Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Material World: The Modern Craft Bible by Perri Lewis

I've been trying to write this post for what seems like forever, but have been so busy working / coughing / cursing my tonsils / wiping bottoms / turning thirty / watching back-to-back episodes of Fringe that I just haven't had the time. A few spare hours yesterday evening meant that I was finally able to sit down with the laptop, and type up my review of the best craft book that's come into my sticky little hands for quite a while.

Let me just start by saying that this book is utterly immense, and I'm a little bit in love with it. This is a craft book with a difference - almost every crafty tome I've ever read has a pretty straightforward layout of two parts; a series of techniques and instructions followed by a section full of step-by-step projects. There's not usually an awful lot to just sit and read, and while beautiful photography is obviously an essential part of any craft manual, I always feel like they're missing.... something. Material World breaks the mould completely, and ticks every box on my list of requirements for the 'perfect craft book'.

The one thing that makes Material World unique is that it's absolutely stuffed with fifteen completely different crafts - most books are written to celebrate one individual technique, be it crochet or cross stitch, but Perri Lewis has taken fifteen of her favourites, and made them accessible to everyone. From paper-cutting to leatherwork, there's a little something for everyone, and more importantly, nothing is overly complicated - instructions are written simply and concisely, and what's even more useful is that there is an indicator of how easy and how long each project will take. Personally, I've lost count of how many times I've sat down with a new project, only to find that actually, I'll need three months rather than three hours to complete it. At the end of each project, you'll find a page or so of 'extras' - further inspirational ideas on how to take your newly learned technique forward and use it around your home or wardrobe.

One of my favourite things about Material World was the 'masterclass' feature that appears within every project - pages and pages of tips, tricks and interviews from the worlds greatest crafters, from Mr. X Stitch, embroiderer extraordinaire, to Lee May Foster-Wilson, the creator of Bonbi Forest. There's nothing more inspiring or invaluable than hints from people who are at the top of their game when it comes to crafts, and I went away with a gazillion new blogs and links bookmarked on my laptop.

I mentioned at the beginning of this review, that Material World is so much more than a collection of projects, and this is the crux of what makes it such a great read. Scattered throughout the book are several short pieces of writing on various issues, from how to unlock your creativity to the introduction to craftivisim. I particularly enjoyed the piece on craft being beneficial to mental health and wellbeing, and found myself nodding along in agreement. I first began to crochet after the birth of my eldest child, from the depths of post-natal depression. As he slept, I hooked and stitched; crafting hats and blankets, and weaving the strands of my mind back together until I resembled myself again. To this day, the place I find most relaxation is curled up on the sofa, tea nearby and hook in hand - there's something about the repetition that calms me, and helps me focus my thoughts.

I love this book. I love absolutely everything about it, and I can honestly say I've never felt that way about a craft book before. Perri writes with such enthusiasm and vigour, that it's impossible not to get caught up in her love affair with crafting and making. The techniques and projects are written in such a way that a complete craft novice wouldn't be intimidated whatsoever, and I was pretty excited to see the wonderful art of macrame making an appearance - mostly because I've been wanting to try it for absolutely AGES. (Outdoors plant hangers, anyone?) In fact, I was so taken with the idea of cross-stitching a hessian bag (seriously, HOW have I not thought of this before?!), that I've already started my own stitchy-makeover. Let's just say, it's a slow progress....

Disclosure: This isn't a sponsored post, and I wasn't paid to write it. I was, however, sent the book to review, which you can purchase from all good book retailers.

Monday, 25 February 2013

charity shop triumph

It seems these days that I only ever manage to get time to blog about the latest tat rubbish bargains I find in the local charity shops - I've got about a gazillion ideas in my drafts folder, pictures on the camera, and no time to actually shuffle it all into a legible post. But hey ho, here I am again, back with yet another edition of 'look-what-I-bought-for-50p-this-week'.

The last couple of weeks have been good ones in the world of the thrift. Charity shops in Portsmouth are pretty hit-and-miss - it pretty much works out that it's all or nothing; they're either stuffed full of overpriced Primark and you come away empty handed, or it's like the second-hand equivalent of getting three cherries on a fruit machine. Lately, I've been hearing the jackpot bell inside my head an awful lot - ding, ding, ding, vintage annuals, wooden toys and retro sewing baskets galore.

I'll be removing that paper very carefully indeed.
I might as well start with the very thing that all my little treasures are sitting on - an old solid wood blanket box, lined with vintage paper. Look at that amazing floral print! I'm actually going to be removing it (and keeping it for future projects), and using the box itself as a planter in the garden. I've been spending absolutely ages finding things on freegle, freecycle and eBay to use as planters this year - I hate plastic flowerpots, and have a pretty definite idea of how I want the garden to look. Bunting, decoupage, wood, vertical planting, climbing roses... a cross between hippy-ish and recycled. This blanket box came from Sue Ryder in the city centre, and actually wasn't on sale - it was what they were using to store all the old records that were on sale. A quick bit of sweet-talking meant that I got it for the bargain price of £20 - quite expensive in charity shop prices, but when you consider that a brand new wooden planter of the same size would cost almost double that, it becomes a complete find. Plus, I've got an excellent new craft resource in the paper. Double win.

I've got a bit of a thing for sewing baskets, and mostly I manage to resist these days, but when my beady little eyes rested on this beauty, I knew it would be coming home with me. Unfortunately, it was part of the tombola raffle-thingy in the local Barnardos furniture shop - never to be defeated, I asked if they'd consider selling it, and they asked for £1.99. I felt so guilty at nicking off with one of the raffle prizes, that I actually gave them £4.00. I often wonder if I haven't quite got the gist of this thrifting lark.... When I opened it, I discovered it was stuffed full of cotton, a tape measure and some lovely vintage buttons - so definitely worth the cash.

I've had some right results with vintage comics and annuals lately as well - I'm always on the lookout for old Beanos, Dandys and suchlike, and have started to use them in crafty projects, after seeing a number of tutorials on the fab Lulastic blog. I was talking to the owner of the second-hand bookshop about using them, and was explaining how reluctant I was to cut them up, particularly when they date from the sixties or seventies, and he suggested photocopying them. I literally don't know why I haven't thought of it before - I've got a scanner and printer that mostly just sits unused in the corner... that's about to change! It also means that I can copy anything I find and then post it to other vintage fans on the blogosphere - there's nothing as good as sharing the love! I also stumbled across an old copy of 'Little Star' which is delightfully kitsch - bluebirds and pelicans and bears, oh my!

Easter is approaching, and while Benjamin will get a small amount of chocolate, I like to give the kiddos things that will last that little bit longer (and Lord knows he certainly doesn't need any extra sugar!), so I was overjoyed to find this push along wooden duck in Sue Ryder, for the princely sum of £1.50. It comes with a long stick, and will be ideal for Daisy, although under strict supervision only - those beads look worryingly throat sized!

'Thrift' spelled out in thrifted bricks. Tracy Emin, eat your heart out.
Benjamin is currently obsessed with his wooden blocks. It started when we bought him a game of Jenga, which has actually yet to be used as intended, but has been subjected to numerous bouts of chewing from Daisy and several building sessions from the little man himself. A little while later, we found another box of Jenga in a charity shop, and then last week I found a whole back of shaped wooden blocks in The Salvation Army for the teeny tiny price of £1.49. Over the last four-and-a-half years, we've been completely overrun with plastic toys, and I've just had enough. From now on, it's all about books, crafts and wood for gifts.

As usual, I'm linking up with the aceballs Missie Lizzie and the other lovely magpies for Magpie Monday. Join us!

Monday, 4 February 2013

garden based thrifts

Last weekend, I discovered that there was an Oxfam bookshop right around the corner from the market we buy our veg from every Saturday - how I've never been in there until now, I'll never know. Talk about a thrifty fail.

The inside was ah-ma-zing. Packed full of books that covered every subject, from modern fiction to vintage annuals and everything in between, there was something for everyone. Seriously, I challenge you not to fall in love with an Oxfam bookshop; rows and rows of old books jostling happily against new ones, leather covers, hardback covers, tatty paper covers - they were all there, and ripe for the picking. I ended up with a pile of about six different books, and then remembered that we're supposed to be practising frugality. Cue much sighing, and huffing and puffing while I decided on my favourite two. And a tote bag. Ahem.

You'll have noticed that a lot of my posts lately have been garden-related, and I've been reading and re-reading Alys Fowler's books lately - so well written, even a simpleton like me can understand what she's talking about - but I really wanted something a little bit chunkier for extra reference. So when I found the mahoosive RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening for a mere £3.99, there was no question that it was coming home with me. It has everything from instructions to problem solvers and handy hints, and a whole load of lovely photographs.

My second find was a book I've been waiting years to buy, and I'm so pleased that I managed to find a bargain copy in a charity shop, rather than giving in and paying a small fortune on Amazon. The beautiful Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady was bargain £2.49, and worth every penny. There are sooooo many beautiful illustrations by the author, from birds to flowers, flora to fauna, all handpainted with watercolour (I think) - I've already got grand plans to scan them into the computer and print them off to use in arty and crafty projects. Seriously, check this lot out!

After a long break from thrifting, I'm hooking up with all the other wonderful magpies over on Magpie Monday with the aceballs Missie Lizzie. Show us yer thrifts, you lovely lot!

global seesaw giveaway winner

Although the giveaway closed last week, I've been a teensy bit slack posting the results - I haven't been very well, and had a bit of an incident with a paving slab, so blogging hasn't been at the front of my mind!

So, without further ado, the winner is..... drrrr.......

Number 8 - Dilly Tante! Congratulations, an e-mail is winging it's way to you!
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