Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Greatest Dot to Dot     
Monkeying Around
David Kalvitis

I recently got hooked on doing dot to dot puzzles.  The big box of puzzle books arrived the other day from Monkeying Around.  Many challenges were initially presented.  First, the surface of my desk had to be cleared away of all the notes, catalogs, scraps of paper, and sundry items.  Second, the top desk drawer had to be rearranged so I could find my mechanical pencil, erasure and ruler.  Third, I had to decide where I would begin as Monkeying Around gave me a huge variety of dot-to-do-choices.

The clever travel size “The Greatest Newspaper” dot to dot puzzles consists of 8 volumes.  They vary from sets of numbers, connect dots, odd/even, no dots, stars, and the alphabet. There is fun for all ages as one completes a puzzle and progresses on to a slightly more difficult one in each book. Several of the puzzles also have a very small section which is already completed – sort of like a teaser.

The larger dot-to-dot books cover a wide range of captivating puzzles.  Some are very straight forward (almost like follow the leader,) and others are more complex.  There are single page puzzles, dot-to-dot adventures and multiple page puzzles to tackle such as the four page foldout consisting of over 2100 dots.  Some puzzles present visual clues to follow while others consist of arrows, points on a compass, and various coordinates to connect.

If one has any “how-to” questions, Monkeying Around has a wonderful puzzle solving blog on their web site at
There are also free samples to download and print for starters.  There is also an app for the Little Book puzzles. 

All I can say is “wow!”  David Kalvitis is a master dot to dot puzzle creator.
Pick up your tools and may your amazing journey begin.

Razine Wenneker 

Saturday, October 1, 2016


I am a “woven” beading artisan.  The peyote stitch is utilized in most of my “Geometric Adornment” jewelry utilizing Miyuki delica 11 ought beads. This jewelry is donated to not for profit organizations and they retain 100% of the proceeds.

“Fast Peyote Stitch Jewelry” was most helpful in speeding up the weaving process. Some of my larger designs required many beads in their foundations and were therefore very time consuming. In essence, the number of pieces I could complete became limited.  This book has educated me in the utilization of two and three drop peyote stitch.  I now feel like the energizer bunny.

There are 25 + original projects to study and complete.  The instructions are well documented and each individual photograph is beautifully presented. In addition, one can find the essential materials, tools and finished measurements for each of the projects.  There is no guesswork.  One is presented with all the necessary corresponding word charts.

Thanks to the very accomplished author, Josie Fabre, I am sure all peyote stitch beaders will enjoy their adventures with beaded structures even more.

Razine Wenneker

This is a delightful book.  All of the perforated pages display a wonderful assortment of pictures to be colored. One can utilize pencils, paint, crayons or any drawing tools to enhance them.  Many contain an interesting display of zentangle patterns with swirls and circles and both straight, curved and jagged lines.  The complexity of the drawings are amazing with the intersecting lines.

There are special inspiring slogans imprinted on each of the renderings. I can envision the book being a source of enjoyment for individuals of all ages. 
Premium Dot-to-Dot Collection
Adam Turner
Kalmbach Books

Do you remember the dot-to dot books you used to enjoy as a young child?  Well, this recent incarnation is the ultimate challenge for young and old alike.

The first one I completed, “Route 66” was both an exploration and a testament to my perseverance in finding the onslaught of consecutive numbers and drawing a straight line.  All of these were easily accomplished by using a mechanical pencil (fine line), magnifying glass and a small plastic ruler.

I love this book.  It brings back many happy memories.  Wonderful way to spend one’s time.  Doesn’t take the brain power demanded by crossword puzzles, nor the skills of a poker player. “Cruisin’ Route 66” enhanced the continuation of my number recognition ability which hopefully were perfected many years ago.

Razine Wenneker

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Andean Sling Braids
Rodrick Owen and Terry Newhouse Flynn
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd

This truly a beautiful book.  It is very well conceived and presented. The Table of Contents enumerates everything one needs to travel the pathway of Andean Sling Braids. It begins by listing all of the braiding equipment, continues on to the various yarns, instructs the braider on all of the machinations of preparing the warp, setting up the braiding and basic working methods. Braider is then introduced to an amazing array of colorful braids which range anywhere from four to twenty four strand braid designs.

There are some choices of equipment one can utilize on which to arrange the threaded bobbins.  I have constructed many braided forms with both the marudai and the foam disk cards. In this elegant book we are presented with the “core frame.”  The braiding technique on this frame involves braiding around a “core” of passive thread that are concentrated in the center of each braid. The exchange between the passive and the active braiding threads create a myriad of intriguing designs.

BraidersHand is an excellent source for the “core braid” frame. The marudai mirror has the various thread bobbins located in strategic positions. Alongside this structure there is an upright upside down L shape form from which additional bobbins are suspended. There are great photographs of the “core frame” and luscious braids throughout this book.

Nothing is left to chance.  As stated above, everything one needs to create these braids are presented in depth. I am certainly looking forward to exploring many of these captivating new core based designs.

Razine Wenneker

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wire and Fused Jewelry
Techniques from the Sandkuhler Studio
Schiffer Books

Wire fusing is fun right from the beginning.  I was initially a little apprehensive about messing up and completely melting my fine silver links and match sticks into little globs.  As I practiced the proper placement of the torch and succeeded, it became a magical moment.

The contents of this comprehensive book by Iris Sandkuhler begins with a list of tools. The major one in every fusing vocabulary is a butane torch. Many of the additional tools mentioned are a staple of every work bench.

Projects are varied ranging from rather simplistic to more complex. All have a list of tools and materials that are posted on a check list. One doesn’t have to go on a mad dash scavenger hunt or wait for the necessary material to arrive from the suppliers. Each and every photograph of the creative process is extremely well defined.

Page 38 illustrates a wonderful example of wrapping a briolette and found object. Very easy to follow.

There is in depth instruction regarding the bead drawing method, pointing out the hottest spot of the torch flame. The text points the correct way and the illustrations show the way.

Over the years I have constructed my own fine silver chain link necklaces. They were somewhat intricate and used to enhance a particular fabricated or beaded pendant.  After coiling my fine silver wire around a mandrel and cutting off each link, I was ready to begin. It was amazing how each and every link fused together when applying my butane torch. Instead of an instructor standing at the soldering station and lecturing the students, the illustrations and text in this book says it all. This book introduces the art of fusing perfectly in all respects.

Razine Wenneker

The Art of Jewelry Design
Maurice P. Galli, Dominique Riviere and Fanfan Li
Schiffer Books

This book presents the principle of design.  The beautiful illustrations introduce the reader to rendering techniques of both metal and stone. I was exposed to several drawing classes during my formative years in college and this book would have been a wonderful source of reference. The authors truly know their “craft.”

A comprehensive list of rendering tools is presented. We are then visually introduced to the basic shapes and elementary principles of composition: squares, rectangles, triangles, circles and trapezoid. Variations in size and overlapping of these geometric elements is demonstrated to produce visual interests.

Plate 3 has a beautiful analysis of a broach. The various elements are dissected down to their basic form of design.  Plate 4 continues to explore values and contrasts ranging from light to dark and white to black.  An example of this progression is visibly illustrated along with the studies of asymmetry, positive and negative space, incidental and reflected light and perspective.

The authors give the designer an opportunity to explore these concepts with the documentary study of a flower. The conclusion of this section culminates in instructing one how to apply this to jewelry. We are taken on an interesting adventure through natural forms in our universe and their application also to jewelry design.

Textural techniques are boldly presented with the introduction of gauche and water color. There are also wonderful examples of rendering the multitude of diamond shapes, cuts and faceting.

As I stated at the beginning of this revue “The Art of Jewelry Design” would have been a wonderful resource for me as I pursued my artistic career.

Razine Wenneker
Off Loom Woven Bead Necklaces
Deb Dimarco
Schiffer Books

The photographic journey in this book is first rate. What you see is what you get. Square stitch is the name of the game.  The reader is taken from an excellent square stitch tutorial from row 1 and increasing, decreasing, and lengthening rows. There are also many additional instructions to help the novice or experienced beader achieve success.

The supplies are listed together with the appropriate time for completion. Takes the guess work out of weaving the jewelry.

The section on adding thread for accent or focal beads is very explicit.  Photographs illustrating adding the clasps are also presented in very large step by step photographs. I didn’t have to find a special light source or magnifying glass.

I agree with the author that her Autumn Harvest Necklace was “an example of simplicity at its finest.”  The section on joining panels was a new lesson to savor.

I consider this book “Off Loom Woven Bead Necklaces” the definitive text on the square stitch. Nothing is left to chance. The gallery pages show beautiful examples featuring this very interesting bead weaving stitch.

Razine Wenneker

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Theresa D. Abelew
Kambach Books

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” 

This little ditty was running through my head as I examined this book.  I was familiar with some of the designs, while others were brand new to me, such as those constructed with the striking blue scales and links pictured on the front cover.

The author takes the reader on playful exploration of the four major chain mail weaves producing 20+ interesting designs.  We are introduced to the basics of completing these projects; proper tools, materials, aluminum scales, and findings. These techniques are illustrated step by step with colored links.  All sizes of links are properly designated for the projects as pictured and are easy to follow.

Even though the weaves are rather elementary, all of the jewelry becomes new and exciting as presented in this book, “Play with Chain Mail.”

Razine Wenneker

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Schiffer Publishing
Helga Becker

Schiffer Publishing recently sent me the book “from thread and wire” to review.  Over 60 jewelry projects using knitting and crocheting are explored. My interest as a jewelry designer has been textile techniques and metals, so this book was certainly right up my alley.

First of all, the publication is beautifully laid out; materials, tools and techniques are fully explained in an easy to follow format. The reader is introduced to the crocheting and knitting skills necessary to complete the various projects. They range from utilization of the standard crochet hook and knitting spools of both wooden and metal.  As a young child I use to wrap colorful yarn around the upright prongs of a “french dolly” and watch in amazement as a colorful snake emerged from the opening.

The wooden and metal spools which the author describes to make the assortment of jewelry pictured in this book are somewhat different from my little spool and the end product is quite different from my slithering woolen snake.

Each project in the book is classified according to its difficulty.  In many instances she incorporates beads and gemstones into the structures.  Many types of wire are knitted or crocheted and the finished structure can then be sized with a wooden drawplate.  This is an invaluable tool which metalsmiths use to draw down their round wire.

The netted necklace on pg. 74 had a lovely open quality. It encased pieces of fimo clay giving the jewelry an interesting addition. The closure was a decorative feat of engineering.

The Maiden jewelry projects appeared light and airy. The wide array of glass beads added a playful young look to the ensemble. Silver wire was crocheted to make the individual delicate strands.

I love the Tunnel necklace on p. 135. The 30 gauge silver wire is as thin as the strands of a spider web. Two attractive squared hinges were affixed as a pendant.

There were some fabricated structures added to the jewelry featured in this book. They could be used as a frame of reference for the creative innovative additions.

Even though there was not a resource section, all of the materials mentioned in “from thread and wire” are readily available. I’m looking forward to once again experimenting with my french dolly and recreating some of these snake-like gossamer jewelry creations.

Razine Wenneker

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rebecca Ann Cohen
Kambach Books

Several months ago, I was asked to design some Kumihimo jewelry for a group of women. They had graciously agreed to support and donate funds to a local charitable organization. 

Needless to say, this was a labor of love in many respects. I have been creating Kumihimo jewelry for many years incorporating beads and various kinds of threads for the structures. All of the jewelry was completed utilizing the round Kumihimo foam disk.

How easy this would have been if I had this book. The author defines Kumihimo for the reader and instructs one how to best use her book. There are five different braid structures with comprehensive instructions on warping the foam disk and proceeding with the proper movements and exchange of thread in order to achieve these specific patterns.

All necessary tools and materials are pictured. Rebecca starts out with a wonderful visual example of the basket weave pattern which consists of an eight warp braid. One can then proceed to weave a myriad of lovely bracelets and necklaces with the addition of sparkling beads and interesting closures.

Nothing is left to chance. Photographs and instructions for all of the braids presented are outstanding. If one doesn’t already have the skills but the desire to learn the art of Kumihimo I would highly recommend this book. The foam disk is a wonderful alternative to the expensive and rather stationary Marudai loom.  The disk is lightweight and very portable and with the proper tension, one can achieve the same results.