Best Craft Books of 2008

10 years ago

I'm coming a little late to the "best of.." posts, but 2008 was a year of some fabulous craft books.  I've gone through my own acquisitions, choosing several that I'm truly glad I own, then filled out the list with books I haven't yet purchased, but that have gotten lots of buzz or are on my wishlist.  (ht to SisterDiane for helping with that list).

#1. Handmade NationNot only the first, but by far the best book of 2008. Faythe Levine documented the rise of DIY Craft, criss-crossing the nation filming Handmade Nation (the documentary coming this year). She and Cortney Heimerl selected 24 crafters and 5 essayists to discuss their roles in the DIY life.  This books shares their thoughts, their processes, their websites and blogs and is an inspiring peak into these artists' minds.  Cannot.Wait.For.Movie! 

My Love For You found the this book so inspiring:

i've carried it everyday with me to and from work pouring over the pages, thinking of all i want to make and the many craft nights i want to plan. the book is beautiful. it's vibrating with color, craft, D.I.Y., creativity and so many great spotlights of people who are out creating and following their dream (so many of our favorites). kate bingaman-burt drew all the illustrations and lettering for the book.

i just can't say enough good things about this book. i am so inspired by faythe levine, one of the co-writers behind the book (and the lady behind the documentary of the same name), her drive and incredible ability to pull all of this together is hands down AMAZING. she's a dynamo for sure.

After reading the book, Herzensarts wondered what great craft fairs existed in Germany.  Looking at her crafty items, she needs to find one soon!

#2: Knitting for Good!  A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch. 

SuperNaturale wrote:
Betsy Greer.  No competition for the #2 spot on this list, either.  As hard as it might be to imagine, a knitting book heavy on text, light on photos/projects is still the best knitting book of the year.  Betsy takes us through her personal journey from knitting as therapy (knitting as meditation anyone?) through knitting in the community and finally knitting for the world.  The projects included in the book can be applied to each type of outreach knitting. was someone who not only believed in the revolutionary power of DIY, she actually wrote a Master's thesis on it and runs a website devoted to the discussion of what she calls 'craftivism' (craft + activism). And what's more, Greer has recently wrapped her warm, straightforward philosophies into a motivating soft-cover book. . . . In it, she makes a case for using knitting (and other kinds of craftwork and DIY) as a practical, tactile, effective way to make the world a little bit nicer for everyone.

Knithropology believes that:

people who haven’t quite made the jump from knitting as hobby to knitting as a gateway to all sorts of ideas and insights, this text really could be quite galvanising (sic). I was especially touched by the sidebars sprinkled throughout the book, each written by people Betsy finds inspirational; the sidebars bring perspectives that accentuate and compliment Betsy’s own views and add to the overall impact of the book. After reading some of the sidebars, I was ready to take on the world - if these folks could do it, why can’t I? Whenever I need a kick up the brain, I’ll definitely read through those again.

#3: Complete Embellishing: Techniques and Projects by Kayte Terry.  I do not own this book (yet), but many crafters have been talking about it since it's release last summer.  Terry, a former designer for Antropologie, brings simple ideas for embellishing and personalizing our wardrobes and our surrounds. 

Average Jane Crafter:

Physically, the book is fantastic. It's large, hard covered and has a spiral binding (hoorah for spiral binding!). It almost feels like a text book for a very cool textile class. The full color pages are yummy and easy to read. The photographs are beautiful (a few are repeated in the book) and the step by step writing is clear and easy to follow.


About the first half of the book is illustrated step-by-step instructions for a whole slew of embellishing techniques. You can see potato printing here, but there’s also: embroidery, crochet, needle felting, applique, image transfers, etching, making yo-yos, patchwork, sewing beads and sequins, embossing velvet, and that’s not even a complete list.

That right there is a huge value in a craft-book purchase.

#4: Bead Simple Susan Beal.  Another one of those books still on my wish-list, Bead Simple's Susan Beal takes projects and explains how to make them with out bead-specific instructions.  An idea whose time in craft has long been coming!

Sarah Pappal at Feministreview:

Beads are the new scrapbooking. Beading has taken over the suburban housewife lexicon, and fast on the heels of the trend are too many bead books that are out to hawk their wares. Thank god there are people like Susan Beal to promote the craft in a fun, accessible way. Beal isn’t selling a bead brand; she’s inspiring people to craft like maniacs with whatever beads they’ve got.

The book is written in a way that not only inspires creativity, but imbues readers with a confidence in their crafting power. There are straight-forward instructions and user-friendly icons right off the top. The descriptions of techniques are clear and comprehensive so you can build on your skills as you go.

#5: The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.  Amanda Blake Soule (aka Soule Mama).

Lisa from U-Handbag received a preview copy to review:

I'm sure that a majority of you will know Amanda Blake Soule from her thoughtful blog Soule Mama. I'm also sure that most of you who read her blog will agree that one of the main draws of her family and craft focused blog is her sensitive and meditative style of writing.  She manages beautifully to make the make the simplest things compelling and she encourages her readers (in gentle and unpatronising tones) to stop a minute and be truly in the moment.  Anyone who enjoys a peaceful mug of tea whilst reading her posts is going to love her up and coming book...


I could hardly put it down; it’s a really delightful read if you like crafting and encouraging creativity in your kids.  My only regret is that this book wasn’t available when my kids were a LOT younger—they’ve outgrown some of the stages when I could have taught them say, to finger knit or use sewing cards, which is what Soule advocates, as the preview to actual knitting and sewing.

Some of what she says makes me feel good about my choices—we have a dedicated art area well stocked with most supplies, we frame and hang our kids artwork around the house, we keep sketchpads in the car and visit museums whenever we can. And it’s not too late for me to hang a wire “inspiration line,” in the art area where they can clip their own pictures and objects to inspire them. 

#6: I [Heart] Felt by Kathleen Taylor.  This book is both instructional and fun.  Colorful and whimsical belies the detail and depth of knowledge contained within.  The 33 projects are inspiring, too.

Alice at futuregirl (who doesn't knit and it allergic to wool) still liked the book:

But the best part is Kathleen Taylor's writing and approach.  She's a control freak after my own heart.

Her project instructions are detailed and thorough while still giving you plenty of room and lots of encouragement to follow your own inspiration.  She also *insists* that you swatch, experiment, and make notes about everything you do.  I totally imagine her in a lab coat with a clip board.

What books have I missed that were among your top picks for 2008?  And what books are you looking forward to being published in 2009?  Give me a clue what to look for in the comments.

Debra Roby blogs her creative life at A Stitch in Time and her journey to fitness at Weight for Deb.

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