Tag Archives: crafting

Get Hands-On in 2014!

During the dark days of winter, I’m tempted to hibernate as soon as I return home from work. Resisting that incredibly powerful urge and heading out to zumba class or a literary lecture or an evening with friends can be so therapeutic.

Doing something creative on those cold, snowy evenings is even more therapeutic. That’s why I can’t wait for the next Hands-On Workshop series to start in 2014. Held the first Tuesday of every month at the Main Library, these free workshops are a chance to learn something new, use your hands and perhaps go home with a unique gift to give to friends and family.

In January, our very own Lisa from the Job & Career Education Center will teach us the wonders of glass etching. The results are so classy, but the steps are truly a cinch. Using contact paper and etching cream, plus some of your creativity, we’ll transform everyday glass containers into custom pieces.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via Creative Commons license.

We’ll provide number, symbol and alphabet stickers for etching names or numbers, as seen here:

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via Creative Commons license.

These make great gifts, and can be given as personalized favors at weddings or showers. You’re welcome to bring your own glass items as long as the surface is flat – no quilted crystal jelly jars, for instance – or you can use some of the jars and containers I’ve collected, including this lovely pair:

Photo taken by Rita.

Photo taken by Rita.

The fun doesn’t end there. What a great series of workshops we have in store for 2014!

Is threading a needle impossible for you? Do you want to keep your pants from dragging on the floor? When a button pops off your coat, do you throw up your hands and donate it to charity? If yes, then the February program, Mending 101, is for you. Taught by Jenn Gooch, owner of WERK studio in Lawrenceville, this workshop will show you the basics of sewing repair – no machine required.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Markus via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Markus via Creative Commons license.

In March, when winter still has its icy fingers wrapped around us, we can warm up with a tea tasting from Margaret Harris, owner of Margaret’s Fine Imports in Squirrel Hill. She’ll share the history and health benefits of tea, as well as how to prepare it. As with all of our Hands-On Workshops, you can register online for this event.

Photo courtesy of user Takkk on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of user Takkk on Wikimedia Commons.

Bring in your own lidded glass container or use one provided to build a terrarium with Master Gardener Susan Marquesen in April.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user fsamuels via Creative Commons license.

For a dollar or two, you can pick up some nice covered containers at thrift stores, or shell out a little more at stores like Marshall’s. I snagged this for a buck at Goodwill:

Photo taken by Rita.

Photo taken by Rita.

As you can see from this picture, just about anything glass with a lid can be used to make a terrarium…

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Joelk75 via Creative Commons license.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Joelk75 via Creative Commons license.

Any good DIY aficionado in our fair city knows about the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. They prevent lots of items from going to the landfill, and promote reuse of these materials through crafting and other creative projects. Thanks to PCCR, we have hundreds of paint swatches that will make colorful wall art, banners, gift tags – you name it. You could even make a Mother’s Day card at our Hands-On Workshop in May using our paint chip trove.

Photo courtesy of user Iroc8210 on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of user Iroc8210 on Wikimedia Commons.

And last but not least, in June we’ll learn about Japanese techniques of cloth wrapping such as furoshiki. Katsuko, who has volunteered with some of our Japanese programming, will share her expertise in this workshop.

Photo courtesy of Friedensreich Hundertwasser via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of Friedensreich Hundertwasser via Wikimedia Commons.

We’ll see all you makers and crafters in Classroom A at the Main Library in 2014!



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Altogether Ookey Halloween Party

My daughter’s birthday is on October 22, so birthday parties for her are really Halloween parties. She likes it like that. I try to make it fun for her and mix things up a little bit every year. One year the theme was bats – she wore a bat costume and the house was full of bat decorations. Another year the theme was dragons. This year, it’s more of a generic all-things-Halloween using lots of handmade ornamentation. We are going to have special Halloween-y food and party games too.

The library has a lot of resources for party planning of all types, but here is a little survey of Halloween from all over the Main Library, whether you are a very crafty DIY-er, or an “I can cut out a predetermined pattern from paper” type.

Kids’ Craft Books

Halloween Fun for Everyone by Ferida Wolff.  Kids can make their own costumes, decorations, and party treats. There are party game and carnival game ideas, with jokes and Halloween trivia throughout.


tricks FamilyFun Tricks and Treats edited by Deanna F. Cook. This turned out to be my favorite! Uncomplicated decorations, simple but great looking costumes, and plans for a haunted house party. Kids and grown-ups can have fun using this book together.


Teen Crafts

teenWitch Craft: Wicked Accessories, Creepy-cute Toys, Magical Treats, and More! by Margaret McGuire. More advanced technique instructions for good, clean, teen fun. Knitted, crocheted, and cross-stitched goodness with other witchy tidbits, including really cool beaded spider earrings.


Adult Craft Books

allAll You Frightfully Fun Halloween Handbook by Carole Nicksin. Very simple decoration and costume designs using things like paint, paper, and glue. It also contains easy recipes for Halloween parties.


artfulArtful Halloween: 31 Frightfully Elegant Projects by Susan Wasinger. There is a Victorian feel to these decorations. The craft techniques range from simple to semi-advanced and include interesting uses of old photographs. Classier than mass-produced store-bought decorations.


folkBethany Lowe’s Folk Art Halloween. Handcrafted decorations with a homey, old-fashioned feeling to them using fairly advanced crafting techniques. Taking ideas from this book or the one above will help pull together a cohesive look for your haunted house.


marthaHalloween: The Best of Martha Stewart Living. I happen to love Martha Stewart. Well-designed and elegant ideas for carving pumpkins, making costumes, using makeup, and witchy menus, all using easy to follow instructions. My second favorite.


creativeCreative Costumes & Halloween Décor: 50 Projects to Craft & Sew. If you are handy with a sewing machine, this one is for you. Pleasingly spooky projects with patterns and step-by- step instructions.



Did you know that the Main Library has a huge section of cookbooks on the First Floor?

zombieA Zombie Ate My Cupcake!: 25 Deliciously Weird Cupcake Recipes by Lily Vanilli. This one is for the seasoned baker. Gory and grotesque, but oddly yummy looking cupcake recipes. Would you eat something that looks like glass or severed fingers? My favorite is the “bleeding heart” that looks like a real human heart with cherry blood sauce. The recipes were a little complex for me, but real bakers will get a kick out of it.


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A Non-Fiction To-Do List

While Aisha has been trying to get more fiction in her diet, I’ve been making an effort lately to read some non-fiction books. I like learning new things, so this shouldn’t be that hard, but I keep reaching for more fiction…

I’m currently working my way (slowly) through The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen, by Susan Bordo. Part biography and part cultural history, Bordo unpacks what we think we know about the infamous queen. Turns out,  Henry destroyed nearly all of the traces of Anne from the royal palaces in a clean sweep right after she died. Most of the remaining information came from Eustace Chapuys, who served as the Spanish ambassador from 1529 until 1545. As you can guess, he was on Team Katherine of Aragon, so he’s really not the most trustworthy of sources, but his letters have lasted the longest.


Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity is the crafting commentary I’ve been waiting for.  I’m 100% serious. After being disappointed by Handmade Nation, I’ve been on the lookout for something that digs deeper into some of the socio-economic reasons behind the movement toward crafting, cooking, gardening (and blogging about it).

I’m thinking that Consider the Fork: a History of How We Cook and Eat will read very much like Bill Bryson‘s At Home – exploring why the way we eat has influenced new tools and vice versa. And I do want to know why it took so long to figure out the dang’d fork.


I’m a Chuck Klosterman superfan. I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined) is a collection of essays on villains from Darth Vader to Hitler to some kid he knew in 1985. If anyone can figure out why we root for the villains and anti-heroes, it’s Klosterman.

What’s on your non-fiction to-read list?

– Jess, who totally took book 3 in the Outlander series on vacation


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Where’s the Love?

Are you ready for it? That most pressure-filled of holidays? No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving or the winter holidays that require you to spend time with your family. I’m talking about Valentine’s Day. Either you’re in a relationship and you feel you have to be romantic and do something “special,” like make a commitment. Or you’re unattached and every blessed thing around you says you’d be so much happier if you were in a relationship. Trust me, that’s not always the case.

Maybe you’re looking for a way to give someone a gift that you made with love with your own two hands. (Read: cheap!) Or maybe you want to give yourself the gift of learning to do a craft you’ve never done before. Either way, you should plan to join us on Tuesday, February 7th at 6:00 PM for the first Hands On Workshop of the new year – Valentine Crafts with Alicia. Pittsburgh Craft Collective member and co-author of Microcrafts, Alicia Kachmar will help us make a few Valentine-inspired items. We bet you will LOVE trying something different and taking the time for yourself to be creative.

HOW is a series of hands-on workshops for adults and teens. You will learn from skilled craftspeople. Dig in and try things out in a creative, supportive environment. Previous HOW programs have included Bookmaking with Hannah, Creepy Crafts with Lynne and Cardmaking with Julie.  At these workshops, instead of sitting quietly, being lectured to, you will participate in making your own projects. At the end of the evening you get to take your project home with you to give to that special someone, even if it’s yourself. Take some time out to learn to do something new or to rediscover an old favorite hobby. You won’t be sorry you came!

Most materials are provided. Registration is required. To register, email us at newandfeatured@carnegielibrary.org or call 412-622-3151 and ask for Julie or Melissa.

We’d LOVE to see you on February 7th! 
-Melissa M.

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It’s Creepy Crafts Time!

The leaves are changing colors, the temperature has dropped a few degrees, tomorrow is October first, and it’s time to start thinking about Halloween. Maybe you’re already in the holiday spirit, or some of  you might need a jump start. Either way, we invite you to join us Tuesday, October 4th, for this month’s Hands On Workshop – Creepy Crafts with Lynn. Local crafter Lynn Kropinak will instruct and inspire us in making a few Halloween themed items. It promises to be scary good fun!

HOW is a series of hands-on workshops for adults and teens. You will learn from skilled craftspeople. Dig in and try things out in a creative, supportive environment. Previous HOW programs have included Decoupage with Renée and Fermented Foods with Alyson. As you can see from the photos below, everyone has a good time. At these workshops, instead of sitting quietly, listening to a lecture, you participate in making your own projects. At the end of the evening, you take your project home. Hang it on the refrigerator, put on your mantle, or in case of the Fermented Foods program, eat your sauerkraut. Take some time out to learn to do something new or to rediscover  a favorite hobby. You’ll be glad you did!

Materials are provided. Registration is required. To register, fill out the form here, or call 412-622-3151 and ask for Julie or Melissa. We hope to spook you, I mean see you, on Tuesday!

-Melissa M.

Everybody's clipping at the Decoupage with Renee workshop that was held on June 7th.

Some of the decoupagers got creative with their cutting!


Chopping vegetables at the Fermented Foods with Alyson program on September 6th.

Everyone got to take a jar of sauerkraut home with them!

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Go Home Green!

Make your home Earth friendly every day.  Whether you are thinking of building, remodeling an existing home, or just need to clean up the one you have, the Library has resources that can help you green your home environment.

Build Green and Save Book CoverBuild Green and Save: Protecting the Earth and Your Bottom Line by Matt Belcher
Let this book show you how to select green building materials, make sure your construction activities are green, and explain the benefits of green building practices.

Big Green Book of Recycled Crafts book coverThe Big Green Book of Recycled Crafts: Over 100 Earth-Friendly Projects
Did you know you can fuse together plastic shopping bags and make your own reusable tote? Or that old blue jeans can be turned into at least 5 different crafts? These and other fun and easy projects are explained in this book, along with lots of pictures to guide you.

Home Enlightenment Made Easy: with Annie B. Bond
Watch easy to follow instructions on this DVD for making your own nontoxic formulas to clean your home, fabrics, and even your face!

Green This book coverGreen This!: Volume One, Greening Your Cleaning by Deirdre Imus
Room by room, this book deals with the dangers of commonly used household cleaning products and then gives greener, homemade cleaners as substitute options.

Practical Green Remodeling book coverPractical Green Remodeling: Down-to-Earth Solutions for Everyday Homes by Barry Katz
With useful information such as a simple explanation (and diagrams!) of how geothermal systems work and 10 ways to reduce your water usage, this book goes beyond the typical green building materials recommendations. But it has those too!

Easy Green Living book coverEasy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home by Renée Loux
Every room in your house can get clean the green way. Even the laundry gets a makeover. The author includes advice on shopping green, light bulbs, and better choices for personal hygiene that will protect you and the environment.

Big Green Purse: Using Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World by Diane MacEachern
Change the way you spend money and change the world! You’ll get background information about how certain products negatively impact the environment and people, along with alternative options you can purchase to combat these effects.  You have the power!

Green Living by Design book coverGreen Living by Design: The Practical Guide for Eco-Friendly Remodeling and Decorating by Jean Nayar
Organized by area of the house and materials utilized, this book guides you through making informed decisions about remodeling and furnishing your home in an earth-friendly way.

Real Simple book coverReal Simple: 869 New Uses for Old Things
Not sure what to do with those leftover name tags? Use them to label your casserole dish so it comes back home after the potluck. This encyclopedia lists most common household items and ways they can be re-purposed.  You won’t ever need to throw anything away again!

Simple Steps to a Greener Home DVD coverSimple Steps to a Greener Home: With Lifestyle Expert Danny Seo
This DVD gives many “smart and stylish” suggestions for remodeling in an eco-friendly way.  

Your family, your home, and your Earth will thank you.

-Melissa M.

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Made With Love

Every year I have grand plans for all the homemade holiday gifts I plan on giving everyone, and often by the time December rolls around I’m in the midst of a full-on holiday freakout.  (It isn’t unusual for my family members to receive polaroids of half-knitted socks). If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few suggestions that might help you out, depending on how much time you have to devote to crafting:

Have two months, or close to it?  You have time to do practically whatever you want!  Knit a sweater, crochet a blanket, or design and make your own holiday cards

Have a month?  Drinks like limoncello or fragolino make festive gifts, and take about a month for the flavors to infuse.  Try the fragolino recipe in Olives & Oranges: Recipes and Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond, by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox. 

Have a weekend?  One Skein Wonders: 101 Yarn Shop Favorites, edited by Judith Durant, features quick projects that use only one skein of yarn.  There are projects for a wide variety of yarn types, so chances are good you already have something in your stash that you can work with. 

Have a day?  Homemade soaps or spa products make great gifts.  Get some inspiration from books like Natural Soapmaking by Marie Browning, or Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homemade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin & a Vibrant Self by Stephanie Tourles. 

Have a few hours?  Everyone loves cookies around the holidays, and even at the last minute they make a great handmade gift.  Books like The International Cookie Cookbook will help you find something creative enough to gift, but easy enough to whip up in a few hours. 


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‘Tis the [crafting] season…

The other day I had the radio on, and the station was actually playing Christmas carols. Before Halloween. Even if the weather weren’t so unseasonably warm, it still seems a little too early to be hearing Christmas music. However, as someone who tries to make the majority of my holiday gifts, I admit that I begin planning early. Most crafters are probably familiar with that last-minute panic that hits you when you have one gift finished, 12 started, and 3 more yet to start, with only 3 days left to work on them (Right?  Or is it just me?).  That’s why, every year, I try to avoid said panic by starting my gifts early, and selecting projects that are fairly quick to make. This year, lots of people on my list are going to be recieving the “Yellow Harvest” mittens from the Fall issue of Vogue Knitting– they look great, knit up in a matter of hours, and most people can use a pair of mittens.  If, like me, you like to start on your gift-making early, try looking at one of these books:

If history is any indication, by mid-November I will be distracted by something (work? snow? good fiction?), and on December 20 will be frantically trying to figure out how to finish everything on time.  If that happens, you’ll probably find me roaming the TT section of books (the crafting section, for those of you who don’t speak Library of Congress), or frantically reading all of the library’s crafting magazines, trying to figure out what to make (rather than admit defeat and actually buy something, of course!)


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Happy Fall!

 Yesterday was the Autumnal Equinox, so HAPPY FALL, everyone!

Autumn turns Western PA into one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season, from special events related to Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday to statewide annual fesivals.

If you’re a gardener, you’re probably already harvesting tomatoes, other veggies and herbs and figuring out yummy ways to prepare, dry or preserve them.  Or maybe your garden is just getting started on its second wind.  Either way, if you’re lucky enough to have a surplus of sustenance, consider sharing the harvest by donating or getting involved with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  September is, after all, Hunger Action Month.

 If your engagement with autumn leans more towards the creative side, there are lots of crafty ways to honor fall.  You could create a seasonal journal, collage or craft with bright fall leaves or other natural materials, or photograph foliage on long walks in the newly cooled weather.  If you want to be both practical and fun, stop by Carnegie Knits and Reads for some rollicking, book-talking company while you knit or crochet yourself a fancy warm hat or scarf.

If none of these ideas ring your bell, you can always resort to the tried and true “curl-up-with-a-good-book-and-hot-cup-of-tea” approach to enjoying pretty much any weather.  We can help with the “good book” part (and, actually, the tea part, too).

However you decide to observe the new tilt of the earthly axis, I hope you enjoy it!


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crafty cures for cabin fever

My grandpa used to say, “Never make an important decision in February,” because he believed dreary weather and cabin fever inspire craziness ranging from bad breakups to bad haircuts.  So before you go through with your maniacal plot against Punxsutawney Phil, consult the catalog for some crafty, low-cost options to battle cabin fever.

Why not redesign an old tee-shirt or deconstruct some clothing?  Save some dough on your heating bill by wearing a cozy kimono or just socks. Are you more of a happy hooker?  Then ask Mr. Funky how to super crochet wonderfulKnitprovise some slightly sinister projects, toss your creations-in-progress into a knitted bag and bring them to the Carnegie Knits & Reads group, open to crafty folks of all skill levels

You immature adults could sew yourself plush toys or let one of Aranzi Aronzo’s cute books guide you through creating felt creatures like Liar, Stranger, or Bad Guy.  Cast them alongside a stupid sock creature in a puppet show

Master the art of personal imagery by creating a mixed-media collage.  Or get yourself a big ol’ pile of things, turn them into another thing, and call it assemblage or make a found object mosaic.  When you’ve done that, tamper with the mail using inspiration gleaned from the colorful, irreverent PostSecret collections.

We’ve even got a booklist to help you get a little crafty, a little crazy.  But if these ideas still seem too limited, check out ReadyMade magazines or their new guide to make (almost) everything

Insatiable?  You’re always welcome to browse the crafts collection in the second floor stacks (that’s the Library of Congress call number TT!) or find the more specific location of your hobby from the Library Subject Guide.

Posted by: Renée 


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