I recently read the gentlest of all gentle reads. If you like beautiful art, dragons, and stories of friendship and found family, this series may be for you.
In volume one, The Tea Dragon Society, a young apprentice blacksmith named Greta encounters her first tea dragon – a miniature, domesticated dragon which grows tea leaves from its horns – and brings it back to its home. There she joins the small family devoted to the care and keeping of tea dragons: healer and teamaker Hesekiel, his partner Erik, and their recent houseguest Minette, who’s troubled by a lack of memory. Greta and Minette learn not only about tea dragons, but about friendship, craftsmanship, and how to honor ancient traditions.
In volume two, The Tea Dragon Festival, we’re seeing an episode from Hesekiel and Erik’s younger days, as they go home to Erik’s mountain village for the Tea Dragon Festival. The main character of the story is Rinn, a skilled gatherer of vegetables and herbs that grow in out-of-the-way places. One day as they’re out gathering, Rinn discovers a full-size sleeping dragon. When he wakes, the dragon Aedhan says he’s the guardian of their village, mysteriously asleep for eighty years. Rinn helps him honor the past and learn how to be a part of the village, while Erik and Hesekiel investigate the cause of Aedhan’s long sleep.
Volume three, the Tea Dragon Tapestry, is out now in our Rivershare libraries, and picks up the story of Greta and Minette as they learn about growing up. Greta is still working hard to learn blacksmithing, while trying to bond with tea dragon Ginseng – and her challenges give her lots to learn about craftsmanship and grief. Minette, meanwhile, learns more about her past, her gift of prophecy, and her future. All the while their family and friendship gives them each the support they need to find their paths forward.
For a devoted tea drinker like me, the whole concept of tea dragons was utterly charming, and the slow, unhurried pace of the story was deeply restful. I think the author also works in some good meditations on craftsmanship, progress, tradition, and friendship. If you need a healing break, read these graphic novels! While the first two volumes are available on Overdrive, I do recommend the physical copies for the full immersive experience.
However, every month our library holds a craft program called Craft Cafe at our Fairmount branch, and this month it was my turn. And I do not do things halfway. The first craft idea – a DIY hanging notepad – was ruled out due to it being far too complicated. So, what next? After to some intense Pinterest and craft blog research, I found what seemed to be an easy, cute craft: mason jar snow globes. Glue some little trees on the lid, fill the jar with water, glycerin (to make the water thicker) and glitter, screw the lid on, and ta-da! Instant winter craft success!
Eh, not so much.
First, the supplies. Glycerin apparently comes in many forms – you’ve got your blocks of solid glycerin for soap making, tiny bottles for icing, vegetable glycerin, glycerin that’s sold in drugstores, and on and on. I settled on the icing glycerin because that was the only one I could find. Then, on to glue. Did you know there’s a lot of glue out there? Well, there is. Walls and walls of glue. You say you just want crazy glue? Ha! Here are 147 varieties! Choose wisely, young crafter.
Then glitter, which I was not surprised to find that there were so many different choices. “But glitter is glitter, right?” I thought, not hearing the faint but haunting laughter of all the crafters that had come before me.
One of the craft blogs I had read suggested that the trees be treated with Mod Podge before putting them in water to hold their color. No problem there, I already had some of that.
Now, with all my supplies, I sat down to make my first snow globe. Everything went smoothly. Pasting the trees with Mod Podge was tricky and weird, but I always follow the directions. I had two types of glitter, and after taking a vote from other librarians present, I settled on a mix of silver and iridescent glitter. None of the blogs gave an exact amount of glycerin to add, so I guessed, which made me very nervous as an always-follow-the-directions person. The glue held strongly and it turned out well. Crafting success!
Until the next day.
What once was a happy green pine tree in crystal clear water had become a sickly yellow. And the water looked like, well, use your imagination. I also detected a small leak.
I was panicked. There was no way I could do this craft, and time was running out! After even more research, I found that 1) I had used the the wrong kind of Mod Podge (there’s an aerosol, apparently) and 2) this is a common problem as the mini trees are often not colorfast. As for the leak, it turned out the thin iridescent glitter had worked its way into the seal of the jar lid.
Back to the craft store! I picked up a can of the correct sealant and found a kind of tree that was plastic and, in theory, would not lose color. I also found another kind of glitter that would hopefully not break the jar’s seal.
My second attempt did not go as smoothly as the first. Because the trees were plastic, they did not adhere to the jar lid as quickly as the first trees, which had a wooden base. So, as soon as I turned the jar over, the trees floated freely. But, at least they didn’t loose any color.
I tried a different glue, which seemed to work, but smelled horribly and needed 20 minutes to cure. Thinking that I would have to use the trees with the wooden bases, I sprayed them all with the aerosol Mod Podge a little too enthusiastically, causing great concern about the odor. The smell did not dissipate from the trees, so I became worried about using them at all.
I mentioned that I am not a crafter, right?
At this point my eternally patient coworker, Ann, concerned for my sanity, suggested another, much easier craft (she’s a very talented artist, by the way.) But I am a very, very stubborn person and I had invested too much time in this craft to just give up. After recounting my tale to my brother, he suggested a kind of glue that is both water activated and water resistant. Could something like that actually exist?!
So I settled in for one more try. Plastic trees, water activated glue, glycerin, chunky glitter and water. You could cut the tension with an X-ACTO knife.
As they say on Pinterest, NAILED IT!
It is with great relief that I can say that December’s Craft Cafe was a success, and I emerged mostly unscathed and a little wiser to the ways of the crafter. If you’d like to make your own mason jar snow globe, check below for how we did ours! And if you like to join us for our next Craft Cafe in January, click here to register. They’re doing pinecone flowers – I hear they are far more relaxing!
Mason Jar Snow Globes
What You’ll Need:
An 8 or 16 oz mason jar meant for canning. My final snow globe was made in an 8 oz jar.
Some plastic trees or other small plastic decorative items that will fit on the jar lid. Pick something that appears to be water-resistant.
Water activated/water resistant glue – we used clear Gorilla Glue.
Liquid glycerin – we used glycerin meant to be used in icing, so look in the cake decorating section. It comes in small 2 oz bottles.
Glitter – find one that’s a mix of small and medium sized glitter
Twine or ribbon
What To Do:
Disassemble the mason jar.
Glue the trees to the underside of the lid.
Sprinkle a small amount of water onto the surface to activate the glue. Set it aside for about 5 minutes.
Fill the mason jar with water almost to the top.
For an 8 oz jar, add 4 caps of glycerin. Double that for a 16 oz jar.
Add as much glitter as you want, stirring periodically to mix. If the glitter is falling too quickly, add more glycerin.
Check on your trees. If the glue is tacky, slowly place the lid on to the jar and screw the collar on tightly.
Flip the jar over slowly. If your trees stay put, hooray! If they come loose, turn the jar back over and take the lid off. Add more glue to the trees and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Make sure the seal on the lid is clear of glitter before putting it back on.
Tie some twine or ribbon around the lid for a “I know exactly what I’m doing” look!
Just like dress styles or design ideas, crafts go in and out of fashion. I order crafts/sewing/art books for the library and I’ve noticed a recent upswing in the popularity (reflected by the number of books being published) in some “old-fashioned” crafts. What’s fun about them is that a younger generation is taking these crafts and interpreting them with a modern twist. Here are some examples.
Embroidery. The somewhat fussy image of embroidery and hand stitching is giving way to a looser, more irreverent style that often borrows from mixed media artists.
Macrame. Maybe it’s the “boho” movement in interior design, but macrame is back and it’s going far beyond plant hangers. Sleeker and more sophisticated, it’s enjoying an artistic resurgence.
Sewing. Sewing is suddenly cool. Younger sewers have discovered the joy of creating clothing that really fits, made in the materials in colors they want. Movements such as Project 333 and Me Made May have fueled the desire for intentional clothing instead of mass-produced clothes from the mall.
Crafts. Crafts in general are enjoying new popularity as people again discover the joy of working with your hands. “Offline is the new luxury” as we search for an antidote to the technology we’re surrounded with.
Today we’re going to make our own book! Awesome-sauce! Now, don’t get too excited – it’s not the kind of book you’d submit to the Library of Congress or assign an ISBN number to but it is super-practical, super-easy and super-fun! (OK, enough with the super and the exclamation points.!)
Have you ever seen an interesting title at the bookstore, or heard an author interviewed on NPR or gotten a recommendation from a friend and think “I’ll remember that” but when you need the information, it’s long gone or completely muddled? (Or is that just me?!) The Folded Note Book can help you with that! It’s a nice trim size that will easily slip into your purse or pocket. You can use it to make quick notes or reminders on-the-go. Shelley from Customer Service pointed out that it would make a great bookmark, handy if you want to note down a great quote from the book you’re reading or list the author’s next book.
They’re also great for adapting to whatever you’d like – make it into a tiny art journal or doodle sketchbook, write inspiring quotes and positive reminders, or, you know, your grocery list! It’s up to you. Here are a couple of examples.
The Folded Note Book is very simple to make and requires very few materials – you probably have everything you need at your desk. You’ll need some paper (duh). I’m using 8 1/2 x 11 in these examples, but you can experiment with different sizes. Plain old photocopy paper works just fine, but again, you can experiment with different types of paper depending on what you have on hand and what you want to do with the note book. Make sure the paper isn’t too heavy or stiff – you need something that will fold crisply without tearing or breaking.
(NOTE: A bouquet of daffodils sitting nearby is not required, but aren’t they pretty? Daffodils make everything better – it’s one of my Life Mantras!)
You’ll also need a pair of scissors. A bone folder is super handy, but completely optional. That’s it! That’s all you need! If you want to decorate the note book you can go crazy – stickers, markers, colored pencils, washi tape – but that’s entirely up to you.
Step One: With one of the long sides of the paper closest to you, fold the paper in half horizontal. If you have a bone folder, use it to create a crisp, even fold otherwise use the side of your thumb.
Step Two: Without unfolding your paper, now fold it in half vertically from right to left.
Step Three: Repeat Step Two.
You now have a piece of paper folded to the final size of the Note Book.
Step Four: Unfold the paper and observe the folds. You’ll have eight “sections” created by the fold lines. At this point I like to refold the fold lines in the opposite direction so that they will fold easily in either way during a later step, but this is optional.
Step Five: Fold the paper in half along the short center fold. You will have four “sections” on either side of the fold (ok, I guess that is obvious!) Take your scissors that have been waiting patiently and make one CUT in the center of the paper (follow the fold line) from the fold across ONE section. Try to be as neat and accurate as possible.
Step Six: Open up your now cut paper. The cut should be right smack dab in the middle of the paper along the long fold.
Step Seven: Here’s the “tricky” part. Pick up each side of the paper on the short ends and PINCH it together (this is why I like to refold every fold – it helps with this part) while folding the paper in half lengthwise. As you gently push the two ends together, an alarming hole should appear. Continue to push the ends toward each other and the folds should collapse together (sometimes the folds need a little encouragement)
Step Eight: Almost done! Wrap the outer sections around the two inner sections and voila! you have a little Note Book! Yay you!
There are lots of variations of the folded Note Book and how to create it. Our Note Books has eight pages (counting front and back) but I’ve seen where people cut the folds attaching the pages so that they have 16 pages (don’t cut the spine though!) And Christie from Customer Service pointed out that it can be folded as an accordion book (we’re going to do a “real” accordion book in Book Crafts later in the year), no cutting required. Experiment! Try different papers and styles. They take less than 5 minutes to make – a fun and relaxing way to push your creativity.
Here’s an example of a Tiny Art Journal (I use the term “art” lightly here!) that I made out of the kraft paper Note Book. It’s basically me cutting and pasting various bits of pretty paper and then doodling, but it’s tons of fun and very low pressure – so what if not every spread is a masterpiece? The idea is to make something and these little Note Books are the perfect (and safe) place for your crafting.
BONUS! If you’d like a Note Book illustrated with green stripes like the one shown in the first picture, we’ve got a free download for you! Just click below and print it off. It’s sized to regular letter-sized paper so you don’t need to make any special adjustments. When you fold it, be sure to lay the printed side FACE DOWN with the “Notes” section closest to you.
Hi! Welcome to Book Crafts where we explore book-related crafts. Sometimes we’ll use an old book (NOT a library book!) and sometimes we’ll try our hand at making our own tiny books and journals.
(If you’re uncomfortable with reworking an old book into something new, you might want to skip this series! I prefer to think of it as extending the life of the book and giving it a new purpose while still celebrating the written word. And, it’s fun.)
Today we’re going to try Book Folding. This is where you take an old book, fold some of the pages in a prescribed pattern to create an image or word with the pages. OK, that sounds kind of convoluted. Here’s a picture of our finished craft:
This heart is a very simple pattern (and quick to complete). If you do a Google or Pinterest search you will find oodles of these designs, many of them extremely intricate and complicated, but we’re going to go with beginner level. Here are the materials you’ll need:
A book (duh), a ruler with centimeter markings and a pencil (you don’t need to use a fancy pencil like this, but isn’t it pretty?). A bone folder (a piece of hard plastic with a smooth edge used in bookbinding and other crafts) comes in handy but isn’t required.
Be choosy when picking a book. It needs to be sturdy enough to stand on it’s own and slim enough to make the folded section stand out. Take a look at the three books in the picture. The red one is very pretty with a lovely, speckled design on the page edges, but it’s a little heavy and lists to one side. The blue one would have worked well, but I decided to use the lavender one because of the color of the page edges. Hint: I found all three of these books at the Friends bookstore!
Now that you have your materials, it’s time for some math. Only a little math, I promise!
The heart uses 40 pages. To find the page to start on, divide the number of pages in the book by 2, then subtract by 20. This will put the center of the heart at the center of the book. Example: for a 300 page book, divide by 2 which equals 150. Subtract 20 which equals 130, thus start folding on page 130. My book is 268 pages; divided by 2 equals 144, minus 20 equals 124. Easy!
Open your book to the page number that you’ve just calculated. Lay the book down vertically with the page numbers on your right and the first part of the book closest to you. Confession here: I actually started folding my pages on page 125 because page 124 fell on the lower of the two pages. You will be folding the pages that are on the top part of your book layout.
Now take your ruler and lay it along the edge of the top page with the start of the ruler on the left. Use your pencil to mark the two values for Page 1 on the list (the list is at the end of this post) in centimeters. You can see the two tiny pencil marks I made here.
Fold the sides of the page along the lines you’ve marked. Keep the folds as close to 90 degrees as possible. This is where a bone folder comes in handy to make a smooth, even fold, but you can also use the side of your thumb.
Turn to the next page and continue folding each of the 40 pages as indicated on the list. Each page will have marks in different places which creates the design. Here I’ve folded the first four pages of the pattern. Try to be as accurate as possible with your marks as this will make the design clearer. I also found it helpful to print off the list and mark off each page as I completed them – it’s easy to lose your place if you don’t!
This is a fun, relaxing craft (really, it is!), a great project while watching tv or listening to an audio book. I would love to hear if anyone tried this craft and how it turned out! Send us a photo on Instagram to @davpublib and use the hashtag #davenportlibrarybookcrafts.
Maria and Stephanie both live in Portland, but are 3191 miles apart. That’s because Maria lives in Portland, Maine and Stephanie lives in Portland, Oregon. Over the years these friends have shared their lives with each other through letters and photographs. They have managed to forge and maintain a deep bond across the distance, exchanging recipes and practical life tips and sharing the ups and downs of life. They are small town neighbors in the new world of technology.
Collaborating since 2007, Maria and Stephanie continue to document their lives in their blog, 3191. Twice a week they post a diptych, a picture from of them showing what’s going on in their separate lives right now. The focus is on the small and ordinary – flowers, children at play, bounty from the garden, the outdoors and sleeping cats. Recipes and crafts are shared and advice requested and given. A Year Between Friends follows the same format, beginning in January and running through December, with an emphasis on the small pleasures of a life well lived. There are big events too – Maria loses her Mother unexpectedly early in the year, and gives birth to a baby girl in late July. And they aren’t always apart – Stephanie makes the trip cross country after the birth of baby Luna to spend time with Maria and her family.
The photography is exquisite – you can learn a lot about perspective, cropping and lighting by studying these pictures. The real value, of course, is the stories they tell, of how different and yet how similar these lives are, their mutual appreciation of the beauty around them and the love and support they bring to each other.
Besides the photos and letters, A Year Between Friends includes several crafts, most of which are lovely and practical and simple to make (although I’m not sure about the pinecone ornament – no mater how charming, that’s a lot of sewing!) There are also recipes; I’m not a cook, but I’d be happy to eat just about anything shown here!
This is a lovely, quiet book, an excellent choice to end or begin the year (or anytime really), inviting you to step back and take a look at your life and what is really important. What is it you want to remember when you look back? A child’s smile? A walk through a summer-green forest? Cookies fresh from the oven? A friend’s laughter? A Year Between Friends shows just how special the ordinary can be.
Making your own luxurious and lovely soaps is easier than you think. With DIY Artisanal Soaps, you’ll find everything you need to make all-natural, custom-designed soaps using locally sourced ingredients and beautifully scented essential oils.
Featuring easy-to-follow instructions and tips for personalizing your designs, this book guides you through every step of soapmaking, allowing you to create unique bath and home products every time. Learn how to turn your garden or farmers’ market finds into beautiful, handcrafted soaps, with invigorating scents like peppermint and rosemary or the summer-inspired pairings of ginger and papaya. You can even customize the fragrances and textures in the recipes to create the perfect product for your skincare needs.
Complete with stunning photographs and unique ideas for gifting, packaging, and selling your creations, DIY Artisanal Soaps helps you bring the vibrant colors and scents of nature into your home. (description from publisher)
Designing fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap used to be the stuff of dreams. Only a few select creatives got to do it, and it required formal training and significant financial investment. But times have changed, and today anyone with a computer, Internet connection, and idea can upload a file and order their own fabric or paper, printed affordably one yard or more at a time.
At the forefront of this revolutionary DIY movement is Spoonflower, a North Carolina startup that produces designs for hundreds of thousands of users worldwide–24 hours a day/seven days a week to keep up with demand. With step-by-step tutorials and projects that span a wide spectrum of skills, The Spoonflower Handbook by Stephen Fraser is written for both new and experienced users of this print-on-demand technology. Covering everything from equipment to software to working with photos, scans, repeats, vector files, and more, it is an essential guide to a booming new creative outlet. (description from publisher)
The rules of homemaking have radically changed. Today’s generation is digitally connected 24/7 and often more focused on climbing the career ladder at the office than the stepladder at home. But the home “maker” evolution has just begun.
Thanks to advances in technology, tomorrow’s men and women will find themselves using new gadgets and apps to cook, clean, decorate, and even manufacture everything from decor to clothing, from right inside their homes. In Homemakers, Brit Morin, founder of the wildly popular lifestyle brand, app, and website Brit + Co, reimagines homemaking for the twenty-first century, making it as simple as possible to go from amateur to pro with easy charts, tips, recipes, DIY projects, and tech shortcuts.
Simple, beautiful, and stylish, Homemakersoffers the digital generation a wealth of innovative ideas and how-tos for a more creative life. (description from publisher)
Design enthusiasts are bombarded with beautiful inspiration at every turn, but many lack the foundation necessary to re-create their dream projects. Materially Craftedis a must-have guide for design mavens seeking to develop their DIY chops, even if they’re embracing their crafty side for the first time.
Victoria Hudgins, creator of the popular design blog A Subtle Revelry , uncovers the best and least intimidating ways to work with the most popular crafting materials–from spray paint and concrete to thread, wax, and paper–and presents more than 30 easy projects to get everyone started. Peppered with Hudgins’s tips for “merrymaking the everyday” (using simple DIY ideas to live life more joyfully) plus inspirational photos of projects created by other prominent bloggers, Materially Crafted is an indispensable guide for a new generation of design enthusiasts looking to DIY their own distinctive style. (description from publisher)
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