Book review: “Quick and Easy Christmas: 100 gifts & decorations to make for the festive season” by Search Press Studio = 5*

Quick and Easy Christmas, a new Search Press Studio book, is absolutely incredible! It is an amalgamation of projects, taken from the Search Press ’20 to Make’ series, which is a sure-fire winner of a Christmas book for multi-crafters!

There are 7 crafting themes within the book (stitching, papercraft, knitting, jewellery, crochet, sugarcraft and polymer clay) and each theme is colour-coded so you can easily identify the craft groupings by sight.

I also absolutely LOVE their contents page as they give you the photo of the project as well as the project title and corresponding page number.

To me, this is an absolute genius move by Search Press as it makes it much more reader-friendly! It is easier to navigate, be inspired by, and browse the projects all by sight and in one place!

I also love how each craft grouping starts with the corresponding ‘know-how’ pages to introduce you to the techniques you’ll use during the following projects. Again, this really helps in making the book accessible, effortless to navigate and easy to find the basics for the craft alongside the projects associated with it.

I had a go at knitting the ‘Snowflakes Mug Hug’ project as it looked so fantastically festive!

The instructions are clear, easy to follow and result in a fabulous make! I can’t wait to sew lots of Christmas buttons onto the mug hug!

With 100 projects and an RRP. of £9.99 (which means that it works out at less than 10p per project), this is an absolutely fabulous Christmas craft book which will inspire you for years to come!

Book review: “The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers” by Trish Burr = 5*

The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers is a beautiful book exploring botanical textile art through needle painting (a form of surface embroidery).

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have a special place in my heart (after I got engaged there) so I had high expectations of this book to do justice to such a beautiful setting with a vast collection of botanicals and botanical illustrations. The botanical illustrations within Kew’s Library, Art and Archives collection have offered inspiration for many makers, crafters and artists since it was established in the mid 19th century.

Trish Burr offers a new and inspiring insight into Kew’s botanical illustrations through her 11 embroidery projects.

The book starts off with a beautifully detailed section explaining terminologies, materials, tools and preparation activities.

Trish then begins to explain the different stitches. I found these pages not only visually stunning, but really clear and really accessible. Each stitch is explained with clear tips, methods, diagrams and photos both of the how-to for the stitch and also for the finished flower using that stitch.

Once all of these areas have been covered, Trish then starts to guide you through the projects!

These projects are grouped according to their difficulty and range from “simple projects” through to “advanced projects”.

Each project is so sumptuously presented with beautiful stitching, a clear information list (about materials, project size), information about the illustration that inspired Trish’s textile interpretation and a step-by-step guide for stitching the botanical for yourself.

I love how each project also has an accompanying, reusable transfer sheet (with information about how to use the transfer sheet) so that you don’t have to worry about getting the botanical shape correct…you can just start stitching!

This really is a breathtaking book and whilst it is definitely an expensive book (with an RRP. of £25) it is absolutely worth it because the photography, the information, the projects and the overall feel of the book is absolutely flawless! A true 5* book which is going to be a beautiful book for anyone interested in art, making, botanicals, Kew, sewing and creating!

Book review: “Creative Calligraphy: Prompts, Tutorials and Practice Pages” by Mary Noble and Janet Mehigan = 4*

Creative Calligraphy is a new Search Press book which is your go-to handbook for calligraphy!

At an RRP of £12.99, this book is an absolute bargain as it has a whopping 224 pages! It is HUGE!

You can see how vast this book is which gives an indication of just how much it includes! I also really love how the different sections are colour coded so at a quick glance you’re able to flick to the section you want!

The book starts with a really comprehensive guide to the book’s layout, tools and materials, marks, pressure, pen angles and problem solving. This helps to give you a solid foundation before moving on to the projects!

The book has seven “alphabets” and each alphabet starts with information about its origins, structures, pen angles, spacing, uppercase and lowercase guides.

Once those areas have been covered, there are then practise pages for you, as the reader, to use so that you can explore, experiment and practise what’s been taught.

These pages have multiple lines on to guide the shape height (uppercase and lowercase) which is really helpful. There is space for you to practise each letter of the alphabet individually and the authors have included accompanying individual examples of each letter on the page which is a really big help (so that you don’t have to flick back and forth between the main instructions and your practise page).

Following the practise pages, there are then colour pages with designs already made for you to continue to practise your calligraphy on (minus the line guides so it is another step up). These pages are absolutely phenomenal! The designs are so beautiful, so vibrant and so stylish – they’re just waiting for the calligraphy to make them personal to you!

If you’re interested in calligraphy, this is a really fabulous, colourful and hugely detailed book which is a real bargain for £12.99! I gave it 4* because it is so comprehensive, so beautiful and so vast! What I would have loved is some accompanying videos to match the book and to show the alphabets and the pen angles happening in real, moving time because I found it quite hard to follow in the book. I know Search Press have done this with some of their books so it is possible! If there were those videos, it would have been a 5* review for sure! All in all, this really is a beautiful and inspiring book and is available from Search Press here.

Book review: “Watercolour Plant Art” by Nikki Strange = 5*

Watercolour Plant Art review…where do I start?! This book is INCREDIBLE!! Nikki Strange is an inspirational and extremely talented artist who expertly guides you through her own methods for creating Watercolour Plant Art!

The contents page is clear and accessible – it doesn’t feel overwhelming at all! The book has a wide variety of projects which allows you to explore different styles, colours, techniques and layouts so there is sure to be something that will catch your eye!

Before starting the projects, Nikki guides you through paints, papers, brushes, palettes, colour-theory and different watercolour techniques in an easy-to-follow style which is also really helpful to continue to refer back to as you work your way through the projects!

Each project starts off with a clear photo of the painting along with a list of materials, colours and colour mixes. As someone who doesn’t have a huge variety of paints (I’m very new to watercolour), I found it really helpful when Nikki specifies the colours, what each mix is made up of and also how Nikki uses only a handful of colours to do all of the projects in the book! It makes it really easy to follow and really accessible.

The project is broken down into step-by-step actions (colours, what brush to use and what technique to use) so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming!

I had so much fun working my way through the projects and playing with different techniques, colour mixes, plants and projects!

I’ve never done watercolour before so it was a real learning curve for me to try these projects but it didn’t feel overwhelming at all. Nikki speaks of letting go of control and letting the water work its magic with the paint and it is such a good mentality because it helped me to get lost in the process rather than worrying about the finesse of the painting!

The book comes with a sketchpad with the outline for each project so that you can watercolour directly onto the outline.

I used the sketchpad for the first project that I tried from the book but, in all honesty, I found that the paper really didn’t work well and ended up quite furry as it didn’t withstand the water and ended up ripping through the paper!

That’s not to take away from the book as the book itself is INCREDIBLE! I just used the book as an instructional guide and painted onto my own watercolour sketchpad instead. You could use the sketchpad with a lightbox to draw the design onto proper watercolour paper too.

All in all, this is a phenomenal book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in watercolour from those starting out to those who’ve been painting for much longer! It is clear to follow, understandable, detailed, accessible, inspirational, creative and utterly beautiful! An absolute 5* book!


Watercolour Plant Art book

Nikki Strange’s website

Nikki’s Instagram

Search Press Instagram

Book review: “Love Acrylics” by Courtney Burden = 5*

If I could give this book more than 5*, I really would because it is absolutely phenomenal! I am going to start by saying that I am not an acrylic painter (or any sort of painter really!) and yet, after working my way through the activities in this book, I am counting down my working hours until I finish so that I can start playing with paints!

Love Acrylics, by Courtney Burden and published by Search Press, is absolutely jam-packed with ideas, inspiration, challenges, activities and prompts for making creative acrylic art!

You can see from the contents pages exactly how vast this book is – from colour to texture, design to process, exploring to finished projects…this book has got you covered!

Courtney starts the book by exploring supplies, tools, materials and brush care (and manages to make these pages look inspirational too)! With 100+ activities, prompts and inspirations, this book will leave no stone unturned! From dry brush painting…

to abstract creations…

and from abstract mirror image printing with splodges…

to finding calm within a chaotic world/painting…

…to say this book has got you covered is an understatement. This is THE book for anyone who wants to begin to explore, create, make, play, experiment, let loose and have fun!

I am going to sign off this book review with a quote from Courtney which sums up this 5* book so beautifully:

“My hope is that it inspires you to be more creative, colourful and whimsical every day of your life. This bool isn’t filled with just a bunch of rules or traditional painting techniques: instead, with each play, prompt and project, I encourage you to create freely, like you’re a kid again – not focused on rules or the final outcome, but enjoying the process and soaking up the fun along the way!” ~ Courtney Burden

Book review: “Four-Step Watercolour” by Marina Bakasova = 3.5*

I found it difficult to decide on a number of stars for this review as there were parts of the book that I thought were amazing but also parts that I felt were lacking…so I averaged it out at a 3.5* out of 5.

‘Four-Step Watercolour: 150 Skill-Building Projects to Paint’ is immediately enticing by the title and offer alone…watercolour projects in 4 steps? I’m in!

Following the contents page, the book starts with meeting Marina, the author and creator, before moving on to materials, tools and techniques.

The technique pages are amazing and I really, really love how Marina covers a range of techniques in a bitesize, accessible manner. Once you’ve had a play with the techniques, you can then move on to the four-step projects!

The projects are broken down into a variety of themes including vegetables, drinks, flowers, animals, and more! I think it is incredibly clever how each theme is assigned a colour so you can flick through the book and visually identify the theme by the colour on the page’s corners!

I also really like how each project says the ‘skill level’ as easy, medium or high. In reality, however, I didn’t feel the labels were that accurate as it very much depends how you classify “easy”.

The palm leaf is categorised as ‘easy’ so I presumed this would be suitable for beginners and it was my first attempt at watercolour. I found the “four step” instructions too simplistic and unclear. As a beginner, I really struggled to know what to do (how to apply it, what brush to use, what technique)…so whilst I tried to follow the instructions, I ended up being unable to, and did my own thing instead!

I had another go with the tulip too but I found the same problem…it just didn’t have enough instructions to make it accessible if you’re new to watercolour.

So, with that being said, I averaged this book at 3.5*. If you’re fairly confident with watercolour and you’re looking for an ideas sourcebook then this would be a fantastic book for you! If, however, you’re not familiar with watercolour and you’re looking for an easy-to-understand, accessible book on watercolour then I wouldn’t recommend this book (Search Press do have some amazing Watercolour books that are definitely more accessible so check out my other book reviews and, in particular, the Search Press ‘Love Watercolour’ and ‘Watercolour Plant Art’)!

Book review: ’10 Step Drawing: Nature’ = 5*

There is a new addition to the Search Press ’10 Step Drawing’ series and what a fabulous addition it is!

’10 Step Drawing: Nature’, by Mary Woodin, aims to guide you through creating your own nature images (animals, flowers, trees and more) within 10 steps!

Now, I’ll be honest with you here, when I flicked through the book and saw the sumptuous images I really didn’t believe such detailed drawings could be created in 10 steps…well, I was wrong! Mary really does expertly guide you through each image in 10 achievable steps! Before we get onto the drawings, I just wanted to show the contents pages:

The book is divided into 3 different ‘nature’ themes including: ‘Meadows and Wetland’, ‘Forest’ and ‘Coast’. I was really impressed at the wide variety of nature drawings within each theme (there are 60 options). and even the contents page is beautifully illustrated. So, from wildlife to plants, this book has you covered!

The instructions and the layout of each drawing is really well placed and easy to follow. Each of the steps are numbered along with their corresponding instructional image and short textual instructions. I love how accessible this is by making each step a short, achievable step which doesn’t feel overwhelming.

I also love how under each title, there is a little extra info to inspire, encourage and inform! The final image is the largest image and I think that really helps for clarity so that you know what you are progressing towards. I also really like that the colour palette is at the end underneath the final image as it means you can focus on the actual mark marking in steps 1-9 before exploring colour in the final step. That really helps to make sure we’re not getting distracted by colours in the earlier steps and that we can then focus on the structure, the marks and the shapes!

I’ve really enjoyed looking through this book and I have cracked out my pen and paper to start the 10 steps too! These are my steps 1-9 for drawing the ‘Juniper’ from the book and I am now looking forwards to step 10 and adding the colour!

This is a really beautiful, accessible and inspiring book which is full of creativity and ideas for drawing nature!

To find out more about Mary Woodin you can head to her digital platforms:

The book is available on the Search Press website here:

Book review: ‘Cute Hand Lettering for Journals, Planners and More’ = 4*

‘Cute Hand Lettering for Journals, Planners and More’ is a new Search Press book by Cindy Guentert-Baldo which seeks to inspire you with tips, tricks, ideas and challenges for creating your own hand lettering styles!

Firstly, don’t be fooled by the size of this book as this pocket-sized book is absolutely jam-packed with ideas to create a variety of hand lettering styles (as you can see from the detailed contents pages!)

The book starts by explaining who Cindy, your hand lettering tutor, is! Cindy is based in the USA and has a wealth of crafting experience! You can find out a bit more about Cindy through the book but also through the following channels:

Cindy’s website:
Cindy’s YouTube:
Cindy’s Instagram:

I absolutely love how accessible this book is. The layout is clear and easy to follow. Cindy doesn’t presume any prior knowledge and so gently guides you through ‘what is lettering’, ‘tools and materials’, ‘jargon’ and explaining the book’s layout with encouragement and positivity.

The book is split into 7 chapters and each chapter has a different colour so it makes it really easy to follow. Chapter 1 is the ‘intro’ chapter. Chapter 2 starts with looking specifically at your own handwriting and playing with basic lettering, cursive lettering, and connecting your letters.

Throughout each chapter there are pages so that you can practise which is a really good opportunity to explore what you’re learning!

Chapter 3 then takes you through the process of adding flair, style, swirls and more with your own everyday writing to turn it into hand lettering. Chapter 4 progresses your lettering that little bit further by exploring block lettering, bubble lettering, overlapping lettering and bouncy lettering. Chapter 5 takes us another step further by looking at how we can add doodles and flourishes to our lettering as well as looking at composition (spacing, layout etc). As ever, these chapters are full of lots of tips, tricks, techniques and practise spaces to help you along the way!

Chapter 6 brings the whole book together by looking at how you can use all of these techniques that you’ve learnt within different shapes and spaces (from journals to notes, headers to shape-fillers, banners to labels) as well as combining different lettering techniques.

This is a really beautiful, well-presented book with lots of inspiration, tips, techniques and encouragement for adding sass, flair and style to your hand lettering no matter what the project!

The book is available to buy from the Search Press website

All of the images are my own but they have been approved by Search Press for the purpose of this review. They cannot be taken or re-used in any other circumstances.

Looking at Vlieseline battings…

Vlieseline are well known as the leading brand for interfacings but did you know they do a range of battings too? I have been having a play with several of the Vlieseline battings in differing fibres, thicknesses and colours and I wanted to do a post to share these with you! This isn’t an exhaustive post about the Vlieseline battings so do head to their website to see more of the battings that they produce.

Before I launch into the different types of battings, I wanted to highlight how Vlieseline are taking a massive step forwards to be more sustainable in the products they create. Where possible, recycled fibres are used and they have a sustainability statement on their website available here which highlights their commitment to be more environmentally focussed and aware in the work they do.

So, let’s talk battings! There are 5 Vlieseline battings that I am going to cover in this post and I have made 4 patchwork and quilting samples to showcase these battings, their pros and cons, and how they feel (I didn’t quilt with one of the battings and I’ll explain why when we get to it!) I’ll also talk about loft in this post. When talking about a batting’s loft, this refers to how thick the batting is and how much puffiness it provides once quilted. This is generally only a guide as the puffiness of the quilt will also depend on the fabrics you used on the patchwork too and quilt backing too, but the loft guide is still good to know!

Batting 1: Vlieseline 266

Vlieseline 266 is a beautifully soft wool mix batting in a natural colour. It is 80% wool and 20% polyester which can be machine washed on a gentle spin (you don’t want to felt it!) up to 30°. It is a lightweight batting with a low loft (this means it isn’t very thick and so it doesn’t provide too much puffiness when quilted).

It quilted really beautifully and it can be quilted up to 10cm apart. I used it for quilting this Art Gallery Fabrics EPP Christmas Tree wall-hanging (fabrics are from Fine City Quilting) and I quilted an echo of the tree (both inside and outside the tree to make it pop).

I really liked how soft the batting felt, the natural colour and how it still offered a slight loft to the Christmas Tree without being too thick.

Batting 2. Vlieseline P250

Vlieseline P250 is a white, heavyweight batting which is made up of 80% recycled polyester and 20% polyester. The Vlieseline website says it is suitable for a range of products including quilts but I personally wouldn’t use it for a quilt (which is why I didn’t make the sample with it).

It is nearly 4cm in thickness so unless you have an industrial machine for quilting, I wouldn’t even attempt to use it for a patchwork quilt as it is just so thick. It would, however, work well for upholstery.

Batting 3. Vlieseline P120

Vlieseline P120 is a very soft medium loft batting in white. It is made up of 80% recycled polyester and 20% polyester. It is just under 1cm in depth so it offers a medium puffiness/loft to the quilting.

I used it to quilt an echo (or 3!) around my Cloud9 EPP Colourburst Hearts block using the Tinsel fabric collection.

It is a really nice general batting which works well for both smaller projects and larger projects.

Batting 4: Vlieseline P140

Vlieseline P140 is a thicker weight than the P120 with a depth/thickness of around 2cm.

It is high loft white batting made up of 80% recycled polyester and 20% polyester. The Vlieseline website says it is suitable for all projects. Personally, due to the high loft (and 2cm thickness), I found it a real struggle to use for a small patchwork project (such as this wall hanging) both with the quilting and the binding.

I had to quilt it incredibly densely to be able to flatten it enough to attach the binding.

That being said, and despite the struggle (and use of lots of thread with dense quilting), I liked the finished look as it offered a LOT of loft to the overall block which looked really effective.

It comes down to personal preference and balancing out how much you want high puffiness to make your patchwork pop versus having to do a lot of dense quilting to get it to be manageable.

Batting 5: Vlieseline HH650

Last, but not least, is the Vlieseline HH650. I LOVED using this batting on my patchwork wall hanging because you don’t have to do any basting…the batting does it for you! This is a fusible batting so I simply cut it to the same size as my patchwork block (if I cut it bigger than my block I would have ended up fusing it to the damp cloth so it is important to cut to size). I then placed it inbetween the block and the backing (NB. make sure you iron both the block and the backing beforehand). Then, using a damp cloth, I pressed the iron onto the quilt sandwich (not moving the iron or pushing the iron, sinply holding it on) for 15 secs to bond them together. I repeated this on the back of the work too to ensure it was all bonded well and lay flat.

No pin basting, no crawling around the floor spray basting…it is all basted in 1 move by ironing them together. Now, I found it super easy to do on a small patchwork wall hanging and I am yet to try it with a quilt (and making sure there are no ripples or puckers when ironing both a larger patchwork quilt top and quilt backing together) but I really like how this one batting does the basting work for you.

It is 100% polyester which can be machine washed up to 30°. It isn’t suitable for heavyweight fabrics but it quilts beautifully with light to medium weight fabrics – perfect for patchwork then!

It has a low to medium loft and is a really fabulous batting to work with. I’ll definitely be using it again!

So, there we go! A look at a range of the battings Vlieseline offers! Don’t forget to head to their website to see the full range!

10 ideas for Christmas presents for you and/or the sew-er in your life!

Christmas is less than 2 weeks away and, in amidst all the madness, sewing can offer a real opportunity to slow down and to focus on being in the present moment. Whether you’re buying a new sewing gadget/haberdashery item for yourself or buying for a sewing friend, here’s a round up of 10 ideas for Christmas presents to suit a variety of budgets…

I’ve organised them in price order (from lowest to highest with the RRP included if I know it). I’ve included links to shops that stock the items where applicable as well as details of who to contact re finding your nearest stockists!

1. Trimits Festive Motifs

Trimits have released a range of Festive motifs that can be ironed on or sewn on. They’re washable up to 40° and come on plastic free packaging (yay!). There are 6 designs to choose from and they are a really fun way to add something extra to handmade/homemade cushions, make up pouches, tote bags and stockings! At a bargain RRP. of £1 per motif these are a fabulous stocking filler! To find your nearest stockists contact

2.Trimits Festive Buttons

Trimits have also released these 2 packs of Festive buttons! These can be great additions to add as embellishments on Christmas cushions, stockings, wall-hangings, on bunting and even for your festive garments!

There are 2 mixed packs available. Each pack has a variety of button sizes with a range of festive designs! With an RRP. of £3.25 per pack, these are an affordable and fun sewing goody to get! To find your nearest stockists contact

3. Hemline Buttons

If you want something without a Christmas theme that can be useful all year round then Hemline buttons are the perfect option!

Hemline produce more buttons than I could possible capture in 1 image!

They range from teeny tiny buttons through to large statement buttons, wood buttons through to shell buttons, plain buttons through to fancy buttons….and if you can’t find the perfect button for your project you can even make your own with their self-cover buttons!

They’re the perfect gift for anyone who loves fabrics, sewing, patchwork, dressmaking, and textiles! Minerva stock a huge (and I mean huge) variety of Hemline buttons:

4. Clover fusible bias makers

Stained glass patchwork is becoming more popular and it is a really fun way to produce a stand-out design that makes your fabric pop!

Clover have produced a range of fusible bias makers in a variety of sizes to help you when making lattice, meshwork and/or stained glass patchwork!

This is a really fun way to get a gift for someone who wants to learn a new technique or for a gift to yourself as a New Year’s resolution to learn a new patchwork skill. Clover also have video tutorials and projects on their website to accompany these products! Prices start from £6.20 (and vary according to the size that you buy). To find your nearest stockists contact or head to the Minerva website:

5. Sew Easy 3 in 1 tool

Sew Easy have released a new 3-in-1 tool which is a needle puller, thread cutter and thimble….all in 1 tool!

This is a great little gadget for anyone who hand sews as it can easily fit in your sewing pouch and is super portable.

It has an RRP. of £6.99 and you can contact to find your nearest stockists!

6. Hemline Thimble Organiser

What can you put these sewing goodies into? Well, the Hemline Thimble Organiser is a great option!

It is a rainbow-coloured thimble shaped container (measuring approx 12.5cm x 12cm) which you can fill with chocolates, sewing goodies, fabrics or as a desk organiser for pens/pencils/scissors etc!

The RRP. of the Thimble Organiser is £7.99 and it is a really fun alternative to a single-use gift bag. To find your nearest stockists contact

7. Clover desk needle threader

This desk needle threader comes in 3 colours and has a solid base so that you can rest it on your sewing table as you use it (no awkward balancing act!)

It is designed to be quick and easy to use and is compatible with a range of Clover needles. It has an RRP. of around £10. To find your nearest stockists contact

8. Sew Easy Sashiko Tote Bag kit

More people are enjoying the slow, methodical motion of hand sewing such as that involved with sashiko. Sew Easy have released a Sashiko kit which literally has everything you need in one kit except for the scissors! This is always a massive plus as it means you can start sewing straight away!

The kit contains the fabric for making the tote bag, Japanese embroidery thread, gold-eye embroidery needles in a range of sizes, a Sashiko template, and a water-soluble fabric pencil as well as the instructions.

The kit has an RRP. of £21 and it is a great all-in-one sewing kit. To find your nearest stockists contact

9. Gütermann Hand Quilting Thread Pack

This thread pack contains 10 x 80m reels of the most popular colours of the Gütermann hand-quilting threads. They’re 100% mercerized cotton so they have a silk-like lustre and they’re super strong. To find your nearest stockists contact

10. Gütermann sew-all thread pack

Lastly, Gütermann have released a new sew-all thread pack which has a whopping 20 x 100m reels of their sew-all polyester threads in a range of colours.

The kit has an RRP of £27.90 which is a great saving as if you bought 20 reels individually (with an RRP of £2 per thread) it would cost you £40!

These threads are my go-to every time! They literally are sew-all! To find your nearest stockists contact