Blog, book review, Book Reviews

FAT QUARTER VINTAGE

25 Projects to make from short lengths of fabric

By Susie Johns

Photographer  Neal Grundy

This is one in a series of fat quarter books. Fat quarters are handy pre-cut pieces of fabric 18 x 22ins (46 x 56cm) They are often used for quilted projects. Susie has previously written many different craft books including Fat Quarter Toys, and Bags and Purses. I wrote two in the same series along with, my then business partner, the famous Flower Stylist Amanda Russell.

I was green with envy when I saw this book as I have a considerable stash of vintage fabrics, particularly from 1950’s and 1960’s, and would love to create a book with them.

 The book is cleverly divided into projects from different decades of the twentieth century, the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. There are twenty five projects in all and include both home items and fashion accessories.

There are projects such as a baby changing mat, bow tie, owl mobile, child’s dress, appliqué cushion etc. The book opens with a materials and equipment chapter followed by a techniques chapter.

Each project comes with easy to understand step by step photographs and instructions. The author has even chosen old fashioned looking children to model the bow ties, dress and baby blanket. This is a sweet and charming book that would make a wonderful Christmas present.

book review, Book Reviews, Blog

Needle Felting

20 Cute Projects to Felt From Wool By Emma Herian Published by GMC Publications RRP £14.99

Want to learn a new craft this autumn then this is the book for you. I have long been an admirer of Emma’s work and have followed her on instagram for a while. She is a craftswoman of great renown who has many skills under her belt and appears to turn her hand to new projects almost effortlessly. In her forward to this book she describes how she came to needle felting by accident when she was asked to run a workshop on it.

Unlike many crafts, needle felting is very forgiving to beginners, so there is no excuse not to have a go. As if by magic, pieces of natural wool can be sculpted simply by stabbing them with special felting needles.

The tiny barbs on the needles make the wool denser and denser, so that it can be moulded into whatever shape you desire. The book is divided into three sections geared towards beginner, intermediate and advanced, there’s a felting project for everyone, no matter what level of experience.

 The basic techniques are covered and each project is accompanied, with step-by-step instructions and, photographs. There are hints and tips throughout, and twenty projects in all. Once you have made many of the projects in the book you will be in a position to create your own. There are projects to make for occasions such as Christmas, Halloween, Easter and other celebrations. There are lovely animals including, rabbits, piglets, bears and a bee.

My only criticism of the book is the name ‘Cute’ which gives it the feel of something, well cute! I feel the work has much more substance to it than that. If you want to try a new craft that takes up little room and is perfect for winter evenings then this my friends, is it.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Reclaiming Style –using Salvage materials to create an elegant home

By Maria Speake & Adam Hills of Retrouvious. Words by  Hettie Judah and photography by Debbie Treloar Published by Rylands Peters and Small

Retrouvious was founded twenty years ago by partners Adam Hills and Maria Speake when they were studying architecture in Glasgow, it began as a way to help conserve the Victorian tenement buildings in the city’s reinvigorated West End. “My first eureka moment was when I realized that, because the West End of Glasgow is very homogenous architecturally, you could remove the doors and shutters and fireplaces from a building that Glasgow University was demolishing and use them in a building two or three streets away and they would fit, physically and historically,” explains Adam.

At the heart of the company is the belief that good materials and well-made things are precious; whether quarried stone or a piece of expert joinery, these objects were hard won and have an intrinsic value that argues for them to be reconditioned and intelligently reused. This book, so relevant to our time,  illustrates the principals on which the company was founded. That is to see the potential in things that might otherwise be discarded.

         Adam explains how important it is to choose the right builders to work on a job using salvaged materials. “Sometimes clients will come in wanting to use old wood, for example, then phone up sheepishly a week later saying that they can’t buy it

because their builder refuses to touch it. You definitely have to find someone who’s sympathetic to using it. Salvage is much harder work than just bunging in new stuff, and it’s not necessarily cheaper.”

Adam now takes on just about any good material that could be used in making a building, as well as all manner of apparently random oddments that he thinks might appeal to his clientele. “Once you’ve got your mind tuned to saving stuff, and to

salvage and materials and quality, you are always thinking laterally – it’s just a case of seeing what’s there and putting it in a new context,” he explains.

 “You always approach a building with first principles, by asking what it’s made out of. A lot of people would look at something like HeathrowAirport’s Terminal 2 and think that, because it’s a hideous building, there can’t be anything valuable inside it. Whereas in fact you can go inside a bit of Brutalist architecture and look up the stairs and realize that the handrail is made out of a solid piece of hardwood, or that there’s an incredible floor or interesting light fittings. You have to ignore the hideous surroundings and think of these things in a different environment. The whole principle of antiques dealing is to take something from where it’s not appreciated to somewhere that it is.”

The book is divided into particular projects and styles put together for clients of Retrouvious. Starting with Barbican Modern

‘Situated within a landmark development in central London, the corridor-style format of this 1970s apartment made for a tricky living space. The redesign focused on generating warmth and atmosphere while creating a stylish interior that nodded both to the clients’ Italian roots and the cultural significance of the building itself.’

There are chapters on lighting, stone, wood and fabric and a stockists and suppliers section. The book features the following styles of architecture, Canal side house, Garden cabin, Lakeside house, City terrace, Medieval priory, Family townhouse, Victorian villa, High rise Home, Refurbished barn and a Georgian farmhouse. An excellent and informative book.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Making Marbled Paper

Paint Techniques and Patterns for Classic and Modern Marbleising on Paper and Silk.

Heather Fletcher of HRJ Design Studios

Published by Fox Chapel publishing

When this book fell into my in box I was delighted as it is a technique that I have tried out myself and the results can be rather random. Heather Fletcher is a true professional and manages to get great results, and with her clear, photographed step by step instructions you dear readers will be able to do the same.

Heather is a surface designer who works in many different mediums including marbling, suminagashi, pochoir, linocut, and woodblock printing, Heather incorporates them into her current practice focused in the following areas: artist books, hand lettering, graphic design, surface pattern design, quilting, and illustration (hand and digital).

After a brief introduction to the author, the book opens with a short history of marbling. The first half of the book divides into three chapters starting with the studio and how to set up, the tools and materials needed and paints and colours.

One of the bonuses of choosing marbling as a craft is that it requires very little in the way of specialist tools, most of them you will find in your house. You are given instructions on how to make your own marbling combs.

Heather teaches classes on marbling and other surface design techniques at Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Textile Center in Minneapolis, and around the world.

As she says

‘There are many “systems” for marbling paper, each using a different kind of paint (ink vs. watercolor vs. oil

vs. acrylics) and different substances to float color on the surface. In this book, we use fluid acrylic paint and carrageenan. Through teaching marbling, I found that these two materials are the easiest to work with for marblers of all levels—from beginners to seasoned professionals. Both carrageenan and acrylic paint are easily available through online retailers and at your local art store.

The recipe is given for making your own carrageenan ‘size’ and as it is a seaweed extract it is often used in the food industry as a thickener. It can be safely poured down the sink after use.’

The second part of the book is called patterns and describes and shows the foundation patterns and further patterns based on those.

The reader is then given techniques to marble on paper and then on fabric. Finally there is a troubleshooting section and a resources guide. 

Heather’s surface designs are represented by MHS Licensing and licensed to manufactures and put onto products for home décor, hydration, wall art, tabletop, wallpaper, and quilting fabrics.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Le Corbuffet: Edible Art and Design Classics.

By Esther Choi Published by Prestel on 1st October 2019

Home-cooking meets highbrow art in this one-of-a-kind cookbook that uses food to create edible interpretations of modern and contemporary sculptures, paintings, architecture, and design.

The nearest I have ever come to a book like the one i am about to review, is the 1987 Artists Cook Book by Jocelyn Stevens and Henry Moore. That one was a series of recipes illustrated by artists who contributed to the book. This one is much more inspired and original in its concept .

From the mind of Esther Choi comes Art-Inspired Recipes as Contemporary Sculptures. The writer, photographer, and artist has compiled a list of recipes inspired by artists, designers, and their creations, all staged in contemporary arrangements. Recipes seek to distill the practices of figures such as Frida Kahlo and Barbara Kruger into their best and most delicious aspects—like the crisp and bright Frida Kale-o Salad, or the crimson-coloured and acerbic Rhubarbara Kruger Compote.

The idea was first launched during a series of participatory dinner parties Choi hosted in 2015 after discovering a 1937 menu designed by artist László Moholy-Nagy for Bauhaus founder and architect Walter Gropius. After creating her own set of detailed dishes, she decided to compile them into a book that would be a playful spin on the artists she admired.

“I hosted the first in a series of ‘Le Corbuffets’ in my Brooklyn apartment, a project which carried on until 2017,” she explains on her web site. “Offering meals to an assortment of guests, these social gatherings revolved around the consumption of absurd, pun-inspired dishes that referred to canonical artists and designers. As a commentary on the status of art, food, and design as commodities to be ‘gobbled up’ by the market, the project deliberately twisted idioms to explore the notion of ‘aesthetic consumption’ though taste and perception.”

You can see her photographs, in Le Corbuffet will be published October 1. 2019 You can see her photographs, in additions to snippets of recipes from what she describes as “a conceptual artwork in the form of a cookbook”   Esther was one of the six recipients of the 2019 Richard

Andrea Branzini grilled fish

Rogers Fellowship, an award and residency program at the Wimbledon House in London, the landmarked residence designed by Lord Richard Rogers for his parents in the late 1960s. The six fellows named for the 2019 cycle were chosen from nearly 140 applicants from around the world. Since its inception, the Richard Rogers Fellowship has drawn serious scholars from a range of fields and backgrounds to London, where they have engaged with that city’s great research and design institutions.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Want to create a Country Brocante look? Then this is the book for you.

Just a glimpse into this gorgeous book will affirm Lucy Haywood’s  love of all things vintage, a love that  was inherited from her parents. They spent all their free time at antiques fairs and so she grew up in a home filled with old furniture.

         Her first flat was adorned with antique finds and vintage clothing and she realized that she was drawn to a creative career.

When her daughters were tiny she created a business that would work alongside her role as a mum. She began by hiring out her vast collection of vintage china for weddings and other events. This led to opening first a little shop in Sussex and, then as the business grew, a large, draughty barn, inviting other collectors that she met to sell alongside her. She hosted sales in village halls and gardens, and The Country Brocante was born.

It has grown and evolved from its humble beginnings, and now hosts seasonal fairs at stately homes and estates in Sussex and the Cotswolds. The exhibitors specialize in various different eras and styles – some offer classic French brocanterie, others have a traditional English style, and some a blend of both.

The faded elegance of France and the English cottage charm of vintage china and chintz come together to create a uniquely beautiful look that is, the essence of the Country Brocante style which is captured in this book.

         The book opens with examples of the colour palette, which is oh so instagramable. Examples are given of Pale pinks, Washed whites, Seaside blues and Soft greens.

         As Lucy explains, there is a myth that White is cold hard and clinical. The secret is to search out muted, chalky whites that provide a perfect backdrop for the time worn patina of antique and vintage finds. White-painted furniture only grows more beautiful with age, and when it is teamed with old linen sheets, white sofas and all-white china, the effect is easy, relaxed and lived-in. If you have a collection of mismatching modern pine furniture, invest in a pot of one of Farrow & Ball’s just-slightly-off white shades and give pieces a lick of paint for instant shabby chic appeal.

To create a Country Brocante home using blues, seek out subtle shades from silvery pale blue to faded indigo.

‘Graceful, elegant and feminine, for me pink is the most romantic of colours and effortlessly exudes vintage charm. Even the smallest of details, such as a posy of pink flowers, will bring warmth to an interior’ says Lucy.

When using pinks, If pastel pink feels too sugary, try a rich raspberry shade instead, which looks fabulous against pearly grey or duck-egg blue walls and natural sisal flooring.

Dulux colour of 2020 being Tranquil Dawn a soft green hue inspired by the morning sky, and Lucy waxes lyrical about green. 

What colour could be more reminiscent of the rolling English countryside than green? It brings to mind the exterior of an old garden shed, lichen and moss growing over a weathered stone garden ornament, or a simple green bucket holding roses just picked from the garden. But green is for indoors as well as

out. There are so many shades that work in a country-style home, from faded sage to olive to sea foam. Just keep your shades subtle and sludgy and you can’t go far wrong. At the Country Brocantes, a keen eye will seek out the softest, most subtle green pieces, choosing battered enamel buckets and garden chairs to take home and treasure.

          As well as colours the book shows examples of architectural antiques, time worn textures , art, and shows examples of how to work them into your home.The houses included in this book, whether old Suffolk cottages, Georgian farmhouses or modern properties all have in common the inclusion of timeworn objects. There are salvaged shutters and doors, shelving fashioned from old scaffolding boards and pieces of painted furniture still clinging on to their original finish, flaking and peeling though it may be. Despite their age and their state of repair, these items manage to look current, exciting and utterly beautiful in their current surroundings.

What a book! What a look! I highly recommend it, as much for the gorgeous images by Ben Edwards as for the valuable information given by Lucy Haywood.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews, Makes

With Oxfam encouraging us to buy second hand and to recycle this month, I am posting a review of the book I wrote in 2011. The Shirt Off His Back. A book full of ideas to re-love and upcycle old shirts.

by Juliet Bawden and photographed by Caroline Arber

This book review first appeared on the Sewing Directory web site and was written by Fiona Pullen

This innovative up-cycling book makes use of a material we all have around us – Men’s shirts. Those of us with men in the house will undoubtedly have, no longer, used shirts lurking at the back of wardrobes. Those who don’t have a shirt-wearing male to acquire shirts from can pick them up fairly cheap from the charity shop. Plus of course there is no reason why women’s shirts can’t be used for these projects either.


The projects in this book are cleverly catagorized by type of shirt used to make them: businessmen’s shirts, creative men’s shirts, outdoorsy men’s shirts and sporty men’s shirts. The projects include soft toys, quilted duvet cover, a beach bag, storage boxes, and a pretty peg bag and they make use of the whole of the shirt including, cuffs, collars and buttons.


The instructions for each project are set over several pages with large step by step photos to guide you as well as a photo of the finished project plus any templates you need are at the rear of the book. The book is easy to follow and would be suitable for all levels of experience.

Published by Jacqui Small