Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Want to Master the Art of Punch Needle And make accessories for you and your home?

Look no further than the book Punch Needle

by Arounna Khounnoraj

Published by Hardie Grant £14.99

Photographs by Catherine Frawley

Punch needle is the very modern take on rag rugging, it uses  a tool to punch yarn or strips of fabric into a stretched base fabric to create a series of stitches. In the same way that you embroider or cross stitch over a printed or drawn design, so you can create your own needle punched pieces of work.

         Having just been to the Autumn Winter 2019  home ware collections, this craft is so on trend and this book  will enable you to make some of those fabulous textural, soft products yourself.

         The author, Arounna Khounnoraj is a great pair of hands to help us master the art of needle punching. She has a masters degree in fine art and in 2002 set up, with her husband John Booth,  her multi-disciplinary  studio Bookhou in Toronto.

         Together they explore a variety of printing and embroidery techniques through making utilitarian objects such as bags, home goods  and textiles.

         Inspired by the seemingly never-ending ways you can combine different stitches to create contemporary homeware, Arounna has been instrumental in the current modern punch needle renaissance.

         The book opens with an overview of the fundamentals as Arounna teaches in her studio workshops. As a result the ‘how to’ sections are as simple and clear as possible. Most projects only have two components – the punching and the making. Each project has a design drawing, and step by step instructions, for both the punching or hooking element of the work, as well as the means to turn the punched pieces into a wide variety of different items. There are charts featured throughout to help recreate the designs given in the book.

There is also a web site at bookhou.com/pages/patterns so that you can download patterns if you are nervous about drawing them freehand. The tools and materials sections are small, as so little is required of this craft. You are shown how to stretch a frame and how to transfer and image. You are guided on how to create the stitches and how to fid inspiration and design your own patterns. The finished projects are lovely and once you pick up this book, you will want to be making.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Print Play

Screen printing inspiration for your life and home

Jessie Wright & Lara Davies

Published by Hardie Grant

Published by Hardie Grant

Print Play is the perfect description of this book. It is about printing and and at the same time playful and fresh.

The authors Jess Wright and Lara Davies are “Home-Work” – two textile designers and screen printers from Melbourne, Australia. The creative duo have worked together for the past 7 years teaching screen printing and design, as well as bringing their own colourful textile designs to life! Jess and Lara’s obsession with colour and pattern is tangible and is evident in everything they create! Enthusiastically converting ideas from their imagination to reality (usually with music playing in the background), the pair produce screen printed textile prints that are thoughtful and fun.

Adding a little objet d’art to the simplest everyday items, these textiles become functional and are turned into tote bags, make up bags, cushions and even wallpaper. The book opens with a really great contents page, a real appetite wetter, with small images of some of the projects you can make.

The instructions for printing are very clear and easy to follow. There is a section on different kinds of inks, things to consider when choosing colours, and both the authors describe their own preferences when it comes to colour and design and they also show their own design processes.

You are told about creating an inspiration board and then you start on the projects that on the whole are easy and incredibly effective.

This is hand holding at its best. A really great book especially if you are new or inexperienced when it comes to printing.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Bowerbird

Creating beautiful interiors with the things you collect

By Sibella Court

This book was published a couple of years ago and it is one of those I love to go back to time and again as a visual source book.

In BOWERBIRD, Sibella reveals her approach to collecting and collections. She shows how to procure the elements of a collection, how to organize and store them, and how to display them in creative and ever-changing ways. With the help of BOWERBIRD, you will view your belongings in a whole new way.

What is a bowerbird?

‘A bowerbird is an Australian native bird that builds a reed-y ground nest and goes to extraordinary lengths to decorate it with ‘stolen’ goods and found objects such as shells, bones, pegs and shiny milk caps. I have been referred to as a bowerbird, and like to think of myself as a finder, keeper & curator of collections & beautiful things.’ Sibella Court

Bowerbird is an exquisite inspirational book of beautifully styled selected and collated collections. As the author says

‘Think of each chapter as its own Cabinet of Curiosities. Although my ‘collections’ are loosely tied and not dictated by discipline as a museum cabinet may be, I like to consider all objects as significant and of equal importance regardless of rarity, value or acquirement. They are based on memory, relationship, experience, ‘the find’, the hunt and location.’

Sibella shows you how easy it is to create an emotive interior, to be surrounded by the things you love & treasure, and make any environment a reflection of you. By looking at the collections in the book she is hoping it will inspire you to start your own collections.

Collecting & fossicking

‘As a bowerbird, I do get fixated on things and enjoy the focus it brings to shopping expeditions and forages through markets. I have never tired of this, and have a love of early morning jambon baguettes & cafe au lait whilst scouring & scrambling the trestle tables and back of vans at Porte de Vanves or other such markets, finding treasures & pre-loved goods: textiles, porcelain, lampshades, ephemera, tableware, stylist-wares, cutlery, small furniture pieces and other flotsam & jetsam’.

Objects can be found in many places from beaches and forests to shops, markets, dealers, auctions, sidewalks the internet and friends.Be prepared to be on the lookout. Different things can motivate you with collecting; it may be the space you are in, it may be a certain period of history or new ideas, or a visit to a museum, historic house or gallery.

The book opens with a chapter called Toolbag & Tacklebox

These items are the basic tools & tackle you’ll need to help you organize & display your collections. They are collections within themselves.

They are utilitarian, beautiful in their simplicity and can add to your display – and include the hand-forged exposed nail your art hangs from, vessels en masse to house your natural history finds, lead pencils sharpened with knives to write on your labels and walls, glass domes to create your mini 3D worlds, the perfect string to holdup flags, kites, lights & anything else that needs to hang, as well as all different types & colours of tape.

The other chapters in the book are divided into the following categories, beach combing, objects trouve, zoologie/entomology, tinctures, apothecary &alchemy, smiths & tinkers draper & mills, ephemera, honest & humble, oddities & curiosities, magic, tricks & lucky dips and finally where she sources her collections and the books she looks to for inspiration.

The images are beautifully shot by Sibella’s brother Chris Court.

Published in the UK by Hardie Grant

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Craftfulness

Mend yourself by making things

By Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin

Published by Quercus books

As somebody who is a craft author and maker of many years, when I saw the title and strap line of this book it resonated with me. 

In the introduction the authors, both makers, describe how they realized that craft is their therapy.

‘ Working with my hands to make a thing-whether it’s a sketchbook or a piece of weaving or drawing –fulfils some essential function of me. It feels predestined, it’s a part of my DNA. I can’t imagine not having a project on the go. There would be a hole in my life, a sense that there is something I should be doing. When I’m making I am focused, resolved, connected to the work I am shaping. Afterwards I feel refreshed, invigorated even, and always more energetic for what is going on around me. I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I’m making, I can do all the other things being alive requires of me. I equate my daily craft practice with, if anything, meditation.” Azru Tahsin, editor, crafter and one of the authors of this book.

         The co-author Rosemary Davidson describes being surround with materials from which to make as a small child. Her grandmother was a seamstress and so Rosemary had access to beads feather and threads from a very early age.

“When I’m making I have room to think. And to do my daydreaming.” she says.

         Neither woman wishes to set up a business crafting things so they wondered why do they craft. This book comes up with some very plausible of the answers.

         ‘ We make things because we enjoy it and because our crafts make us feel better. It is when we return to our sewing, knitting, bookbinding or weaving that we achieve moments of calm. When our energy is low, making something energizes us. Making reaches into the place where ideas are sparked and where problems are resolved.’

          The authors admit that they are not craft experts, or feel particularly ‘artistic’ in the conventional sense of the word. They both work as freelance editors, but it is by being menders, dabblers and gung-ho experimenters that they are convinced there are health benefits to be had by practicing as often as possible a craft that inspires and challenges.

‘Through making and mending things, we contend that you are also potentially making and mending yourself’.

 The book is divided into three sections. The first, and for me the most fascinating part, explores what is meant by creativity and the importance of craft in our lives. The authors explore the latest research on how working with your hands and making things can have a huge impact on your mental well-being and happiness.

         The second section of the book deals with how to deal with negativity, how to stretch your imagination and flex your fingers.   The final part of the book has a projects section that gives techniques for a number of crafts including weaving on a frame, knitting, drawing making a simple clay pot and darning and mending. There is lots of helpful advise including inspirational web sites and a recommended reading list.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Fat Quarter : Toys

25 Projects to make from short lengths of fabric

By Susie Johns

Published by GMC Publications

Fat Quarter Toys is the latest addition to a fabulous and popular series of stash – busting sewing books. There are 25 cute and colourful toys and games to make for young children, all from fat quarters or fabric scraps to make use of your stash.

         Each project is accompanied by step-by-step instructions and beautiful accompanying photography, and there is the usual useful tools and techniques section for those who are new to sewing. The toys are quick and straightforward to make and none of them require any specialist skills or expensive materials.

         This book is perfect for using left over scraps of fabric or even repurposing old clothes that might otherwise go into land fill.

The projects make great gifts or can be made quickly and easily to sell at charity events. Included in the projects are a tiger rattle, rabbit cuddle blanket, teddy bear, fox in a sleeping bag, fishing set, bean bags, stacking rings, memory game, alphabet letters, number cubes, rag doll, picnic blankets and more.

Susie Johns is a designer, teacher and craft workshop leader. She has written dozens of craft books and works regularly for consumer craft magazines in the UK.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Extra Ordinary Interiors by Rockett St George

Published by RPS

Photography by Debi Treloar 

Rockett St George was founded in 2007 by long time friends Lucy  St George and Jane Rockett. it was their shared passion for black clothes, flea markets, Manchego cheese, travel, Tom Hardy and (of course) interiors that cemented their friendship.

Ten years down the line, they are still best friends and still love a good car boot sale but have also learnt a huge amount about how to create show-stopping interiors. In this book, they share their decorating mistakes along with their triumphs, they guide you through tricky decision making, and offer top tips on how to achieve magical, surprising and inviting homes.

The book is for your own personal use, with the goal of motivating you to be adventurous and plan properly so you can achieve an interior that dreams are made of. In between each chapter, there is interior inspiration from beautifully photographed houses and apartments owned by their friends and colleagues, as well as their own homes.

Decisions and how and why you make them.

‘With so many fabulous options available to us nowadays, choice can be a bit of a challenge. And when it comes to making choices about how to decorate our home, we all want to get it right first time round.

Some people spend hours deliberating over colours, styles and textures while others find it easy to reach a resolution. Regardless of which category you fall into, we believe that making decorative choices should be fun; a pleasurable process that fulfills your creative needs and leads to a satisfying conclusion. The result should be a home that creates a sense of wellbeing and rooms that makes you smile every time you walk through the door. This, my friends, is why ‘Make it Personal’ is the first chapter in this book. Get things wrong and you could spend a long time regretting your decorating decisions.

Indeed, Jane once had her entire bedroom wallpapered at great expense only to arrive home and absolutely hate the result. The wallpaper was patterned, colourful and gorgeous, but Jane didn’t feel comfortable in the room. In fact, she felt irritated and edgy; exactly how you don’t want to feel in your place of rest. If only Jane had asked herself a few simple questions, she could have avoided making an expensive mistake. In fact, she ended up having to pay to have the whole room done again.

We now know exactly where she went wrong. Jane rushed her decision, listened to other people’s opinions and was influenced by a trend that was splashed all over magazines and blogs at the time. Although she loved the design she had picked, she didn’t take into account her personal style, the way she used her bedroom, or the atmosphere that she was hoping to create.

If Jane had analyzed her personal style and the ways in which she spends time in her room before making her choice, it would have been obvious where the whole thing was heading. Here’s what she should have focused on:

• _She loves a calm, gentle environment

• _She doesn’t wear colour or bold pattern

• _She likes a rock ’n’ roll twist, whether it be zips on her clothes, stars on her jacket or snakeskin on her boots.’

In summary, you could say that Jane is drawn to a clean, tailored look with a dash of punk thrown in. Her bedroom is a place she likes to indulge herself – somewhere to escape during the weekend for an hour or two in order to read, relax or grab a sneaky snooze. It was never going to be the right place for high-energy patterns and colours.

The good news is that there was a happy ending. Jane’s second choice of a subtle snakeskin wallpaper in natural hues created the tranquil atmosphere that she craved but it has a cool twist that makes her smile. The Moroccan cushions and wedding blanket draped over the bed head provide a gently exotic and modern ethnic feel that’s luxurious and calming. So she got there in the end!

We hope our first piece of advice will prevent you from making the same mistake that Jane did. What we are suggesting is that you have a good long think about who you are, what makes you happy and how you live your life. We will be encouraging you to ask yourself some questions about your personality and unique individual style. Don’t worry – there are no wrong answers here, this is not a test. The questions are just a tool to help you analyze your tastes and needs so you can make the right decisions when it comes to designing your home. But remember – you need to be honest with yourself in order to get the home that you really want. ‘

Now go and find a pen or pencil and a large piece of paper, pour yourself a glass of wine, relax and write down the answers to the following questions. If you share your home with a partner, you should answer the questions together.

1 Write down five words that describe your personality, e.g. organized, eccentric, energetic, naughty, serious, sporty, thoughtful, musical, quiet, etc.

2 Write down five words that describe the way you dress, e.g. slick, colourful, monochrome, tailored, boho, rock ’n’ roll, seductive, suited and booted, etc.

3 Write down five things that make you happy. This could be anything at all, from the obvious things such as spending time with family and friends to more subtle concepts such as particular smells or feeling the sand between your toes.

You now have the key words that describe your personality down on paper, it is time to consider the room you wish to decorate. The way we spend time in the various rooms in our homes varies enormously. The atmosphere we want in the kitchen, for instance, will be very different to the aesthetic required in the bedroom. So there are just a couple more questions to answer.

1 Write down five activities that you would like to do in this room (ok, this may be quite hard for the bathroom but give it a go!).

2 Think of five words that describe the way you want to feel in this room. For example, you might want to feel indulgent, relaxed, peaceful and sexy in your bedroom or sociable, organized and cheerful in the kitchen.

A whole page (or more) of words that describe you, and your taste , and the function of the room that you want to decorate. You can use these words to determine the right decorative style both for your personality and for your lifestyle. The combination of different styles might be surprising, but they will be right for you. They will provide you with a style template for your home and you can combine them with your room results to achieve exactly the right look for each space.

Having sorted out the basic priorities the pair then give you their top interior inspiration sources and then go on to talk lighting, colours and style spots. By this, they mean a focal point that grabs the eye. A style spot is a grouping of furniture, artwork and lighting that fits beautifully together and creates impact. When planning a room, we encourage people to split the space up into sections such as the fireplace, the seating area, the entrance and so on, then to consider each one as an individual style spot.

They give tips on using the space you have made look so beautiful.

1 Always maximize neutral light, take down heavy curtains and allow the day light to flood in.

2 Don’t automatically push furniture up against the walls. Try placing it in the middle of the room as this gives the illusion of more space

3 Never arrange your seating around the television.

5 Beds should always have a view if you don’t have one create a style spot to look at (perhaps a dressing table or chaise longue.

4. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of lighting

6 Ensure that every seat has a view too. There should be a beautiful style spot to to please the eye wherever you sit.

7 In the kitchen take advice from the professionals with regard to layout space and storage. Then adapt the plans to suit your style.

8 Creative storage -and lots of it is essential. Think tall kitchen cabinets, beds with drawers beneath and capacious cupboards. How can you have a beautiful interior if you haven’t got somewhere to hide all the things you don’t want out on display?

 9 If you don’t love it, upcycle it, swap it or recycle it.

10 Keep mixing it up

There are many more tips too. This highly recommended book is both beautiful and practical and will probably inspire extreme home envy so sorry about that, but enjoy.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

DIY for Dog Lovers

36 P-awsome Canine Crafts

By Kat Roberts

Published by Lark

This is a fun and practical book written by the author of Crafting for Cat Ladies. So if dogs are not your thing you can go and get her other book.

She opens the book with the introduction

         “ My dog inspires me daily with her loyalty, humour and love. Sharker greets me when I return home after work, always joyful.”

 The book opens with the usual techniques tips and materials. As this is a multi craft book there are quite a few of these. There is a mixture of items for your dog and items inspired by dogs. The first chapter called Home includes silhouette portraits of dogs, paw printed stamped gift wrap, a banner and a bone shaped Welcome mat.

The next chapter has accessories including a journal, a fido phone case, a mans best friendship braclet and a Dachshund Shopping Tote.

There are fashion items including Dalmation shoes, a canine clutch and paw print elbow patches. There are fun ideas for DIY dog themed entertaining and finally a chapter on items that you can make for your dog including a name tag, a dog coat, a dog bed, and an up-cycled dog toy.

If you love dogs, have a sense of fun and also love to craft these projects will definitely fit the bill!