Explore new twists to an ancient art with Trash-To-Treasure Papermaking. Transform junk mail, newspapers, phone books, food labels, candy wrappers and other trash into unique, hand-crafted papers. Master papermaker Arnold E. Grummer makes the process easy enough for preschoolers, but with variations and techniques that will challenge experienced crafters too. Supplies can be as simple as a tin can, a blender and a bit of screen. He covers internal and surface embedment (sticking objects in or on the wet paper), plus neat things to do with pulp: layering, painting, casting, bordering, texturing and embossing. And what to do with the gorgeous sheets and shapes of fresh paper? Step-by-step instructions and big photos detail oodles of projects: magnets, lampshades, gift tags, jewelry, cards, garlands, mobiles, bookmarks, puppets, ornaments and journals. All this colorful content gets a context, too. Readers are exposed to a bit of paper history, including plant fibers, production methods and the surprisingly old idea of recycling.

Harvesting Color: How To Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess is a treat for dyed-in-the-wool lovers of curious lore and a beautiful resource for folks who work with textiles, as well as for gardeners or artisans interested in how to plumb nature for vibrant colors. As the author says, “the return to natural dyes after 150 years of relying on synthetics is garnering increased interest from a wide variety of environmentalists, farmers and do-it-yourself crafters.” Organized by season, Harvesting Color highlights 36 dye plants easily cultivated or foraged. These range from the ubiquitous pokeberry and black walnut to the geographically specific cochineal, an insect whose dried, crushed bodies have supplied dyers with pure scarlet since Aztec times. A resource guide helps readers find local sources by state. Each plant profile includes uses (historic and current), where to find it, when and how to harvest it and a master dye recipe. 

Our interest in weeds is usually limited to how best to kill them. But in the hands of Britain’s “greatest living nature writer,” weeds grow so captivating that 336 pages do not seem long enough. Richard Mabey’s Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants generously covers a wide and hybrid field of history, science, culture and on-the-ground experience. But what is a weed, exactly? Apparently the “criteria for weediness” change according to aesthetic, location, time, custom, size, toxicity and invasiveness. As the author says, “the definition is the weed’s cultural story.” The story includes how some weeds heal and others kill, how some save a landscape and others destroy it, and how humans keep altering the very properties of plants, such as through genetic modification, as we devise increasingly sophisticated weapons. Readers also get poetry, war, city planning, walks in the woods, bouquets of wildflowers and lore from around the globe. Mabey is a comprehensive guide who wears his learning as lightly as a dandelion seedhead. There’s no fluff here, though, only fascinating fodder for thought.

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