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Peasant (Deepest England)
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At Home With White
At Home With White
by Atlanta Bartlett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.58

5.0 out of 5 stars The power of white, 10 Aug. 2015
This review is from: At Home With White (Hardcover)
Atlanta Bartlett is in love with white, as can easily be seen from her other books, "Pale and Interesting", and the rather mis-named "Keep it Simple". This is the best of the three for the mere mortal, as the interiors featured don't rely for their impact on the sort of architectural features real people can't afford, and the ideas are easily transferrable to a normal house. She is very good on the subtleties of white, how shades play together, and if you have already set your heart on an all-white interior this is definitely a good book of inspiration. The interiors aren't boringly minimalist (sorry, you might like minimalism) - but then minimalism assumes you have plenty of space for huge cupboards to hide all the stuff we actually need in order to live. Few of us have the nerve to have the Dyson on display like an artwork.

What is really noticeable in these interiors is how any splashed of colour - even beige - sings out. That is the best lesson I'll take away from the book; white is the perfect foil for delicate and appealling colours. For the interiors aren't actually all-white; there are blond woods, pretty chintz cushions, dark accents of black and even red - it works, it's not hard to do and any keen DIYer can easily learn from it. Definitely the best.


Keep it Simple - A guide to a happy, relaxed home
Keep it Simple - A guide to a happy, relaxed home
by Atlanta Bartlett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A happy relaxed home?, 10 Aug. 2015
First of all we are told this is "not a book about decorating style but a way of life". This is curious, because this book certainly LOOKS like a book about decorating. "Ditch fashion" we are told, but every interior shown hits the current trends bang on target. Now inevitably, a book about how to furnish your home is bound to have a lot of attractive pictures, to help it sell. But it is disappointing to see the same old sameolds trotted out again - the beach-themed bedroom, the funky 60s lamp and ironic antler trophies, the distressed industrial details, all photographed in rooms with architectural features most of us can only dream of. This is all very, very aspirational and aspiration is, we know in our heart of hearts, the source of unhappiness, discontent and a very unrelaxing urge to keep up with the Joneses. "Perfection is not the aim" we are urged, our house shouldn't look like a show home - no, we have to do the kind of perfection which looks unplanned, casual and individual - so much harder and more angst-ridden than the show-home look. This actually begins to make me angry, because the book is telling us a lie. While urging us to ignore fashion and trust our instincts, it is paradoxically also telling us the way to be happy and relaxed is to acheive a particularly difficult kind of fashionable, impractical, expensive, time-consuming art-work. And a family home, to be happy and relaxed, has to turn its back on worrying about what your guests will make of your latest design idea.

I note that almost all the interiors shown are available for photography, and several as holiday lets. Walls in corrugated iron or bare logs don't feature in the normal family home, even if you're well-heeled enough or have the time to source funky items to upcycle (Such as a wonky-looking bed made out of tree branches - how comfy is that?). In other words, these aren't working family homes, they are stage sets. One wonders what the ones that are also family homes look like when the cameras have gone. Do the photography fees pay for the cleaning lady and annual redecorating to keep all those white surfaces looking pristine? The white floors sannded, coated with two coats of lye (wear protective clothing and goggles) and sealed with 3 coats of Swedish white floor soap, after which "all they need is a weekly wash" with the same soap. Thanks, I'll enjoy doing that.

Alert readers may notice this book is by the people who brought you 'Pale and Interesting' and 'At home with white'. All-white interiors were 'invented' by Syrie Maugham, the wife of Somerset Maugham, in the 1930s, and were considered radical even in those days of light, airy interiors. (She even invented the idea of taking boring old bits and pieces of furniture and painting them white.) They were a huge status symbol - why? Beacuse they showed you had the money to afford a cleaning lady (every day) and annual redecorating to expunge fingermarks, plus regular re-upholstery of all those white sofas. "Nota bene", as they say - perhaps grey is so popular because it is much more practical for the real world? Because the interiors in this book, like those in its predecessors, are not for the real, mucky world of families, daily life and, dare I say it, have nothing to do with a "happy relaxed home".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2015 7:37 PM BST


Gifts you can make yourself - Gifts for Women, Gifts for Men, Gifts for Children, Gifts for the Home (Knitting, Sewing, Embroidery, Crochet..and much more)
Gifts you can make yourself - Gifts for Women, Gifts for Men, Gifts for Children, Gifts for the Home (Knitting, Sewing, Embroidery, Crochet..and much more)
by Various
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars The original with all its charm, 8 Aug. 2015
Look for a genuine old copy, not a reprint - half the charm is in the age. There are plenty of projects here which a canny crafter could adapt to modern 'vintage' tastes - curiously enough the genuinely old doesn't actually match with our concept of 'Vintage' and can look rather dowdy. Not all the projects are needlework; there are a few woodwork items but I suspect the peole who will ant this book are those with a passion fro needlcrafts. It is well illustrated in black and white and there are patterns for you to sacle up for the sewn items, as well as plenty of knitting and crochet. I smiled in particular at the canvas 'Carry Seat' - a sort of carrier bag for toting a toddler about in, to be swung between two adults. For days when the pushchair was beyond the pockets of many people! And the Scottie Dog bookends. But what caught my eye was the gorgeous Charleston-esque block printing patterns on page 147, to be printed using the infants school classic, potato printing. Now THAT could be seriously useful!


Gifts You Can Make Yourself - Illustrated : A selection of delightful gifts which can be made at home for everyone
Gifts You Can Make Yourself - Illustrated : A selection of delightful gifts which can be made at home for everyone
by Odhams
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Now THAT could be seriously useful!, 8 Aug. 2015
Look for a genuine old copy, not a reprint - half the charm is in the age. There are plenty of projects here which a canny crafter could adapt to modern 'vintage' tastes - curiously enough the genuinely old doesn't actually match with our concept of 'Vintage' and can look rather dowdy. Not all the projects are needlework; there are a few woodwork items but I suspect the peole who will ant this book are those with a passion fro needlcrafts. It is well illustrated in black and white and there are patterns for you to sacle up for the sewn items, as well as plenty of knitting and crochet. I smiled in particular at the canvas 'Carry Seat' - a sort of carrier bag for toting a toddler about in, to be swung between two adults. For days when the pushchair was beyond the pockets of many people! And the Scottie Dog bookends. But what caught my eye was the gorgeous Charleston-esque block printing patterns on page 147, to be printed using the infants school classic, potato printing. Now THAT could be seriously useful!


Gifts you can make yourself: Second series
Gifts you can make yourself: Second series
by Odhams
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky home-made projects, 8 Aug. 2015
The gifts in this book are wacky and surprising, even for the 1930s. Ornaments made of perspex anyone? There is no gender bias here, surprisingly; the needlework items are mixed up with the woodwork and DIY type projects. We do have 'gifts for women' including not only 'knickers, knitted', (!!!) but less personal items like Raffia Pet Basket, and 'gifts for men', with the likes of Knitted Tie alongside Library Book Cover and Spectacle Case, but also gofts for children and 'gifts for the home' such as Coloured Boxes For The Nursery and Oblong Cushion.

The book is well-illustrated and though undated the style says late Thirties to mid-Forties; probably it was published just before the outbreak of the second World War. A charming period piece with plenty of knitting patterns and other projects which could be adapted by the clever crafter. Some politically incorrect toys!


The Big Book Of Needlecraft: A Book of Practical Information and Interest for the Home Needlewoman, the Dressmaker, the Embroideress, the Knitter and the Craftswoman
The Big Book Of Needlecraft: A Book of Practical Information and Interest for the Home Needlewoman, the Dressmaker, the Embroideress, the Knitter and the Craftswoman
by Odhams Press
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Updated for the 1960s, 8 Aug. 2015
This book is quite widely available and appears similar at first glance to News Chronicle Needlework and Crafts: Every Woman's Book of the Arts of Plain Sewing, Embroidery, Dressmaking, and Home Crafts (Illustrated With Plates), earlier editions even having the same grey cloth cover. However it is a far better, and more useful, book and this is simply a later edition with a funky early 60s cover and updated line drawings. The contents are similar, but have been updated, and some of the many photographs in the earlier edition have been lost.

Every aspect of needlework is covered, from different kinds of embroidery to making a pair of gloves. Everything is here from basic skills to vintage projects. The drawings of how to do various embroidery stitches are a model of clarity. The numerous black and white photographs make one itch to have a go. If you're feeling adventurous there is a section on weaving. However, the chapter headings in the older book have been re-arranged and grouped in secitions, which I will list here in order. Simple Dressmaking: Cutting Paterns, The Sewing Machine, Sewing Methods, Complete Garments, Lingerie. Accessories. Embroidery: Working Principles, Stitchery, Types of Embroidery, White Work, Needleweaving, Applique, Jacobean Embroidery, Canvas Embriodery, Quilting, Smocking. Needlecrafts: Knitting, Knitted Garments, Crochet, Tatting. Weaving. Household Needlecrafts: Soft Furnishings, Rug Making, Renovations. Toy Making.

What is noticeable is that despite the books being of about thew same physical size, the older book has a greater range of stuff. The section on making garments seems to have been expanded, and some sections, such as that on laundry, have been removed. This no doubt made it more appropriate to the 1960s housewife. To the modern buyer, I would say the earlier volume, with the grey cloth cover, is the better and more interesting book.

There is an index at the back.

Anyone interested in adding to their sewing skills would be well advised to invest in this, and it would make a superb present. Add it to The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing and you have everything at your fingertips. For another range of unexpected vintage projects (not all textile based) try Gifts You Can Make Yourself


The Year 1000: An Englishman's Year
The Year 1000: An Englishman's Year
by Robert Lacey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A view of Anglo Saxon England., 8 Aug. 2015
According to the English way of looking at things, where the 'proper' middle ages start at 1066, the year 1000 is at the end of the Dark Ages. Other countries differ, according to their personal histories - in France, for instance, there is no such conveneint cut-off point and their history is less likely to be amputated in the curious way we English do. However, the fact of the Norman conquest means that readers over a certain age know very little about Anglo Saxon England, and those who have been forced to study it properly may well only retain a bewildering picture of an unfamiliar world and hoards of kings with similar, wildly silly, names (as in the splendid '1066 And All That').

Lacey and Danziger's thematic approach is more like the way history has been taught recently, and thus is refreshing to the older reader. However, while they continually emphasise the lack of written material to draw on, I cannot help feeling, from my restricted, unacademic explorations of the field, that they haven't made use of everything they might have. There are interesting observations, but no real insights and their best attempts to bring the era to life are a liitle bit flat. Decent but not outstanding, redable but not fascinating.


Scots Kitchen: Its Traditions and Lore with Old-time Recipes
Scots Kitchen: Its Traditions and Lore with Old-time Recipes
by F.Marian McNeill
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The scots kitchen, 6 Aug. 2015
First published in 1929, this book is part of the same revival of interest in traditional food that saw the publication of Good Things in England. It is much more than a recipe book; almost half the text is given over to a fascinating study of the food and cooking of Scotland in historical times, together with insights into domestic life in Highlands, Islands and Lowlands. There are copious footnotes, at times occupying half the page.

A lot of space is given to references to, and descriptions of, food in literature, especially the works of Scott and the food of his fictional but legendary culinary heroine Megs Dods. The long links with France are delved into, and an appendix lists French-derived culinary terms and their original Gallic forms. The Gaelic is not neglected either, and the frugal traditions of the crofts, still much more alive in 1929 than we would expect, are treated at length. I was fascinated to discover that grinding grain with a rotary hand-quern was still common in remote areas in late Victorian times, also that the tradition of "smooring" the peat fire (carefully 'smothering' it with ash so it would smoulder till morning, ready to be breathed into life again for breakfast) was, as in Gaelic Ireland, accompanied by a protective chant half psalm, half magic spell, which mingled together the pagan and the folk-catholic.

The recipes themselves vary from the spartan to the lush, all using the wealth of local meat and game, the few vegetables and fruit then grown north of the border, and spices and exotic ingredients (almonds, orange-water, orange peel) which have formed part of the cookery of the British Isles since medieval times. Instructions are given in anecdotal rather than prescriptive style, with ingredients given at the head of the text but quantities in the main description. Sources for recipes are given, and again there are often footnotes too.

This is an unbeatable resource of traditional cuisine, with all the current themes of sustainability, local sourcing, nose-to-tail eat and seasonability. Adventurous cooks will find plenty to excite them. There is, I confess, a great deal of dialect terms and more than a little Gaelic; however all dialect words are translated in the footnotes. Admittedly, if you aren't a native Scot you can get bogged down - in some descriptions I understood only two words in three without recourse to the footnotes - and the historical section is inclined to be "bitty" and not hang together as well as it might. But these are minor quibbles in an otherwise irreplaceable book.


This Hallowed Ground The Story Of The Union Side Of The Civil War
This Hallowed Ground The Story Of The Union Side Of The Civil War
by Bruce Catton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Totally gripping, 6 Aug. 2015
I picked this book up casually from one of those charity bookshelves in my pub. "I don't know much about the American Civil War" I thought, and popped my 50p in the collecting box. I opened it idly and several hours later my friends had to beat me over the head as it was closing time and I had done nothing but sit open-mouthed gripped by Catton's tale. Because whether you're interested in American history or, like me , just vaguely curious, this book is un-put-downable.

Catton's style is jaunty, impassioned, wry and theatrical by turns, but never, even when describing potentially mind-numbing details of battle manoeuvres or changes of command structure, does he lose the reader's interest for a nanosecond. The book is clearly written for an American audience who have 'done' the Civil War at school, and he delights in bringing to life names that presumably lurk in his reader's memory from schooldays. To a British reader this might make some passages a little difficult to follow, but fortunately even the most ignorant (among whom I count myself) have heard of many of the main players, and Catton brings everyone into vivid, individual focus with terse but colourful descriptions. Described as "The Story of the Union Side in the Civil War", it is undoubtedly history written by the winners, but with sympathy for the soldiers of the South and without unpleasant glorification of the victors. Catton is thoroughly anti-racist (surprisingly so for 1957) but does not have that particular axe to grind; he sees the events of the 1860s as part of an inevitable stage in the developemnt of the nation. In this he follows the Hegelian approach to history; that events move inevitably forward driven by forces beyond the control of the individual. It may be more fashionable these days to see history as the outcome of the interplay of economic chance and random occurrence, but never has History as Progress been so persuasive as here.

I read this book becase I felt I ought to know more about the subject; I now have a deep appreciation of the way the war transformed not only the political landscape of the USA, but the view that Americans have of themselves. Written in 1957, we might fear that a certain Cold War atmosphere might creep in, as it does in so much American writing of the period, but nothing has dated and it could have been written yesterday. Read it for a 'jolly good read', for some of the best war history writing you will ever come across, to understand a whole lot more about American culture and psychology or just as a wonderful example of how a good writer can make the driest subject matter sparkle.


This Hallowed Ground (Vintage Civil War Library)
This Hallowed Ground (Vintage Civil War Library)
by Bruce Catton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Totally gripping, 6 Aug. 2015
I picked this book up casually from one of those charity bookshelves in my pub. "I don't know much about the American Civil War" I thought, and popped my 50p in the collecting box. I opened it idly and several hours later my friends had to beat me over the head as it was closing time and I had done nothing but sit open-mouthed gripped by Catton's tale. Because whether you're interested in American history or, like me , just vaguely curious, this book is un-put-downable.

Catton's style is jaunty, impassioned, wry and theatrical by turns, but never, even when describing potentially mind-numbing details of battle manoeuvres or changes of command structure, does he lose the reader's interest for a nanosecond. The book is clearly written for an American audience who have 'done' the Civil War at school, and he delights in bringing to life names that presumably lurk in his reader's memory from schooldays. To a British reader this might make some passages a little difficult to follow, but fortunately even the most ignorant (among whom I count myself) have heard of many of the main players, and Catton brings everyone into vivid, individual focus with terse but colourful descriptions. Described as "The Story of the Union Side in the Civil War", it is undoubtedly history written by the winners, but with sympathy for the soldiers of the South and without unpleasant glorification of the victors. Catton is thoroughly anti-racist (surprisingly so for 1957) but does not have that particular axe to grind; he sees the events of the 1860s as part of an inevitable stage in the developemnt of the nation. In this he follows the Hegelian approach to history; that events move inevitably forward driven by forces beyond the control of the individual. It may be more fashionable these days to see history as the outcome of the interplay of economic chance and random occurrence, but never has History as Progress been so persuasive as here.

I read this book becase I felt I ought to know more about the subject; I now have a deep appreciation of the way the war transformed not only the political landscape of the USA, but the view that Americans have of themselves. Written in 1957, we might fear that a certain Cold War atmosphere might creep in, as it does in so much American writing of the period, but nothing has dated and it could have been written yesterday. Read it for a 'jolly good read', for some of the best war history writing you will ever come across, to understand a whole lot more about American culture and psychology or just as a wonderful example of how a good writer can make the driest subject matter sparkle.


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