Book – Before the modern era, before the Industrial Revolution, before mass production and manufacturing, most everything humans did was a matter of craft (or, to use the archaic spelling, Craeft) – a combination of skill, thriftiness, ingenuity, and necessity. In this book, Alexander Langlands explores some of the components of craeft from historic England, reflecting on the skills and resources involved and the way all the various components of the landscape interact with one another.
Langlands had my dream job: he was an experimental archaeologist, using the tools and techniques of history to better understand the way the past worked. He was clearly in this job by temperament as much as anything, because throughout this book he displays a remarkable curiosity about not just the individual components of historic life but the whole system of the thing: the way one skill led into another, one craft creating byproducts that in turn become the core structural elements of another. He calls this kind of systemic, interdependent thinking “craeftiness,” a mode of relating to the world that abhors waste the way nature abhors a vacuum, finding a clever, economical use for every scrap, and making every expenditure of energy do at least two jobs.
This isn’t your ordinary history book; in fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything to compare it to. It’s deeply personal, each chapter (focusing on a different craft, from haymaking to basket-weaving to wall and barrow building) exploring Langlands’ own experience with the skill as well as his archaeological knowledge of its history. It’s profoundly location-based, as suits a book about the way pre-industrial people lived. And, crucially, it’s not nostalgic or romanticizing of the past: Langlands is well aware of how hard all this work is, having done much of it himself, albeit without life-or-death consequences. What he’s explaining is not just these individual skills that have been lost in the wake of cheap petroleum-based energy, but a way of thinking that was lost along with them, one which might become necessary in the near future, as petroleum-based energy becomes not so cheap.
Book – Coloring books are not just for kids. There are a ton of drawing and art books out there for adults meant to help relax and embrace your creativity. The following are just a few that our library offers, from drawing to painting, to Zentangle and more.
Drawing Calm: Refresh, Relax Refocus with 20 Drawing, Painting, and Collage Workshops inspired by Klimt, Klee, Monet, and More first and foremost has an impressively long title. Written by Susan Evenson, this book is perfect for getting your artistic juices flowing. The projects are relatively simple and each is inspired by a specific work of art. My favorite craft from the collection is very simple. You tear apart pieces of tissue paper, lay them on a sheet of watercolor paper and then brush over soaking them with a paintbrush and water. Leaving it to dry, you then peel off the tissue paper and are left with a beautiful stain from the shapes that can be used to write on, color a pattern in sharpie and anything else you can dream up.
Paint Yourself Calm: Colourful, Creative Mindfulness Through Watercolour by Jean Haines is strictly dedicated to watercolor techniques. I love using watercolor paints because they’re so multi-functional. You can create something abstract or detailed, blending colors, and changing the intensity with just a drop of water. Simply browsing through the images in the book can have a calming effect!
Florabunda Style : Super Simple Art Doodles to Color, Craft and Draw
by Suzanne McNeill is a great book if you love drawing floral designs. The designs in this art book are simple, beautiful, and easy to follow, and McNeill also introduces fun crafts projects. Check out McNeill’s book on Zentangle art The Beauty of Zentangle : Inspirational Examples From 137 Tangle Artists Worldwide
, and explore the maze-like designs. Happy doodling!
Book – Hygge, the Danish concept of coziness and wintery happiness, is all the rage right now, but the Danes don’t have the market cornered on winter bliss. Winter is a wonderful time for all kinds of making things – making presents, baking treats, crafting warm and cozy things out of yarn. (Is there anything better than a nice skein of yarn and a hot cup of tea on a snowy afternoon?) In this book, Emily Mitchell offers a range of crafts and activities suitable for the long, cold winter months, including tasty recipes and lovely crochet patterns. Her projects span the whole of winter, from the late days of fall when you can collect freshly-fallen leaves to preserve, to the earliest parts of spring when the first bulbs begin to sprout. Rather than getting depressed about the end of summer, get excited for winter with this wonderful book of ideas.
Book – As the weather turns colder (at last!), my fingers itch to be knitting again. When planning new projects, I always take a look at this book first. Parkes knows her stuff. The book goes into detail on everything from the microscopic structure of different fibers to the confusing technical terminology of how yarn is spun to help you pick out the perfect material for your project. (Something I learned the hard way before reading this book: cotton just is not good for socks.) Best of all, there’s a nice array of patterns in the latter part of the book, designed specifically to show off the best qualities of the yarn used.
If you’ve ever been intimidated by the selection in a knitting boutique, or if you’re reluctant to branch out from acrylics and superwash wool because you’re concerned about delicate care requirements, this is the perfect book for you. But even if you’re an expert knitter, or you know you don’t have the budget for angora or mohair or buffalo wool, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn is an interesting and informative way to spend an afternoon. Unless, of course, you could be knitting.