Review: Amanda Blake Soule’s Handmade Home

Last night on our way home from church, my four year old was admiring the painting she had made in her class.  After studying it for a minute, she folded it in half and said, “I’m going to make this into a thank you card!  It is good to re-use stuff!”

handmadehomeAs you might guess, conversations about reworking and reusing “stuff” around the house happen a lot in our home.  The first thing I noticed about Amanda Blake Soule’s Handmade Home (aside from the cozy cover art which features sweet little Adelaide snuggled in bed beneath a handmade banner that says “dream”) is the subtitle:  “Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures.”

Fans of Soule Mama know that Amanda elevates the art of thrifting to the highest heights.  She seems to be able to find the perfect treasure at nearly every thrift store or rummage sale or flea market she pops into survey.  In the opening pages of Handmade Home, she shares with readers why repurposing material to use in crafting is so important to her:

It allows me to live a more financially pared-down and simple life in which it’s possible to work a little bit less and live a little bit more.  It allows me to connect to the past and preserve a more traditional way of life.  It allows me to place value on the work of the hands and the value of human time, energy, craft, and art.  It allows me an aesthetic and a quality of materials that are increasingly harder to find in today’s quick and disposable products.  It allows me to lessen my family’s impact on the very earth we are so blessed to live upon.

She goes on to explain that her desire to create that which is both beautiful and functional laid the foundation for Handmade Home.

At this point, I feel I should confess to you that I am merely a novice in the world of crafting, and I easily feel overwhelmed or intimidated by crafting blogs, websites, and books.  Yet Amanda’s tone and approach in Handmade Home is one that readers will recognize from the creative family – gentle, helpful, warm, and reassuring. From the opening pages to the last, her conversational style pervades the pages, and you can’t help but to be charmed into joining her in the enthusiastic pursuit of handmade and practical projects.

In Part One, Amanda shares some of her tips for finding fabrics and other materials – excellent thrifting tips here, as you can well imagine!  Next she covers some of the basic supplies to collect, but this is not a sewing instruction book.  Amanda shares some of her favorite sewing resources with readers, but readers should know this is not meant to be a “how to” book on sewing.

In Part One, she also offers some loving guidance on how to collaborate with your children as you work together on these projects that will fill a need within your home. This was my favorite part of the opening section, particularly when she reminds readers to “be committed to working with [children] even if their ideas may pull you away from your original vision for a project.  Children are not just the doers; they are the dreamers – don’t deny them that.”  As someone who is always remembering to let go and go with it, this spoke directly to my heart.

The remainder of the book is made up of the projects themselves.  In Handmade Home, you will find thiry-three projects to inspire

  • Family Feasts
  • Wellness and Care
  • Imagination and Growth
  • Adventure and Exploration
  • Calm and Peace

Projects are labeled as beginner, intermediate, and advanced based 0n your crafting experience and skills. I noted that ten of the projects are for beginners and work well for including children.  The lovely photography that delights readers of Soule Mama fills the pages of Handmade Home – both inspiring and explaining the projects.  Amanda’s instructions are simple and straightforward, and readers will find lots of “earthy tips” and “crafty tips” tucked amongst the project pages.

There is much more I could write about the pure joy that is Handmade Home, but I dare not spoil the surprise for you!  Just as the creative family has become the gold standard of resources for families interested in creative living, Handmade Home is destined to become the next book that is sure to become well-worn and dog-eared as families return to it time and again for insight, ideas, encouragement, and motivation.

Of course, I couldn’t wait to start in on a project for our home.  I chose one of the most basic projects – the Fiber Garland from the chapter titled “Retreat: Projects to Inspire Calm and Peace.” Amanda’s garlands are made from scraps of wool; wool – in any form – is hard to come by here on the central plains, so we had to make do with acrylic sweaters.  I also cut pieces of a shiny, satin-y bedskirt I found on a recent thrifting excursion:


This is described as a half-day project, but the cutting of squares took us a little longer than that.  It is summer, though, and distractions abounded.

My four year old squealed with excitement when she discovered I was going to finally allow her to work with the real needles.  (“I don’t need plastic needles anymore!”)


Aunt Emily and I started the garland, and she did a fantastic job of threading piece after piece onto the thread.




In the end, it was decided that this first garland would not be an adornment for our own home, but instead would grace the rather plain and drab exterior of the doll house.  As you can see, Sister Doll is elated to have something some handmade to, um, doll up their pink and purple abode!


As a long-time fan of Soule Mama and as someone who has absolutely worn out the pages of my copy of the creative family, I am so utterly humbled and honored to have been asked by Amanda to receive a copy of Handmade Home for review.  If creative living and responsible stewardship of materials are amongst the things that speak to your heart and your family, I highly recommend that you find a place for Handmade Home in your family’s library.

And guess what?  One Simple Kids reader will receive a free copy of Handmade Home! To enter, please leave a comment on this post telling about your own favorite project that you have created for your home or family OR something you have always wanted to be able to make. This can be anything from curtains to clothing to cloth diapers to quilts and blankets and beyond!

COMMENTS CLOSED!  Thank you for entering!

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  1. That garland is such a great idea! I’m preparing for a baby boy in the fall so I’m planning on making some baby kimonos for him. And of course one for the big sister. She can’t be left out.

  2. I have three quilts that I’ve made that are part of the family life. The “More Power” quilt — named for the Tim Allen Home Improvement character’s favorite line. It’s all sorts of blue fabric with the words More Power worked in in yellow and green John Deere fabric. My son likes to use it when he’s not feeling well.

    I made a quilt for my grandmother that has now come back to me. It’s called the Purple People Eater after the colors in the quilt AND the fact that my grandmother was a HUGE Minnesota Vikings fan. That one will belong to my daughter as will my personal favorite, the purple heart quilt. This one was made from the scraps of my grandmother’s quilt. The pattern is hearts and it’s a very sweet twin sized quilt that I hope she’s going to love.

  3. Oh! What a neat book!

    I love to be crafty and make things! But I don’t know how to make much and I am always looking for a way to learn. I have always wanted to learn how to make decorations for the home and for children’s rooms. Redoing the kids rooms is a dream of mine and I would love to do it all homemade!

  4. I have made a few decorations for my childrens’ rooms, but would love some inspiration for new projects! I loved Amanda Soule’s first book and look forward to reading the new one!

  5. I would love to be able to make simple skirts for myself and my girls … that is on my list of to-learns soon. One of our favorite crafts is just little banners with cardstock and twine to hang in our family room to welcome the seasons. [2009|07|49f1838b62f00191ffae36893da491a2]

  6. I have been looking forward to this book and would love to be entered to win a copy.

    My next handmade project is a quilt for my daughter made from material of the clothes she’s worn throughout the 5 years of her life.

  7. OOOh, I would l0ve to win this.. here first book it THE BEST! Let’s see.. some things I love that I’ve made for around our home.. our shower curtain, pillows for the kids, and lots of toys for the kids to play with. I really, really want to tackle making slip covers for our couches.. one of these days!

  8. About half the windows in my home have “valances” made from twine, old handkerchiefs and clothespins. LOVE them.

    Do I win? Do I win? 😉

  9. The garland photos caught my attention. I am not creative, crafty or artistic and frankly I didn’t think Homemade Home was for a person like me but your review and the garland projects has me really interested. I’m now looking forward to reading the book and definitely trying the garland project. Thank you!

  10. Today Lane sewed little squares to adorn our fridge. It’s definitely more creative in the kitchen now!

  11. I’d like a chance to win! My kid’s room decor is enormously handmade or hand-embellished–bunting, curtains, a quilt made from his flannel receiving blankets, prints I did on the computer and framed myself, picture frames hand painted to match, and his aunt did a painting for him and a friend knit him a blanket. I think the quilt is my favorite; there are pics of it on my etsy.

  12. ACK. Not Etsy. Flickr. Can you tell I’ve done a lot of web-shopping this week?

  13. Tracy Adamson says:

    I would LOVE to win this book. I am currently making the family board with my 4 year olds as shown on Amanda Soule’s website and I love her ideas.

  14. I just painted a piece of art for the dining room, but mostly, I’ve repainted/finished all of our wooden furniture (from hand-me-downs to thrift store finds-especially our dining room set).
    I would love to be inspired by this book!

  15. Bridget Stevens says:

    after a fun summer of making skirts, after my 2cd baby, I wanted to be able to learn to make shirts to go with. however I have not tried that yet. I ‘d really love to be good at making table cloths and matching napkins and those sort of practical things!

  16. I just finished our Atlier and I made/repurposed everything in it. This book would totally inspire me for my next project…my son’s “big boy” room!

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I have Amanda’s first book and love it. I have anxiously been awaiting the release of this one and would love to win it! One of my favorite projects that I made recently is a doll-sized quilt for my daughter to play with. My next project is a twin-bed sized quilt for her room. Thanks for a chance to win!

  18. I loved making child-sized travel pillows, although technically they’re for *leaving* the home, my boys use them quite a bit in their imaginary travels. This book looks beautiful!

  19. I’ve been looking at this book for a while. What a great resource for my daughter and I! Right now, the extent of her creating is coloring. I can’t wait to teach her to sew when she is older!

  20. I have been waiting for this book! The Creative Family is just so wonderful; I was thrilled when I first learned that a second book was in the works.

    My favorite project for my home…the most used projects have been a lap quilt for our living room, and a tablerunner that has made its way to most rooms of the house at one time or another. The most meaningful thing I’ve made was a small quilt that I started on a whim, but finished a few weeks after a miscarriage. In my heart, that quilt became the baby’s quilt, my little memorial to my child whom I didn’t get to meet.

  21. I’ve always wanted to make one of the birthday crowns from The Creative Family! Haven’t quite gotten there yet, but one day!

    The book looks beautiful….


  22. I just finished a set of quilted letters. It was hard at first, since I’m a really slow sewer, but they turned out so cute I’m now thinking of other kids who might enjoy a set!

  23. I have a very full bag of special clothes from my son’s first year that I want to turn into a “memory quilt.” Unfortunately, I haven’t sewed in 21 years, and even then I wasn’t any good.

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  24. I’ve made two projects for my kids’ room that I really like: a flag garland made with scrapbook paper and a couple of decorated wooden letters (my sons’ initials).

  25. Rachael says:

    I have just recently taking up sewing and I can’t wait to make a quilt for each of my children. My son’s most beloved handmade gift to date is a dog costume that I made for him last Halloween. He still wears it for dress up play time.

  26. I would love to start sewing, esp. with my boys. It’s really good for a boy to learn this sort of thing.

  27. You are speaking my language with this post. Creative Families just graced my mailbox, and I am savoring it even more than I imagined. I would love a copy of Handmade Home.

    I would love to learn to do some simple sewing for our home. I’d like to make a simple birthday banner that we could use for celebrations.

  28. I can’t wait to read this book! I am going to attempt some new curtains for our living room this fall – something a bit complicated like a Roman shade, maybe? I”m not sure. But I also want to make some simple things like play aprons for my girl.

  29. I am anxiously awaiting this book. Glad to hear your positive review! I love making my boys pj pants. They loving picking out their favorite fabric.

  30. Kristie says:

    My fave project lately has been invoving my 3-year old in makeing sheets for his “big boy bed” which really helped ease that transition. He loves helping me use my “sewing factory”!

  31. Oh, I don’t know how to sew but maybe this book would inspire me. I love Amanda’s Creative Family book. A favourite thing we’ve made in our house is the kids finger painted masterpieces on canvas. I smile every time I walk by them.

  32. Gabriella says:

    I have always wanted to learn how to sew… ANYTHING! I have been inspired by Amanda’s first book, The Creative Family, to be more present and to simplify things in the home. I’d love to receive this book to help inspire me to finally take that sewing class and learn to make ANYTHING for my son!

  33. I already pre-purchased this book, but I’d love to win a copy to give away as a gift! One of my favorite things I’ve made for our house/family is the birthday banner and crowns that I made from Amanda’s first book. Also, the picnic blanket I made this summer. Great review!

  34. Thanks for admitting your beginner status on crafting. I, too, am so intimidated by the many really nice projects I see on blogs. I’ve always wanted to be able to sew and quilt and I love love love everything Amanda does. I’ve got her book on preorder at Amazon but won’t get it until next week, dang it. If I win this one I promise to pass it along to someone worthy.

    Great review!

  35. Michelle M says:

    My son would probably say his favourite thing that I’ve made is his superhero cape! I’m working on a pink, green and lilac flannellette quilt for my daughter, which is coming together nicely. I think my favourite at the moment though is some art I made for my daughter’s room by scanning and colour printing images from the fabric in a quilt my Mum made for her and then framing them.

  36. I made a no-sew valance for my daughter’s room a couple of months, ago. It’s the first thing I’ve ever “created” for my home, but I’m looking forward to making much more.

  37. Oh! My husband and I think that 3 boys is enough so as the baby outgrows the clothes, I am cutting them up and hand stitching three memory clothes quilts (one for each boy) as the same time.. I’m already beginning to fall behind but it is so much fun sitting still and working with their tiny outfits and making them into something I can picture myself holding my grandbabies in as an old grandma someday.

  38. I’ve been practically counting down the days until this book hits the shelves. I love The Creative Family.

    I am currently working on a project that I HOPE will become a favorite. I’m making a rag quilt for my daughter’s bed out of old clothes and sweaters, including maternity clothes I wore when I was pregnant with her.

  39. Stephanie says:

    My favorite experience crafting with my kids was doing a completely handmade Christmas within our family last year. My seven-year-old made a skirt for his sister, I made super-hero capes and door signs/wall decor, my three-year-old painted picture frames and and chose pictures of himself with his siblings to go into them…so much fun. I am so inspired by soulemama and by all of the creative people in the blogosphere, and I would LOVE a copy of Handmade Home!!

  40. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been eagerly waiting for this book to come out. I have found a lot of inspiration from SouleMama. I’ve started knitting and sewing again and trying out new crafts as well. I might work up my courage to finally make a full size quilt one of these days. I hope I win a copy of Handmade Home. But if I don’t, I’m definitely buying one anyway!

  41. My favourite project was the hand embroidered angel quilt that I made with my mother. It was great learning from her, even as a 30year old. The quilt is about to become my 2 yr olds bed spread and I love that it is something that I can pass on to her.

  42. One of my favorite handmade items for my family is our picnic blanket. The backing is a vintage sheet, and the front is some fabrics I bought on ebay that were a different colour in real life than I thought they were going to be on the computer screen. Whenever my boys seen that blanket, then ask, “Are we going to have a picnic today? Can I make my own sandwich? What will we bring to drink? etc, etc”. They love the blanket because of all the adventures we’ve had with it in the last year, and I love it now just because it is so special and important to them.

  43. My 4 year-old is already a crafting fiend! My favorite project at the moment is the coasters we made from old boating charts to give as a gift to a nautical family member. I hope we win!

  44. I made a playhouse for my kids — not completely on my own. I have zero carpentry or woodworking experience but wanted to learn. I spent Sunday mornings for two football seasons working away at this in our cramped garage, and we finally put everything together this spring. The structure is solid, but there are lots of quirky aspects that are mistakes I’ve grown to love. It was a satisfying project on so many levels, but I’m especially happy with all the love that went into it. Several families joined us for our playhouse-raising, and my kids know and appreciate the many hands that joined together to help us. The kids, who now believe I could make them anything they might ever want, have great fun building and fixing all sorts of things with their play tools.

  45. Oh I so want this book!
    I have made my youngest son booties out of old sample fabric. Both of the boys have had mama made pants refashioned out of old shirts. For birthdays this year my better half and I have been stenciling tshirts for all the kids on our lives.
    What i really want to make is a quilt! I’m far to afraid to try though!
    Thanks for the awesome giveaway *crosses fingers*

  46. kristina says:

    Last Christmas I began making a cloth Advent calendar. Each day has a pocket where I hide a little silly poem and maybe a treat. It didn’t get completely finished last year…this year is THE year! Love “the creative family”. can’t wait to check out this new book! thanks for the giveaway!

  47. Oh, I would love to win this, especially after reading your review. As for projects, I’m currently saving all the jeans that my children are growing out of at an alarming rate to repurpose into a rag rug. Having this project to save for actually makes me glad to set aside another pair when I see their little ankles hanging out 🙂

  48. OK, I’d love to win! Our Christmas stockings have been on my mind lately. They are painfully plain. I’ve also been collecting fabric for my adopted child’s 100 blessings quilt. I really need to put that together.

  49. I would love to learn to sew!

  50. I loved her first book and read her site daily! I am working up the courage to start sewing and want to make skirts for myself and my girls and also dress up stuff like capes and crowns!