Review: Amanda Blake Soule’s Handmade Home

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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:

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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!”)

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

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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!

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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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Comments

  1. My most favorite crafts are the games and toys I made for my kids using matchboxes or shoe boxes. With these 2 simple items I have made puppet theaters, doll’s houses, marble runs, treasure chests and a variety of different games.

  2. This book sounds like a great find. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I am in the process of making a new duvet cover for my daughter’s bed, and then I will be making a crib sheet and bedskirt for my next baby due in a few months. I am in LOVE with the fabric for the baby’s stuff and can’t wait to get those done. Would love to get my hands on a copy of this book to help inspire me!

  4. Oh I would so love this. I love her first book. I have a really cool way to make a lantern that when it lights up you can see stars. We are really in to making our own costumes right now and making reward charts out of corkboard and paint. Hope to win this great giveaway.
    Thanks

  5. I have always wanted to make toys or cute clothes for dd and her dolls. alas, i am not a seamstress!

  6. We are a handmade family, several generations of us. We make a lot at home and for the home, but I am always on the lookout for ideas on repurposing, which is NOT my big strength. We knit, we sew, we cross stitch, we glue, we do stuff with clay/pottery, husband and son do things with wood, we make our own cards & stationary, etc. We love it! It’s relaxing, it helps us spend time with the children, it opens up creativity as one idea leads to another, and then another, etc. Right now, we are about to tackle soap making and essential oils! That’s this summer’s project!

  7. Kristen says:

    The best thing that we have in our home was a group project – a banner of prayer flags/blessings that we took with us to our son’s birth. At my shower, friends and family wrote and drew their blessings for us on a square of fabric and then a friend sewed them all on a string. We hung it in our birthing room and now have it in our living room.

  8. I recently made a very simple potholder using a flower applique cut out from fabric scraps. I used fabric from Purl. The fabric is beautiful, and I hung this very simple project in my kitchen to make it more cheery!!

  9. I love making things for and with my children. I especially love to collect things in nature or collect, simply put, memories themselves. Lately we’ve taken the love of these things to make nature journals and my two year old’s latest treasure, “Hope’s Book of Adventures.” We chose an empty journal I’ve had for a while and left room to add fall, winter and spring’s adventures just beyond what we wrote for the summer.

    I’d love a copy of this book as inspiration for me and the other moms I know!

    ps.. I’m a long time reader, but first time commenter. Thank you for sharing your beautiful blog!

  10. I would love to be able to make anything handmade! I never learned to sew, so I have to create in other ways. I’d love to learn more, and I imagine this book would be great. I’d love to find a no sew way to make pennant banners!

  11. Courtney S says:

    I am really looking forward to making curtains that I saw in a local restaurant. They used tree branches as the curtain rod (and since my husband has many trees to trim off the roof of our house, I figure this is a GREAT way to reuse the branches). Then they used burlap material (although I will probably use some other material) and cut holes in the top of the material and looped rope through the holes and tied it over the tree branch. Okay…….. this might sound really ugly, but I promise it looked great, and I can’t wait to do it in my home!

  12. We make lots of stuff around here, but my favorite pieces around the house are paintings done by my husband and myself. I love the work of other artists, but can’t afford much, so our walls are adorned with our own pieces. It feels good to live with work that’s come from your heart.

  13. There aren’t even words for how much I love these books. I have devoured her Creative Family and am so looking forward to this one. I’m a knitter and so am always working on something in that regards.

  14. I love to craft for our home. I have made a quilts, curtains, and pillows that I can think of right off the top of my head. Other little things that are not so prominent are around like dishcloths, hot pads, towels, etc. Thanks for hosting this giveaway!

  15. I am SO not creative and I’m working really hard to change that belief about myself and just do things that I never thought I might. We have a new house that needs work in every single room(and money for this!), so I started small and in a place I wanted to create as soon as possible: a playroom. It’s small. It’s not fancy. It’s a strange space that used to be a porch and got enclosed by a previous owner at some point. But, we made it colorful and cheerful and a fun space to play and for my kids to create and I’m very proud of that:)
    http://domesticsimplicity.com/2009/07/10/an-almost-finished-play-room-sort-of/

  16. What a fantastic review! I am such a fan of Soule Mama and I can’t wait to peek at this book. It looks like another gem!

    Anything that we make for our house always has a special place in my heart. I really struggle with crafting, but I would have to say the infamous ping pong wreath from A Soft Place to Land is my favorite thing right now. Gluing on 144 individual ping pong balls to create a lemon drop wreath makes it pretty darn craft-tastic! ;)

  17. Not yet crafty, I aspire to craftiness, and Amanda inspires. The mugs my son made at Color Me Mine are treasures. I drove.

  18. my heart is pitterpattering at the thought of owning HOMEMADE HOME! i have a million ideas for crafting, but haven’t dove into anything yet. i am so very inspired by all the creativity i’ve seen from all my favorite blogs. i’m in love!

  19. I’m usually a pretty strict follow-the-pattern crafter and am trying to be better about improvising and trusting myself when it comes to creativity/crafting. Amanda, whose blog I also enjoy, really seems great at doing that. Her book would be very inspiring!

    One of my favorite “projects” was the Christmas stocking I made for my husband. Simple red felt with felt icons modeled after my family’s stockings growing up. I added his college logo among the icons and love how personalized it is. I look forward to hanging it every year.

  20. I would LOVE this book – I’ve heard so much about her first book, so I’m going to try to pick a copy up soon. And for what I would love to make is…anything knitted! I want to learn to knit and eventually be able to make just simple things like scarves or throws. Maybe one day… Oh, and thanks for the give-away!

  21. Since I’ve just moved into a new (to us) house, I want/need to make curtains for every room. We don’t have money to spend, so I’m hoping to find quilts and sheets and old curtains to turn into pretty ones. Will be an adventure as I’ve never made a curtain before out of anything!

  22. My kids and had I lots of fun recently doing embroidery projects that we framed and turned into 4th of July decor. I’m think we need to do this for every holiday :)

  23. Oh, I can’t wait to read this book! This is kind of boring, but I’ve always wanted to make my own curtains.

  24. I have just started sewing in the last few years, and i really want to try to make a quilt. I haven’t gotten up the nerve yet- but I think 2010 is the year of the quilt!

  25. When I got my embroidery machine, I made “name” flags for my kiddos. They love them and they were fun to make!

  26. Michelle says:

    I love to make baby blankies — small (18″ square) flannel blankies with satin binding — as gifts. They’re big enough to cover a newborn, and become great comfort items as the baby grows.

  27. Hmm, I enlisted my MIL to sew me some aprons last fall and I embroidered ‘under the high chair’ on the pocket. I then gave them away to a few lucky winners-one of my readers and one friend.

    Would love to learn more about sewing, but doubt I have the patience!

  28. I love to make curtains and tote bags – so easy. I’d love to tackle a quilt someday. I love Soulemama and The Creative Family and can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for this giveaway!

  29. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make my own window treatments. It’s the last thing on my list of items to purchase because they can be so expensive.

  30. when i was a very little girl my parents worked for hours together on a beautiful dolls house for me, 20 years (and a few mouse tenants) later i was overjoyed to be able to restore & renovate it for my own very little girl, complete with furniture salvaged from my childhood stash too. now all three of our kids play for hours with it :) so that would definitely be my favourite crafted item in our house!

  31. Cool stuff! I’m making a butterfly mobile for my daughter’s room with scrapbook paper and chipboard butterflies. I’m also making a garland that says Have Faith for our kitchen! Would love to win this book!
    Amy in CA

  32. Awesome! I loved her first book and can’t wait for this one.

    I’m saving my husband’s worn out button-down shirts to make a quilt for my son’s first big boy bed. I can’t wait to get started on it!

  33. My favorite project I’ve done is my daughter’s bedroom curtains. They were a huge project, but I love them! When we moved I was able to modify them to fit the windows in her new bedroom so I didn’t have to make new ones.

  34. My fave project is a wool angel mobile for over baby’s crib. I think I’ll keep it forever and I’m not usually so sentimental :)

  35. The things I’ve made that I’m most proud of are the handmade baby and childrens’ clothes. Almost all of them are handsmocked or french handsewn. Not only were they worn by our five children but now have been worn by our three grandsons.

    Since I have two girls but no granddaughters yet, all those pretty little frilly dresses are hanging in the closet just waiting for the first granddaughter to put in her appearance.

  36. Scrapbooking, but I really want to learn how to sew…

  37. I love the warmth that seems to emanate from these crafts! I’m just starting to explore my “crafty” side and am looking forward to making some blankets and quilts w/my kids for friends and family. Looks like a great book–can’t wait to read it!

  38. I have made each of my children crocheted, wool baby blankets; I want to also make each of them a special quilt.

  39. What a great book! I am just getting into being crafty. As a kid I never really did much crafting, but I really want to do millions of projects with my kids and get them excited about making things. My kids and I have just finished making a mobile for above the baby’s crib, made with origami animals, painted animals and flowers and some feathers and pine cones that we have collected on walks. A bit eclectic, but we like it!

  40. What a great sounding book! I have always been the artsy/crafty sort and would love to get some more ideas from this book. Almost all of our artwork in our home was drawn, painted, or photographed by me or my husband. I have also made a few baby bedding sets, pillows, curtains, etc. I like to make things! Thanks for the give-away.

  41. My favorite recent project was using a vintage cowboy print pillowcase of my father-in-law’s on a wall hanging for my son.

  42. I’d love to be able create some great cute artwork for my daughters room, so I’m working on it!

  43. I made a birthday banner out of lots of different colors of felt. It’s a small variation on a project found in Amanda Soule’s first book. My kids love when it comes out! I hope it’s something we’ll use for years to come.

  44. My favorite project I created for our home was an advent calendar like the one I grew up with. My mom said she had thrown that one away, so I searched and searched on the internet to find a similar calendar. I was so excited everyday to see my kids moving the Holy Family along just as I remembered doing with my sister, y-e-a-r-s ago.

  45. right now my favorite thing is the birthday bunting I recently made my daughter with a double purpose of decorating her room! I can’t wait to read Amanda’s new book!

  46. I made this gorgeous necklace hanger for my bathroom – I’m a necklace wearing goddess, and having them hanging about in piles didn’t help me when it came to choosing them. So I used a broken old chair – I broke the legs off it, hammered down any stray nails, tore strips of sari material from India, and staple-gunned the material to the leg-chairs so it formed a ladder. Then I punched in a whole heap of nails along each leg for necklaces to hang from, and at the top, tied the ends of the sari fabric together to hang it with. Three years on, it still works perfectly! :)

  47. The first thing I made for my daughter’s room was her name spelled out in vintage buttons. It took forever sewing each button! I lined it with batting and stretched it over a canvas then framed it out with some ribbon trim. It’s very gratifying to see her examine all the buttons nearly every day!

  48. My favorite things that I’ve made for other people’s homes are framed Name/with Name Meaning-plaques. I’ve done this using computer graphics for several friends, as well as our oldest daughter & then-fiance. I’ve also done this more elaborately as a sampler for our oldest daughter & now-son-in-law using machine embroidery. Other favorite things I’ve made for around the house are a “raggy” quilt for our first granddaughter, machine-embroidered with her name, birth date, and birth weight, as well as sewing her crib-set (bumper pad, quilt, crib skirt).

  49. I would love to have time, tools and energy and scrapbook it. Most recent craft project was a handmade dino bday party for my 2 year old: handmade aprons from teatowels for each of the kids, frozen plastic dinos in colored water, etc. Thank you for the giveaway!

  50. I’ve always shied away from creating an actual full sized quilt. It seems such a a symbolic offering of warmth, but I’ve never had the courage to tackle it.

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