December To Be ReadMy reading fest continues with two more from the TBR shelves – a book about sewing and a book about books, which seems nicely appropriate for me. I’ve enjoyed having some time off over Christmas / New Year – and have two more books to review tomorrow and more on the go – are you having a reading season, too? Of course, this is useful, as along with the books I received at the BookCrossing Christmas meal, I had a nice little pile of seven on Christmas Day – I’ll be sure to photograph the TBR in situ and this pile in particular over the next couple of days …

Linda Gamberton & Christine Leech – “The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing”

(14 February 2014 – from Matthew)

I don’t think this was a Valentine’s present as such; I suspect that I was randomly in the bookshop and asked for this to be bought from what we refer to as ‘Bank of Matthew’ – a Christmas and Birthday fund which takes away from the bother of having both main gift times within a month of each other and spreads the shopping joy (hmm) over the year.

As it says, this is a book of fairly simple sewing project, both useful and simply decorative, showcasing the lovely Liberty fabrics that I’ve known since my childhood (although they can be made up in any fabric you choose).

Did anyone else go and buy those skirt or dress lengths from the Liberty shop (or perhaps your local Bentalls) where you just had to sew up the side seam and do the hem and there was a lovely flowery skirt with an elasticated waist or a sundress with a shirred bodice? None of those in this book, but seeing those fabrics did remind me of those heady days in the 80s.

The text is simple and the illustrations useful – the patterns do have to be blown up using a photocopier, but the instructions for doing that are nice and clear. The confident assertion that the lack of nice fabrics being used to make commercially available pet beds being a home design worry did make me giggle, but overall this has some lovely patterns and gift ideas, and I will be attempting some of them in the months to come.

Valerie Grove – “So Much to Tell: The Biography of Kaye Webb”

(31 March 2014 – from Verity)

This was the last part of my lovely Virago LibraryThing Group secret santa gift from the lovely Verity. Like, I suspect, many of my UK readers, I was a member of the Puffin Club in my childhood, so it was good to find out about this biography of the founder of Puffin Books and the Club.

Were you a member? Did you go to any of the meetups or even the holiday trips? Both Matthew and I recall going to event in London – I certainly met Harry Secombe at one, but went to a few. What about you? It’s a right old trip down memory lane today, isn’t it!

Anyway, moving on to the review, as with many heroes – and book-related ones – Kaye Webb wasn’t quite as I imagined, with several marriages and a sometimes less than ideal relationship with her children. She herself said that her career went marvellously, but not so much her private life.

The book was well-researched and comprehensive, while remaining lively and interesting. There were reminiscences from many colleagues and authors with whom she worked. The best part for me was reading about the authors and other people who are now well known who started out as Puffin Club members and, often, competition enterers, before going on to their further careers. The details of the guardians of a Puffin time capsule (now held in a museum) were interesting, too.

Ultimately, I got an impression of a woman whose life was so wrapped up in and invested in her work that she was really very lost when she retired and her author friends started to drop away. A lesson to us all to not concentrate on one area of our life only, perhaps.

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So, two good reads there, and more to come. Do share your memories of Liberty fabrics and the Puffin Club – I’d love to hear about their role in your early lives, if they had one!