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


Make Yourself at Home

Design Space to discover your true self. By Moorea Seal

9781632170354.jpgAt first glance this looks like a very ‘On Trend’ interiors book with its shabby chic vibe and copper accents, but it is much more than just a decorating book, it is a book that let’s you into the authors life, lifestyle and innermost thoughts and encourages you  to design your space to suit you and your life style.

There are practical and inspirational parts to this book that is divided into chapters, by room. The living room for example has an introduction on defining your space and yourself. The kitchen is described as a place to find peace in process. As Moorea Seal says it isn’t being the best that interests her, or what brings her joy, but it’s learning and experimenting that cultivates fulfillment and pride.Make Yourself at Home by Moorea Seal_Page 39_Photography by Marissa Maharaj

Dotted throughout the book are ‘makes’ projects, two of which are shown here the herb rack and the rug rail.

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For me the most interesting part of the book is the inclusion of designers and inspiring women friends of Moorea, who let us into their own particular take on interior styling.

There is Diana La Counte of who surrounds herself with fuschia pink and is a style writer. Diana adds her tips for adding joy and humor to your home. For example:

“Paint a door an unexpected colour to make it feel like you are walking into a creative space. It makes guests wonder. What’s in there?

Brandy Brown, a Seattle creative designer, graphic designer and blogger

Has a signature style she describes as French provincial meets modern contemporary. She gives the reader tips for imbuing a space with Elegance and whimsy. “ Keep lines and use symmetry (e.g., two of the same chairs or throw pillows, booked grouped on a shelf by colour).

Graphic designer and also an interior designer and craiglist curator is Brooke Eide from Her signature style is modern bohemian eclectic meets folksy Texan ranch. She gives lots of tips for thrifting on Craigslist. The best and first is ‘Be Patient”

Friend Kim Kogan talks about multipurpose workspaces. Her signature style is functional minimalism meets feminine bohemian. As well as running her own jewellery business she also mentors young women who wish to set up their own businesses. Her tips are about being a leader in your own life.

The signature style of Erin Perlez Hagstrom is celebrating vintage and handmade through adaptable design. She is a freelance writer and blogger @CaliVintage. She gives us tips for buying pieces to last a lifetime.

The most famous blogger in this book is probably Laura Gummerman from ‘A beautiful mess’ her great love is plants, particularly cactuses, palms and tropical plants. She also likes artworks that celebrate the summer and the outside. She gives the reader tips for Decorating with plants.

If you are nosy about what makes people tick and want to glean a little about how they became successful this is the book for you.

Published by Sasquatch Books in the USA and distributed by GMC publications in the UK for £19.99



The Art of Living with Nature

50 beautiful projects to bring the outside in.

This week is British flower week so I make no excuse for reviewing a second book by the talented Willow Crossley9781782494539.jpg.   She is currently in the news with her new venture a Cotswold inn. The inn shows off her imaginative and playful approach to interiors. Swan inn


Her approach to home decorating using natural artifacts has the same playful and original quality about it as her eclectic interiors. Don’t expect a book of formal floral arrangements. Expect the unexpected, combinations of pebbles, shells, drift wood. The use of decorative tin cans, test tubes, wine boxes and vegetables instead of traditional vases.


Combining her passions for the great outdoors and natural beauty, Willow shows you how to make the most of your flower-shop purchases, beach-combing, bounty, home grown harvests and hedgerow finds.


The book contains innovative ways to decorate your home, ranging from Hellebores displayed in test tubes to wreaths made from Hydrangeas. Filled with tips and useful techniques to make the most out of your blooms this is a fun filled informative book.


The Art of Living with Nature by Willow Crossley, published by CICO Books (£14.99)

Photography by Emma Mitchell © CICO Books


House of Cards

Beautiful greetings cards to make from expert card designers, by ‘Just a Card’ campaign founder Sarah Hamilton


This excellent book celebrates the very best in contemporary greeting card design. The ten makers featured talk about their work practice, show their studios and also present a project for the reader to make.

Having said that, the book is not prescriptive but instead encourages the reader to use their own imagination to create cards using the techniques  shown.

The book opens with a chapter on the history of the greeting card and how charity cards came into being. The author then discusses where to find inspiration.

There is a chapter on selling cards including very practical tips, such as the most economic size to make them, choosing envelopes to enhance the card and putting your details on the back of the card.

Most informative and very useful is the chapter written by Jehane Boden Spiers, who as well as being an artist in her own write also runs a company representing artists to publishers. Her company is called ‘Yellow House Art Licensing’ and she has some very good artist /designers on her books. By licensing work if it is successful it can generate a very good income stream for the artist.

The techniques covered include letterpress printing, silkscreen printing, decoupage, lino cut printing, paper cutting and textile foiling.HouseofCards_HR_RGB (#31ECC

Sarah’s own work is inspired by colour, nature, and mid century design. She started her own working life designing cards for Paperchase, The Conran Shop, and Habitat.


This is a book well worth adding to your craft library and is excellent value.

Published by Pavilion £14.99



‘Folded Book Art’ by Clare Youngs, Book Review


35 beautiful projects to transform yourbooks-create cards, display scenes, decorations, gifts and more.

I have been fascinated by book art since it first appeared on the scene about fifteen years ago. In those days it was more a technique used by artists but in the last few years it has become very popular in the craft world. It looks very difficult to do, particularly the folded books where an image appears as if by magic.


What Clare Youngs has managed to do is to show her readers how to make some inspired book art pieces. For those of you who love books and think it is a travesty to cut them up, it is worth considering what Clare says in her introduction.

‘ Four years ago I wrote Book Art. In the introduction I talked about my love of books and how the decision to cut or fold doesn’t come easy. I still find this hard, but I have made a few rules for myself: I never cut up a rare book and I only use tatty and damaged books or samples that would end up being recycled.’

The book covers three main techniques:

Folded books includes many ideas, here are a few of my favorites: an ampersand, a butterfly a bird a knot and a star.

The making scenes section , has a little mermaid, a fairy tale castle, honey comb and bees and mushrooms and ferns, there is even knitted paper.

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The chapter on refashioning pages includes brilliant origami slip covers that look very like, much of the ceramics currently in the shops. I love the little sailing boats and the baby elephant on wheels. There is a lovely selection of tags to make and hydrangers.

There are templates, tools and techniques.

Clare has such a strong graphic style and having read the book I came away wanting to make everything! So I can see what I will be doing in the autumn and winter.

Folded book art by Clare Youngs published by Cico Books £14.99 www.rylandspetersandsmall

Photography by Jo Henderson © CICO Books

Why not also check out CICO’s new craft website –



‘Flourish’ by Willow Crossley Book Review

Flourish. front cover

Stunning arrangements with flowers and foliage

by Willow Crossley published by Kyle Books £19.99

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Willow Crossley is an inspired floral Stylist whose arranging style is wild and natural. As she says in the introduction to this book

‘ Foliage is the key; the more the better. I often have big containers at home filled with foliage, no flowers. In early spring, bringing in embryonic branches is magical.

In this book, I want to show you how bringing flowers into your home can be so life enhancing. I’m not saying that they have to be masterly, beautifully designed creations. Just a couple of branches or a few wispy stems in a vase makes all the difference. I want to inspire you to think differently when it comes to choosing flowers and colours’

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Willow is very generous in sharing her knowledge with her readers. She starts by giving her ‘hero’ flowers, the ones she always falls back on, those that will make the arrangement work. She divides these into seasons and adds the foliage fillers as well.

The arrangements within the book are divided into seasons and flowers types. There is a section on how to ‘condition’ flowers and keep them lasting for as long as possible. There are steps on how to create a garland. The basic tool kit and materials are given including types of twine, string raffia. Containers that will work are mentioned too. A lovely and inspired book, now where are the secateurs?

Flourish by Willow Crossley is out now. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Emma Mitchell.



‘Pure Colour’ by Jane Cumberbatch Book Review


Picking up this book with its Marjorelle blue cover, fuschia pink endpapers and acid green graphics you know you are in for a visual treat. Stylist Jane Cumberbatch has created an inspirational source of colour inspiration.

‘Decorating a room is like painting a picture.’

As Jane says ‘There is nothing more pleasurable that starting with a blank canvas and filling your home with the colours and textures that you find most pleasing.’

The book is divided into five colour palettes: blues, greens, yellows, pinks and whites.

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‘The garden, the sea and the landscape are our colour charts and provide a veritable paint box of inspiration. From the bean greens of the vegetable patch, to the eau de nil wash of a calm evening tide, images are stored as snapshots. The first pink rosebud on a May morning is as perfect a shade for a wallpaper border as it is a cue for a lipstick colour or fabric for a long swirly summer skirt.’

So whether you are looking to transform your whole house, or simply for a few quick and easy ideas to brighten up a neglected corner, you are sure to find inspiration within these pages. Jane’s own notes and musings read like a diary and you feel as though you have been allowed into someone’s secrets thought processes. The book is packed full of stunning, evocative photographs.

I particularly like her rhubarb and custard, yellow and pink, combination. This is not a pairing that I would have thought of, but it works. There are practical examples throughout, whether you prefer to experiment with adding small splashes of contrasting colour to bring life to a room, or try a softer, more harmonious scheme. The book is packed full of everyday ideas to enable you to furnish your home with freshness and simplicity.