Modern Takes on the Art of Creating | Collection Development

Balanced craft collections should include materials that meet the needs of a variety of crafters. It is essential to weed craft collections regularly, as styles change, rendering older books unappealing. References should be updated as new editions are released.

In our fast-paced, always-connected world, the act of creating is both relaxing and empowering. Many crafters view their hobby as an act of self-care or a way to be intentional about how they spend their time. Crafting can also serve as a means of escaping disposable, fast-fashion culture in favor of a more sustainable way of living. The ability to sew, repurpose, and repair clothing opens up a world of reuse and recycling and helps keep textiles out of landfills. The Craft Industry Alliance, a trade association for craft industry professionals, lists “eco crafting” as one of the major trends of 2020, driven by young adults who are questioning, and often rejecting, consumerism. Eco crafting includes mending and repurposing rather than buying new, purchasing craft materials secondhand, and using sustainable dyes and embellishments, such as eco-friendly glitter. 

Another trend mentioned by the Craft Industry Alliance is “craft dabbling,” where crafters try out a variety of different crafts without taking a deep dive into skills and techniques. In the past, a knitter might have progressed to crochet, then spinning, and ultimately weaving—four closely-related fiber arts that use similar supplies and materials. A craft dabbler might learn to knit, then do a bit of embroidery, and then try out candlemaking or pottery or quilting. Craft dabblers frequently gravitate toward crafts that are easy to learn and have inexpensive supplies, such as cross stitch. This trend has also led to an increase in quick-start books and tutorials for a variety of crafts. 

Retro crafting remains popular, especially among nostalgia-happy Gen X-ers and Millennials. In the last five years, publishers have released how-to books focused on friendship bracelets, shrink plastic jewelry, duct tape crafting, and Perler beads. Punch needle, a craft that was last popular in the early 1980s, is on the way back, and needlepoint is poised for a comeback. Interest in cross stitch has exploded, and books of patterns featuring feminist slogans, tiny pixelated rock stars, and ironic blends of curse words and old-fashioned sampler motifs have captured crafters’ attention. Retro crafting programs are an opportunity for cross-generational programming—parents enjoy sharing the crafts of their childhood with their own children. The supplies are often inexpensive, and the crafts themselves are easy to learn. 

Although crafting is a great way to unplug, social networks such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Ravelry are drivers of craft trends as well as places where crafters can find a community of like-minded creatives. Many crafters describe situations where they saw a finished project on Instagram and were inspired to learn something new. While paid platforms such as Creativebug and Bluprint offer expert-led online classes on a variety of crafts, free online tutorials are abundant, and videos where crafters share their works in progress have a following. 

Craft dabbling may be trendy, but craft enthusiasts are still out there, and they appreciate both comprehensive references on their craft of choice and guides to advanced techniques. Balanced craft collections should include materials that meet the needs of a variety of crafters. It is essential to weed craft collections regularly, as styles change, rendering older books unappealing. References should be updated as new editions are released.

Nanette Donohue is Technical Services Manager, Champaign Public Library, IL, and a “craft dabbler” who especially enjoys knitting, quilting, and cross-stitch. She has reviewed for LJ since 2005



Austin, Ella. Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting: 16 Projects and Techniques To Learn To Knit with Color. SewandSo: F+W. 128p. ISBN 9781446307410. $22.99.
Brief tutorials and skill-building projects introduce basic concepts of color knitting, from the simple to the complex. The style is modern, and Austin’s encouraging tone will build knitters’ confidence.

Crochet This! Step-by-Step Techniques, 65 Essential Stitches, More than 25 Projects. Sixth&Spring: Sterling. 2019. 176p. pap. ISBN 9781640210486. $19.95.
Ideal for crocheters looking for a slim all-in-one reference, this guide contains an overview of tools and techniques, a stitch dictionary, and a variety of projects.

Hatta, Yoko. Japanese Knitting Stitches from Tokyo’s Kazekobo Studio. Tuttle. trans. by Cassandra Harada. 2019. 128p. pap. ISBN 9784805315187. $18.99.
Stitch dictionaries are an essential part of the knitter’s library, and Japanese stitch dictionaries are highly sought after by intermediate and advanced knitters. This English translation features 200 stitch patterns, all of which are charted, and offers  a comprehensive guide to chart symbols.

Herzog, Amy. Knit Wear Love: Foolproof Instructions for Knitting Your Best-Fitting Sweaters Ever in the Styles You Love To Wear. STC Craft: Abrams. 2015. 192p. pap. ISBN 9781617691393. $24.95.
Herzog specializes in helping knitters create beautiful garments that fit properly. This guide features mix-and-match patterns in a wide range of sizes, all customizable based on the knitter’s personal style—a recipe for sweater success.

Howell, Vickie. The Knit Vibe: A Knitter’s Guide to Creativity, Community, and Well-Being for Mind, Body & Soul. Abrams. 2019. 208p. ISBN 9781419732799. $29.99.
Howell examines the intersection of knitting and wellness, spirituality, and creativity. Half of the book features conversations with well-known knitters, crocheters, and designers, while the other half focuses on knitting and crochet patterns.

redstarMullett-Bowlsby, Shannon & Jason Mullett-Bowlsby. Complete Crochet Course: The Ultimate Reference Guide. Lark: Sterling. 2018. 335p. ISBN 9781454710523. $29.95.
The Mullett-Bowlsbys, known to their fans as the Shibaguyz, have assembled an all-in-one, comprehensive crochet reference The illustrations and photography are exceptional, and their expertise and passion for the craft shine.

Shrimpton, Sarah. Modern Crochet Bible: Over 100 Contemporary Crochet Techniques and Stitches. David & Charles. 2019. 152p. pap. ISBN 9781446307502. $17.99.
This well-organized guide to crochet techniques combines retro style and modern flair, with extensive coverage of trendy topics like amigurumi and free-form crochet. The projects are bold and colorful, providing crocheters the opportunity to test their newfound skills.

redstarVogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book. Sixth&Spring: Sterling. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781942021698. $39.95.
The newest edition of this classic knitting reference features updated illustrations as well as additional content on a variety of knitting techniques, including brioche, entrelac, and double knitting. Comprehensive yet accessible, it’s an essential part of the knitter’s library.


Betts, Elizabeth. Modern Quilt Bible: Over 100 Techniques and Design Ideas for the Modern Quilter. David & Charles. 2019. 160p. pap. ISBN 9781446307465. $24.99.
Betts introduces the core concepts of modern quilting, such as negative space, symmetry, and creative use of color via a series of tutorials and projects that are accessible to quilters of various skill levels. 

redstarFulop, Lily. Wear, Repair, Repurpose: A Maker’s Guide to Mending and Upcycling Clothes. Countryman: Norton. 2020. 160p.  pap. ISBN 9781682684344. $19.95.
With this book, Fulop raises awareness of the environmental impact of disposable fast-fashion clothing and provides a beginner-friendly crash course in repairing and embellishing garments to extend their life, as well as ways to upcycle old garments to create new, useful items. 

Langdon, Nancy. Singer: The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing. Third ed. Quarry: Quarto. 2017. pap. ISBN 9781589238978. $24.99.
Singer is one of the best-known names in sewing, and this well-organized reference lives up to its branding, with clear guidance on sewing essentials. The technique chapters include directions for garment sewing and home decor sewing. 

redstarSmith, Alison. The Sewing Book: Over 300 Step-by-Step Techniques. DK. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9781465468536. $40.
This heavily illustrated reference is a thorough introduction to everything beginning garment sewists need, including an overview of tools, sewing machine functions, fabrics, and techniques. Instructions for home decor, accessory, and garment projects are featured throughout.

Visual Guide to Patchwork & Quilting. Stash: C&T. 2017. 176p. pap. ISBN 9781617455612. $24.95.
The breadth of this beginner-level guide is impressive, featuring a comprehensive overview of tips and tutorials for piecing and quilting. Hand and machine variations are provided when applicable, and each section is written by a notable expert. 


Christensen, Jo Ippolito. The Needlepoint Book. 3rd ed. Touchstone: S. & S. 2015. 576p. pap. ISBN 9781476754093. $35.
Christensen’s guide was first published during needlepoint’s heyday in the 1970s, but this third edition brings needlepoint into the 21st century with updated photos and illustrations. There’s something for needlepointers of all levels in this detailed reference.

Greenoff, Jane. The New Cross Stitcher’s Bible: The Definitive Manual of Essential Cross Stitch and Counted Thread Techniques. David & Charles. 2010. pap. ISBN 9780715337714. $19.95.
Greenoff’s guide is one of the few cross stitch–specific references currently available. The tips interspersed throughout the book are invaluable, and coverage of other counted thread embroidery techniques, such as hardanger and blackwork, are also included, as is a stitch dictionary.

Ringquist, Rebecca. Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshops: A Bend-the-Rules Primer. STC Craft: Abrams. 2015. 160p. ISBN 9781617691416. $29.95.
Ringquist combines classic technique with a unique, modern style, demonstrating the myriad ways that embroidery can be used to embellish everything from linens to jewelry. The projects will inspire stitchers to develop their own personal embroidery style.


Campbell, Lindsey. Welcome to Weaving: The Modern Guide. Schiffer. 2019. 160p. ISBN 9780764356315. $24.99.
Craft blogger Campbell introduces the basics of tapestry weaving in this lavishly photographed guide, which covers various basic- to intermediate-level techniques alongside several contemporary projects.

Carey, Stuart. From Clay to Kiln: A Beginner’s Guide to the Potter’s Wheel. Lark: Sterling. 2019. 160p. ISBN 9781454710929. $24.95.
Carey introduces novices to pottery making in this stylish guide that covers the full process, from selecting the clay to hand-building and throwing techniques to glazing and firing. The close-up illustrations of various hand positions used at the pottery wheel are especially helpful.

Crawford, BJ. Basketry Basics: Create 18 Beautiful Baskets as You Learn the Craft. Schiffer. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9780764357459. $22.99.
Basketry is an accessible craft that combines the functional and the decorative. Crawford introduces the basics via illustrated step-by-step instructions for 18 different projects, allowing beginners to easily check their work along the way. 

Chen, Emily. Polymer Clay for Beginners. Walter Foster: Quarto. 2019.128p. pap. ISBN 9781633226326. $19.99.
Polymer clay is a popular medium for making charms and small decorative objects, and Chen’s beginner-level guide introduces the basics of shaping, detailing, and baking polymer clay alongside a variety of charming projects.

Guentert-Baldo, Cindy. Cute Hand Lettering for Journals, Planners, and More. Thunder Bay. 2020. 240p. pap. ISBN 9781645171492. $14.99.
Guentert-Baldo is one of the best-known figures in the planner community, with more than 50,000 YouTube subscribers. In her first book, she teaches a variety of quirky hand-lettering styles, ranging from bouncy “fauxlligraphy” to her trademark balloon letters.

Khounnoraj, Arounna. Punch Needle. Quadrille: Hardie Grant. 2019. 160p. pap. ISBN 9781787132788. $19.99.
Khounnoraj brings a fresh perspective to punch needle in this collection of modern projects featuring colorful free-form geometric motifs and nature-inspired design. Helpful instructions on preparing fabric and using the punch needle are included.

Latta, Amy. Hand Lettering for Relaxation: An Inspirational Workbook for Creating Beautiful Lettered Art. Page Street. 2017. 208p. pap. ISBN 9781624143854. $21.99.
Hand lettering is a popular craft, and Latta’s guide presents several different types of alphabets, including faux calligraphy, art deco, and whimsical print, using both fine-tip and brush pens. Latta also shares tips for adding doodles and illustrations to hand-lettered art.

Michelet, Juliette. Beginner’s Guide to Punch Needle Projects: 26 Accessories and Decorations To Embroider in Relief. Landauer: Fox Chapel. 2020. 96p. pap. ISBN 9781947163324. $14.99.
This quick-start guide gives an overview of punch needle basics, followed by a collection of beginner-friendly projects designed to emphasize the variety of textures that can be created with punch needle embroidery. 

redstarPowley, Tammy. First Time Jewelry Making: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide. Quarry: Quarto. 2019. 128p. pap. ISBN 9781631596988. $19.99.
Jewelry making encompasses a wide variety of techniques, and this guide provides a brief overview of several of the most popular, including beading, wirework, and metalwork. Beginners will appreciate the breadth—there are few jewelry-making books that cover this much territory.


Bluprint, formerly known as Craftsy, is a subscription service featuring hundreds of video classes from notable instructors in a variety of crafting and DIY disciplines. Courses can also be purchased a la carte.

Craft Industry Alliance
The Craft Industry Alliance is a trade group for crafting professionals. Their blog highlights crafting trends, trade show reports, and interviews with makers.

Creativebug features a variety of video-based classes and tutorials on a multitude of crafting topics. Individual subscriptions are available, and libraries can purchase an all-access subscription.

Knitty is a long-running online knitting magazine featuring an array of free content, including patterns, tutorials, yarn reviews, and feature articles. An exceptional resource for knitters of all skill levels.

Ravelry is a knitting and crochet community that includes patterns (many of them free), tools for organizing supplies, and online forums. 

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