Thursday, 26 November 2015

Book Review - The Hand-Stitched Flower Garden by Search Press

ISBN 978782213017

RRP £12.99  

Published by Search Press, Oct 2015

Embroidery designs, and 20 embroidery projects (all having nature inspired features) divided into four sections:
1. spring - make 3 x haberdashery related objects, 2 x covers for items
2. summer - ideas to make 4 x practical items, also a leaf design for shirt
3. autumn - make items to compliment household functionality and decor 
4. winter - 5 fashion accessory project ideas


Author, Yuki Sugashima remembers the time she rediscovered her old box of threads and that being the trigger of the interest in embroidery craft. Her previous experience as a floral designer meant she was soon creating floral motifs in thread. 

Range of information
All the information required to make the items is condensed down to 4 pages each, or so, including photographic imagery, diagrams and the method to undertake the making. Each project has a brief introduction, a colour palette, 'you will need' information, diagrammatic instruction and photography. There is a tools, materials and technique guide, plus actual size templates at the back end of the book 9/10

Quality of information
The purpose of the short introductions are to share a few tips and to link the themes. There is opportunity to learn/use surface and dimensional stitching and bead embroidery, and though not hugely comprehensive the information does fully support the aim to do the best job at recreating Sugashima's embroidered range of items 9/10

Size and format is similar to a lifestyle/fashion magazine (not glossy). Paperback book is 23 cm Long x 18 cm Wide. Instructions are in fonts that are quite small and fine. One full paged image is included for each project and a lovely double paged feature spread appears in each section which showcases flora and fauna embroidery 8/10

Eye catching, full colour photography, images are of high quality 8/10

Contains 128 pages.  Pages numbers are labeled on each of the double paged features I mentioned in Layout to direct you over to stitching information 8/10

I haven't put needle to fabric using this book as a guide as yet so am unable to feedback specifically about the accuracy and effectiveness of the projects. This is a nicely presented book however, with some inspirational designs to embroider. The project ideas are quite traditional i.e. egg cosy, oven gloves and apron, but items such as these, when completed, could get stained easily during food preparation so the time and energy in adding hand embroidery motifs could be regarded as bittersweet if they happen to get spoiled, and if shrinkage occurs, or if dyes from the threads were to bleed out in a warm wash. Personally, I admire the skill and the work involved and I think the outcomes are very pleasing, but delicate embroidery is better applied, I feel, to items such as covers, pouches and fashion accessories. Therefore, I may set up one of the projects as a workshop theme when my craft group next meets, or make an item or two and giveaway as keepsake gifts to the same sewing friends. First, however, I need to get to grips with embroidery techniques and the contents of this book may well send me on the right road.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Diary of a New Runner

July 2015
I was looking for an activity to replace my regular attendance at an exercise class and so decided to take up running. I worked out that it had been almost 30 years since I’d last ran, so it had to be a case of building up slowly. At first it was a mix of short runs interspersed with walking this allowing time to recover, and then gradually exchanging this pattern so that runs became longer with less walking in-between. These running bursts, though just a minute or so in length, I found surprisingly tough to do.
My outlay to undertake the activity was minimal at first, so, as it was the midst of summer, I ran in running vests and joggers and I’d alternate the wearing of light weight trainers that had once served me fine for my Zumba workouts. I was running around a man-made lake which was quite exposed on a hot day and I’d be doing a circuit and a bit. I was experiencing various skeletal and muscular aches and pains around the calves and the heel areas particularly because of the feet pounding on the hardcore surface.

August 2015
A few weeks in and my running buddy and I tried a bit of cross county. We found the changes in the terrain a welcome diversion from spending times thinking about breathing techniques and the mental strain of pinpointing markers along a course we had become familiar with. Up to this stage I had been running/walking just once a week, occasionally twice a week, for around 20 minutes each time.

September/October 2015
Therefore, having had a gentle introduction to running, it was at a crucial time when certain benefits from having the regular exercise were becoming obvious and we began upping our game that I suffered an ankle sprain, which was a real set back. It took two weeks or so for the swelling to go down and three weeks of wearing an ankle support.

It was evident to me that my injury had not been the result of an ankle twist on uneven surface or anything like that, it was down to the fact I had not been wearing training shoes designed for running and my bones and the muscles around the ankles had been bearing the brunt of hard impacting. I was in quite a state, forced to limp when walking. Rightly or wrongly I continued to run with the injury as I did not want to drop off with the body conditioning, so during this set back we chose a grassy playing field to run on and we just ran round and round the perimeter. I was worried that I may have to give up running before I had really started!

October/November 2015
I must say these AirZoom Pegaus 32 Flash by Nike for women (see above) has not only allowed the opportunity to continue running before the injury was completely healed, but now it is completely better, and now I am running over a longer time and distance, these training shoes have honestly provided both the necessary cushioning and support so that now I do not even have to think about painful feet and joints, I can just pull them on and start running!

Also, my male partner, who is currently running in a pair of Men's Nike Lunarglide 7 Flash trainers agrees, that now that the seasons have changed, various locations we choose to run can be a bit muddy, and where we would surely be getting wet feet running through the grass and puddles wearing our 'wrong' trainers, both these Nike running versions have a special weather-resistant fabric which repels water and mud and are easy to clean with a bit of wet wiping.

I cannot stress enough how much I feel more 'effervescent' being better equipped for running, not just in regard to the footwear but having made further running gear purchases which has helped with coping with the various extremes.

Watch this space for running diary update in the near future!

Debs x

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Children's Christmas activities at Foyles, Birmingham

I am passing on the details of a children's activity half hour to be held at the recently opened Foyles shop, Grand Central in Birmingham early December. Designed to entertain little ones, while allowing grown-ups a short break from Christmas shopping, though this new shop has a prominent children's section to discover!
Festive themed activities, with face painting from Hannah Pink of Pink Faces. Storytime will be led by Smriti Prasadam-Halls. Smriti will be reading from her new picture book, called Santa Baby

'… Roo and Santa baby felt a tingling in their toes,they held their breath and gave a squeak as up, up, up they rose.
Then suddenly they took a dive and with one great big swoop …
Roo and Santa Baby did a GIANT LOOP-THE-LOOP!'

Date: .Saturday 5th December 2015 10:30am - 11am
VenueChildren's Department, Foyles, Unit 2A, Grand Central, Stephenson Place, Birmingham B2 4BF
Tickets: Free via RSVP. To guarantee your place at email with the number of places you wish to reserve.

Note: This is a free event but reserve your place to avoid disappointment. Note, no physical tickets will be issued, the email confirmation you receive will be your proof of booking.
On a separate note, It's...


For a chance to WIN a Hardcover copy of the book Santa Baby by Smriti Prasadam-Halls with illustrations by Ada Grey follow the entry instructions below.

To Enter: leave as a comment on this post any line from the famous Christmas song called Santa Baby written by Joan Javits and Philip Springer (The song has been covered by many artist's over time, including Eartha Kitt and more recently Taylor Swift 
(and you can click on the Taylor Swift link to find an answer to give)

Entrants will need a Google+ page or profile to leave a comment. Alternatively, email your entry to

Terms and conditions are:

Competition is open to UK residents only and entrants must be over 18

Only one entry per person

The Competition will run from Wednesday 11 Nov 2015 at 1300 GMT until Saturday 05 Dec 2015 at Midnight GMT

Entries received after the closing date will not be considered

The draw will be random

The competition is run from Not Compulsory but may appear on other social media outlets

The participant must agree to part of any reasonable promotional activity surrounding the competition

It is the responsibility of the participant to ensure their entry meets with entry requirements and is submitted online successfully

The winner will be announced on this, the competition blog post

The winner will be required to provide additional information such as a name and address

If we are unable to contact the winner within 14 days of the closing date, then we will reserve the right to select a new winner

The prize is a hardcover copy of Santa Baby by Smriti Prasadam-Halls published by Bloomsbury Children's Books

The competition winner will not be able to exchange the prize for a cash alternative, or any other reserves the right to exclude from the competition any entry that does not meet criteria, and also to change, suspend or terminate the promotion and entry period at any time. Disqualification of participants will be carried out if, for any reason, the promotion cannot be carried out fairly or if they suspect any person is manipulating entries or results, or who has acted unethically in any other way.


the Santa Baby picture book is also available to buy from Foyles online, and from Amazon in a choice of formats (click on the links)

Friday, 30 October 2015

David Finkle's Pumpkin Carving Tips

David Finkle is a World Record holding pumpkin carver known best for his pumpkin carving speed. Finkle has teamed up with Asda this season having come up with the idea to seriously creep us out! Can you name the five famous faces carved out of pumpkin flesh above? 

Apparently in a UK poll, Sir Alan Sugar has been voted the most fearsome celebrity by a third, personally I think he's just a big teddy bear, but agreed Gordon Ramsay has those hostile outbursts and Simon Cowell is known for making the odd sarcastic comment or two. Katie Hopkins is simply a wind up, and Clarkson, well, you either love or hate that kind of personality.

David Finkle Asda's official pumpkin carving partner this autumn

Here are Finkle's Five Fantastic carving tips
  • Cut out the bottom of the pumpkin not the top as this makes you pumpkin more stable. Plus it will last longer and keep its shape better
  • Try to choose a pumpkin that is lighter in colour as the skin is thinner and easier to carve
  • Preparation is key, be thorough when cleaning out the insides of the pumpkin. The cleaner it is, the brighter it will glow
  • Avoid using wax tea lights as they cook the ceiling of the pumpkin and it can get really smelly! There are now battery tea lights which are much safer... I have used red and green lights which look really spooky and will make your carving the best in the street!
  • Avoid using kitchen knives, buy a purpose made Asda pumpkin carving kit for the safest and best results.

A bit more about David Finkle's Asda project:
Each pumpkin was painstakingly created, each taking over five hours to complete to ensure the resemblance to each celebrity was accurate. Finkle comments: “It was a pleasure to create such viciously vivid reincarnations of such fearsome individuals. Asda is really going above and beyond to encourage Brits to celebrate the Halloween holiday, hopefully my creations will encourage the nation to get in the carving spirit.

Jose Mourinho, Gemma Collins, Craig Revel Horwood, Lucy Watson and Vicky Pattison join Finkle's 'Pumpkin's of Fame' below . And visit Asda's social hub to see contributions sent in from members of the public

Lastly, I thought I would share this video which has been doing the rounds on social media. It is a pumpkin carving by artist, Andy Berholtz who uses the textural qualities of the pumpkin flesh to produce amazing sculptures, not the sort that light passes through for effect, but stunningly accurate likenesses nonetheless.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Project 10 - How to make a pair of Halloween Mug Rugs

Fig 1
YOU WILL NEED (see Fig 1)
Backing material (maker used a thin cotton tweed-like fabric)
Quilting fabric (maker used a black quilting cotton fabric)
fabric scraps for eyes and mouth
Firstly, Look at the shape in the illustrations above. The Ghost-like template that you draw on paper needs to measure around 23 cm (9 1/2") Long,  and be a similar measurement at its widest point along the bottom, the shape needs to narrowed to around 18 cm (7") in the middle section, and widen again to 19.5 cm  (7 3/4") along the top. The Sizing is approximate, and, of course, your design can differ.
Thread (maker used Coats Cotton 8549 Purple, Coats Duet 7288 Orange, Coats Duet 1000 Black)
Other Sewing kit essentials
fig 2
WHAT TO DO (to make two mug rugs)
1. Place and pin the template to the backing fabric and carefully cut out the shape, do the same with the wadding, and repeat with the quilting fabric (shown in fig 2 and fig 3). So you end up with three Ghost shapes in the different materials. Repeat (1) to make a second mug rug.

Fig 3

Fig 4
2. To make one mug rug, match up the three shapes in the different materials and pin together to make three layers, ensure the wadding is on the bottom, the backing fabric sandwiched in the middle and the quilting fabric on the top as in (Fig 4) Repeat (2) to make a second mug rug
Fig 5
3. Carefully machine along the edges catching in all three material layers as you go, removing the pins as you do so, and make sure to leave a opening of around 5 cm (2") and preferably not along a straight edge. Trim off the access being careful not to cut into your neat stitching. Turn the insides through to the outside by pulling the fabric through the opening, and ensure it is the wadding section that gets reverted to the inside. Push out to the seams so the rug is as flat as can be. Hand sew to close the gap. Iron flat. Repeat (3) to make the second mat. Fig 6 shows the two mats ready for running stitching across the surfaces, both have a black top and a tweed coloured reverse. 
Fig 6

 Fig 7
4. Use lines and lines of machine stitching from top to bottom, or side to side, which ever you prefer. Change the angles, change the thread, make up your own designs. Repeat (4) for the second mat.

5. For both mug rugs, cut out eyes and mouths from stiff material scraps so that the fabric does not fray. Maker used orange and cream coloured fabrics cut out from a large sample book, and she opted for the strips that still had backing paper stuck to the back. Maker cut out the facial features with shearing scissors and appliqued in position using zig zag machining. 

Note: The finished measurements end up being approx 20 cm (8 1/2") Long and 17 cm (6 1/2") wide, so perfect as a mug rug, but also ideal as a table or wall hanging decoration. This is a straight forward project idea for a first-time quilter.

Monday, 5 October 2015

This week Arne & Carlos to open The Knitting & Stitching Show in London UK

Arne & Carlos
Image source:

Norwegian knitwear designers and authors Arne & Carlos will officially open the The Knitting & Stitching Show this week at Alexandra Palace, London on Wednesday 7th October at 10am. Arne and Carlos are known for their knitwear designs and books including 55 Christmas Balls to Knit: Colourful Festive Ornaments
, Knitted Dolls: and, most recently, 30 Slippers to Knit and Felt

The duo attract a huge following on Instagram and Facebook, with fun how-to videos and quirky project ideas. This October they launch the Julekuler (Christmas bauble) Pattern booklet using Patons Wool DK, as well as a range of new colours in the Arne & Carlos Regia sock collection!

Following the show opening, Arne & Carlos will be at the Coats Crafts UK stand (TGD11 & TGG11) where visitors can meet them in person, ask questions, and join their selfie competition #arne&carlosselfie

The Knitting & Stitching Show is the largest craft and textiles event in the UK, offering an unrivalled creative experience. The show boasts stands from over 400 craft companies, hundreds of workshops, Stitch by Stitch demonstrations, daily Fashion Shows hosted by Coats Crafts and more than 20 Galleries showcasing the work of leading textile artists and groups from all over the world

Galleries this year include Michala Gyetvai’s Enchanted Landscapes and Kate Jenkins’ knitted fishmongers.The fish counter with a difference! The difference being that all the fish are knitted, crocheted and sequined. Visitors will be able to buy an array of fish, prawns, cockles and mussels off the counter and have them mounted and signed as original art pieces. There will also be a wall of framed tinned sardines and other fishy inspired products available throughout the show. The show will also feature leading textile artists including Isobel Hall, Stella Harding, the Royal School of Needlework and Sophie Digard in association with Selvedge.

With over 400 exhibitors at the London event selling everything a crafter desires: from a vast array of fabric to every type of sewing machine from all the leading brands; to every type of thread and knitting yarn; plus haberdashery, patterns, kits and more.

The Knitting & Stitching Show is open for 5 days 07 October - 11 October 2015. Apart from all of the above it offers its visitors more than 200 workshops in the Learning Curve in association with Groves; with classes covering a wide variety of skills including machine sewing, hand embroidery, felt making, crochet and knitting. New for 2015, The Dressmaking Studio, in association with The McCall Pattern Company and SEW TODAY, will offer a range of classes designed to improve and enhance dressmaking skills.

Who's going?

Friday, 25 September 2015

October Writing event in Leicester - Writing for children

Details below of an annual 'writing for children' event, taking place in Leicester next month (October). 

Wolves and Apples 2015 
includes practical workshops and talks from authors, agents and publishers. Geared to help emerging or aspiring writers across books, TV and theatre to develop the skills and knowledge needed to write for children and young people.

Full event details and Programme at Red Lighthouse online Note: Two panel discussions will top and tail the event

College Court Conference Centre, Leicester. LE2 3TQ

October 3rd 10.00 - 17.00

Cost £25.00 plus a small booking fee

Book on to the writing event at Eventbrite 

Route any questions and queries by using the contact form at Red Lighthouse publishing or telephone 01530 830811