Thursday, 20 November 2008

In Praise of AMH

AMH is my abbrieviation for the name of the multi-talented designer, Anna Maria Horner and because I'll probably mention her name a few times in this post, lovely name that it is, I decided to shorten it in case I got a typing-related injury!

I have for some time now been a fan of AMH's work and design.  I came to know of her through Flickr (where there are several groups related to her fabric ranges), through buying her fabric and following her wonderful blog.  She always uses the most gorgeous bright colours, not to mention fabby patterns and I am irresistibly drawn to them.

Selected fabrics from the "Drawing Room" range:

And from the "Garden Party" range:

A while back, she launched a small range of items for the home and I treated myself to this...

I've also used her gorgeous fabrics to make many bags..

Last month, she released her first book, "Seams to Me" 24 New Reasons to Love Sewing, (like I need any more!) and I have been awaiting this eagerly.  You know how sometimes you order books from the 'net and when they arrive, they're not quite what you were after?  You were seduced by the pretty picture on the front and promises of delights inside only to wait for it to drop through your door (which with craft books, especially American ones, can take weeks) and then you are disappointed, it's such a let-down.  Well, I can cheerfully say "not so" with AMH's new book.

It begins, as many of these books do, with introductory chapters of general guidance to help you with your sewing.  There are chapters on what sewing kit to buy, information about fabrics and two chapters to help with actual sewing techniques, both on the machine and by hand.  I think it is fair to say that AMH has a very easy, accessible style of writing and as someone who has done a reasonable amount of sewing, I still found there was plenty in there to interest me and that I had not hitherto known.

There are then 4 chapters of sewing projects.  The first ("Organize") has projects for sorting out your belongings: a sewing caddy, a wall pocket, a magnetic notice board and so on. 

I really want to make this sewing caddy but first need to track down some double-sided stiff fusible interfacing.

 The second ("Stylize") is for wearable items: bags, skirts and blouses and more.  

The third ("Decorate") has home decor items: cushions, picture frames, curtains and a quilt.  

The fourth (Domesticate) has various things for use in the home: aprons, tea towels, a dog bed etc.

I think these would have to go on the "tea towels for decorative purposes only" pile!

At the back is a pocket containing full-size pattern pieces.

I haven't yet sewn anything from this book (I'm spoilt for choice and I spend far too long just looking at the pictures) so I can't tell you how easy the patterns are to follow. As and when I make things, I'll let you know, of course. All in all, I think it represents very good value and is a breath of fresh air because so many recent craft books have been very "samey".

Talking of making things and AMH, I have today whipped up this monster/beauty:

AMH mentioned on her blog a while back that she had drawn up a pattern which was available free on an American magazine website, "Better Homes and Gardens". This is quite a handy site and I have downloaded various patterns from here (there is one for an Amy Butler designed bag too - downloaded but not yet made!) You need to register to be able to download the pattern and you do thereafter get an email from them each week but it's no great hardship for FREE patterns (you also have to ignore the continuous pop-up adverts).  So, I've been meaning to make one of these for a while and hey presto!  Guessed what it is yet?

Well done! It is indeed a pin cushion. Now the other day, I was moaning that everything I made from the Sew Pretty Homestyle book was tiny, wasn't I (the slipper, the make-up bag). Well, is this not the most giant pin cushion? I've tried to give you an idea of scale by putting it next to my Cath K pin cushions (which tend to go to the other extreme and are more novelty than useful). Three pin cushions, I hear you cry, how very necessary!

Lots of you have left me nice comments recently saying how you want to do some sewing so what are you waiting for... The pattern is free and only 3 pages to print (plus one page for the pattern template) and it's a pretty easy project. You can even make most of it from scraps. I traced 2 of the pattern pieces onto acetate because I find them easier to draw around (you need to cut 16 pieces of one piece and 8 of another).

Talking of AMH and her gorgeous fabrics, I also made this scrumptious clutch bag from one of her Drawing Room fabrics.  The Drawing Room range is home dec weight (so slightly thicker/heavier) and has a slight sheen to it.  Very nice fabric to work with.  I trimmed the clutch with some co-ordinating velvet ribbon and added a gorgeous vintage jewelled decoration (can't call it a brooch as it doesn't have a pin, it's actually sewn on through two lugs on the back).  I found the lovely jewelly "thing" at a little antiques fair in Bridport.

Sometimes I make things and I love them such that I don't want to let them go, as is the case here, but then again, I'd never be able to get to the door of my sewing room if I did that and I do always look forward to moving on and creating something new. Hearing from people when they have received my bags that they love them and then thinking of them in some far flung corner of the world (Australia, Canada, America, Switzerland etc) also gives me great satisfaction.

So that this little clutch wasn't lonely, I dived into my stash of the new Amy Butler "Daisy Chain" range of fabrics and made it a friend, also complete with its own lovely vintage brooch.


I will be putting these into my Etsy shop shortly, so please hop over if you fancy giving one a home.  Lucky you if you have a glam occasion coming up for which you need one of these lovelies!


  1. my my you have been a busy lady!!! gorgeous fabrics , loving that book I must get it for me immediately ...... Lesley x

  2. What a wonderful book....lovely fabric... again your so clever Hen...i love your makes!xxx

  3. Hi Hen
    Can i firstly say that if you ever get stuck for a job, you could very easily be employed as a crafty-book reviewer :: your book reviews are SO good, very thorough and really helpful for those of us who have such hooooooge wishlists on Amazon. This is on my wishlist but I wasn't sure about it till I read your review. So thankyou very much.

    I'm a fellow AMH fan, love her blog/style v much. I also made the Giant Pincushion, it really is enormous isn't it?!

    AND, can I just confess a little here :: AMH her very self commented on my blog the other week (as did the famous Betz White), it was like having Blogging Royalty visit, I felt like doing a curtsey! Heehee!!

    love to you

  4. Your purses are really pretty. I am a fan of AMH too. I've been thinking of getting her book, thanks for the good overview.

  5. I love the top fabric on the Garden Party range photo. I have the fabric lust!
    You have such talent.

  6. Hen
    Sorry to be blurbing in your comments but my email is not working, I can't send messages Betz White, she wrote the felting book "Warm Fuzzies", check out her website She's well known for her cupcake pincushions made from recycled felted wool sweaters, they are gorgeous.

  7. Oh Mrs Henhouse...I do love your blog and your sewing - it has been a while since my last visit, so I have had such fun looking through your lovelies here. I love your bags - you put your fabrics together so very pleasingly and I especially love the one with the wool top and the cotton bottom.

    I have been desperate to lay my paws on the Seams to Me book and you may just have tipped me over the edge. Oh dear. x

  8. Thank you, for such a lovely review of my book, and of course for all the other nice things you've mentioned regarding the fabrics etc. you do a gorgeous job with them, and I am touched to know that my goods and projects have a happy spot in your home!
    wishing you the best, with love,
    Anna Maria
    (sorry had to delete the 1st comment there were too many typos for even me to stand)

  9. That book actually does look it's worth while buying. The projects look fairly simple and unique. Her fabrics are wonderful aren't they?? You have been a busy bee Hen! XX

  10. Hello Hen. Wow, what a fantastic rebiew as ever. I do love your blog! Great bags too. You have a real flair for putting fabrics together xx

  11. Lovely book, I haven't seen that so thanks for the review. I love the apron & may take a look after Christmas. I like the dogs basket, do you get the dog? He's lovely.
    I'm so busy at the moment, I played around with the flower pattern from Lucy's blog & made my own design, my friend who owns a shop saw it & has ordered a load!! Good news but I really don't have time. x

  12. Great review as ever! I usually order books from the library first but sometimes they take so long with their buying decisions I just give up and buy anyway. (I wish I'd seen your review before I bought 'Make'!) the AMH book is still on their 'maybe' purchase list - I think I'm off to Amazon!
    BEAUTIFUL bags. t.x

  13. Love your bag with the bird on it.

  14. Wow! Thanks for this, I have never heard of her before....she looks GREAT!! I love the fabric examples you've put on your blog too! Also, did you do the crochet flower yourself??? :) :)

    Hope your okay,
    Lucy xx

  15. Hi, I've just found your blog and I just wanted to say that I love your work and your photos. You use some fabulous fabrics.
    I've been working with the two fabrics you have used for the flower part in the pin cushion in a quilt I'm making.
    maria x

  16. Lovely post and gorgeous fabrics!!

    I have tagged you over at my blog, hope you participate.

  17. How do you find the time? The bags are beautiful. The book looks great too. Note to self to ask Father Christmas for it. I've never heard of AMH but will check out her website after posting this.

  18. mis hen, please help? I cannot find the instructions on how to make your pin cushion, I have the templates but not how to sew them togather?


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