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!

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Baskets

Projects, techniques and inspirational designs for you and your home

Tabara N’Diaya

Published by Quadrille £14.99

Tabara grew up in Paris but her family originally came from Senegal a country known for its beautiful Senegalese baskets made from local grasses and coloured strings. In 2017, with her sister, she launched La Basketry, a home ware brand  designed in collaboration with a group of female basket-weavers from Ngaye Mkeka.

         In this, her first book ,she shines a light on the traditional craft of making baskets. However her contemporary designs fit in perfectly with the modern home.

         The book opens with examples of the history and culture of basket making around the world. This is a craft where you need very little in the way of tools and equipment so it is relatively inexpensive to set up. The book is divided into four main types of basket, based on the materials used, grass, cane, rope and twine.

In each chapter the materials are explained and as we now live in the days of the internet they are easy to come by.

         As well as basic techniques being covered the reader is given information on how to display woven pots and how to make them lids.

         I feel the strongest sections of the book are on the grass made baskets and the rope baskets. The techniques used for both are similar and involve turning and sewing although in the case of rope, the baskets are made using an ordinary domestic sewing machine.

         Tabara does basket making for pleasure in her spare time.

“ Basket making allows me to zone out. Hours pass while all I care about is transforming some grasses into a beautiful object, forgetting about my phone and my to do list and just focusing on the present moment.”

book review, Book Reviews

Amigurume eats

Make Cute Scented Crochet foods

 Allison Hoffman

Published by Lark Books

Before I was sent this book to review I had never heard of the word Amigurumi . I did what you would have done and looked it up on Google. It is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small, stuffed yarn creatures. It is a portmanteau of the Japanese words ami, meaning ‘crotched or knitted’ and nuigurumi, meaning ‘stuffed doll’.

         The last book I reviewed on crochet, was on creating cacti and succulents and I thought that was highly eccentric. However making scented crochet food replica’s has to beat it for pure bonkersness.

         On this crafty culinary crochet adventure American craft author Allison Hoffman takes you through a day’s worth of super-cute meals and snacks.

So you can start your day with mini replicas of pancakes and bacon, choose the fillings for your favourite lunchtime sandwich, and sit down to a plate of crocheted spaghetti and meatball, salad and a slice of pie.

         There are also patterns for interactive accessories such as a lunchbox that opens and closes. There are saucepans, a frying pan and spatula to make as well as a tea pot.

         You are given different ways of scenting the projects using wax melts, scents, herbs and spices.

 The projects are small and simple to make even if you are a novice to crochet, this is a really fun book.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Crafted A compendium of Crafts:

New, Old & Forgotten

By Sally Coulthard

Published by Quadrille and imprint of Hardie Grant

The craft of knitting

This book is to crafts people what a dictionary is to a writer,  a very useful tool, full of vital information. It reminds me of the 1970’s Whole earth catalogue and the 1980’s  John Seymour National Trust book ‘Forgotten Household Crafts’. This is a book for the twenty first century. It is concise and engaging and not at all ‘worthy’.

Calligraphy

People love to make things constantly and compulsively. It seems we just can’t help ourselves. As the author Sally says ‘Whether it’s early humans smashing cobbles into cutting tools or Napoleonic sailors carving miniature ships from scavenged bones, the drive to create is one of our most defining and cherished traits. But humans are also pragmatic. They like to create things with a purpose, a use.’ Throughout history, people have invented, perfected and shared these different techniques – from making paper to weaving baskets – so that today, we have a world culture that’s rich with craft in all its different forms.

Blacksmithing

This is a book that celebrates the history, breadth and skill of crafts and the people who practice them.

One idea about craft is that the intention is different from, say, art. With art, the maker usually wants to say something abstract

or meaningful with the object he or she is producing. The object’s use is secondary. With craft, it’s usually the other way round. The maker is setting out to craft something functional and useful, first and foremost, whether it’s a pot, a rug or a horseshoe.

Wheelwright

Craft skills are also predominantly manual. Crafters make things by hand. This careful handcrafting gives objects their other essential quality – uniqueness. While crafters can produce objects that look very similar – a potter can produce thousands of a single plate design – each is subtly different.

Glass blowing

DOES CRAFT MATTER? As Sally says ‘On a personal level, the process of being creative and making something by hand involves using parts of my brain that other work can’t reach. When you craft something, there’s an intimate conversation that goes on between brain, eyes, body and hands, an exchange that’s often totally instinctive and unselfconscious. You can lose hours, without noticing it; it’s like meditating without trying. When you make things by hand, there’s also dialogue between you and the materials. All your senses are brought into play. The statistics are hugely encouraging. Not only is craft cool – crafters are younger than the average population – but when it comes to gender, craft is increasingly blind. Half of all painters, illustrators, wood-crafters are men. And they also make up a third of all knitters. In the same breath, women are increasingly taking up traditionally male craft occupations, becoming blacksmiths, wood workers, bookbinders and

printers.’

According to a recent craft council report :

Craft can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness and even dementia, according to research. Craft courses have been prescribed to patients since the dawn of occupational therapy in the late 19thcentury, with basketry used to relieve anxiety and physical ailments in soldiers during the first-world war. 

Basket weaving

Research published by University College London’s MARCH mental health network – formed in 2018, with members including the Crafts Council and the Museums Association – shows that engaging with the visual arts can reduce reported anxiety, and that visiting museums can protect against dementia’s development. ‘Cultural activities encourage gentle movement, reduce social isolation, and lower inflammation and stress hormones such as cortisol,’ says the report’s author, Dr Daisy Fancourt. ‘The arts are linked with dopamine release, which encourages cognitive flexibility, and they reduce our risk of dementia.’

Lace making

         The book covers makers spaces, buying and displaying craft, and a chapter on endangered crafts.

Spinning

While lots of crafts are in rude health, there are a significant number of traditional skills that are in danger of disappearing altogether. Many of these crafts are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old, and make up the fabric of our material culture. From dry stone walls to clog making, basket weaving to coach building, lots of these time honoured crafts are at risk of dying out due to lack of apprentices coming into the trade or the effect of cheaper, mass-produced goods.’ Crafted is so on trend, and at last the government has  decided to do something about the lack of apprenticeships.  The book covers the following disciplines and all the sub divisions within them. Paper, pen and print, textiles, cloth and leather, wood willow and nature, pottery glass and stone, metal. There is a very useful section on craft organisations and a section on poisons used in crafts.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Louise Lockhart. This is certainly a book that earns its position on my book shelf.