Sunday, November 28, 2010

"From Print To Stitch" by Janet Edmonds

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remember that all of the photos can be double clicked for a larger image

I have been so fortunate of late to be able to review some truly amazing books. I think I am slowly getting back in line and feel more up to reviewing some of these treasures. This one truly deserves five starts - as did Angie Hughes book that I reviewed on  this blog on October 10th of this year. I apologize for the glare in most of the pictures but the day was dark and very wet and taking the book outside would have made for even worse results I think!

"From Print To Stitch" by Janet Edmonds, published by Search Press - is one of those books that you know you will be returning to time and time again. If you love cloth and love to print and stitch (as the title says) then this is a book that should be in your library.

Ms. Edmonds previously published book was called was called "Beginners Guide to Embroidered Boxes" and now I am afraid that I have to get this one too - her work is so exciting. The contents page of "From Print To Stitch" is a good introduction to fabulous techniques that lurk within the book's pages. She thoroughly covers materials and tools, how to develop a theme in your work and a short but very well done lesson on color and color theory.

The next section is on printing and the topics include: block printing, lino cuts,  mono printing and how to make great impressions from found  objects. Naturally the next section is about stitching. Hand stitching and machine stitching. One of my favorite sections in this part of the book is her gallery of hand stitches. Lots of grist for the artistic mill in here.
The techniques for working with lino, sponges and a host of other easily found printing methods are thoroughly explained and photographed with step-by-step instructions. In this section of the book I am especially fond her use of collagraph prints and I am eager to give this a try. The author describes collagraph as "made from a block that is created from low tech collaged material". Can you spell play day?! This book is just chock full of really fun techniques that are bound to spark your creativity and give your many hours of fun - you may not look at plain cloth in the same way again. Yes. I am really enjoying this excellent book!
The photo below on the right highlights one of my favorite techniques from the book - a variety of stitch worked button hole rings that Ms. Edmonds worked over a variety of forms - look that texture!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"The Passionate Brood" by Margaret Campbell Barnes

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I have to admit to enjoying each book that I have read of Margaret Campbell Barne's. "The Passionate Brood" is a reprint - another excellent reprint by Sourcebooks Landmark - and I am so pleased that they did bring this excellent novel back! This book was first published in 1944 under the original title  of "Like Us They Lived". To my way of thinking this is, more or less, true - the more things change the more they (and we ) stay the same. There have been many reprints lately that have stirred up memories of the books I grew up hiding under the covers with a flash light as a child. to read later into the night that officially allowed (yes, I am truly very myopic to this day!)  My love and passion for this particular time period were originally written in the 40's and 50's. This book concentrates on the time frame of 1189-1199 when the Crusades were in full swing and many knights and men of means  left for long periods of time fight in the lands of  Outremer- thus the strong women they left behind were, in effect, the rulers of their husbands lands in many cases.

This particular book recounts the friendship of King Richard the Lionheart  and, one is lead to believe,  his boyhood friend Robin (later to become the Robin Hood of so many legends). The book is introduced as a novel of King Richard and Robin and yet Robin's strongest appearances in the book are at the beginning - and at the end of the book. Perhaps this is the true way it all went - the case in point does not make it a totally implausible theory even though the reality of Robin Hood, to my knowledge, had never been proven. I like the way Robin is presented in this book and it makes for a certain conceivability that I believe is lacking in some other historical novels that bring Robin into their pictures.

2010 is, I think, the year of Eleanor - Eleanor of Aquitaine - because there have been so many excellent title released that have been written about with this powerful and enigmatic woman. "The Passionate Brood" also brings Eleanor into the picture as a strong, powerful and capable female heroine,and we are also introduced to Eleanor's daughter Johanna (Richard's beloved sister) and Richard's wife, Berengaria of Navarre. Filled with the ruthlessness that was Richard's style during his sojourn in the 3rd crusade and his dispassionate murder of thousands of Saracens this book teams with the passion of the birth of the British Isles. Indeed, I think it can easily be construed that the history of Richard The Lionheart and the beginning of England history are as intertwined as can possibly be. 

The Plantagenets have always been a personal favorite family of mine - as far as British history goes - and I think Ms. Barne's did an able job of conveying the ruthlessness of times and the sometimes greatness of Richard the Lionheart. Although Robin Hood seems to play a very secondary role in this book I think the role that he was given is pivotal to an understanding of Richard and his personality. As I mentioned, although it has never been proven there is much conjecture that Robin Hood was at some point in Richard's life a friend - and from that point of view I think the books clearly reads well for the part Robin might have had in the destiny of Britain.

Yes, I am a huge fan of Margaret Campbell Barnes - and yes, I think you should buy and read this excellent novel.  I doubt you would regret it one bit !

Please note: this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received

Friday, November 5, 2010

"The Forever Queen" by Helen Hollick

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As most of you who have followed my reviews for any length of time know I am a real European history buff - especially British history. I have to admit, however, that I have never known much about the early history of Britain and very little about Anglo Saxon history. Therefore, I was quite happy to have been given an opportunity to read "The Forever Queen" whose time frame  is 1066. Weaving a plot with many diverse characters, warring factions in areas that no longer even exist and a very involved plot takes great skill and dexterity to to well -  the reader, after all, must be able to follow along. Helen Hollick has pulled this technical feat off with adroitness. 

The story of "The Forever Queen" recounts the history of Queen Emma, who, although her story is shrouded in a place where the life of a of women, even a queen, had little value in recounting- is a story that is fascinating, compelling and thoroughly enjoyable and instructive. When people use the word instructive it gives a sense of dryness I suppose but  I use the word 'instructive' as one of living history - wonderful readability, enthralling and excellent historical story telling.

The author notes that Queen Emma's history is even harder to accurately piece together that that of the later, but better know, Queen Eleanor of Aquaintaine.  Emma was of Norman birth - a link between the factions of the Normans and the English. Emma's true name was Alfgifu, but she seems to have preferred to keep and use her given name of Emma for all but State and official documents.

Emma was married early, in 1022, to the cruel Aethelred - as a King he was, useless. corrupt and ineffective at ruling. As a man he was even more cruel - I think all in all I would consider him a misogynist. From the author's notes we read that "....Emma is the only woman to have been an anointed, crowned and reigning queen to two different Saxon Kings, yet she is barely known in history...". After the death of King Aethelred II  in 1016 Emma re-married , albeit cautiously, to the  Danish King Cnut (the Great) had been born about 994 and was crowned King in 1014. His brother, Harald become the King of the Danes at this time as well. . For a fascinating historical synopsis of King Cnut see Wikipedia.For additional details on King Cnut and Queen Emma have a look here.  The author, in her very well done Author's notes also comments that during the Victorian times King Cnut's name was anglicized to Canute to sound more realistically English.

It is said that King Cnut - who Emma came to love, admire and respect very much had a daughter by a previous mistress that he brought to England to live at Court. Queen Emma had a son  King Aetherlred, Edward, who was begotten by more of a rape than an act of love. He was known to torture small animals as a youth and was ultimately sent to the North to become King of the Danes to keep him away from Queen Emma - who he disliked  - but Cnut never wanted her to know that truth. Edward ruled the Danes with the ruthlessness by which he had become known.  A daughter was born to King Cnut by a earlier mistress whom he brought to England. It is said that Edward allowed her to be drowned in a mill race he watched - it was after this occurence that he was sent to Denmark. As a a side note - Queen Emma is the great aunt of the famous William the Conqueror.

As you may be able to guess by now I thoroughly loved this book. It provided me with so much well researched early history of Britain that I had never known about - or had chosen not to read about I suppose. Helen Hollick is, in my opinion, a master story teller who carefully researches her subjects. Most all of her book is true from a historical point of view and, where people, places , names or events have been changed she notes that in her well done Author's notes. For a period in history that has so little factual information written about it I am astounded at what an amazing book has resulted.

I think that anyone who is a fan of medieval and/or Anglo-Saxon history owes it to themselves  to read this book. Once you start - you will not want to stop. There is, of course, a tremendous amount of history in this book but it also includes information of what sorts of medicines were used by the common people - or the royal ones too for that matter. There is also a entirely strong vision of what the feudal system was like at the time as well as how the continuous wars and political instability of the region had such a deleterious effect on this part of history. This book paints a vivid portrait of the time as well as of a Queen who has had such a lasting effect on the history of England. It's truly an amazing book that I am very grateful to have read!

Go get your copy! I can't imagine that you would regret it!

disclosure note: This book was provided to me by the publisher for the sole purpose of review. No other remuneration was received.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

5.25 inch (13.3350 cm) Treasures From Lark Studio Series

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please remember that you can double click on all of the photos for closer up views!
Four of the delicious titles offered.

 These books are little treasure trove of inspiration. I really enjoy each and every one. These books are chock-a-block filled with color, form, innovation, simplicity, unique complexity and complete originality originality.  I decided that some photos would indeed, speak a million words in reviewing these books. The covers are all unique and I love the size of the books - but you have to seem soeme of the insides in order to really get an idea of the joy that each is filled with.

 pendant - perfect for the season - 
I had thought I would post this on Halloween until surgery interrupted my posting schedue!

 Ah! now this chairs looks interestingly comfortable!
 colorful and lush
 These hand made books are just amazing -
sparking my own imaginition to maybe give a handmader journal a try
 one book
 What a totally unique concept to the idea of bookmaking!
 Open and fold.
 I just could not resist the lovely stitching on this one!
 A joyful fairly tale of a book!
OOPS - my favorite tile at the'd that happen ??!!

Now how affordable are these little luxuries?!

disclosure note these books were supplied to me for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received