As I think I’ve probably mentioned before, I run a monthly arts and crafts group at the local community centre. We’re called the Crafternooners!

We work at all sorts of crafts from knitting and crochet to jewellery making, patchwork and rug making, glass painting and paper cutting.

The idea of producing things called Twiddlemuffs for hospital patients was drawn to my attention.

Twiddlemuffs provide a wonderful source of visual, tactile and sensory stimulation and at the same time keep hands snug and warm for patients with dementia in the community and in a hospital setting. They are knitted muffs which are decorated inside and out with buttons, bells, pompoms and….. whatever really.

They have proved to be very popular with dementia patients who often have agitated hands and are in need of some gentle reassuring distraction.

Having recently had experience of the devastating effects of dementia I was thrilled that the Crafternooners were so eager to support this venture and have already, in just a few weeks, knitted over twenty Twiddlemuffs for our local hospital of St Mary’s which we’ll be able to deliver next week.

They are easy to knit, quick to make and help to use up all those odd buttons, bits of wool etc that all crafters seem to have hanging around.

It’s terrific that something so easy and straightforward to produce can provide such help and comfort for dementia patients.

There are full details and instructions on the internet, it looks as if all hospitals will eagerly accept them so have a go at making one!



Interior Decoration a to z !

It’s cold, misty and very windy on The Island today……and I’m not going out!

On days like this I like to visit my bookshelves and pull out a book that catches my eye. I was trained in three dimensional design- interior design and the history of art and have shelves of art and design books. Many could be described as being coffee table books, some profess to be educational!

Some of my favourite are the old ones and one of these is Interior Decoration a to z, an American book from 1965.

I love some of these older American books because design wise anything goes. In Europe we were often restricted by our history and traditions where as the Americans simply did what they wanted……sometimes to great effect……. and sometimes not!

In the 1950s there was a revolution in colour in America, conservatism and caution went down the drain. They felt a freedom to use strong colours, a true red, an intense blue, an undiluted yellow. There was built in furniture taking on an architectural flavour, large patterns with pattern on pattern, pop art next to antiques!

Mad, bad and a little scary but ultimately (sometimes) fabulous.


I love these pictures….particularly the painting in the left hand photo that seems to have been cut to follow the ceiling line!


The idea of the fabric stool is very contemporary, three floor cushions strapped together….I’d buy it!



I’m not quite sure what Mondrian would have made of that kitchen wall, note the wicker chairs and the ‘cut down’ metal garden table.


Now that is red!!


All photographed on my purple, blue and black Welsh blanket, a design classic then as now, thanks Mum, a good buy.

Artist..Kevin M Paulsen

I’m very lucky to be Facebook friends with Clive Hicks-Jenkins an artist whose work I admire hugely. He generously shares his work on Facebook, his thought processes and sketches, models and maquettes. I can’t claim to understand or recognize all his references, the symbols, the folklore……but then I don’t think that matters, what matters is that his work stimulates, excites, resonates and makes my life richer.

Last week on his blog (Clive Hicks-Jenkins Artlog) he introduced an American artist Kevin M Paulsen. I realized that through my work (at one time) as an interior designer I had come across this chap through his mural work.

He is perhaps best known for his murals and decorations for early American houses…..but there is so very much more to this man.


His work conjures up the past with his use of traditional colours, earth tones of red, ochre and green and his love of patina, his use of classical architecture, pavilions, spewing volcanoes and ships at full mast.

His drawings and paintings are often presented as if seen on a stage through a proscenium of swags and elaborate drapes or between classical columns and ruins that might suggest a ‘grand tour’. His fantastical buildings are draped with lights and flags. In fact flags and banners, sails, tented pavilions and fabric screens are prevalent in his work.

What are the flags and pennants celebrating and what’s going on inside those pavilions and behind those screens? Where are his vast sailing ships with hundreds of sails and flags going to or coming from and who inhabits his buildings?

Looking at his work I’m invited into a world that is dreamlike, part recognized, part fantastical and a little scary (but in a good way!) with swirling mists and shimmering water, neo-classical architecture and weeping willows, the occasional figure (lovers or murderers)…….I love it.

images (3)

images (2)

I’m now a Facebook friend of Kevin Paulsen….I think it’s going to be interesting.



Book Bingo and my first completed squares!

My partner Phil and I volunteer at our local community library which stopped being funded by the IOW council and has been taken over by Shanklin Town Council. If the town council hadn’t taken it over we’d have lost the library for good……incredible isn’t it!

We have one paid member of staff and a team of volunteers. Fundraising in circumstances like this is very important. Phil over at (read the whole story there!) had the idea to produce bingo cards set with reading challenges instead of numbers. Sold at £3 per card they aim to generate some much needed money and get library users talking and excited about books.

If you complete a line you get a small prize and at the end of six months the first full house card pulled out of the hat will receive a Grand Prize!

The scheme was introduced at a library coffee morning last week with the Mayor, High Sheriff, local press and radio in attendance. We were interviewed and it was on the local radio hourly news bulletins throughout the day.

Already the response has been incredibly enthusiastic with people coming in for their first stickers and wanting to talk about their books.

So here are my first two stickers and the books I read!


“The Sketchbook War, Saving the nation’s artist’s in world war two”, by Richard Knott and “Eric Ravillious, masterpieces of art”, by Susie Hodge.

The 1930s and 40s seemed to produce a rich seam of British artists and illustrators and some of my favourites are Edward Ardizzone, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Evelyn Dunbar and Lara Knight, all of whom produced large bodies of work during the war.

(I think we we are lucky enough to have found another rich seam  with likes of Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Paul Bommer, Ed Kluz, Mark Hearld, Angie Lewin, Kit Boyd and Emily Sutton, amongst others).

The Sketchbook War tells the story of some of the artists who went to the front to capture something of the life and death, horror and destruction caused by war (I’m not sure they were supposed to show so much of the horror and destruction after all ‘ the powers that be’ don’t like to highlight that inevitable aspect of war).

It’s a fascinating read with information gathered from the artists’ letters and from recorded interviews (from those who survived!). I don’t always want to know too much about the private lives of the actors, musicians and artists whose work I admire in case I’m disappointed but in this instance I find myself even more impressed and inspired by their work.

My only criticism of the book is that there are not enough examples of the work talked about……however of course that’s set me the task of searching out more books about these artists. The first one I’ve discovered is from the Masterpieces of Art series and deals with Eric Ravilious.

Eric Ravilious was responsible for a magnificent range of different works, workbook illustrations to ceramic designs for Wedgwood, from travel posters to murals and watercolours. The first part of the book deals simply and straightforwardly with a biography of his life interspersed with examples of his work while the rest of the book allows the reader to enjoy his extraordinary work, his landscapes and interiors, wood engravings, High Street illustrations and War art.

On 28 August 1942 Eric Ravilious flew to Reykjavik and then travelled on to RAF Kaldadarnes on the coast. On his arrival, on 1 September, an aircraft failed to return to base from an operational flight and the next morning three planes were despatched at dawn to search for it. Ravilious chose to join one of the search missions. But his aircraft failed to return and after four days of searching the RAF declared Ravilious and the rest of the four-man crew lost in action. His body has never been recovered.

As a fan of his work I can see this being a book that I’ll treasure.

The Gift Wrapping Book by Caroline Birkett

This is a book review which first appeared a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to be a guest reviewer over on reviewsrevues


We all give presents but how many of us fail miserably when it comes to the wrapping?  All too often we resort to popping the gift into a shop bought gift bag or box.  Present wrapping is something we are just expected to be able to do.  There have been countless times I’ve ended up having to throw away ruined wrapping paper and there have been too many fights with sticky tape, just finding the end of the roll can be a nightmare.  However, a beautifully wrapped present can be a real joy to receive, even before you’ve seen what’s under the paper or in the box.

Understanding the various wrapping techniques, the range of materials available and the tools needed for the jobs can turn a necessary chore into something enjoyable, creative, and we can produce something special and personal for the recipient.

“The Gift Wrapping Book” is ideal both for those who haven’t a clue how to wrap a present and for those who are keen to try something a little different.

The book is well laid out and with clear photos and step by step instructions.  Caroline starts by showing the correct way of wrapping a box with standard wrapping paper and then goes on to suggest how this could be done with other types of paper.  We find out how to produce our own decorative paper using methods such as wax resist, gilding, stamping etc and then more elaborate bows and embellishments with gift tags and other items.  Patterns and templates are included together with information on the materials and tools required.  Importantly, she explains how to wrap those awkward shape parcels we all have problems with.

Caroline makes it clear that wrapping doesn’t need to be elaborate, doesn’t need to take a long time to prepare so long as it is neat and thoughtfully put together.  However, with an understanding of some basic techniques and a little imagination there are no limits as to how fantastic your presents can look.  Just make sure that the actual present under all that wrapping is worth receiving!

The best publications from Dover Books have a good combination of style and practicality.  This book may not be as lavishly laid out and photographed as books by some publishing houses and magazines but here the results are attainable.  This book, which seems to have been previously published by another company in 2002, will not date as it gives good clear instructions on how to develop gift wrapping skills.  There may be more fashionable coffee-table style books of this type around but this may very well be the one to consider purchasing.


Pure Soapmaking – Anne-Marie Faiola

This is a book review which first appeared a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to be a guest reviewer over on reviewsrevues


This is a book for people who want to move away from commercially produced soaps containing harsh and synthetic ingredients and make their own containing natural ingredients tailor-made for their skin type.  This is not a book for general crafters, there is no sitting around a table with your friends making up a few bars of soap over a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  Here there is a lot of science, a fair amount of equipment required and a lot of ingredients.  At the beginning of each of the soap recipes we read the author’s mantra for Safe Soaping – to wear safety gear the whole time, to work in a well ventilated space and no distractions (no kids or pets around) so you can tell that hand-made soap making is serious (and slightly scary) stuff.

The first section of the books deals in detail with the ingredients used, the science, and importantly, with the dangers of some of the chemicals. The soap recipes are clear and well described, with lists of what is needed, ingredients, moulds, special tools etc.  The instructions are thorough but straightforward and the photos excellent.  In fact, the photos of the finished soaps are very seductive.  The bars you will end up making look like little works of art and a million miles from most standard shop-bought soaps.  It is clear that this is not really a book for a soap-making beginner but should provide inspiration and instruction for those with some experience and for soap aficionados.

Be warned though, this is an American book and there may be different regulations as to what you can do with your end products.  In the UK, I have found with a bit of research that you can make soap for your own use and to give to friends but you cannot sell unless you have a licence.



Crafternoon party

Last year I started a craft group in Shanklin. We meet once a month on a Saturday afternoon to ‘do’ crafts. There are usually about fifteen of us and a wide range of crafts on the go. From knitting and crochet to needlepoint and cross stitch, rug making, glass painting, paper cutting and jewellery making.

We’re called The Shanklin Crafternooners (you see what we’ve done there……..crafting in the afternoon- crafternoon….genius!)

We meet at the community centre but in August we decided to do something a little different and have a summer garden party here at The Hazelwood. People would still be able to craft but the afternoon would be more of a social affair and we’d all bring food along to share (though in fact the Crafternoon is usually just a excuses to eat copious amounts of home baked cake anyway)

As it got closer to the day of the party we began to get worried that we might have rotten weather so of course if you can’t have a garden party actually  in the garden the only alternative is to bring the garden inside……so that’s what we did. We moved a lot of the furniture out of our breakfast room and brought our big plant pots in. Infact the weather wasn’t too bad and it was quite a sight to see a group of crafters sat in a big circle in the middle of our lawn with glasses of wine, plates of food, all talking and joking whilst happily knitting and crocheting away!

To make the breakfast room a little more ‘gardeny’ and ‘crafty’ I made a hanging of big dramatic white paper flowers to hang over the fireplace………IMG_20160211_080415_kindlephoto-46072533