Off The Shelf: Making Your Own Flora & Fauna

For our monthly post of book reviews, I thought it might be fun to look for some how-to guidance on making flora and fauna if you can't find the real thing in your local florist shop or animal shelter.  Sometimes a gal just wants to hold a ring-tailed lemur and it's frustrating when you can't get your hands on one.  Right???  So here are my favorite picks for creating flowers and animals, plus, a little review of Holly Becker's new book on incorporating cut flowers into your decor. 

I'm not a knitter but I know a lot of you are part of that passionate group of people who have brought back the pastime and given it a modern twist.  Knit Your Own Zoo should be right up your alley!  These animals aren't your typical chicks and pigs granny would be whipping up.  We're talking anteaters and mandrills here.  And who wouldn't want a lemur or meerkat perching on their shelf?  Or one of my personal favorites, an armadillo?  I'm always drawn to using a traditional craft for creating something you wouldn't usually associate with that craft.  And although there are many knitted animals out there, I just wouldn't expect to see a knitted fruit bat hanging from, say, a large potted plant.  Now I want to learn how to knit just so I can have my own knitted orangutan.  

The first flower you make from Paper to Petal is like a gateway drug.  If you start making them to put on top of a present, to tuck in a bud vase or to use as a bookmark, you will probably find yourself inundated by requests to make more, more, MORE from your friends and family.  While the decorative flowers do resemble the real thing (in most cases), they are really more about conceptualizing something beautiful than trying to replicate an authentic specimen.  And WOW, they do not disappoint!  This is a great book for learning a variety of techniques for folding, cutting and painting flowers so that you can either copy theirs or compose your own.  My favorite part is how the authors talk about where they find inspiration for new arrangements: a yellow rain slicker becomes a wet-looking flower with blue and white leaves mimicking raindrops; striped and painted paper is chosen based on a child's colorful patterned outfit. The authors really know how to imagine flowers with an artistic eye and you will be well educated after practicing their techniques!


Now, if you'd rather go in the direction of realism, this book lives up to it's "exquisite" title. You will actually do a cartoon double-take when you flip through the pages of The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers.  But don't be intimidated because Livia Cetti's how-to photos really break down the process of creating the papers you'll need.  She shows you dying, painting and cutting techniques as well as the anatomy of a flower so you start to get an intuitive feel for how a stem might behave in the real world.  I'm imagining a vase full of living flowers with a few paper ones mixed in and then a large mass of paper flowers climbing out of the vase and onto the wall.  These flowers are showstoppers and if you're in the mood to make a statement, pick up this book and get going!  

Needlefelting is the craft of taking a clump of wool, pricking it a million times with a needle and shaping into something amazing.  (Ok, it's not that simple, but I think I might have more luck with this than with knitting so I'm trying to convince myself I can do it).  If you've never tried needlefelting, Saori Yamazaki takes you from the beginning in Wild & Tame by showing you the materials you'll need and the steps you'll take from how to pull apart your wool roving to blending different colors of wool.  She then goes through the various techniques you'll use for different animals including how to make stripes and sew eyes.  But the best part is the animals themselves.  My favorites are the red panda, the prairie dog and the chipmunk.  Luckily, Karen knows how to needlefelt so I might raid her supply closet and try out a woodland critter or two on a summer road-trip.  


Decorate With Flowers is a beautiful and practical book by one of the masters of the design blog world.  I love how Holly and Leslie envision floral arranging to be organized by style so that each chapter focuses on a different mini-aesthetic, from "Pastels & Neons," to "Coastal," to "Black & White."  At Little Yellow Couch, our visual interests change with the seasons, span a variety of eras and across several color palettes and so Decorate with Flowers speaks to our different moods.  There are photos that show the order in which each type of flower is added to an arrangement, a different project for each chapter and style tips sprinkled throughout, including their "little black book" of suppliers which I was pretty giddy about.  All in all, this is a must-have resource for anyone interested in creating little moments of loveliness throughout your home.