Blog, book review, Book Reviews

I can’t Draw !

This book will prove you can

When it arrived, I wondered if this book had come to the wrong reviewer as I can draw, however if I couldn’t, this would be the book to encourage and to enable me.

         When I was at art school, drawing was out of fashion and it remained so for a long time. However I was lucky as I did my degree at Camberwell School of Art, when it was believed that drawing was the foundation of all artistic endeavour and so we were taught to draw, how to scale up, how to draw perspective shade etc.

         What Lydia has managed to do in her book is to encompass lots of techniques in a fun and modern way. It is not so much a ‘How To’ tome, but a workbook, that you fill in and have fun with, as you learn to draw.

In the opening page of the book the author says

“ Think you can’t draw? Think again.     

Every page has been designed to put you in touch with your creative side and get you drawing.

No experience necessary- just grab a pen, or whatever else is handy and see where it takes you.

Each new project will ease you into learning a new skill, sometimes without you realizing what you are doing. “

         Some of the topics covered include making marks, creating textures, drawing water, movement, far and near.  Adding shadows, drawing in reverse and drawing negative spaces.

There are some wonderful experimental tasks such as drawing with your non-dominant hand and drawing by feel. For this task you get someone else to place an object in a bag and you feel, but cannot see it, and you draw what you have felt. Another interesting experiment is to draw a complicated shape using a continuous line and without lifting your pen or paper off the page. I highly recommend this book and I have already started using it, as even old dogs can attempt to learn new tricks.

by Lydia Crook published by Ivy Press

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

GLOBAL BOHEMIAN How to Satisfy your Wanderlust at Home

Bohemianism has long been associated with artists, musicians, writers, and designers. Affectionately referred to as boho, this layered, vibrant, and organic aesthetic is clearly thriving. This may be because we are much more environmentally aware than we were even two decades ago. Buying second hand is very much in vogue and if you can’t do the travelling yourself many of the items found in a Bohemian home can be acquired from in charity shops, brocantes and the like. If you revel in freedom from conventions and rules, love a home that reflects individuality, spontaneity, a fondness for a fusion of global goods and a distinctive convergence of cultures, bohemian style is the book for you.

From minimal boho touches to relaxed, natural, eclectic, and romantic design elements make the global bohemian home a thing of beauty. With their blend of styles, the homes featured in this book boast a uniquely enchanting atmosphere, often reflected in the variety of treasures they showcase––from personal collections to inspired use of color and pattern, these wildly differing living spaces show signs of humanity and the patina of life.

Whether you want to transform an understated room by adding whimsical elements or create an exotic oasis in your bedroom, unconventional boho artistry is easy to achieve by incorporating a few basics such as jewel-toned items, metallic touches, alluring prints, and layers of textures, to name but a few. Mismatched pieces from various origins and eras, delicious colours, exquisite textiles, and imaginative displays give spaces an undeniable energy. This book celebrates the decorating tenets of freethinking, world traveling, and nomadic ideals, and the beauty of self-expression. The book is divided into different chapters including Colour. The author points out  

‘whether your taste leans to cheerful hues or softer ones. While there is no prescribed color palette for this iconic style, it is often hallmarked by warm hues like deep blue, hot pink, and sunny yellow, which, when combined, bring visual intensity. And for those who like it hot, jewel tones and metallic accents rule.’

Next comes Furnishings, an inspiring mix of old and new, and serious and fanciful, all topped with a big dose of personality. Eclectic is an accurate adjective to define a décor that comprises the heterogeneous elements particular to the global bohemian. There is a fine line, however, between a beautifully diverse design and one that is merely chaotic.

Furniture collected over time and secondhand and vintage items are right at home here. For an exotic mood, you can feed your wanderlust for exquisite objects from around the world ––from Africa to India, Uzbekistan to Latin America and more with just a click. It has never been easier or more exciting to pack personality and global style into every space in your home. Conformity and uniformity aren’t in the boho vocabulary, but individuality is!

_The chapter on Accessories draws inspiration from many sources. The aesthetic is rooted not only in cultural artifacts but also in pieces that reflect one’s personal journey. Weaving together items from a variety of locations for a worldly look is as vital as focusing on gathering unique pieces. It’s all about mystery, charm, and the appeal of the unexpected.

Display colourful candle lanterns and include items with metallic gold or silver finishes for a crowning touch to the eclectic décor. Don’t forget nature! Vines, succulents, and other houseplants are indispensable for conjuring up the free-spirited, wanderlust feeling of bohemian design.

Fabrics, Patterns and Textures come next. Textiles from various parts of the world, like Africa, Asia, and South America reflect a well-traveled vibe and produce distinctive, culturally influenced aesthetics. Much like a good piece of artwork, fabrics can make a room. This book is filled with Inspiring homes from all over the world that show the reader how to create their own Boho vibe. A book as beautiful as this, should grace your coffee table and, will make a wonderful Christmas present for a dear friend.

Global Bohemian by Fifi O’Neill, published by CICO Books (£19.99)

Photography by Mark Lohman © CICO Books

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Embroidery Now

Contemporary projects for you and your home

As we are in the dark dank days of November, at least here in the UK, I felt it was time to review a craft book that is a contemporary take on a a very old technique. A craft that you can easily practise with very little in the way of materials and equipment. Embroidery Now is a stylish hand-embroidery guide for the modern maker. The author, Jennifer Riggs, known on Instagram as @Threadhoney, walks you through the embroidery process.

Jennifer is a graphic designer and textile designer. She was taught to embroider by her grandmother when she was eight years old. It was after college that she took up embroidery again and started developing her own products and patterns. She has also collaborated with companies such as Coast, Focus Features and Comcast.

         From this book you’ll learn about the materials included in the practice, nine different stitch techniques with illustrated step-by-step instructions, and 30 individual projects designed for you to use in your home and wardrobe.

         Embroidery has a long and rich history that can be dated back to 30,000 BC, but there is now an entire movement of young people who have picked up their needles. Carrying on the tradition of their ancesters this time they’re doing it in a way that reflects modern times and their individuality.

         This book shows how to meld the old tradition of embroidery with new design concepts. Jennifer creates projects that have humour, don’t take themselves too seriously and reflect personal interests.

         Embroidery is a great way to repurpose, reuse and up-cycle old stuff and personalise treasures. It is also the perfect craft to carry around with you, as it takes up very little space.

         This book is a delight and perfect for both new and experiences embroiders alike. Included are a boho stitched lamp shade, embroidered accent pillow, constellation tablecloth, minimalist canvas wall art, starry stitched dresses, and much more. Buy it now and embroider some gifts to give away this Christmas.

Embroidery Now by Jennifer Cardenas Riggs (Hardie Grant £14.99) Photography ©Nassima Rothacker

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Nudinits by Sarah Simi

A Naughty Knitted Noel published by Collins and Brown at £9.99

Have yourself a very merry Christmas with the bare bottomed inhabitants of woolly bush.

When this book landed on my desk I felt that I’d journeyed back in time to the land of Benny Hill, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, where innuendo was the norm and political correctness didn’t exist.

Sarah Simi, the author, is the creator of the acclaimed ‘nudits’  Tickled Pink the world’s first all knitted animation. She is also the author of nudist: Bare bottomed fun from the village of Woolly Bush.

A long time ago a publisher told me, that the only way to make money from nonfiction books was to write on sex, knitting or food. Sarah seems to have done all three in one book.

 A Naughty Knitted Noel follows the nude knitted villagers as they go about their celebrations. Nuts are cracked, Bernard sugars his plums, Barbara gets her hands around a hot toddy and of course the vicar takes great pleasure in pounding away on his organ.

         It’s a festive fun time in the village of Woolley Bush: the twinkling lights are on, a big bird is in the oven and a couple of plum puddings are steaming away- time to sit down and have a quick stiff one with a copy of the Radio Twines – only with no clothes on.

         Included are over 25 exclusive knitting patterns from the world of nudinits. There’s a large fairy for the Christmas tree. Naughty baubles, an excited Ballinger champagne, gherkins, a lavish roast turkey platter a giant cheeky gingerbread man and woman are all included.

         Stuffed full of British eccentricity bare bottoms and some rather large double enténdrés, this is a perfect gift for a knitter with a good sense of humour, or you can knit the scenes yourself ready for a little Christmas merriment.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

The Mindful Maker

35 creative Fabric Projects to Focus the Mind and soothe the soul

by Clare Youngs

Published by Cico Books £12.99

With Mindfulness being so much of the current zeitgeist and crafting snapping, close behind, on its heels, this book is both brilliantly timed in its publication date and at the same time utterly engaging.

Squeezy Kitty

Having interviewed Clare for my Meet the Makers series I knew this book would be a treat to read and to use. Clare is a ‘one off’ an original, her ideas are fun, her designs good and she comes up with items you actually want to create.

Indigo woven mat

         As Clare says in her introduction

‘Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years. There has been much talk about slowing down, enjoying the moment, and leading a less stressful life. Let’s face it life can be pretty hectic. The day to day whirlwind of work, families, household chores, and keeping up a social life while rushing around needing to do things and be places can take a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. At the same time, we are being bombarded by constant imagery, messages and content from our digital devices-we need time out. Taking up a craft can be one way of relieving that stress and tension.‘

Latch hook pillow

         When you make something your mind is focused, and often the action you are doing is repetitive, which is soothing –almost meditative-pushing out any negative thoughts you may have. It is all about getting the flow. This is the perfect state between concentration and action. When you are there in the zone, the everyday world drops away and any stress and worries along with it.

         Clare is a believer in making new things from old, using what you have and adapting old fabrics to counteract a throwaway society, and all her designs have a Scandinavian-inspired, modern aesthetic.

         The book includes machine sewing, punch needling, embroidery, weaving, macramé, printing and much more. Many of the projects can be carried with you when you are travelling. This is a great way to keep calm when all around you are less so.

Embroidered Shirt

There is a chapter on the Mindful home that includes a throw, a mat, bowls, a lamp and a quilt. There are thoughtful gifts and tactile gifts for children and some wonderful inventive wall art. The book is beautifully illustrated by Clare’s husband, Ian and shot by Joanna Henderson. As I was about to review this book and my daughter saw it on my desk she said she wanted it. So my advice is buy 2 copies one for you, and one for your daughter!

The Mindful Maker by Clare Youngs, published by CICO Books (£12.99)

Photography by Joanna Henderson © CICO Books

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.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

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.