Check It Out: Give books on handmade gifts a try as fall looms

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at

The transition to autumn might have some of you thinking about craft projects. Although a steady pattern of cooler weather is not here just yet, the hint of fall — shorter days, cooler mornings — triggers certain urges such as adding soups and stews to dinner menus and gathering ideas for the upcoming holidays. Speaking of holiday ideas, handmade items make special gifts for friends and family, especially dear Aunt Mercy, but with only 114 days until Christmas there really isn’t that much time left. If you didn’t want that reminder, my sincerest apology.

Maybe it’s the Girl Scout in me, but I say it’s much better to be prepared than to be panicked when it comes to gift-giving. Rather than dashing to the mall on Christmas Eve and having to settle for picked over merchandise, wouldn’t it be more satisfying to go all handmade for Aunt Mercy? Well then, now is the time to embrace your crafty side and start that lovingly handcrafted objet d’art. And once it’s completed and ready for gifting, make sure to write “lovingly handcrafted objet d’art” on the gift tag (also handmade, bien s?r) because Aunt Mercy deserves the best.

Not sure where to start? Well, I get it. The world of crafts is colossal, indeed. Make the task less daunting by paying a visit to the library. Think you might like to try your hand at quilting? We have many books, magazines and electronic resources just waiting to provide you with quilting tips and ideas. Ditto for knitting, needlework, paper crafts, and much, much more. I am providing a sampling of recently published craft books to spark some ideas. If you start now, you can make the perfect present for Aunt Mercy and have the satisfaction of knowing that your gift is one of a kind.

• “A Beginner’s Guide to Dyeing & Sewing: 12 Step-by-Step Lessons and 21 Projects to Get You Started,” by Clementine Lubin. Aunt Mercy has always had an eye for fashion, but some of her clothes are, well, a bit outdated. Here is the perfect opportunity to refresh some of her vintage clothing with dyes and/or creative sewing. She’ll appreciate the new look to her wardrobe, and you’ll get to perfect your fashion skills. Win win.

• “Crocheted Hoods & Cowls: 20 Enchanting Designs for Women, 7 Adorable Animal Hoods for Kids,” by Tammy Flores. Having apprenticed in a millinery shop during her youth, Aunt Mercy has a fondness for head coverings. Don’t be intimidated by her millinery background; instead pull out your crochet hooks and crochet her a lovely hood or cowl (her favorite colors, by the way, are sea-green and azure blue).

• “Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch: 30 Daring Designs to Celebrate Strong Women,” by Anna Fleiss. Aunt Mercy loves cats and quilts and is delightful to have tea with, but she’s also a crackerjack mechanic and chops her own wood every winter. Pay tribute to her stalwart approach to life by stitching a portrait of Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo or one of the other strong women included in this unique cross-stitch collection.

• “Flossie Teacake’s Guide to English Paper Piecing: Exploring the Fussy-Cut World of Precision Patchwork,” by Florence Knapp. Aunt Mercy never had time to learn the art of paper piecing while living in England, but she always admired the art’s delicate beauty. Transport your aunt back to her Commonwealth days by gifting her with a lovely handmade Pyegreave rosette (see page 110 for instructions). Bob’s your uncle!

• “Happy Hexies: 12 Hand Pieced Hexagon Projects to Stitch & Love,” by Boutique-Sha. Aunt Mercy once worked at the Pentagon, so she knows a thing or two about polygons. Make a hexagon-friendly quilt for her bed, and she’ll have sweet, geometrical dreams all night.

• “Jorid Linvik’s Big Book of Knitted Socks: 45 Distinctive Scandinavian Patterns,” by Jorid Linvik. When Aunt Mercy lived in Norway, she learned how to speak Norwegian. Impress your worldly aunt by knitting her a pair of Scandinavian socks from Jorid Linvik’s pattern book. Then knock those socks right off her feet when you tell her the pattern came from a book entitled “Den store sokkeboka: 45 unike strikkeoppskrifter.” Skoal!

• “Stitch & Sew: Beautifully Embroider 31 Projects,” by Aneela Hoey. If you’re not into quilting, crocheting, paper-piecing or knitting, not to worry. It’s a well-known fact that Aunt Mercy loves embroidery, so here’s your chance to shine. Aneela Hoey’s embroidery guide is a perfect choice because it has just five projects — and that means between now and Christmas you can embroider a drawstring bag, clutch, flex case, change purse and zipper pouch for your favorite aunt.

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