I came across this beautiful book in the V&A museum in London last week, and just had to have it.  I’m a sucker for beautiful crafting books.  Rather than keep it all to myself I thought I might share some of the loveliness contained within with you, too, in the form a review.

PlayfulIt’s called Playful and is written by Merrilee Liddiard with wonderful photography by Nicole Hill Gerulat. Published by Stewart Tabori & Chang in 2014, it retails at £15.99, US $24.95, CAN $27.95.

This is a collection of projects to make for or with your children and includes sewn toys, some basic woodworked toys and painting / crafting projects, all with a feel of Scandi-chic about them and beautifully photographed in soft, natural lighting.

In the idyllic-sounding story of her formative years, Liddiard tells us how her parents were always making and creating for her and her eight siblings, and how she developed a love for creating.

“When you set the stage for the art of play in your home and learning environment, you are opening up a very special world for your little ones.” she says.  Bravo, well said, say I.

Now, before we start, I have to tell you that I’ve really struggled to pick out just a few of the images and projects to show you.  They are all so lovely and interesting and inspiring, and I could have easily shown you the entire content of the book, but the publishers may have taken a dim view of that so I’ve tried my very hardest to pick out just a few to give you a taste of what’s inside.  But I really, really wish I could show you all of it.

The book has 5 sections, “Playful Paper Crafts”, “Playful Dress Up”, “Playful Toys”, “Playful Art” and “Playful Repurposing”.

Playful Paper Crafts

paper crown

The first section contains four simple paper crafts, beautifully designed and unique, in that I don’t believe I’ve seen anything quite like them on my Pinterest feed before.

My heart was won by the gorgeous papercut paper crown, photographed in the book in both black and green.   The instructions are very simple – just photocopy the template and trace it onto your card, then carefully cut out the shapes.

Yes – easy peasy, I’m sure, but I’ve had a go at paper cutting and I know it wouldn’t be quite that straightforward to get the finish of the photographed examples!

It does have some quite complex shapes to cut out so you may have to help your child with this one (or make it for them).

The addition of the coloured flowers attached with brads adds a fun element that would be easy for children to cut out while Mum tackles the tricky shapes in the crown.

Playful Dress Up

This chapter contains 9 projects, although the first 7 are on the same medieval-knights theme, showing how to make a knight’s smock, sword and shield, a knight’s horse, a fair maiden’s smock, crown and wand, and a Knights and Nobles Table Tent.

I loved these, I found them very clever and the would be a simple make, decorated with painted-on motifs using fabric or acrylic paints.  The hand-painted decorations add to the charm of all the projects throughout the book and make it very accessible to children, as well as adults who may not have the patience to tackle applique or other decorative techniques.

The table tent is a bit more of a project, it would take a fair bit of sewing to complete all the edgings and bunting, but it’s so effective I could see it being cherished and played with for years to come.  And I was very impressed with the clever flagpole solution (which I won’t divulge here – you’ll have to see the book!)

Other dressing up projects were a twig crown and wooden doll face necklaces (pictured above) which are completely charming.  I’m not certain that this is a project for your kids to make though, perhaps more a project for an adult with a steady hand to make for their grateful offspring.

Playful Toys

These are projects to sew and to get the woodworking tools out for.  The first is the trapeze doll which is on the front cover.  You scan and print the template onto printable canvas, cut, sew and stuff, so it’s a very easy make for a very satisfying and different toy.

Wooden toys include the stackable animal blocks, which require minimal woodworking skills (saw then sand), but a steady hand with a paintbrush; a wooden floor tile puzzle (again with the careful painting); and the utterly glorious Wooden Play Village, which includes a sewn play mat with painted detailing and wooden buildings, people and vehicles.  I don’t know how easy some of the required components are to get hold of (wooden wheels and axles?) but I imagine a quick internet search should let you find what you’re looking for.

A wooden mobile is also included, which would take some patient cutting with a scroll saw and a considerable amount of sanding, but looks as lovely as anything you might find in a fancy Scandi-chic homewares shop.  It would definitely make a wonderful baby shower gift.

Playful Art

pencil blocksLion, Rabbit and Bird art templates are included in the book, to be printed and hung on the wall, or given to your kiddies to paint, colour or glitter to their hearts content.  It’s also suggested that they could be printed onto pillows or made into softies – but why stop there? You could transfer them onto T shirts or tote bags.

There are suggestions for fingerprint art which are very sweet, and for which templates are included for a rainbow cloud or flower stalk fingerprint art project.

My favourite in this section was definitely the pencil holder heads, which may become next year’s end-of-term teacher’s gifts, especially if the kiddos paint the faces on the blocks.  Easy to make, the book explains how to mark the drill points on the block, what size drill bit to use and how deep to drill, so it’s an easy project to follow, and I’m sure would inspire you and your children to create other designs and shapes.

Playful Repurposing

The final section in the book has four projects to make from recycled materials – Duct Tape Cardboard Brownstone (houses), Cracker Box Trucks, Duct Tape Portfolio and a Duct Tape Bird Costume.  I loved the cardboard houses, I’m sure we all remember making our own dolls houses from cardboard houses when we were kids, but maybe not as beautiful as these!  The Cracker Box Trucks are also wonderful, I could see hours of fun being had playing with these.

Templates and instructions

I haven’t made any of these projects yet, but at first reading the instructions seem clear and complete.  The diagrams have a hand-drawn look to them, but are still clear and easy to follow.  The book comes with colour templates to scan and print, and a full scale pattern/template sheet to trace, scan or photocopy.

I’ve enjoyed this book and am fairly certain I will dip into it time and again, for inspiration, to look at the lovey images, or even to make the projects.  I’m very tempted to try the fingerpainting and paper crown projects with my girls over this summer holiday, I might return to the trapeze doll as a Christmas gift idea this year (if you’re reading this as somebody who usually gets handmade gifts for your kids at Christmas, forget I said that!), and the pencil block will almost definitely be made for teachers at the end of the next academic year.

So often I buy these craft books, flick through them and then never look at them again, but I really don’t think that will be the case with this book.  It’s gorgeous and the projects are beautiful, tempting and very do-able.  (Albeit with a steady painting hand.)

If your local bookshop doesn’t stock it, ask them to get it in (ISBN 978-1-61769-045-7) – yes, you could get it from an online retailer, but far better to support your local bookshop – you’ll miss them when they’re gone.