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Archive for the ‘Arts & Crafts’ Category

Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement

by Heidi on August 7th, 2012
Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement Cover Image

This book is another great find on the New shelf on the second floor, where I was browsing recently.  I have often admired the quilt squares I’ve seen on barns around Iowa, but assumed they were isolated pieces put up by quilt lovers and that it was just a happy coincidence that I’d caught sight of them.  After reading Barn Quilts, I know that they are not there by accident, and I’m inspired by the story of how the American Quilt Trail movement came to be.

Author Suzi Parron has researched the origins of the quilt trails, followed the trails in numerous states and found beautiful art and heartwarming stories all along the way.  The barn quilts often represent cooperation among state and local arts organizations, philanthropic groups, visitor bureaus, and local craftspeople and community members interested in sharing their art with all passersby.

The book is full of color pictures of barns with their quilt squares.  It covers trails in eight, mostly midwestern states.  In the chapter on Iowa, the counties represented include Grundy, Buchanan, Fayette, Humboldt, Sac and Washington.  The quilt trail closest to us is in Washington County, the “Barn Quilt Capital of Iowa“.  My only quibble with this lovely book is that there are no maps or website listings for the trails.  However, a simple internet search for barn quilt trails in the counties named will deliver specific information on each county and maps that show the locations of the barns.

Barns and quilts, two art forms in their own right, go together beautifully as this book shows.  Take a look at this history of a grassroots movement, and then take a drive down some country roads to see some unique midwestern art.

I LOVE Cupcakes!

by Kara on February 11th, 2012
I LOVE Cupcakes! Cover Image

Cupcakes are a big deal these days.  And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, cupcakes may be the ticket if you are looking for something crafty and sweet your sweetie. Of course my favorite cupcakes are Kara’s Cupcakes, but traveling to California is a bit too far.  Fortunately the Library has a number of great cupcake books with lots of great pictures and ideas.

Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh My! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson shares lots of great ideas for creating something sweet and eye-catching. The pictures are inspiring and the step-by-step details are very helpful.  They also offer many great hints for how to transform basic ingredients into a masterpiece.

Tack and Richardson also have two older titles that are fun. Hello Cupcake! and What’s New, Cupcake? both have many creative ideas and good information about techniques and supplies.

The Butch Bakery Cookbook features recipes and designs from the Butch Bakery in New York.  The Butch Bakery’s brand is “Where Butch Meets Buttercream” and the cookbook features an eclectic collection of recipes for a “grown-up” taste.  Recipes include ingredients such as bacon, cayenne pepper, coffee, liquors, and other unique flavors.

Another trend these days is Cake Pops. Cake Pops are basically a cupcake on a stick dipped in chocolate – what’s not to love about that!  Clare O’connell’s Pop Bakery shares step-by-step information to create penguins, clowns, frogs, and many other designs.  There’s even a chapter about creating cupcake pops!

Cake Pops by Bakerella features ideas from the blog.  I enjoyed the book AND the blog!  I especially liked the ideas for Valentine’s Day!

Discover a new world of sweet creativity with the thousands of ideas for cupcakes and cake pops. And remember the Library has a great collection of books to get you started.  ~~Enjoy!!~~


by Beth on January 10th, 2012
Microcrafts Cover Image

What’s better than a new book full of craft projects?  How about a new book full of itty bitty craft projects!

Microcrafts: Tiny Treasures to Make and Share by Margaret McGuire, Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hats and Friends contains more than 25 miniature craft projects to die for.

This is the perfect craft book for anyone who saves the bits and pieces left over from other projects, or who collects found objects that might be useful some day.  Tiny pieces of felt, shells, bottle caps or scraps of fancy papers become tiny stuffed animals,  miniature books, or little bitty bumble bees to hide in a houseplant.

Step by step instructions, great illustrations, and color photographs will take you through each project, and patterns are included where needed.  Don’t skip the last three sections of the book: “Supplies and Techniques”, “Ideas for Modifying Microcrafts” and “About the Authors” – each will give you lots more inspirations.

The next time you get the urge to craft, but don’t want to take on a big project check out Microcrafts and have a little fun.


Grottoes and Follies

by Debb Green on October 26th, 2011
Grottoes and Follies Cover Image

I learned a new word today while researching this blog. Or at least a new definition for the word in question. We’ve all experienced the meaning of the word folly and/or its plural. Whether used to describe foolish behaviors or thoughts, useless undertakings, or disastrous actions, the word folly is a favorite for critics. And for those who wish to disagree with or disparage the decisions or efforts of others.

But the other meaning for “follies” is more whimsical. In fact, follies are eccentric structures built primarily as architectural ornaments. They are often located in gardens and appear as full fledged buildings, though usually are not functional as such. They may include fakery in their design (for example, deliberately built “ruins” and “ancient” temples.) Their intent isn’t to be functional. Instead these curious  constructions are created and built purely for pleasure and for looks.

Related to follies is another type of garden whimsy called grottoes. Often religious in nature, these artificial creations are delightful sparkly caves embellished with thousands upon thousands of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, ceramic tiles, glass, and more. Midwest America has the largest number of such grottoes, most of which were originally built by German Catholic priests inspired by 18th & 19th century European traditions.

The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend Iowa is the largest single grotto in the world with four million dollars worth of minerals cemented in its walls. There is lovely example at the Holy Ghost Grotto in Dickeyville, Wisconsin.There are several smaller grottoes located in West Burlington and Guttenberg.  Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids had a beautiful grotto and lake called Our Mother of Sorrows which will be partially restored soon. On Nov. 3rd, Lisa Stone (a curator and professor at the School of Art Institute of Chicago) will present a lecture called “Grottoes in the Heartland” at 7:00 p.m. in Donnelly 300 at Mercy. For information, see:

What both follies and grottoes represent are self-made outside worlds, created for pleasure and inspiration by people with a different vision. Garden follies use traditional architecture and construction techniques. While grottoes are more a visionary folk or outsider art form built by those with no formal training (and plenty of cheap cement!)

If you’d like to see some but don’t have time to travel, there’s an excellent book at ICPL that includes grotto examples called Self-Made Worlds: Visionary Folk Art Environments by Roger Manley. You can also read about the West Bend and Dickeyville grottoes in a number of Iowa and Wisconsin travel guides (at 917.77 and 917.75 upstairs in nonfiction.) Using Google and the Internet, you can find many examples of grotto, folly, and other self-made worlds, including an excellent site called “NarrowLarry’s World of the Outstanding.” Check it out below and enjoy!

All the World’s a Play (with Puppets!)

by Debb Green on October 17th, 2011
All the World’s a Play (with Puppets!) Cover Image

Puppetry is a fascinating art that is both ancient and modern. For thousands of years, mankind has constructed and manipulated objects in order to tell stories, share information, teach values, and make fun of many human foibles.  Many think of puppets as play toys meant to entertain children. Yet more and more people are discovering that the wide world of puppetry offers sources of inspiration and delight at any age. Believe it or not, there are even puppet shows and musicals for mature audiences only (like Avenue Q!)

Iowa City Public Library has long offered puppetry programs and crafts for children. But it also offers stories, how-to guides, and movies featuring puppets. Some are in the Children’s Room while others are located in adult collections. Besides these, the Library has eighty hand puppets that can be checked out plus an in-house puppet theatre where children can make up their own shows. Ninety story time kits are also available, many of which include thematic puppets.

Recent puppet additions to the Library’s collection include the following titles. Check one out today and get ready to pull some strings!

For Children:

Frogs Are Funny! The Most Sensational, Inspirational, Celebrational, Muppetational Muppet Jokes by Brandon Snider. (2011) A bright and fun children’s collection of some of the best jokes, one-liners, and comedy bits ever spouted by all the favorite TV characters. Features full color photos.

Pinocchio by Carlo Collidi. (2010) This beloved classic tells the story of a wooden puppet full of tricks and mischief, with a talent for getting into and out of trouble, who wants more than anything else to become a real boy. Illustrated by Quentin Greban.

You Will Call Me Drog by Sue Cowling. (2011) Parker must find a way to remove a sinister puppet that refuses to leave his hand, or he will wind up in military school or worse. But first he must stand up to his best friend, mother, and absentee father.

Jim Henson: the Guy Who Played With Puppets by Kathleen Krull. (2011) A new children’s biography about the renowned creator of the wildly popular Muppet characters from television, movies, and more.

For Adults:

Puppet Play: 20 Puppet Projects Made With Recycled Mittens, Towels, Socks, and More by Diana Schoenbrun. (2011) Includes green suggestions for 20 puppet projects made with recycled materials.

what’s new at 746.46 ?

by Beth on October 17th, 2011
what’s new at 746.46 ? Cover Image

If you’re a regular library user, you probably have a favorite area of the Library. A call number or area you go to on a regular basis, or scope out on the new book shelf to see if there’s anything new.  For me it’s the number 746.46 – Quilting books.  There are quite a few new quilting books on the shelves these days! Here are a few to whet your appetite.

Stash Happy Patchwork by Cynthia Shaffer
Want to sew, but not in the mood to take on a big quilt?  How about Cupcake Flags, a clothespin caddy, a cactus pincushion, a Bento box, or a candle cozy?  Stash Happy Patchwork has 25 fun, simple, patchy projects, for any time you’re in the mood to sew.

The Practical Guide to Patchwork: new basics for the modern quiltmaker by Elizabeth Hartman.  Do you like the idea of making a quilt, but aren’t really into the traditional quilt designs?  Have a thing for bright modern fabrics?  Then this book is for you!  Hartman will lead you step by step through constructing a quilt, and the 12 projects included give a fresh color and design pallet to your project.  No old school browns and tans here.

Simplify with Camille Roskelley
Pre-cut fabric packs can take much of the guess work out of selecting fabrics for a project.  Fabric is produced in lines of up to 40 different coordinated prints and colors versions, and a pre-cut pack will have a piece of each fabric in a line, cut to a specific size. Fat Quarters (18″x 22″), Layer Cakes (10” squares), Charm Packs (5” squares), Jelly Rolls (strips 2.5” wide by the width of the fabric) Honey Buns (strips 1.5” wide by WOF), and Turnovers ( two 6” half square triangles per design).  Roskelley has designed 14 projects using pre-cut fabric packs. Introductory chapters on the basics of making a quilt are well written and easy to follow and the appendix includes the few patterns needed to complete each of the projects.

Little Bits Quilting Bee: 20 quilts using Charm Squares, Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes, and Fat Quarters by Katheren Ricketson is another book full of projects for pre-cut fabrics.  Ricketson is also a fan of community quilting. The modern version of the traditional quilting bee, today they are just as likely to be and online community or a blog as they are to be a real life meeting of friends,  and  Ricketson devotes her first chapter to a discussion of this fun social aspect of quilting.   A chapter each devoted to tools, supplies and quilt basics and then you’ll find 20 bright and colorful projects to choose from.

Pennies from Heaven by Gretchen Gibbons
If working with wool is your thing, this one’s for you. Well written and easy to follow, this book is based on Gibbons’ 12 block wool applique quilt “Pennies from Heaven.”  Each of the blocks are beautiful, and could be used on their own as a penny rug or wall hanging. There are also 8 additional patterns for penny rugs, table mats and table runners.


Plan now for a great Halloween

by Beth on September 30th, 2011
Plan now for a great Halloween Cover Image

Nights are getting cooler, apples are ripe for the picking and football season is in full swing.  Fall is on the way,  and with it comes one of my favorite holidays of the year: Halloween!   It’s never too early to start planning for Halloween, especially if you’ll be making new costumes or decorations.  ICPL has lots of books on Halloween costumes and decorating.  Let us help you make this a Halloween to remember.

Big Book of Halloween: Creative & Creepy Project for Revellers of All Ages” by Laura Dover Doran has lots of great Halloween ideas.  From yard and party decorations, party food, costumes for both adults and kids, and some short ghost stories, this is a great guide for a fun Halloween.

“Halloween: a Grown-up’s Guide to Creative Costumes, Devilish Décor & Fabulous Festivities,” by Joanne O’Sullivan, contains a wealth of grown-up costume ideas.  From full costumes, to hands, horns, creature feet, accessories and and masks (including some great paper bag masks), this guide to a grown-up Halloween will help you create your perfect Halloween – especially if you’ve ever wanted to be a Jackson Pollock painting.

To take your Halloween decorating to a whole new level, try “How to Haunt Your House,” by Shawn and Lynne Mitchell.  This is the ultimate guide to creeping out the neighborhood.  Fill your yard with realistic creepy tombstones.  Make spooky, drippy candles that will “burn” all night long or fake poseable hands using your hot glue gun and LOTS of glue sticks.  Want to create your own special effects lighting or make your very own fog machine?  This book shows you how to create the spookiest haunted house on the block.

Tired of the basic smiley-face Jack-O-Lantern?  Create something spooky, scary or just truly shocking with help from Tom Nardone’s “Extreme Pumpkins: diabolical do-it-yourself designs to amuse your friends and scare your neighbors” This pumpkin carving guide is full of ideas for some extremely off-the-wall pumpkin creations.    And don’t pass up the sequel “Extreme pumpkins II: take back Halloween and freak out a few more neighbors.”

And if your Halloween revolves around kids who might enjoy creating their own costumes, try these:

All have some great ideas for off-the-wall kids’ costumes that can be made with some help from mom or dad.  From a giant birthday presents, winged fairies, decked-out princesses, to sword-wielding pirates or dragons, there’s bound to be something to enchant even the most “too-old-for-Halloween” kid.

Visit the Iowa City Public Library soon and check the Library’s catalog for the subject Halloween or Halloween Costumes. to get a bigger list of books and a jump start on your Halloween planning.

Not your everyday craft books!

by Beth on August 5th, 2011
Not your everyday craft books! Cover Image

Summer time.  When the humidity hits 75% and the heat advisories start popping up, I start looking for things to do inside. And what better way to while away the hours by the fan or AC then by breaking out the craft supplies!  So I wandered through the library’s craft section (upstairs at 745)  and came up with a handful of odd-ball craft books with lots of neat thing to try.

Want to make yourself a duct tape kitchen apron, a wallet, or a cell phone case?   Brake out a few rolls of duct tape and take a look at  Ductigami : the art of the tape by Joe Wilson.

Are you a fan of monsters, or do you know someone who is?   Check out Me Make Monster! A mish mash of monster craft by Jenny Harada.  Make all sorts of monsters – little or big.  Each project has a list of supplies and tools needed followed by simple, well written instructions and lots of color photographs to help you make your very own monsters.



Now if crafting to you means Christmas or Holiday decorations, try Fa la la la Felt: 45  handmade Holiday Decorations by Amanda Carestio.  A very bright and colorful felt crafting book with 45 simple holiday projects.  Nice photos of the finished projects, but not of the steps, although most are so simple they don’t really need photographs.  Starting with an introduction that talks about different types of felt, making your own felt by recycling old wool sweaters, and a section on basic embroidery stitches, and templates  for all the projects this could get you in the holiday spirit months early!

Subversive Cross Stitch by Julie Jackson contains “33 designs for your surly side” and instructions on how to turn your own favorite snide comments or phrases in the cute little bits of non-work-friendly art for you or someone special. 



Just in the mood to craft, but have nothing in mind?  Go for AlternaCrafts by Jessica Vitkus.  This book has a lot of neat ideas.  Broken down into three  sections: Projects to Wear, Projects for your Home, and Projects to Give, this book contains a wide range of projects including stamping with raw vegetables, tying a macrame bracelet, up-cycling clothing, making sachets, or making bouquets of paper flowers.

Consider yourself an advanced crafter?  Making Stuff: an alternative craft book edited by Ziggy Hanaor might be more your speed.  Starting with an instructional section to learn how to knit, felt, applique, sew and crochet, then sections on crafting clothing, jewelery, plus three more sections of oddball crafts, this book is lots of fun, but more for the experienced crafter or knitter.  And just a note – this book was published in England, so sometimes some of the English is confusing.  (I think Fairy Lights are just white Christmas Lights)

Now of all the craft books I looked at, there was one I just have to buy for myself, and it’s huge.   The Big-Ass Book of Crafts by Mark Montano has over 150 craft projects – little to big / simple to complex.  Things that made me burst out laughing or stare at in disbelief.  Things I never would have thought of on my own, but that he breaks down so simply I can’t wait to try them. Beware of this book.  You’ll want to buy it too.

Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore

by Maeve on May 3rd, 2011
Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore Cover Image

Ah, the joys of nonfiction.  In stocking our Power Walls, the area at the beginning of the stacks where we display and promote books with beautiful covers, (and interesting text), my eye was drawn to Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore.  This book is a revised and  expanded edition of the 1997 classic.  I love Aran sweaters and and while I don’t knit myself, (well I do, but poorly),  my mother used to be an avid knitter and I appreciate the skill and creativity that goes into making a knitted garment.  The revised edition of Aran Knitting is an expert guide encompassing the history of not only Aran knitting but the Aran Isles.  There are fantastic photographs of the West coast of Ireland and an excellent historical background of the land and the history of the various Aran knits and sweaters.

The heart of the book is a complete workshop in technique and designwith 60 charted patterns for the original 14 designs, many reknit in contemporary yarns.  And as an extra bonus the models wearing each of the knit designs in posed in a picturesque location in the isles.  And since I am not a knitter that is the part I liked the best.  If you are a knitter you will want to challenge yourself to knit one of the classic Aran designs or one of the new Celtic designs.  And if you are interested in the Aran Isles you will not want to miss this book.


Me and my sewing machine.

by Beth on January 6th, 2011

Hi. My name is Beth, and I’m a fabric addict with a serious quilting habit.  I inherited addiction from my mother, and blame my quilting habit on my friend Heather Jo.  My mom sewed most of my clothes when I was little, and taught me how to sew way back in Girl Scouts.  Mom got into quilting in the 7o’s – back when brown and orange were in everything.  I made myself a denim quilt in high school, but then lost interest.

20 years later I was introduced to Heather Jo.  She was the first person I’d ever met who had an entire area in her house exclusively for sewing!  And not just any sewing – HJ is a Quilter with a capital Q.  She had a fabric stash that made my jaw drop.  Yards of this, half yards of that, in every color imaginable.  But even better she had sewing machines!  Not just one – but THREE of them.  Set up around her sewing room so when friends come to visit they can sew while she sews.

I was hooked!  I became a quilter,  and now I have a big stash of my own and through serendipity I  have 3 sewing machines now too!

But the thing is, while I’m a quilter, I don’t necessarily know how to sew.  Quilting is about piecing fabrics together with a straight stitch and a quarter inch seam allowance.  That’s it.  That’s all you do.   Maybe sometimes you do it on a curve, but it’s all straight stitching.  No fancy stitches, no blind hems, no French seams.

So what happens when my friends and I join the Million Pillowcase Challenge for charity?  We start sewing pillowcases.  They are about as simple as you can get – two 22×44″ pieces of fabric, and a 1/4 yard for a contrasting hem.  No sweat right?  Except for that one little line in the instructions that stopped me cold: “sew with a French seam”.   A what?!?    What in the heck is a French seam?    And what do you mean I can’t use a 1/4 inch seam allowance?  5/8″ is such a waste of fabric!

Which brings me around to the point of this rambling:  a great new book in the Library’s collection called Me and My Sewing Machine: a beginners guide by Kate Haxell.

This is one of the most well written instructional books I’ve ever read.  She’s very straight forward and logical in her approach, and she starts from the very beginning – the basics of a sewing machine and how it works, and she identifies the various types of feet and needles available (and explains why you would want to use one over the other).  Then she goes into seams – all different kinds of seams.  And hems, lots of hems.  And zippers!  And gathers, pleats and pin tucks! And near the end she includes instructions for making a few things to try out what you’ve learned:   a couple pillows, a shawl, a reusable shopping bag and an apron.

If you’ve been thinking about taking up sewing, or if you just want a refresher on some of the basics (or you’re a quilter and want to learn how to really sew), check out this book.  I guarantee that you’ll learn something – even if it is just what a box seam is and what it has to do with quilt batting.

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