Monday, 8 January 2018

Rug Making and Rug Recycling Ideas

Upcycling Your Rug Infographic is by The Rug Seller This Infographic details the up-cycling ideas and the reusing of rugs to make new things

The book HOOKED Carpetbags, Handbags and Totes includes 13 Great Designs by Editors of Rug Hooking Magazine Below, via my Instagram, is a page image of a Floral Duffle Bag that was once destined to be a rug made by designer and rug maker, Susan Clarke.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Product Review - Abacus with Clock by BRIO

This is an adorable educational toy. An All-in-One Abacus and Wooden Clock Face with move-able hands - in a frame. If you are a stickler for the importance of the traditional teaching of the basics and appreciative of the brand BRIO and their refined detail in both design and manufacturing quality then this will do nicely. 

A necessity it is for infant(s) to be calm and attentive to something they can fiddle around with in a mindful sense. Being taught to count from 1 – 10 by sliding and re-positioning beads across an Abacus frame is a time served method of mathematical introduction; soon they’ll be counting themselves!

The analogue clock is designed for little fingers to turn, and a great tool to least begin to understand the concept of counting and marking time over the course of a day.

The Clock in its easy to stand and store frame will be useful for purpose when the ‘time’ comes to learn to tell the time for real, and the Abacus too will help with first homework assignments, so the item will have some longevity in its usefulness.

This item as a whole is tactile, interactive in a low-tech sense, and visually pleasing. Comes boxed and ready to go.

Review by Debra Hall

Disclosure/Disclaimer applies

This January, fellow blogger, Janice is hosting a giveaway of this item. Enter over at:

Friday, 8 December 2017

Christmas Mini Felts

Owl hanging miniature by Debra Hall

mini felt fox by Debra Hall
mini Penguin by Debra Hall

A nice little craft activity to do on a wintry evening is to make Christmas themed mini felts. The three above are my own designs and I use needle felting techniques to make, with knitted accessories added.

Artist, Sachiyo Ishii does some lovely miniature knits in many themes. The mini doll patterns are from her sewing craft book called Mini Felt Christmas

For a little look inside the book follow the link:

Friday, 1 December 2017

Product Review of Limited Edition Christmas Themed Jigsaw

It wouldn't be quite the Christmas lead up for me if I were ever denied a first-hand look at artist, Roy Trower's yearly Christmas scenes for Ravensburger's limited edition jigsaw puzzles

Here follows a review of the puzzle available for Christmas 2017 called Which One's Santa? and it is number 21 in the series overall

The Artist

For the last ten
 years of so, artist, Roy Trower has landed the gig to create beautifully illustrated Christmas scenes for Limited Edition jigsaw puzzles by Ravensburger. The artwork involves 2D skills, from sketching out the designs to hand painting them. Trower favours using a mix of medium mainly
water-colours, gouaches; and colouring pencils

The Theme 

As 70's music group, Slade said in their 'Merry Christmas Everybody' tune:
'it's the time that every Santa has a ball' ; 
and there's FOUR mighty fine Santas in this design, (perhaps not having a ball) but being kindly and social nonetheless, and they all look pretty convincing as the real McCoy!

The 'real' Santa is usually centrestage in Trower's designs, so, as you assemble this quality jigsaw of 1000 pieces, you might wonder if Santa is a gate crashing guest at the Christmas fancy dress party depicted

Other villagers have been more original with their fancy dressing. Mother Mary is there. And can you spot the bauble and the Christmas pud? There's a couple of Christmas stars running and a boy mimicking the snowman 

The scene is outdoors once again, on a snowy winters night, and there is a nod to all the traditional activities and festivities of the season

The Product and Promotion
Which One's Santa? is the 21st Anniversary Limited Edition Christmas jigsaw puzzle by Ravensburger 1000 pieces. These Christmas limited editions are a standalone separate from the other numbered limited edition series.This premium jigsaw is rectangular on completion, and measures 70 x 50 cm approx. Not suitable for children under 36 months (small pieces). From 12 years to adult. RRP £13.99

(you'll need to know readers that if you decide to click over to the
that well known online retailer using the link below and end up buying then I will gain a few pence from you doing so)

This review may also appear at 

 : Ravensburger Puzzle club

Comment although the figures are smaller on the picture than the scene from last year's edition this latest jigsaw is marginally easier to do in comparison.

Another 'glowing' scene from Trower and Ravensburger's Design Team in the UK

It's Chris-t-ma-s!!!'

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Project 15 - Winter Trees using Pen and Watercolour

Drawing Pens by Pilot Pens and artwork by the late, Terry Harrison from his book 'Painting Watercolour Snow Scenes The Easy Way' Page 47

Art materials used for the card making project

Artist's watercolours
Pilot drawing pens 01,02,03,04,08
Watercolour paintbrush
Art Masking Fluid
Artist's Watercolours
White Card (any size) note: I use A2 with a view to cutting out the trees individually and making single sized christmas cards

Source material for reference: the book Painting Watercolour Snow Scenes The Easy Way by the late Terry Harrison (artist)  

masking fluid trees

1. The idea for this project was sparked from one of Harrison's techniques from his book about masking fluid trees. So I took his lead and I painted trees using the masking fluid on white card, the intention being, (once ink and colour wash be applied) was to remove the gum film later on to reveal the white patches and white spacing in an effort to suggest snow has settled on each tree and around it

2. whereas Harrison used watercolour for his twig work, I opted for using the fine tips of black ink from my set of drawing pens (see above and below)

3. I applied more masking fluid by stippling with it, first with an artist sponge, and then with some kitchen paper dipped in, to gain random textures round and about the trees. Harrison points out that while we think of snow as white, the light reflecting on snow and the colour of the sky and surroundings can make the shadows appear blue. Therefore I apply a wash of watercolour across the whole canvas with cobalt blue in various degrees of watery application. This made the ink bleed a little and I achieved some surprisingly beautiful effects

Winter Trees using a set of drawing pens, artist's masking fluid and cobalt blue watercolour paints
4. Drum roll please because these winter tree designs are pretty stunning! Admittedly I continued with my original plan and allowed the whole sheet to dry, then rubbed off the masking fluid from a couple of the trees to bring the snow back to white, however, the design that was left was flat and I'm sorry to say that I lost so much detail on those two. Therefore, I've left well alone now, and I've let the dried masking fluid remain on the rest. It seems a shame to cut them away from the sheet individually to mount singular trees on a handmade christmas card because I think this would make for a fabulous wrapping paper design. 

One thing I have learned that is new is how to paint snowy trees using a mix of medium.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Mulled Fruit Juice Recipe using Cider Spices – Alcohol Free

Here's a quick-to-make and a rather lovely mulled fruit juice recipe using a cider spice mix from Yorkshire based online retailer Steenbergs. I've replaced the cider with some quality apple juice to make a non-alcoholic version

Luxury spice mix pouches for mulled (cider) drinks by Steenbergs
Organic Pack of 3

Ingredients in each Organic Mulled Cider Spice pouch are cinnamon, cardamon, allspice, cloves and orange peel - all organically grown

Spices mulling

serve warm in mugs or heat proof glasses

What you Need:
1 x pouch of cider spices from Steenburgs (Pack of 3)
½ litre of Cloudy Pressed Apple Juice (Copella or similar)
1 Litre of Cranberry Juice 
the juice of half an orange
2 tablespoons of sugar

What to do:
  • Simply pop a pouch into a large saucepan along with all the other ingredients
  • Heat up and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes
  • Serve warm in mugs of heat proof glasses

See Disclosure

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

WWI - Voices of our Grandfathers and others

1. WWI - Voices of our Grandfathers heard from our mouths and the mouths of others

Families grow up with their own war stories. Conversation often sparks the recollection of an all too familiar tale, repeated for the umpteenth time, though the fascination for us youngsters never wanes.

The experiences of our grandfathers/great-grandfathers serving in the World Wars are particularly sketchy for most.

My grandfather, Arthur Tatt, experienced warfare in WWI. I know that whatever his contribution was, he, (like the rest of the disillusioned souls who returned home) was once prepared to die for his country, and, yes, he had survived but he had been a victim in a different sense. 

We know that the situation wasn’t good for many after their return from mainland Europe at the end of the Great War. A large percentage had been left injured, disabled and mentally scarred. Many bewildered by public opinion and alienating attitudes on their return; and jobs were hard to find.
Grandfather Arthur, alongside my grandmother, Violet (Dolly) 

Arthur took on a trade. He repaired cars. He worked for Mann Egerton & Co. a retailer and service centre of automobiles at a car showroom and garage in central Norwich, in Norfolk. Over the course of time he was promoted to a supervisory position. Stories of him paint a picture of somebody rather harsh. From rural Northamptonshire originally, a farm worker and horse handler. Later, he, and my grandmother, Violet (known as Dolly), raised seven children; money was tight. They lived in a local authority dwelling on a council estate that was newly built after the end of WWII situated to the west of Norwich centre.

Arthur was regimental, controlling and strict (especially with the girls). His third son, my late father, served an apprenticeship at the same place of work as he. Rebellious and defiant, my Dad purposely provoked Arthur on several occasions, developing the skill to play on his nerves. In later years, with regret, my Dad realised that his immature actions had let the old man down. Likewise, the sudden acts of violence Arthur had once set upon my dad, gave way to an eventual mellowing of spirit over the years.

Dolly had died a year before my birth, but I remember Arthur handing me glacier mints on the only visit to his home that I can recall making. That sweet mint must have cleared my mind for this is one of my earliest memories…He was so lovely that day - kind and gentle.

Arthur died in the mid to late 1960s. I guess my Dad and he weren’t particularly close in later years, this may be the reason why my mum can’t readily recall much about Arthur’s roles in both the Boer War or The Great War when I prompt her for information. I know that Arthur served under the 12th Lancers but I remain uninformed to this day, as to where and how he was involved in the WWI conflict. I believe he was in the transport division and that could have involved the horses I assume. He returned home to England in 1915., through injury perhaps? Or it may be he was in one of early cavalry involvement, so if he were in the trenches he wasn’t long serving in those hell holes. Arthur lost a first cousin in the war, George Tatt (aged 18) his name appears on the War Memorial in the village of Ramsey, Northamptonshire.

We know a little more about the young life of my husband’s grandfather, Edward Flynn. I’m not sure whether or he enlisted at the outbreak of war in 1914 or was conscripted in. I know the depleted ranks of soldiers as the war continued on meant that Edward fought in all of the major, devastating battles of WWI. Edward’s regiment had to be constantly regrouped and renamed because of heavy losses.

A feisty character, small in stature, ex-boxer and gymnast from the North East, later moved down to a mining village in North Warwickshire, with his wife and five children, just before the outbreak of WWII, to work in a coal mine.

Again, there were no stories of trench life around the tea table when my husband, John sat with his grandparents there. No talk of mud digging; gas attacks; the wounded; the dead. That would have been enough to choke on your bread and butter, so few tales were told of the horrors he must have witnessed. These people, who could otherwise tell a cracking good yarn with a relative ease, were silent on the subject. I guess there was never a time or place that was appropriate.

Can we even begin to imagine what Edward endured? From life in the trenches - to life working underground in coal mines– and eventually dying of coal dust coating his lungs. What quality of life did he really have? I know that he lost a brother in the first war, and another in a mining accident. And, after fighting so bravely in the WWI and having been subjected to so much pain and suffering, and, above all, had survived all of that– he must have been filled with deep trepidation in later years, struggling to come to terms with the fact that his son(s) potentially, faced similar adversity, being called up to fight for ‘King and Country’ in WWII. So cruel.

I’m sure that many people feel astonished and incredulous, the same as John and I, in regard to their own family war memories and histories. There has been much interest in the BBCOne series ‘Who Do You Think You Are? in recent years. With celebrities trailing his or her family war related history in an effort to shed new light on the ‘word of mouth’ stories they’d grown-up hearing.

Though evidence is scant and war records are largely inconclusive, it is clearer to us in our more emphatic state on the subject, being more educated and more aware in recent times about the history behind the world wars, that their first-hand horrific experiences would have greatly affected those people.

It is not my place to consider Edward’s personality and positioning after the first war, but what I know about Arthur and the view I have formed of him through hearing those family stories...could it be that the condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), widely reported by many of our suffering ex-service men and women, may have had some bearing on his sometimes-volatile character? He seemed to be so angry – and yet…did he require a special kind of support that his own people were unable to give him? Or was it regarded by many that he should just be thankful to be alive?

I wonder what Arthur and Edward were like when they were young boys. I wonder what they experienced in battle as young men. What horrors had they endured?

Were they left with an inner torment?

Did they suffer from shellshock?

Did they lose close friends?

Did they sit knee deep in mud for days on end?

Were they lice riddled?


Scared stiff?


Were they emotionally scarred?

Were their lives shattered forever?

2. Voices from the Second World War 

As a child born in the 60s, there was very much a feeling of putting the war stories to bed at the time, the emphasis was on looking forward and not harping back to such bleak times. On hindsight, my generation were uninformed, naive, indifferent even, and people readily dismissed talk of war, as something that happened a long, long time ago. Thankfully, for the last couple of decades with WWI and WWII being on the curriculum for schools, our children and their generation are fully conversant of these dark periods in recent history and us sixties/seventies kids have a better understanding and new found appreciation of the sacrifice of others. There's a book out called 'Voices from the Second World War' where first person accounts of WWII are conveyed to youngsters either face to face, through letters and through talks etc. Chapters include witnesses (some who went on to be famous for doing other things) sharing their memories of experiencing the Blitz and of being an evacuee; some speak of their combative and bombing roles by RAF war planes and armies fighting on the land; with poignant memories being shared of what was going on at the Home Front too. There are also accounts from the naval perspective: Contributors include Eve Branson talking to  Livvy and Poppy Le Butt about her role as a Wren, and Peter Western Dolphin when he joined the Navy.  There are stories of the Holocaust including author, Judith Kerr's sharing her own family story, and Margaret Clapham tells her grandchildren what it is was like to arrive in England as one of the Kindertransport children.  Sir Harold Atcherley tells school girl, Seraphina Evans about his experience of being a Japanese prisoner of war and Takashi Tanemori describes what happened  when living under the of the atom bomb attack on Hiroshima. There's talk of D-Day landings, of resistance movements, the downfall of once powerful people, and European countries being completely broken. 


comment: this book mirrors the aims and objectives of Radio 4's listening project as an example. Fascinating reading and useful educationally