Tag Archives: crafts

Make it yourself.

Since some of my beliefs have, shall we say, diverged somewhat from those of my upbringing, holidays with the family can be a little tense sometimes. My approach as a teenager was to try my hardest to undermine the tyranny of oppressive and irritating traditions like carols and December cable TV staples. As it turned out, though, mocking the capitalist subtext of Miracle on 34th Street didn’t actually make it any more fun for me to watch.

Dolce the cat sitting on Santa's lap

No kids for your greeting cards? No problem!

Since my charming adolescence, I’ve developed a more productive approach to thriving during the holidays. Instead of sabotaging everyone’s sacred rituals with sarcasm, I find inclusive ways to honor parts of the season I find meaningful. Lecture on the evils of slaughterhouses at the table? No. Bring a vegetarian dish everyone can enjoy? Much better. Bombard Grandma with child-free politics when she asks about great-grandchildren? Bad idea. Send greeting cards with my cat sitting on Santa’s lap instead? Perfect! (Okay, that was actually my sister, and its wisdom is debatable, but it’s still the better option.)

One of the most difficult cultural demands to resist this time of year is gift-giving. I appreciate the symbolism of showing my affection in the form of presents, but I don’t want to buy into the Black Friday frenzy of diamonds, electronics, toys and tools. Instead, I’ve come up with gifts I can make for people that they’ll enjoy. I get to be creative, and they get a gift they’ll use. Making gifts takes a little more planning than a mad dash to the mall, but the result is often more meaningful, because I spent time thinking about the recipient and crafting them something special. Here are some of the gifts I’ve made or plan to make, with some handy books and guides.

  • Mp3 Player/Cell Phone/eReader SnuggieThe big-ass book of crafts / by Mark Montano ; photographs by Auxy Espinoza.

Almost everyone carries some kind of electronic device. Make someone a little winter coat protector for theirs! These can be knitted, sewn or crocheted in any size. For examples, see The Big-Ass Book of Crafts.

  • T-shirt Quilt Generation T : beyond fashion : 120 new ways to transform a T-shirt / Megan Nicolay.

What’s cozier than a t-shirt? A whole blanket made of cozy t-shirts heartwarmingly stitched by someone who loves you! The Generation T series includes crafts for those handy with a sewing machine and those who can’t thread a needle.  The t-shirt quilt project is in Generation T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-shirt.

  • Personalized Recipe Book

Take advantage of the library’s enormous cookbook collection by selecting recipes for a personalized recipe box. Just pick out a handful of appetizing recipes, copy them onto notecards and put them in a decorated box.

  • Calendar

A calendar is a gift that’s useful all year, and it’s easy to customize the artwork. You can make a collage for every month, or choose photos from all of the Kodak moments on your friends’ Facebook pages. Lots of websites and copy shops also offer inexpensive packages to turn photos into calendars.

  • JewelryMaking mixed media art charms & jewelry : keepsakes, swappables, trinkets / Peggy Krzyzewski & Christine Hansen.

Pasta necklaces probably won’t fly unless you’re under the age of 10, but there are lots of lovely jewelry-making techniques accessible to a range of skill levels. You can also craft a handmade jewelry holder out of some screen and a picture frame.

  • Survival Kit 101 things you should know about 2012 : Countdown to Armageddon...or a better world? / 2011.

Does your cousin think 2012 is the year the world ends? Put her at ease with the gift of a cute little survival kit made from an Altoids tin. Who knows? It might even come in handy for holiday survival.

Not to cue an orchestral rendition of “Silver Bells” or anything, but taking time to honor the people we love is meaningful and powerful no matter what our spirituality or politics are. I hope you find ways to enjoy this hectic month with the people you care about in rewarding, fulfilling and fun ways!



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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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Cut and Paste and More at HOW: Hands-On Workshops

HOW Collage and Decoupage - picking pictures

Attendees choose source material for their creations.

Earlier this month, CLP – Main’s New and Featured Department held the first in its series of HOW: Hands-On Workshops. June’s HOW focused on collage and decoupage, and I led the session with a brief talk before the 17 participants got to work creating their own masterpieces with the supplies we provided.

As you can see from the pictures, we had alot of fun. Each creation on on paper, bottle, lampshade or book was strikingly unique. If you missed the event, don’t worry. Below are some books to guide you on your own collage experiments.

HOW Collage and Decoupage - scissors

Librarian Melissa demonstrates the zig zag scissors.



HOW Collage and Decoupage - supplies

supplies, including clipart books

In the workshop, we used damaged books and magazines, but plenty of other sources exist for collage fodder. While paging through printed materials for pictures to use can be an experience full of serendipity and inspiration, sometimes a collage calls for a specific image. Plenty of options exist for finding them. The Dover Pictorial Archive Series and other clipart books are copyright-free collections organized by topic. The library owns many of these that collage artists can check out to photocopy or install the accompanying CD-ROM.

HOW Collage and Decoupage - stars and a horse

A crafter assembles her masterpiece.

Another source of images is the CLP Picture Collection, a physical archive of clippings from magazines and books organized by subject. The collection was a common method libraries used before the Internet as a quick way to access illustrations of subjects like telephones, automobiles, different eras’ costumes and more. Patrons can check out up to 50 of the clippings at a time to view or photocopy. For more about the Picture Collection, visit the Reference Services Department at Main.

The HOW series continues in August with monthly workshops from local skilled craftspeople. The upcoming schedule includes:

  • August 2: Bookmaking with Hannah – Local artist and bookmaker Hannah Reiff (Paper Breakfast press) will show you how to make three simple, hand sewn books.
  • September 6: Fermented Foods with Alyson– This workshop will focus on the basics of fermenting vegetables to make tasty foods such as sauerkraut, sauerruben, kimchi, and lacto-fermented pickles. We’ll discuss how microscopic organisms can transform and preserve food, and then we’ll try it out for ourselves.

    HOW Collage and Decoupage - cutting

    An attendee cuts up an animal diagram for her decoupage on a bottle.

  • October 4: Creepy Crafts with Alicia – Join local Pittsburgh Craft Collective member and co-author of Witch Craft, Alicia Kachmar, for a Halloween-inspired crafting session.
  • November 1: Cardmaking with Julie – We’ll combine paper, rubber stamps and ink, embossing powder, glitter, trinkets and doodads to create greeting cards for handmade holiday hellos.

Follow the links for more information, and be sure to register if you’re interested!


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When I’m not dressed as a respectable, professional adult, I’m probably wearing jeans and a t-shirt. This comfortable de facto uniform minimizes the amount of time I have to spend actually thinking about clothes, freeing me up for longer sessions of crafting and baking. It’s also a great way to express my political opinions and pop culture preferences without holding forth at length like a tiresome windbag. When people see my shirts, they’ll know right away whether or not we’ll get along; this, too, is time-efficient and, therefore, pleasing. That may sound silly, but I like to use my time wisely and well.

On the other hand, some of my favorite t-shirts make excellent conversation-starters, and I’m okay with that! My obsession with Marie Curie, for example, and the companion tee with which I express it also show support for women and girls in the sciences. Sporting the Ada Lovelace look gives the same props to women in computer science. And my absolute favorite, the Mary Shelley tee, is a fashionable shout-out to the women of gothic fiction.

There are, however, so many women I admire who do not yet have their own t-shirt, which means I’m going to have to make my own until fashion catches up with my vision.  Here are a few of the many (in)famous women I admire who really should have their own clothing line.

Grace Hopper. The first woman to earn a PhD in mathematics from Yale, and a tenured professor at Vassar, Hopper proceeded to top herself by enlisting in the Navy immediately after Pearl Harbor. The ever-restless Hopper completed officer training and was assigned to the Harvard Computational Laboratory, where her gift for programming, excellent collaboration skills, and prankish sense of humor led to a string of professional successes. Thanks to Hopper we have COBOL and personal computers, so the least we could do is thank her with a spiffy tee, no?

Camille Claudel.  Often unfairly dismissed as the mad mistress of Auguste Rodin, Claudel was a gifted sculptor in her own right. The sensual nature of her work, however, was far more earthy and naturalistic than nineteenth-century French culture could bear, and only Rodin and her father supported her unique artistic vision. However, after a series of personal shocks and the unhappy end of her affair with Auguste, Claudel struggled on alone in poverty until finally her mother committed her to an asylum, where the misunderstood muse remained for thirty years. To the end of her life, however, Claudel remained true to herself and did not compromise her vision. A t-shirt is, perhaps, the very least we could do to honor such strength.

Coco Chanel.  Last, but certainly not least, on my list is the fashion designer closest to my heart.  Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel changed women’s clothing forever by rejecting the fussy, restrictive styles of her day and designing simple, elegant garments made from fabrics in which a person could actually move and breathe! Not content to dabble in clothing, Chanel also created hats, perfume and handbags, first for the friends and relatives of her lovers, and then, as her reputation spread, to Paris society at large.   Ashamed of her humble beginnings, Chanel remained mysterious and private to the end, and her habit of hanging out in graveyards and talking to the dead techincally qualifies her as a first lady of goth. What’s not to love?

Your turn:  whose t-shirt would you wear?  Would you make it yourself, or hire someone crafty to create it for you?

—Leigh Anne


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Confessions of a Yarn Addict

I recently started crocheting again after a 15 year hiatus.

Okay, I’ll be honest.  I had a brief fling with crocheting in high school, during which I made exactly one thing: a “dusty rose” pink afghan the size and texture of a trawling net.  I’m not sure why I stubbornly completed the specified number of rows, instead of calling it a day when it got ridiculous.  But I learned a valuable lesson about substituting hook sizes that I will never, ever forget.  (Yes, the afghan still exists, but has not seen the light of day since I wearily attached the last tassel.)

At any rate, I already knew my way around a skein of yarn and felt pretty confident about the basic stitches.  But I was still a little dubious from my afghan experience, and couldn’t really read a pattern, so the thought of making anything besides a rectangle (on any scale) was overwhelming.  So I did what I always do in such situations – I ransacked the nonfiction collection for advice.

Six months later, I can’t claim to be an expert in either crocheting itself, or the library’s crocheting collection, but at least I’m well past the pot-holder stage.  Here’s what I’ve read so far that’s helped me get started –

The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs: 500 Classic & Original Patterns by Linda P. Schapper

This book is based on a fascinating concept – can the author collect or invent 500 unique stitch patterns with the same boring white yarn?  The photos and illustrations are helpful and understandable, making it a great stitch dictionary.  Unfortunately, you don’t get a lot of advice on what projects are best suited to your new skills.

Crochet From the Heart: Quick Projects for Generous Giving and Blankets, Hats, and Booties to Knit and Crochet by Kristin Spurkland.

The patterns in these books are nice enough to give away, but easy enough for a beginner to follow.  I learned how to make my first baby clothes from Spurkland, and I’m also planning a set of custom finger puppets based on her design.  Crochet From The Heart also includes a list of charities that accept handmade donations.

Lily Chin’s Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques Every Crocheter Should Know

Some things should be obvious, and they’re just not – for example, joining two pieces together by the edges with a neat, flat seam.  Lily Chin solves this mystery, and other problems you didn’t even realize you had.  (She also has a knitting book, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Amigurumi Two!  Crocheted Toys For Me and You and Baby Too
by Ana Paula Rímoli

There’s a toy airplane in this book that I can’t wait to make.  And if these patterns appeal to you, the author has several other good books on amigurumi (the Japanese word for small, cute stuffed toys).

Creepy Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas, Robots, and More!
by Christen Haden

Amigurumi isn’t just for kids!  If you’re the kind of person that still collects action figures, loves awful movies, or spends a lot of time on the internet, there is guaranteed to be a project in here for you.

Of course, this is just a small fraction of what was on the library’s shelf, and there are a heap of other beautiful books I plan to read.  Also, since the newest and most exciting books are usually checked out at any given moment, there is another heap I haven’t even seen yet.  And as always, readers, I welcome your suggestions!


(PS – If you find yourself so excited about your new hobby that you just have to share it with someone, the library can help with that, too!  Crocheters are welcome at the Main library’s Carnegie Knits and Reads, and many branches host their own crafty groups.  And if you really can’t get to an existing group, you might be able to start your own.  Search the Events Calendar for “crafts,” or ask a librarian for more information.)

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What to do in the off season

You know you’ve been wondering what to do until football season starts … now you have it. 

One of the many treasures you’ll find among our craft books is:  ……………………………………………………………………………………
Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for MenRosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men, Back Cover

Rosey says it all on the back cover:

“Rosey Grier, immortalized in needlepoint – and by my own hands to boot! If anyone would have told me that I would go from football to needlepoint, I would have laughed in their face. In fact, the whole thing started as a joke, but it’s turned into one of the most enjoyable and satisfying things I’ve ever done. I try to turn other guys on to needlepoint wherever I go – from the dude sitting next to me on a plane to the guy working behind the scenes on a movie set. ‘Smile all you want,’ I tell them, ‘but if you try it once, you’ll keep on coming back for more’, and that’s the truth brother.”

I’m convinced, are you?



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Dummies, Idiots, and Absolute Beginners

True confessions time:  I hate not being good at things. 

I blush to admit it, but it’s true. Even though I know, logically, that I can’t be a superstar at everything, it still kind of bugs me when I’m less than stellar at something. Knitting is currently driving me crazy – no matter how hard I try, I simply can’t cast on properly; I’m also pretty lousy at jewelry-making and (much to my parents’ chagrin) housecleaning.  So, unless you’re really desperate, please don’t ask me for a homemade sweater, DIY earrings, or the opportunity to eat dinner off my kitchen floor.

Despite my distaste for personal ineptitude, I keep stumbling across interesting hobbies and skills that I simply have to try; it still bugs me if I don’t master a thing right away, or ever, but I’m starting to come around to the notion that maybe the reward in trying a new thing is not in getting good at that thing.  Maybe the reward is in the trying.

In that spirit, here’s a short list of materials that aim to teach new skills. 

Quilting Through Life, Julia Teters-Zeigler. A collection of crafts meant to feed your soul as well as beautify your house. The content is meant to uplift and inspire, and give you some notions to dream on.

National Poetry Recitation Contest: Performing Poetry, An Audio Guide. Get pointers on how to read a poem out loud, and enjoy sample recitations from an all-star cast. To learn more about the actual competition, click here.

Divine Canine, the Monks of New Skete. Why not learn with a four-footed friend?  Bond with your dogs while teaching them obedience skills in a positive, productive way.

Learn to Play Cajun Accordion, Dirk Powell. If you’re going to learn something new, why not think outside the box? I had no idea this DVD existed until Tuesday, but you’d better believe I plan on mastering the Cajun accordion by 2012 (in case my presidential bid doesn’t work out).

The Chicks With Sticks Guide to Crochet, Nancy Queen. If you haven’t yet found a crochet club, this book is a great tide-me-over. It’s warm, it’s fun, and it’s easy to understand.

There are pros and cons to trying new things by yourself, of course.  If learning in a group is more your style, take a peek at the library’s events calendar. If you narrow your search with the “Classes and Presentations” option in the left-hand sidebar, you’ll find a list of interesting things you can try in a group setting.

This includes, of course, our knitting club, upon whose mercy I will have to throw myself if I ever want to make my own Gryffindor scarf. I suspect, however, that when it comes to the Cajun accordion, I’m on my own…

–Leigh Anne


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Vibrant Hues at CLP

Everyone has a passion for something outside of his or her job,  and it’s often something completely unrelated.  For many, especially among the staff here at the Carnegie Library, their passion lies somewhere on the creative spectrum.  The Annual CLP Staff Art Show here at Main is a living testament to this. The hallway across from the Large Print Room currently features magnificent pieces of artwork, all made by the staff in the Carnegie Library system.  The display will run throughout the month of April, partially in honor of National Library Week.

Do you have a creative outlet, or some other passion that you love to indulge in outside of your normal routine?   Is there any craft or medium that you’ve wanted to dabble in but never dared to try?  Allow me to recommend a few useful resources to get you on your way:

Stitch n’ Bitch:  The Knitter’s Handbook is by far my favorite book when it comes to learning how to knit.  It has some of the best illustrations and descriptions, which really come in handy.  It is also filled with a variety of patterns to try after you get the basics down.

The Happy Hooker:  Stitch n’ Bitch Crochet is in the same series as the one listed above, and is likewise just as useful for the crochet newbie. 

If you have tried books to learn how to knit and/or  crochet, but still find yourself at a loss, you can always come to Carnegie Knits and Reads at Main.  It’s on the first and third Wednesday of every month and is chock-full of yarn masters who can aid you in your crafty quest.

A Short Course in Photography is a great book for people who want to take their photography to the next level.  This book will give you plenty to think about when it comes to perspective and personal style.  Definitely a must for anyone who wants to progress beyond taking merely a “nice photo.”

Glass Blowing: A Technical Manual is an excellent source for explaining the overall process of glass blowing by using an array of completed pieces as examples.   It provides a stellar overview of the basic techniques as well as gives the reader plenty to ponder when it comes to color and personal style.

Art Class: A Complete Guide to Painting is a marvelous book for anyone who wants to learn how to paint.  The author, with the help and advice of several artists, provides the reader with insight on everything from choosing a medium to deciding on a subject.  An absolute must for those who yearn to add some extra brush strokes to their days.

The New Artist’s Manual is essentially four years of art school without the hassle of expensive loans and college applications.  A hands-on art text, it is a great resource for beginners and advanced artists alike.  One of my favorite books.

The Big-Ass Book of Crafts is one of the most fun books you can have on your creative shelf.   Ever wonder what to do with all that extra silverware you obtained from your dorm room days?  Or how about all those clothes pins or subscription cards that fall out of your magazines?  This book offers fun-filled, imaginative and creative solutions to such problems.  A great book for anyone who wants to dabble in the creative world, but has no preference when it comes to medium.

Happy creating!! 


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Happy Birthday, Eleventh Stack!

Today is the first birthdayof the Eleventh Stack blog!  To celebrate we’re offering a team smorgasbord of wit and wisdom on libraries, blogging, or, well, whatever:

One year ago today, Eleventh Stack sounded its barbaric yawp over the rooftops of Pittsburgh.  Our fans seem to enjoy both poetry and film, so here’s a little gift that combines both:

You can, of course, continue that trip down cinematic memory lane by borrowing the film from us. Thanks for reading along with the blog team, and don’t be shy about making those comments and suggestions…we want to make this the best darn library blog ever, but we need you to help us keep it real and relevant, Pittsburgh.


–Leigh Anne


To celebrate our blog’s birthday we’ve invited our favorite one-ring circus clowns to juggle bananas while singing Happy Birthday in two keys at the same time.
Lorenzo Pickle (Larry Pisoni) with the Pickle Family Circus

Lorenzo Pickle (Larry Pisoni) with the Pickle Family Circus

– Julie


Now might be a good time to listen to Marilyn Monroe breathily singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK

— Tim


I like to pick a birthday ritual and do it for as many of my friends and family as possible for one calendar year.  Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss read aloud was the ritual a few years ago. I would show up at peoples’ places of work or on their phone, etc. I know it’s not this year’s ritual (haven’t figured one out yet, better get on it ) but it’s really appropriate for this occasion. So please check it out and read it to yourself. All of you. It is very trippy and if you don’t enjoy it something is wrong.

– Jude



Happy 38th, Sean

I’m proud to say that the Eleventh Stack blog shares a birthday with one of the greatest actors of our time, Sean Astin.  Not only did he portray the heroic Mikey in the most important movie of the last twenty-five years, The Goonies, he also played the role of the hobbit Sam in the film rendition of the deservedly hyped Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Oh, and let’s not forget his role as the inspirational Rudy.



 According to The Secret Language of Birthdays, those born on February 25 are strong individuals with a belief in universal goals and a higher purpose.  And sharing a birthday with George Harrison, Marcel Pagnol, and Jim Backus isn’t too shabby either.  Happy birthday, Eleventh Stack!


After a year’s worth of blogging, I believe I’ve now learned why, throughout the centuries, the writing, publishing, and reading of personal journals was so popular. By roundabout way of sharing my surmise, I’d like to point you to a poem by one of my favorite poets, Gerald Stern, Pittsburgh born and bred, that celebrates, at least in part, a very specific place: the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where you can get the above mentioned journals, Mr. Stern’s oeuvre, and Eleventh Stack, which, when you think about it, is something of a journal of this very American institution.


Stepping Out of Poetry


What would you give for one of the old yellow streetcars

rocking toward you again through the thick snow?


What would you give for the feeling of joy as you climbed

up the three iron steps and took your place by the cold window?


Oh, what would you give to pick up your stack of books

and walk down the icy path in front of the library?


What would you give for your dream

to be as clear and simple as it was then

in the dark afternoons, at the old scarred tables?


                       Gerald Stern




If today is Eleventh Stack’s birthday, then that makes her a Pisces.  I love Pisceansno wonder we get along so well!



Happy Birthday, Eleventh Stack! In the tradition of the unreality of social networking, I’m giving you a virtual (read: imaginary) handmade birthday gift! Although you may be able to use a lovely knitted item – you know, in case your, uh, wires get cold – I think a handmade journal might suit you best. Especially with a retro card.



Happy Birthday, Eleventh Stack.  I wanted to make you a birthday treat. I couldn’t decide if I should make you cupcakes or a birthday cake…so I made you both….enjoy!

First Birthday Cake by hfb.

– Lisa




Eleventh Stack, you may only be one, but you make us laugh, you give us book recommendations, you challenge our ideas about the world, you teach us, and you make us love libraries more than we ever thought possible.


Happy birthday, you cute little one-year old baby library blog!



–Eleventh Stack


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Don’t hate me

As the weather changes and gets cooler, many of us begin to direct our thoughts to indoor pursuits. Images of cozying up with a cat in front of the television with a bowl of chili and a knitting project float through my mind’s eye. You may imagine yourself cutting up pumpkins, watching football, or even getting ready for Christmas.

“Christmas! How dare you bring that up now! You’re worse than the department stores!” you may be growling. Well, maybe I am worse than department stores, but today I would like to offer you an alternative to the yearly holiday maddening crowds as well as the oft-overwhelming expense of showing our appreciation for our loved ones.

The First Floor of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is hosting a book display with myriad ideas for making gifts and getting your home ready for the holidays. How does an evening making Chocolate-Vanilla Parfait Cream Soap sound?  Or, if you like to burn things, bring back the lost art of pyrography.  Then, spice up your house while making Spicy Clove Candles. Here are a few other items on the display and call numbers to assist in finding similar titles in the library:

We have these and many, many, many more. And remember, there are only 105 crafting days until Christmas!



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