There's something to the old saying, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." Crafty people know the pleasure, pride and peaceful satisfaction derived from creating something by hand. Those interested in converting others to their way of thinking might pass along one of these books to anyone whose heart could be helped by busying her hands. You'll not only spread that sense of peace and accomplishment, but thwart the devil a little as well. Making memorable keepsakesAs Nancy Ouchida-Howells writes in Calligraphy: Easel Does It (HarperDesign, $16.95, 96 pages, ISBN 0060588349), the ancient art of beautiful writing demands "full attention and concentration, a balance between control and freedom that creates a meditative, peaceful state as you immerse yourself in the act of creating." Her book is designed to stand up like an easel for easy reference while following its photographed step-by-step instructions. Ouchida-Howells begins with the basics: materials needed, how to maneuver the pens and basic lettering, then guides you through eight projects "easily adjusted to suit your needs," such as greeting cards, wrapping paper and invitations. Several calligraphic styles are demonstrated, including Gothic, Renaissance, Celtic, Romanesque and Modern Revival. There's even a scrapbook cover project that segues nicely into the next book, Scrapbook Tips and Techniques (Leisure Arts, $16.95, 288 pages, ISBN 157486422X). In fact, since scrapbooks often include lots of lettering, your homemade keepsake album is likely to benefit from your newfound penmanship skills throughout its pages not just on the cover.
If you're like me, with boxes and boxes of photos, souvenirs and mementos and some vague notion of creatively organizing them "someday," Scrapbook Tips and Techniques can propel you into action. Chapter titles include "From Chaos to Order: 10 Easy Steps to Photo Organization" (sign me up!), "Collage Craze" and "Border Ideas." While giving detailed instructions and containing numerous lovely and inspiring example pages, this book is far from being simplistic. For the serious scrapbooker or the seriously artistic, many advanced techniques and mediums are covered, such as creating stained-glass embellishments using watercolors, embossing, or fiber and eyelets for different effects.
Crafts for home and gardenA versatile and portable craft, crochet is a quiet, contained activity you can do almost anywhere, and Crochet Basics: All You Need to Know to Get Hooked on Crochet (Barron's, $22.95, 128 pages, ISBN 0764156780), by Jan Eaton, is the book to get you hooking away. Designed for the absolute beginner, Eaton's book points out that you don't need to invest in expensive supplies to get started: all you need is a ball of yarn and a crochet hook or two. With large, clearly defined photos of each step, she walks you through 12 separate projects starting with a simple scarf and progressing to more complicated designs such as a child's sweater, purses, a lace evening wrap and a colorful Harlequin afghan. "Once you have the hang of holding hook and yarn comfortably," she notes, "the basic techniques of crochet are surprisingly easy to master, and all crochet forms, no matter how intricate they look at first, are based on a small number of stitches that are very easy to learn." Finally, if turning trash to treasure floats your creative craft, and you're not afraid of basic tools like a hammer, sandpaper and paintbrushes, then Flea Market Makeovers for the Outdoors: Projects ∧ Ideas Using Flea Market Finds ∧ Recycled Bargain Buys, by B.J. Berti, is the book for you. In these pages a weathered trellis, too fragile for garden use, becomes an appealing plant holder, discarded woolen sweaters become a cozy patchwork throw, and rusty thrift-store trays become trendy purveyors of cooling beverages. Berti offers plenty of projects complete with material lists, numbered instructions and photos. My favorite is the romantic painted candelabra for the outdoors, created by removing the light sockets and the wiring from an electric chandelier, painting it and then substituting candles for the milk glass lightbulb covers. Just keep the fire limited to your imagination!