Meet the Maker – Clare Youngs

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Craft Author and illustrator, are the two skills for which Clare is best known.

She writes craft books for the publishers Cico, and whatever the subject, they are always of the highest standard, beautifully styled and informative. I was curious how Clare had got into the business of being a craft author. She works from home in a studio at the bottom of her garden.



J.B. Tell me about your design background.

C.Y. I did an art foundation course in London and then I went to Canterbury to do a degree in graphics and packaging design. It was a great course, very creative, we covered lots of skills as well as graphic design, including styling and art direction.

After art school I worked mainly for small design groups designing packaging.


J.B. How did you get into writing books?

C.Y. My husband, Ian bought me a book on vintage style and I was flicking through it when I had a light bulb moment. I have always made things, including curtains cushions and blinds. I had an idea for a book on making things for the house out of paper. I went to Hamlyn and my first book was published by them. Then Cindy Richards the M.D. of Cico books got hold of me and asked if I would like to write a book for them. The first book I did was on making bags out of recycled materials.


J.B. Do the ideas for your books originate from you or from the publisher?

C.Y. It is half and half, sometimes I come up with proposals and sometimes they do.

J.B. How long does it take to produce a book.

C.Y From start to finish probably 4-5 months, but that is working full time on it. From the concept to publication is usually a year.

J.B. Who does the photography and styling? 

C.Y.  I do the styling and Jo Henderson does the photography and my husband Ian does the illustrations.


J.B. What are your favorite and your least favorite parts of creating a book.

C.Y. I love making things, so the designing and making is what I enjoy doing best.

When I started, I found writing step -by -step instructions challenging. The secret is to write them as you go along.

J.B. What and who inspires you?

C.Y. Vintage Children’s books, particularly those published in the 60’s and 70’s. I like the work of Brian Wildsmith and Roger Duvoisin, Alice and Martin Provensen an American couple who illustrated more than 40 children’s books together. Mostly between the late 1940’s and the 1960’s.


J.B. Are there any modern illustrators you like?

C.Y. I enjoy the work of Joohee Yoon

J.B. What other things or people inspire you?

C.Y. I love vintage textiles especially the work of Lucienne Day. I like the textile designs of Marimekko. Scandanavian design and Japanese crafts both interest me. I like the work of the following painters and designers. Howard Hodgkin, Ben Nicholson, Robert Tavener, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious and William Scott.


J.B. Are you a collector ?

C.Y. Yes I am a collector I have 23,000 czechoslovakian matchbox lables, mostly from Czechoslovakia and Poland, that I bought on line. I will probably sell some as many are duplicates.

J.B. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working from home?

C.Y. It is great to have a purpose built space that is just at the bottom of my garden. My husband who is also a designer sometimes works from home so we can meet up for coffee or lunch. However the down side of working from home is it is sometimes isolating as you don’t have feed back from other designers. As a result of this, last year I took an on line course called ‘Make Art that Sells’ . I wanted to study illustration as my craft projects have become more illustrative, for example I produce designs to embroider or collage. The boot camps that the web site runs are excellent and give you prompts rather than teaching as such. They have a face book group so that you can get feed back from like minded designers.


J.B. Apart from the boot camp do you use other social media?

C.Y. I do instagram and find that is a very useful way of making contacts in the design world. Last year I participated in the 100 day project.

J.B Do you teach workshops ?

C.Y. When we first moved out of London, our kids were young and we thought it would be nice to move to the Kent coast. At this time I ran a few family craft workshops at the Turner Gallery.

J.B. If you hadn’t been a graphic designer what would you have studied or done as a career?

C.Y. I think I would have done a craft, been a print maker or a potter.

J.B. What are you doing next?

C.Y My latest book by Cico is coming out this November it is called Creative Collage

J.B. Clare thank you very much for letting us have a glimpse into your working life.





Up-cycled side table

This table was very stained and sad looking when I spotted it in a seaside charity shop. In the same shop were some old sailing charts and that gave me an idea. Why not decoupage, that’s essentially gluing and sticking, some charts onto the table.

homestyle_febmakes_5_043_LRYou will need


Tester pot dark grey paint

Paint brush

Paper scissors

PVA glue


Charts x3



  1. Sand and then paint the table with grey emulsion. Leave to dry, if it needs a second coat of paint, do this now.
  2. Measure the diameter of the circular table top and bottom and draw 2 circles to this measurement minus 1cm on the back of the sailors chart and cut out.
  3. Paint a coat of PVA glue on the fronts of each circle of chart, leave to dry and then repeat with the back.
  4. Using more PVA glue, stick the circles in place on the table. Leave to dry. Repeat step 4 with more coats of PVA to create a sustainable and usable table
  5. When you paint on the PVA it will look milky and opaque, don’t worry it will dry clear. If you get bubbles in the chart, prick them with a pin and stick it down.



The Magpie & The Wardrobe

The Magpie & the wardrobe is a book of curiosity of Folklore Magic and spells , by Sam McKechnie and Alexandrine Portelli. 9781910496459

This  magical book is unlike any other that you will find. When you open its cover the first thing you see is a silver metallic four leaf clover on a black ribbon book mark that has been embedded into the cover. What a clever and charming idea!

The book is divided into months, that in turn are divided into appropriate headings. For example January is New, February is Love and March is Spring.


January has a place for you to write your new year’s resolutions.

Old customs and curious days are mentioned such as First Footing, when on the chimes of midnight on New Year’s eve a dark haired stranger is the first over the threshold bestowing gifts and bringing good luck.

Superstitions such as blowing out candles and making a wish or reading tea leaves, fire gazing and palm reading are beautifully illustrated and explained.

The book looks like a very imaginative gorgeous sketchbook full of personal ephemera, little ornaments, pieces of lace, photographs, old illustrations, antique keys and feathers.

For those who like a little practicality with their nostalgia, we are given recipes: strawberry jam, elder flower jelly, sugared fruit, porridge, mince pies, chilly stew, plum crumble, Cornish splits.

There are practical craft ideas as well: Making herb oils, garlands, feather head dresses and decorating eggs, lemon pomander, wax roses and walnut keep sakes.

Weddings, the sea, the moon, the sun, harvest, Guy Fawkes, Maypoles and various saints are all mentioned. We are given a great deal of information about making wishes and casting spells.

This is a book that will probably evoke strong emotions in you. I love it for its beauty and I think it would be a brilliant present to give to foreign friends who would like to know a little more about British history, mythology, traditions and ways of life.


The Magpie & The Wardrobe by Sam McKechnie and Alexandrine Portelli is published by Pavilion at £20

The Magpie and the Wardrobe is owned and created by artist Sam McKechnie. It is a small business with a private studio ,which can be viewed strictly by appointment only. Sam produces two fashion seasons yearly that are sold through her Stockists. This shop offers a small and complimentary selection but stockists will usually have more choice. Sam Mckechnie also exhibits her assemblage boxes and art and also makes unique chandeliers sold through Designers Guild and through commission


Recycled Kitchen stool


This has to be one of the best value and easiest makeovers there is. I bought the stool in a junk shop for £7 and gave it a new lease of life.

You will need

A stool

Spray paint in orange

Piece of gift wrap, choose one printed on thick paper

Sand paper

PVA glue

Paint brush


1.Choose the steps

2.Sand the metal parts of the stool to remove any flakey bits of paint

3 Cover the wooden parts of the stool and in an outdoor space, spray the metal parts of the chair. Leave to dry. Re spray as necessary.

4 Choose a piece of substantial wrapping paper. The one shown here came from Dulwich Picture Gallery.

  1. Lay the stool on top of the reverse side of the paper and draw round the shape.
  2. Stick the paper onto the wooden steps with PVA and leave to dry
  3. Water down PVA and paint a protective coat over the paper. It will look milky to begin with but as it dries will become clear.

STOOL DETAILkitchen stool


Create a smart padded coffee table from an Ikea Nornas table and a cut up mattress

I transformed an Ikea table into a stylish padded coffee table, using an Ikea mattress and some fabulous butterfly print  linen fabric from Harlequin

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You will need


1.5m of Harlequin butterfly fabric

1 Nornas coffee table from Ikea

Sample pot of black emulsion

1 x Vyssa mattress

1m of 2 oz wadding




Large dressmakers Scissors

Staple gun

Tape measure

Felt tip pen


  1. Measure half way down the legs of the coffee table and saw each of them in half, at this point it will feel like the table will be very low.
  2. Paint the legs that you are keeping and the underside of the table with black paint. Once the paint is dry, following the instructions, put the table togethe
  3. Lay the table top on top of the mattress and draw round it with a felt tip. Cut out the mattress. You will have one oblong the same size as the table, and the other oblong will need to be made up of pieces. Place the pieces of mattress on top of the table and fit and together until you have an oblong shape the dimensions of the tabletop.
  4. Place the complete mattress piece on top of the pieces that are on top of the coffee table, Cover the whole thing with wadding and staple to the underside of the coffee table. The wadding will hold the mattresses in place.


  1. Place the butterfly fabric on top and staple this over the wadding. You may need to fold and sew at the corners for a neat edge. price £56 a meter

 Tip I used expensive fabric for a lovely look but you can find cheaper options especially if you look in the sales or bin ends.


Upgrade your duvet cover and create ombre bedlinen.

Recycle your old cotton bed linen by using dyes in this years fashionable Pantone colours of Rose Quartz and Serenity, or as we know them pale pink and pale blue. We also added some jeans blue as Denim is so fashionable at the moment.


You will need

1 packet of each of the following Dylon hand dyes in Powder pink, Flamingo pink, Ocean blue and Jeans blue.

750 grammes of table salt

cling film

Double duvet, 2 pillow cases in 100% cotton

Measuring jug

2 buckets and a large container in which to dye


Silicone gloves


You will need lots of hanging and rinsing space for drying between different colour dyeing.


1.Wash the duvet cover and pillowcases and leave them damp.

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  1. Use cling film to wrap the part of the duvet and pillowcases that you do not want to dye. (About 2/3rds of it)
  2. Mix the powder pink dye according to the instructions on the packet. If you want to make the colour a bit brighter then add about 1/3rd of the colour from the flamingo pink.

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  1. Fill a container large enough to hold the duvet and the pillowcases, with water. Add the 250g of salt and then add the mixed dye to the water and stir.
  2. Add the wet unwrapped part of the fabric to the dye bath. The colour changes, as the dying proceeds. Stir as in the instructions on the packet. Leave for a further 45minutes.
  3. Once the fabric is dyed, rinse under a tap until the water runs clear. Cut away the cling film.
  4. Hang the duvet and pillowcase to dry. Drying between dying different colours makes the fabric easier to handle. A wet duvet is difficult to manoever.3dip dye

8. Repreat steps 2-7 but over dye the last 1/3 of the duvet cover and pillow cases in jeans blue.When the fabric has dried, cover the pink part of the fabric in cling film. You will then need to hold the part of the fabric you are going to dye under a tap to dampen it.

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9.Follow steps 2-7 with ocean blue. Dip all the remaining duvet cover and pillow cases in the dye bath

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