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!

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.

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, 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

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in the Cotswolds

A new blaze of colour in yet another new book this summer from Kaffe Fassett. I do so love this man’s eye for colour, and this book doesn’t disappoint.

Folded Ribbon

20 Designs for Patchwork and Quilting

Kaffe Fassett

“ This book is really another homage to the long, rich history of the folk art of quilts. I picked Hidcote Gardens for the location, for the photography and because it was the first British Garden to open my eyes to the English genius for creating great theatrical gardens. I hope in this humble book you get enough of an impress ion of my favourite English Garden.” Kaffe Fassett

Sunny Zig Zag

In this twenty first installment of Kaffe Fassett’s ever-popular series of patchwork and quilting books, Kaffe has chosen to show off his latest range of fabrics by revisiting many of his favourite medallion quilt blocks.

Photographed on location at the world-famous Hidcote Manor Garden in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside, these delectable quilts find their perfect setting among the brilliant flower borders, avenues of trees, and stunning architectural features that make Hidcote one of the most visited gardens in the UK.

Autumn Chintz

Medallion quilts have universal appeal and the simple framework of the medallion design makes a great vehicle for Kaffe’s eye-catching colour combinations in his brilliant range of fabric designs.

Malachite Jupiter

Assisted by his team of designers and makers, Kaffe has created an exquisite and varied range of 19 medallion designs, among them the rich Berry Ice Cream quilt, photographed in Hidcote’s world famous Red Border; the dramatic Dark Gameboard, photographed against the geometric precision of Hidcote’s famous topiary hedges; and soft Flowery Jar, its pink and blue themed design echoing the colours of the flowers in Hidcote’s early summer border.

Lavender Ice Cream

Photographed on location by Debbie Patterson

Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in the Cotswolds provides all the basic instructional text, diagrams, and templates to make the quilts, plus a section on basic patchwork techniques for less experienced quilters.

9781641550840 | PB with flaps | £25 | Taunton | distributed in the UK by GMC publications