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For crafty gifts, pair how-to books with supplies

November 13, 2018
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This Nov. 11, 2018, photo in Concord, N.H., shows a book about embroidery paired with hoops, floss, scissors and other stitching supplies. How-to books make great holiday gifts for crafters, but they'll appreciate it even more if you include supplies to get them started. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Santa has his crew of crafty elves, but those of us living south of the North Pole could use a little help.

Sure, your creative friends and loved ones will appreciate a how-to book full of new projects for an existing hobby, or ideas that could spark a new one. But consider going the extra mile by putting together a DIY kit with supplies that allow them to dive right in. Want to really make it special? Make one of the projects yourself and tuck it in with the book and supplies as inspiration.

I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of this idea. Admittedly, I was perplexed when I tore away the wrapping paper and found a stack of used books with no discernable theme — a novel, a biography, a collection of famous quotations and a picture book. My confusion disappeared when I opened the second parcel my friend presented to me: a book about making crafts with recycled books.

“Book Art: Creative Ideas to Transform Your Books into Decorations, Stationery, Display Scenes and More” by Clare Youngs (CICO Books, 2018) includes nearly three dozen projects ranging from simple cards to elaborate three-dimensional sculptures. Rather than have your recipient rooting around in her home library, hit up some yard sales or thrift stores and pick out a few hefty hardcovers. Ideally, offer a mix of newer volumes and well-worn tomes, some with dense text and some with colorful illustrations. Consider including a craft knife, an awl for punching holes and a glue stick. A small, self-healing cutting mat also would come in handy, as would some tracing paper for transferring designs to book pages. If you’re lucky, you might get a handmade thank-you card featuring one of the projects!

If you have any knitters on your list, “Pom Pom Animals” by Trikotri (NIPPAN IPS Co., 2018) provides plenty of projects to use up leftover yarn. The book includes 45 adorable and surprisingly realistic-looking animals, and while I’m not sure anyone but the hippest of hipsters would actually wear a squirrel head brooch, the animals would be cute atop hair ties for children or pinned to tote bags. Put together a basket of supplies including plastic pom pom makers in various sizes, wool yarn in various shades of brown, white, gray and black, a package of plastic safety eyes and a small assortment of wool roving. While these projects may be a bit too intricate for children, the idea can easily be adapted by choosing a book aimed at a younger audience and pairing it with brightly colored acrylic yarn. The Klutz brand of activity-based books includes several pom pom titles that include supplies with the instructions.

Embroidery has made a comeback in the fashion world in recent years, spawning multiple how-to books. “Hoop Dreams” by Cristin Morgan (Abrams, 2018) features modern designs and instructions for projects ranging from simple decorative hoops to jewelry. Embroidery floss comes in a near endless array of colors, so pick out a handful and package them up with some hoops, needles, scissors and marking pens. The small monogramed hoop featured in the first chapter would make a good Christmas ornament, too.

And while no one wants a lump of coal in his or her stocking, a box of rocks is a different story. Rock painting, from the mesmerizing patterns of mandala stones to cute critters, is getting trendy, and a DIY kit is easy and fairly inexpensive to put together. Buy an assortment of acrylic craft paint and brushes, paint pens and varnish, and collect rocks from around your yard, a beach or a riverbank. “Art on the Rocks” by F. Sehnaz Bac, Marisa Redondo and Margaret Vance (Quarto Publishing Group, 2017) features about three dozen projects for rocks of all shapes and sizes.

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