started is strips of paper, glue, and a tool to roll the paper. You can readily get these at any craft store or use what you already have: recycled paper and a bamboo skewer or toothpick work well. 

This guide offers:

  • Examples of various forms of Chinese art for inspiration.
  • Different modes of composition.
  • The unique styles of Chinese paper quilling.

Each season is depicted in all its distinct color and beauty through the unique art of paper quilling.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Whittling Book, Gift Edition: Fun, Easy-To-Make Projects with Your Swiss Army Knife – Chris Lubkemann

You know those amazing people who can look at a branch and think to themselves, ‘Gee, this would make a brilliant bird’ and then go and whittle that branch into something that actually looks like a bird? I’m not one of those people, but Chris Lubkemann certainly is! I page through books like Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Whittling Book, Gift Edition in jaw dropped awe and wish I was a tenth as talented as this man.

I grew up coveting my Dad’s Swiss Army Knife and felt like I was super special whenever he’d let me play with the toothpick – carefully, so I didn’t break it. The day that I was judged responsible enough to have my very own Swiss Army Knife I felt like I’d achieved a major rite of passage. I love these little marvels of engineering and currently have my grandfather’s but am eyeing off this gorgeous purple one that I may be forced to purchase.

So, this book. From the dedication to Carl Elsener, Sr., complete with a lovely photo of him with one of the happiest smiles I’ve ever seen, leaning on a table filled with upstanding Swiss Army Knives in battle formation, I began smiling and the only times I wasn’t smiling after that was when my brow was furrowed in astonishment at what author and whittler extraordinaire Chris can create out of so little.

Chris is passionate about his craft and there’s something contagious about passion. After learning about the history of the company and seeing some of the incredible variations of the models, I almost feel like a Swiss Army Knife evangelist now. From the basic model to the extraordinary Swiss Champ XAVT with 118 parts to the adorable limited edition ones with designs like bees or an astronaut dog in space, I never realised how many different functions these tools can achieve or how cute they can be. Also, in just their Ibach factory alone, 60,000 Swiss Army Knives are produced per day! Who knew?!

Onto the whittling. Not only do you get step by step instructions, you get coloured photos to support them. You will learn how to customise your knife to make it easier to whittle with, safety instructions, how to choose your branches and the other tools you will need. The projects will show you how to make tools, toys, animals and household items such as coasters. My favourite creation has to be the rowboat, complete with oars! So, have I converted you yet?

I am all too aware of my own klutz level so you won’t be seeing any updates from me with photos of my marvellous creations. I’d prefer my fingers to remain attached to my hands. For those of you like me this book is simply incredible to look through. You will gain such an appreciation for the talented non-klutzes of the world.

For those talented or soon to be talented whittlers, I applaud your artistry. This book would be perfect for anyone looking for a new hobby or for current whittlers looking to master new projects.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Fox Chapel Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

With this well-illustrated guidebook and a trusty Swiss Army Knife, readers will be ready to whittle wherever they go. World-famous whittler Chris Lubkemann shows how to carve 43 useful and whimsical objects using nothing more than a stick and an Original Swiss Army Knife. Chris offers step-by-step instructions for all the traditional whittling favorites like spoons, forks, and flowers, plus some decidedly funny animals and the classic curly tail rooster. He also provides sage advice on how to choose wood, sharpen a blade, and safely control your knife. Published in collaboration with Victorinox AG, makers of the Original Swiss Army Knife.

Dogs in Origami: 30 Breeds from Terriers to Hounds – John Montroll

I adored origami when I was growing up. My interest faded until recently when I binge watched Prison Break. For some mysterious reason as I gazed into Wentworth Miller’s soul eyes for hours my interest in origami grew once more. 😍

Needless to say, I’ve seen so many origami books recently and the animal ones in particular have been … interesting. They’ll have the title saying the next project is a pig. The paper will be pink and there’ll be lots of folds and glue and all of this intricate work, then they show you the final product. I then look at the final photograph of their masterpiece and I’ll be thinking, ‘That’s a pig??? Okay … If you say so …’ 🤔

Not so with Dogs in Origami. The final products actually look like dogs and not only that, they look like the actual breed they’re supposed to be. Even at glance on the cover image you can identify the types of dogs they are – without captions!

Varying in complexity from intermediate to complex, you get step by step coloured pictures to make 31 projects (30 dog breeds) that progress in difficulty throughout the book. Each project only requires one square-sheet and you don’t need to cut or glue anything.

My personal favourites in each chapter are the Beagle, Scottish Terrier (I have two favourites in Chapter 1), Basset Hound, Bull Terrier, Boxer and Labrador Retriever, but they’re all amazing and so creative. I admire people who can make something artistic out of practically nothing.

Maybe I should start on the ‘I can’t believe that’s a pig’ before I move on to the intermediate Beagle unless I want my Beagle to look like it crawled out of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Hmm … Now that’s an interesting Halloween idea …

I loved this book and look forward to my dogs looking like dogs in the nearish future. I really want to check out more of John Montroll’s books. This man is an origami genius!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Dover Publications for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Origami master John Montroll pays tribute to man’s best friend with this guide to creating origami dogs. Suitable for folders of intermediate to advanced skills, the book presents step-by-step instructions and full-colour photographs for each model. More than two dozen breeds range from the familiar Beagle, Chihuahua, Yorkie, Boxer, and Lab to the more exotic Basenji, Akita, Otterhound, and Bernese Mountain Dog. 

Internationally renowned author John Montroll has significantly increased the origami repertoire with his original designs. Best known as the inspiration behind the single-square, no-cuts, no-glue approach, the American origami master offers readers meticulously developed folding sequences that allow them to create better models with fewer steps.