If your creative side requires an occasional boost — and whose doesn't? — turn to a book. It's a tactile thing: The heft in our hands feels good. Books, websites, blogs: They all provide inspiration for no-holds-barred creativity.
Here's a baker's dozen of recent sewing, knitting and crafting books that might help unleash the power of your creativity in the new year.
Today's authors lift sewing out of its old-fashioned and practical past, transforming it into a hip creative outlet. Projects are clever; fabrics are trendy. Yet some of the basics remain:
In "Sewing in a Straight Line" (Potter Craft), author Brett Bara shows the new sewer how to make basic skirts, tops and home furnishings with boutique flair. Bara is emphatic that anyone can sew.
"You really don't need fancy techniques to stitch awesome things," Bara says in her introduction. "If you can sew a straight seam, you can make a world of projects."
Her book helps with that.
More couture: "The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook" (Potter Craft) by Nora Abousteit with Alison Kelly sits at the other end of the sewing spectrum, providing inspiration for clothing designers and experienced sewers. BurdaStyle is a website for the fashion-oriented — both sewers and enthusiasts.
The book provides patterns for five projects - a coat, skirt, blouse, dress and purse - and images and instructions for how to make each in three different ways. It includes some elementary instructions for newcomers, such as how to use a pattern, and offers brief bios of its contributing, young-adult designers.
Two books filled with home-design projects: "Sew Up a Home Makeover," by Lexie Barnes, boasts that its projects are so simple, no patterns are needed, while "Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders," by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins, comes bulging with them. Both books are published by Storey Publishing.
The Barnes book contains basic sewing projects: table runners, lampshades, fringed pillows. "Fabric-by-Fabric" may best suit hardcore DIYers who think they've done it all. Have you made a flat-screen TV cover or a bean-bag toss game?
All of the projects require just one yard of fabric.
Some books are incredibly enticing for the hobbyists at whom they're aimed but also for the rest of us. "The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook" (Storey Publishing), by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius, clearly serves the serious fiber artist with loads of information about 200 fiber-producing animals, from the usual suspects (sheep and alpaca) to the extraordinary (vicuna and musk oxen), and even dog, horse and rabbit.
It's a heavy 4-pounder, ideal for coffee tables as well as workrooms.
"You won't find patterns in this book," the authors say in their preface, "but we hope you will learn a great deal about the wool and hair fibers that have clothed and served us for generation upon generation."
Because some knitters cannot get enough sock patterns, new all-about-socks books fill store shelves each year. "The Knitter's Book of Socks" (Potter Craft), by Clara Parkes, is a beauty, and promises to teach knitters how to create socks that endure years of punishing wear.
For lace fanatics, "Wendy Knits Lace" ((Potter Craft), by Wendy D. Johnson, provides new designs for shawls, scarves and mittens. The first two chapters cover the basics.
"The Knitter's Life List" (Storey Publishing), by Gwen W. Steege, is a different beast altogether: It's an illustrated compendium of patterns, resources, tips and artist profiles. The author hopes to entice knitters to explore, so she suggests places to go and movies to watch and unusual techniques. The book requires some sitting time to dig into its depths.
"Microcrafts" (Quirk Books), by Margaret McGuire and friends, introduces the reader to tiny treasures, from books and charms to palm-size "monster babies" and tiny terrariums. It's for fun and giggles.
"Jewelry Upcycled!" (Potter Craft), by Sherri Haab and her daughter, Michelle Haab, turns ordinary objects made from metal, plastic, paper and glass into wearable art. The idea is to use what you already have on hand.
"Trash-to-Treasure Papermaking" (Storey Publishing), by Arnold E. Grummer, is a comprehensive look at papermaking, with lots of helpful photographs. The techniques range from easy to advanced. The book includes lots of project ideas that kids might enjoy.
Another kid pleaser is "The Golden Book of Family Fun" (Golden Books), by Peggy Brown, which extends beyond crafting into list making (funny words is one) and family games. There is a lot going on in this book, and some of it is crafting (bead making, bubbles for blowing). A personal aside: My 14-year-old daughter was enthralled.
Finally, there's the year's most unconventional crafting book: "Crafting with Cat Hair" (Quirk Books), by Kaori Tsutaya. Its first words: "No cats were harmed in the making of this book," and the author means it. Readers are cautioned against shaving their cats. Rather, cats are to be gently brushed.
The idea is that if you and your house are covered in cat hair, don't just roller it or vacuum it up. Make something with it!
Tsutaya uses wet felting - warm water, detergent and agitation — to tightly enmesh the cat fibers, and needle felting to poke fibers into cat shapes. Her projects include a finger puppet, and embellishments for other crafts, such as book covers and tote bags. She includes a lot of information about cat hair, and each furry kitty contributor is featured.