Perforated

Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit by Hanna Karlzon and The Folklore Company - Click through to read the review and see photos

Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit – A Review

This kit was created and very kindly sent to me to review by The Folklore Company, who create fabulous embroidery and cross stitch kits. I’ve loved cross stitch since I was a child but haven’t done any in nearly 10 years but when I found out that The Folklore Company had teamed up with one of my favourite colouring book artists, Hanna Karlzon, I just knew I’d have to start up again! This design is available in two formats, the normal cross stitch format which is what I’m reviewing here or a tote bag with a special dissolvable plastic that allows you to sew on it as if it were aida fabric and then dissolve the plastic in water afterwards just leaving the stitches in place on the bag. I wish I’d asked to review that kit now because this design is beautiful and would look stunning on a bag!

The kit arrives well packed in a clear plastic packet and contains everything you need to get started apart from a small pair of scissors and an embroidery hoop, I’d personally recommend one that’s around 26cm in diameter, mine is this size and I haven’t had to move it once as the design fits within this space preventing lots of creasing and possible damage to stitching by having to move the hoop around whilst working. The kit contains Aida fabric, more than large enough to fit the design on and with plenty of space to fit whatever size hoop you have to hand, a needle (in a small plastic packet), 3 sheets of paper including the pattern and instructions, printed in colour and double-sided, and 10 different colour embroidery flosses. The instructions give clear guidelines for newbies as well as seasoned stitchers about where to begin, how to sew without using knots and handy tips about not getting show-through from dark threads and trailing colours when needed. The pattern is clear and printed just about large enough for those with most levels of visual acuity. I don’t know what everyone else’s technique whilst cross-stitching is but I always like to colour over the pattern when stitching to be sure that I know what I have and haven’t sewn which helps me avoid mistakes. I didn’t want to do this on the pattern itself so I photocopied it and have scribbled my way through that instead. The pattern is divided into 4 quarters each printed on a single piece of A4 though these are printed double-sided so unless you photocopy it, you can’t lay out the whole pattern at once and match it up. The pattern also doesn’t reach the edges of the paper which can make lining things up a little tricky, you certainly won’t want to swap quarters whilst tired or you’re likely to make mistakes. Each thread is allocated a symbol in the key and these are then shown on the pattern, all of these are well chosen and differ strongly from each other so you won’t get confused or accidentally misread the symbols and start sewing in the wrong colour. My only niggle with the symbols is the black square used for the dark grey thread as this is very difficult to colour over/around to indicate that I’ve sewn those areas and I do keep having to really study the pattern to check exactly what I have and haven’t done rather than being able to check with a glance like I’m able to with all of the other symbols and thread colours. This is a very minor criticism and will likely only affect people who cross-stitch in the same way as me. The only other difficulty is that the crossover sections on each page of the pattern aren’t totally clear, the lines for the edge of the diagram cross halfway through the symbols and these can be a little challenging to see and decipher but again, this is a minor issue and only affects the central crossing vertical and horizontal line so it is pretty minor in the grand scheme of the diagram and pattern.

All of the stitches in this pattern are full crosses, there are no quarter, half, or three-quarter cross stiches and no running/back stitch outlines either so the whole design is neatly made from full crosses which I personally prefer as I can never neatly sew partial cross stitches. The instructions suggest that you start in the very centre which is the middle of the bird and this is indeed where I started. It then suggests that you work through each quarter but I don’t work so well like that so I did the majority of the bird, then the outline of the top of the frame, then the bottom, then filled those in and then did the flowers outlining them first and then filling them in and finally finished off with the flower centres. There’s no right or wrong way of sewing, just make sure that you’ve centred the design correctly and that you double check your counting if you do separate sections to ensure that they will join up in the right places later. Having now finished the whole piece, I have a lot of thread left over so you’re given plenty of each one and don’t need to worry about running out. The darkest two colours were used by far the most and I don’t have a huge amount left but as long as you’re not very wasteful with them or trailing them across the design a lot, you definitely won’t run low on them and the others I’ve got loads left of.

In terms of mental health, cross stich generally is really good because you have to focus fully on the pattern to ensure you sew it correctly and the motion of sewing is very calming and therapeutic. This pattern is great for mental health because it’s a really good level of difficulty, it’s not so small that you can complete it in a day or two but it’s also not so big that you’ll get bored or feel like you’re not making progress. There are quite a lot of colour changes and not so many large blocks of the same colour but while this means you have to swap threads a fair bit, it also means that it keeps you interested and there isn’t lots of repetition. The colour choices are lovely and quite muted but not dull, they’re a great choice for aiding calm feelings and they’ll go nicely with lots of different décor if you want to frame and display it after you’ve finished. The design does require a pretty good level of concentration, especially the frame sections so you will need to sew on good days and those where your functioning is high. Alternatively, you could just sew for short periods of time to avoid making mistakes but still get your stitching fix. My anxiety disorders mean that I often struggle to concentrate for long periods of time and my vision is often affected which makes reading and following cross stitch patterns a real challenge, to combat this I tried to make sure not to sew when I was tired and to always sew in good light, either daylight or with a bright light near me and I double-checked all counting and regularly checked that what I’d sewn was correct with the pattern, as well as colouring over the pattern in pencil for every few stitches I’d done. This meant that I only made one mistake in the whole thing and that was just one stitch that no one would ever notice so I’m really pleased, this is the first time I’ve ever managed to do a whole project and not make a noticeable mistake!

If you photocopy the pattern before scribbling all over it like I did then it would be possible to reuse it in future and you could even change the colour scheme to create personalised projects that would match your own décor or favourite colours. Each colour only needs one skein of thread so it would be very easy to reuse the pattern and make heaps of beautiful birds if you wished. For those of you who are from the colouring community, you might be interested to know that this design isn’t an exact replica of one of Hanna’s drawings but rather a combination of two, both from a double-page spread in Magisk Gryning (Magical Dawn), her third colouring book and a photo of these can be found below. Before you ask, yes, I did spend ages trawling through all of her books to find it because I was almost certain I’d seen the image before!

Overall, I would highly recommend this cross stitch kit, it’s a beautiful design, lovely colours, and a great level of difficulty that’s not too simple or too challenging. I like it so much that I’m hoping to recreate it in future with a totally different colour scheme but for now, I’m hoping to frame this one and have it in pride of place in my flat, it’s a great reminder of what you can accomplish, even whilst very poorly. This kit would suit seasoned stitchers, as well as complete beginners who are up for a challenge!

If you’d like to purchase a kit, they’re available here: Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit

Advertisements
Gift Boxes A Year of Celebrations Click through to see photos, video and read my written review

Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow Publishing. This book is unlike any other because it’s not a normal colouring book, each page is a gift box which can be removed and folded into a box to gift to friends and family, this is the third in the series with a Christmas-themed one available HERE and a Birds and Blossoms one HERE. The book itself is paperback with flexible card covers, it’s just under 30cm square and has a pale blue cover with splashes of pinks and dark blue, and gold foil accents. On the inside cover are diagrams and written instructions about how to remove and fold the boxes and on the back inside cover are three recipes so you can create edible treats to go in your boxes – Peppermint Chocolate Truffles, Gingerbread Men, and Coconut Macaroons. The spine is glue and string-bound making it durable but it’s also quite easy to press flat so that you can colour the whole box, or remove it via the perforations before colouring if you find that easier. Each of the 24 pages contains one double-sided box with different matching designs for each of the sides and the inside base and then a small repeating pattern on all of the other edges, there’s heaps to colour in on each one! The card is medium thickness, bright white and lightly textured so it’s perfect for pencils and water-based pens which didn’t bleed and only slightly shadowed with the darkest colours; alcohol markers will bleed so I’d avoid using these. The perforations are well-made and the parts do mostly come out easily, I would advise caution as a very small section of my actual box started splitting so you may prefer to use the perforations as a guide for scissors or just work slowly, a few of the parts have quite large perforations which do leave large bumps rather than smooth edges on the box but again, these could be tidied up with scissors if you wish. The boxes are individually designed and contain themed illustrations to celebrate various celebrations as well as some more generic designs that could be used for any sort of gift, the themes include – Valentine’s Day/Anniversary, Easter, male and female themed cards, birthday, and Christmas. The content is very wide ranging from cars to swans, snowmen to deer, balloons to cakes, kites to flowers, Christmas trees to shells, stars to boats and so much more, this is by far the widest ranging content of any of the three gift box books now published. The images are very cute and have a naïve quality to them which makes them look really charming and they’ll look lovely coloured by adults or children and gifted to others. At the back of the book is a page of gold foiled stickers each with lines on where you can write names to and from, and each with a small celebration-themed motif. The set is really well-made and thought out, this book is produced by the same publishing company who created the Colouring Books of Cards and Envelopes so you can be assured it’s good quality though the illustrations are created by a different artist (Eilidh Muldoon) from those (Rebecca Jones) and the other colouring gift box books (Sarah Walsh and Felicity French).

In terms of mental health, I think this book of gift boxes is pretty great because it offers up a project with a very clear purpose and end point, ideal for those of us who struggle to get motivated or see the point in things sometimes. Sharing is always good fun and when colouring these boxes you know you’ll be sharing the love with someone you care about and that’s a great thing to be able to do! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels are pretty high with lots of small sections so these boxes will only really be suited to those of you with good vision and fine motor control. The boxes take ages to colour so you’re certainly getting lots of colouring hours for your money, however, each box consists of lots of small colourable parts which is ideal for any level of concentration or amount of symptoms, you can colour for 20 seconds doing just one or two flowers, or hours and hours doing the whole internal repeating pattern or somewhere in between. The images on the boxes are sure to get you in the mood for any celebration. These boxes will be perfect for sharing treats with family and friends and they can be filled with small gifts or sweets or chocolates and they’ll be the perfect packaging for anything handmade, the possibilities are endless!

Overall, I would highly recommend these colourable gift boxes, there’s loads to colour on each one and they’re sure to be received well, they give a wonderful personal touch to whatever gifts you decide to put inside them.

If you’d like to purchase a set, the book is available here:
Amazon UK – Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Gift-Boxes-Colour-and-Make-Year-of-Celebrations-Eilidh-Muldoon/9781788000093/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can find the other two gift box books here.

The box below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.

Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) by Emelie Lidehall Oberg, click through to read my review, see a flick through and photos

Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) is illustrated by Emelie Lidehäll Öberg and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This book is only available in this format and is similar to the Swedish Artist’s Editions (Tavelboks), it measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are white with green imagery from inside the book. The book has a green tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through and mine didn’t even shadow when colouring the black sections of the image. The 20 illustrations are all posters, 19 contain text, 7 are written in Swedish, 12 are written in English, two of them include swearing (one English and one Swedish). The posters contain varying amounts of imagery and text with some just being beautifully drawn text and others just having a subtle message placed within a large colourable image. The phrases range from romantic to funny, exclamations to sayings, you can see them all in the images below. The illustrations also vary a lot from animals to flowers, objects to houses, scenes to collections and more, they are all drawn beautifully and are each packed with content so there’s loads to colour in each one. The posters would be ideal to remove and frame either for your own home or to give as gifts.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, I’m always a huge fan of books that offer a project that can be gifted or displayed because these are fantastic for showing us what we can achieve and for giving us a goal to work towards and afterwards, a reminder of what we can do. You could easily colour them to match the theme of a room or to stand out a look fabulous and I can’t wait to frame my finished page and brighten up my walls with it! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin but not spindly. The intricacy and detail levels vary a little within each image with most being fairly intricate but having a few places with larger open spaces, therefore this book would be ideal for most levels of vision and fine motor control. The content is pretty uplifting and positive and sure to make you smile or laugh, even on your worst days and it looks even more fabulous once you’ve filled it with colour! The images are all a manageable size and will take varying amounts of time to colour depending on what mediums you use and how much blending and shading you want to do but none are overwhelming or likely to require weeks of dedication! Most of them consist of lots of component parts so you can colour them in sections if you wish, particularly useful if you’re having a bad day.

Overall, this is a fab book, it’s filled with beautiful artwork just begging to be coloured and displayed and it’s sure to perk up even the most symptom-filled days. The card is ideal for all mediums and the posters lend themselves to all types of colouring styles.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here: https://www.printworksmarket.com/p/shop/books/all-books/hem-ljuva-hem-20-posters-to-color-and-frame.html

I run a fan group for the artwork of Emelie, please do join us and share your work.

The image below was coloured with Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils, Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and a black Sharpie.

Tillsammans Målarbok (Together Colouring Book) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Tillsammans Målarbok (Together Colouring Book) is illustrated by Hanna Karlzon and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This book is in an artist’s edition format but this is the only format it’s available in, it’s not a full-size colouring book or postcard book. It is identical in format to the artist’s editions (tavelboks) of Hanna’s other books, Daydreams (Dagdrommar), Summer Nights (Sommarnatt) and Magical Dawn (Magisk Gryning) and therefore my review is mostly identical apart from the content section and the photos, skip to paragraph 2 for information about the content. The book measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are a pale lemon colour with a black and white line drawing of one of the portraits (found inside) with gold foiling accents on the front and back. The book has a black tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through.

The 20 illustrations are all portraits of women and 15 of these have been chosen from Hanna’s 4 previous colouring books and 5 have been newly created for this book specifically. The images Hanna has chosen are a really good cross-section and seem to be some of the favourites of the colouring community, none of the previously published images have been printed in artist’s edition format so while it’s not all new content, it is all newly published in the single-sided format printed on card. There are a range of different portraits from two women together to single women face on, some in side profile and others showing a whole person. Each image contains various different objects and accessories including gems, metal, jewellery, mushrooms, flowers, birds, shells, moths, crowns, and candles, there is a really good variety despite them all being portraits of women. Those images taken from previous colouring books are all printed the same size as the originals so if you’re able to colour those, you’ll also be able to colour these with no difficulty. The pictures would all look amazing framed for yourself or gifted to others and because the faces are mostly quite large they’re great to practice skin tone colouring on and really push yourself out of your comfort zone. All of the images are pictured below so you can check that you’re happy with the choices and see if your favourites are included.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, it’s very absorbing and ideal for those who want to colour realistically and learn how to colour people. The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary a little throughout from medium to high and this is part of what makes Hanna’s work so special and beautiful, if you’re wanting to colour within each teeny tiny section then you’ll need to have very good vision and fine motor control but if you’re happy to colour over some of it and use it as texture underneath then moderate vision and fine motor control would be absolutely fine! I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different details, patterns and objects makes me feel calmer and the images are just charming so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary a little in size and difficulty but unlike many of Hanna’s images that consist of lots of component parts, these are all portraits and scenes and therefore they don’t have such natural stopping points for those wanting to just colour in short bursts, you can still colour just one flower or just the eyes but it’s not so easy to come to an obvious point to stop, however, if you don’t mind stopping part-way through an image then this book would be ideal for using on good and bad days. The fact that the pages are printed single-sided and are removable is fantastic because it means you can remove your works of art and frame them or gift them which is a great way of reminding yourself of what you can achieve and brighten up the darkest of days.

I would highly recommend this book to those of you who are already fans of Hanna’s work and have her previous books and really want to colour more people, while 75% of the artwork can be found in Hanna’s previous books, this gives you the opportunity to colour those pages again and use different colour schemes or wetter media without ruining a reverse image and you can also frame them for wonderful gifts or beautiful decoration for your own home. This book is ideal for those who use wet media and alcohol markers and the illustrations are a great cross-section of Hanna’s portraits.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available from Printworks. A Dutch edition will be published in March 2018 by BBNC Uitgevers and it will be called Karakter.

The image below was coloured using Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and a White Sakuara Gelly Roll Gel Pen. I used the skin tone tutorial from Colorist’s Special Effects by Helen Elliston.
Buy on Amazon UK – Colorist’s Special Effects
Buy on Book Depository – goo.gl/CrS7DU

The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Amazing Animals and Beautiful Birds – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Amazing Animals and Beautiful Birds is illustrated by Rachel Cloyne and published and kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow. This book is the latest in a huge series of Colouring Books of Cards and Envelopes, the others have all been illustrated by Rebecca Jones and had nature and animal themed cards, this new book is one of two which have been created in partnership with the British Museum and while the production quality and style is identical, the content is quite different, to read more about that skip to the third paragraph.

The book itself is large at 28cm square, it’s paperback with a flexible card cover with gold foiling lettering and detail. Inside the front cover are instructions detailing how to fold the envelopes for the cards. Following this are pages of colourable cards with two on each page connected by tabs on perforated pages which are very easy to remove from the book with no issues or bending and a thin strip that the perforation is attached to that you can cut off with scissors to neaten up the card edges. There are 24 cards, each with a unique design, and all 4 sides of the cards have illustrations on that you can colour including a “Coloured For You By…” section on the back, they measure 13.5cm square when folded. Following the card pages are 24 unique envelope designs that match the cards perfectly and are printed in the same order as the cards so it’s very easy to match up the paired cards and envelopes together. The envelopes have illustrations on the front, each of the four flaps, and the whole of the back of the page which makes up the inside of the envelope has a repeating design on it that can be coloured if you wish. The folding instructions are very clear and easy to follow and the pre-scored lines on the cards and envelopes allow for a perfect fold every time. On the very last page of the book are 24 circular stickers with matching designs to seal the envelopes with. One small gripe I have is that these stickers are arranged in a random order and it’s not clear which card many of them are designed for, with many being suitable for a number of cards which just irks the perfectionist in me.

The card itself is bright white, medium thickness and lightly textured. I experienced absolutely no bleeding and very minimal shadowing when using water-based pens; alcohol markers will bleed through. Pencils would be ideal for these cards if you’re wanting more subtle colours, or wanting to blend and shade. The envelopes are printed onto bright white, thick paper which I didn’t experience any bleed through of water-based pens on but did get the lightest of shadowing when I coloured too slowly and the ink saturated the paper a bit much so do be careful if you’re wanting the inside of your envelopes to remain pristine for colouring too. Sadly, the space left on the front of a few of the envelopes is pretty small and not exactly suitable for a normal length postal address and there is also no space for a postage stamp. You could add an address label, and simply stick the postage stamp over the design but for perfectionists like me this isn’t an option and it is a shame this wasn’t quite thought through. When posting these cards to friends and family I will be popping the whole thing inside a normal envelope so that I can keep the envelope design intact.

The content is unusual to say the least, the artist took inspiration from objects from the British Museum’s collections and so rather than showing scenes or the objects themselves each card shows a pattern inspired by the original object. The theme is animals and birds and each card has an animal or bird themed pattern or scene on it, similar to that found on the original object. I wasn’t a fan of how the patterns translated into cards in the other title Fabulous Flowers and Perfect Patterns, but these animal cards have actually worked quite well, there is a good level of interest and the scenes and patterns are nicely drawn and seem a bit less random. I still don’t like these cards as much as the original sets created in conjunction with the National Trust as they were cuter and more fun to colour but these are nice nonetheless. The artwork in this book is much more polished than that in the other British Museum title and there are no issues with varying line thicknesses or pale print, these lines are a consistent size and properly black. There is a good variety of images inspired by all sorts of different objects, each one handily noted on the back of the card so you can research each object to find out what it looks like and use the original colours or your own imagination if you choose. On the inside of the back cover are small photographs, each shown in order and labelled, of the objects the cards are based on, these are a bit small to see for giving proper inspiration but it’s nice to know what you’re looking for when researching the objects online if you wish. The animals and birds include all sorts from camels to dragons, peacocks to horses, elephants to tigers and rabbits to hippopotami, there’s a great range of animals included and all sorts of types of images including mosaics, patterns and scenes.

In terms of mental health, this book is pretty good, it’s got loads to colour and makes a great project, it’s always nice to colour something with a purpose and you could either display the cards yourself once they’re finished, or send them coloured or uncoloured to family and friends, they could be a great way of getting non-colourers started! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin but not spindly thin. The intricacy and detail levels vary with the envelopes being less intricate than the cards which are highly detailed and intricate, therefore, you’ll need pretty good vision and fine motor control to enjoy these cards. You will need good levels of concentration but the cards do have lots of component parts so you can always colour a small section on a bad day or a full card and envelope on days when you’re feeling more capable. These cards take a surprisingly long time to colour so you’re really getting good value for money with these sets as you’ve got hours and hours of colouring time as well as something really useful and usable that can then be sent to others to share the colouring joy! The content is nature-inspired and quite cute, not as cute as the original titles but pleasing to colour nonetheless.

Overall, these cards are nice, I’m not wowed by the content but they’re a clever idea and they’re cute designs, certainly unlike any I’ve seen in any other book. They are a good combination of history, antiques and colouring and would make a great quirky present for someone. The production quality, as always, is outstanding and I’m sure these cards will appeal to many.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Amazing Animals and Beautiful Birds
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/British-Museum-The-Colouring-Book-of-Cards-and-Envelopes-Amazing-Animals-and-Beautiful-Birds-Rachel-Cloyne/9781788000017/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The card below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tips.

The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Fabulous Flowers and Perfect Patterns – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Fabulous Flowers and Perfect Patterns is illustrated by Rachel Cloyne and published and kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow. This book is the latest in a huge series of Colouring Books of Cards and Envelopes, the others have all been illustrated by Rebecca Jones and had nature and animal themed cards, this new book is one of two which have been created in partnership with the British Museum and while the production quality and style is identical, the content is quite different, to read more about that skip to the third paragraph.

The book itself is large at 28cm square, it’s paperback with a flexible card cover with gold foiling lettering and detail. Inside the front cover are instructions detailing how to fold the envelopes for the cards. Following this are pages of colourable cards with two on each page connected by tabs on perforated pages which are very easy to remove from the book with no issues or bending and a thin strip that the perforation is attached to that you can cut off with scissors to neaten up the card edges. There are 24 cards, each with a unique design, and all 4 sides of the cards have illustrations on that you can colour including a “Coloured For You By…” section on the back, they measure 13.5cm square when folded. Following the card pages are 24 unique envelope designs that match the cards perfectly and are printed in the same order as the cards so it’s very easy to match up the paired cards and envelopes together. The envelopes have illustrations on the front, each of the four flaps, and the whole of the back of the page which makes up the inside of the envelope has a repeating design on it that can be coloured if you wish. The folding instructions are very clear and easy to follow and the pre-scored lines on the cards and envelopes allow for a perfect fold every time. On the very last page of the book are 24 circular stickers with matching designs to seal the envelopes with. One small gripe I have is that these stickers are arranged in a random order and it’s not clear which card many of them are designed for, with many being suitable for a number of cards which just irks the perfectionist in me.

The card itself is bright white, medium thickness and lightly textured. I experienced absolutely no bleeding and very minimal shadowing when using water-based pens; alcohol markers will bleed through. Pencils would be ideal for these cards if you’re wanting more subtle colours, or wanting to blend and shade. The envelopes are printed onto bright white, thick paper which I didn’t experience any bleed through of water-based pens on but did get the lightest of shadowing when I coloured too slowly and the ink saturated the paper a bit much so do be careful if you’re wanting the inside of your envelopes to remain pristine for colouring too. Sadly, the space left on the front of a few of the envelopes is pretty small and not exactly suitable for a normal length postal address and there is also no space for a postage stamp. You could add an address label, and simply stick the postage stamp over the design but for perfectionists like me this isn’t an option and it is a shame this wasn’t quite thought through. When posting these cards to friends and family I will be popping the whole thing inside a normal envelope so that I can keep the envelope design intact.

The content is unusual to say the least, the artist took inspiration from objects from the British Museum’s collections and so rather than showing scenes or the objects themselves each card shows a pattern inspired by the original object. While this was a clever idea, I’m not personally convinced that it’s translated very well, the cards just seem a bit random with no specific theme and the illustrations aren’t very pretty. As with all artwork, it’s very subjective and I’m sure that some people will love these cards but sadly, I’m not one of them and I’m not sure any recipients I might send them to would really understand the imagery. That being said, they’re nicely drawn and contain a good variety of images inspired by all sorts of different objects, each one handily noted on the back of the card so you may be able to research each object to find out what it looks like and use the original colours or your own imagination if you choose. On the inside of the back cover are small photographs, each shown in order and labelled, of the objects the cards are based on, these are a bit small to see for giving proper inspiration but it’s nice to know what you’re looking for when researching the objects online if you wish. The lines the cards are drawn in are a little strange, in previous titles they have been perfectly black but a number of these aren’t truly black and are a little faded, they also vary in thickness a bit as if they’ve been drawn with a fountain pen rather than a specific sized nib, this gives the images a slightly sketchy feel.

In terms of mental health, this book is quite niche, for those who like history, antiques, and quirky patterns, this book would be ideal, there’s loads to colour in it and it’ll keep you occupied for hours, however, I do think the imagery is a little dull and won’t appeal to the majority of people. The line thickness whilst a little varying as described above is consistent throughout and is thin and spindly thin. The intricacy and detail levels are very high throughout, significantly higher than previous titles in the series and therefore you’ll need very good, near perfect, vision and fine motor control to avoid going over the lines. You will also need very high levels of concentration or to colour for short periods of time as the designs can be difficult to decipher when tired or symptomatic. I wouldn’t advise these cards for days when you’re feeling anxious as the level of focus required is likely to be too high and you might find yourself feeling more on edge rather than calmer. The content is nature-inspired and non-geometric so it’s quite pleasing to the eye and has an obviously hand-drawn quality which is always nicer to colour than computer-generated “perfect” images.

Overall, I’m personally not a fan of these cards but for those with an interest in British Museum artefacts, this book may well be perfect and the content is certainly unlike any other book I’ve seen. It would possibly be the perfect book for the history student or fan who has everything. The production quality, as always, is outstanding and I’m sure these cards will appeal to some.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Fabulous Flowers and Perfect Patterns
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/British-Museum-The-Colouring-Book-of-Cards-and-Envelopes-Fabulous-Flowers-and-Perfect-Patterns-Rachel-Cloyne/9780857638625/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The card below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book is published and kindly sent to me to review by National Geographic. The book is 24 cm square, paperback with flexible card covers with 1/3 French flaps, the cover has green foiling embellishments and the inside covers and first and last page have a continuous pattern and animal image that is fully colourable. The spine of the book is glue bound and fairly stiff to begin with, the images are printed single-sided and are perforated so none of the images enter the spine. All of the images are single-page spreads printed on the righthand page. The paper is bright white, medium thickness with a small amount of texture allowing a few layers of pencil to be built up for blending and shading; water-based pens shadow but don’t bleed, alcohol markers will bleed through so put some protective paper behind your work to protect the next page. The images themselves are each of a different animal and are hugely wide-ranging including a: horse, peacock, koala, seahorse, armadillo, mandarin duck, sheep, preying mantis, meerkats, zebra, heron, bears, ants, scorpion, panda, stag beetle, cow, butterflies and so many more creatures. The image style varies hugely and while the cover states that it was created by one illustrator, these images don’t look hand-drawn and my guess is that they were created digitally as a number of them have the same patterns or backgrounds as each other. The illustrations are very similar in style to many of the Shutterstock images that we’ve seen and while none of them are the same as any I’ve seen before, they do feel quite similar to a number of books I’ve seen in the past. Sadly, I’m disappointed by the artwork, I expected the illustrations to be very realistic due to being published by National Geographic but only the outlines are realistic, the majority of the animals have patterns added to them which don’t look remotely like the texture of their fur, feathers or skin and I’m guessing have been added for interest and extra colouring space, normally I don’t mind this but it seems like a wasted opportunity when we could have had a realistically drawn book with such a wealth of different animals pictured, many of which I’ve never seen in a colouring book before. Many of the backgrounds aren’t remotely related to the content especially the peacock with snowflakes and it just seems a bit haphazard and thrown together, the only continuity seems to be the animal theme as the way the animals are drawn as well as their patterns and backgrounds is so varied. I do think I’d have been much more keen on the content if I hadn’t known who the publisher was and imagined the type of content first so others may well be much happier with the contents than I am.

In terms of mental health, this book offers a lot of distraction, there is heaps to colour in each image and the patterns add a lot of extra spaces if you want to colour each section separately, there’s plenty to keep you absorbed and focused which is great for those with an anxious or racing mind. The line thickness is fairly consistent throughout and remains thin, the intricacy and detail levels are high in the majority of images and therefore you’ll need pretty good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book and get the most out of it. You will also need a very good level of concentration for the vast majority of these images as there are a lot of component parts to identify and lots of fiddly bits to colour so you’ll probably want to save it for your better days rather than getting frustrated by it on days where you can’t properly focus. There is a huge variety of imagery and some really quirky and unusual animal choices which is a nice change from a lot of animal-themed books which tend to stick to the cute, fluffy, cuddly types, it’s nice to see a good range or insects, reptiles and wacky mammals. The single-sided printing means you can use any medium you fancy and the perforations make the pages easy to remove to stick up and brighten your walls or frame for your kids’ bedrooms if you like.

Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of realism in the images but the content is very wide-ranging, quirky and fun and you’re getting a lot of images for your money. The production quality is good and very useful for those who like to use wet media and alcohol markers, it’s certainly a book that’s grown on me but it does still feel quite generic and haphazard.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/National-Geographic-Magnificent-Animals-An-Adult-Coloring-Book-Hayrullah-Kay/9781426218156/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tips.

Fantasia – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Fantasia is illustrated by Nicholas F. Chandrawienata and published and kindly sent to me to review by Phoenix Amulet Publishing. This book is one of the most talked about in the colouring groups on Facebook and has been one of the most difficult to get hold of after early US editions were printed with very disappointing paper quality, however, these issues have now been rectified and the book is produced to an extremely high standard and is readily available on Amazon US (details about International purchase at the bottom of the review above the photos). The book itself is 27.4 x 25.4cm, landscape orientation, paperback with flexible card covers with a fully coloured image from inside on the front. The book is spiral-bound on the left side and the pages are perforated but don’t come loose unless deliberately detached from the book. The 61 images are printed double-sided onto thick white paper, it’s not bright white but not off white either, it has a great amount of tooth (see photos below) and is ideal for layering and blending pencils and it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens when used carefully; alcohol markers will bleed through and you should always test any pens including water-based markers in an inconspicuous area to ensure you don’t ruin any reverse images as everyone colours differently. The images are all contained to a single page, none of them are spreads. The illustrations are really varied in content and while the majority are of people including their faces, upper bodies and whole bodies, a number of them are quite random too and include Easter eggs, a dinosaur, dragons, koi carp, roses, snowflakes, skulls and all sorts more. The most iconic images from this book and the ones that really sell it and look most spectacular when coloured are the images of people and these truly are transformed with colour, whether you use realistic flesh tones or go all out with green or purple tones instead, these images look unbelievable! Nicholas is an extremely talented illustrator and his work really is perfect, it’s beautiful, and really detailed and due to him being from Indonesia, there is a real Asian influence on his work which we don’t often see in colouring books and is a really fresh thing to see and colour. His work really does have to be seen to be believed so do check out the images below so you can see some of the variety and wide-ranging content as well as the beauty of his drawings.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, it’s so distracting and unusual and on one page you’re transported into prehistoric times where dinosaurs roamed the earth and on another you’re face to face with a mermaid, pirate, or even death. The illustrations are realistically drawn but much of the content is mythical or fantastical so there are no “correct” colour schemes and this book is definitely one to push you out of your comfort zone and get you trying new colour schemes and learning to colour flesh, fur or metal accurately. This book isn’t for the faint-hearted but if you’re brave you’ll really reap the rewards because it looks just incredible when coloured! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin but not spindly. The intricacy and detail levels do vary throughout each picture with most containing some large and some small spaces, for example a large open space of a face with much more detailed flowers around the edge; none of the spaces are particularly tiny apart from on the odd occasion so this book would be suitable for most levels of vision and fine motor control but do check the pictures of the pages below in order to ensure suitability. Three of the images have small text on them suggesting for you to add detail to a named section of the image which has been left uncharacteristically simple, these aren’t overly intrusive and you can always ignore the instructions like I did and just colour the image as it is. This book does mostly require a fairly high level of concentration but there are a few images that are made up of component parts which you could focus on when you’re feeling poorly and leave the full page portraits for day when you’re feeling better and up for a challenge. I really can’t rave about this book enough, it’s stunning and even though a lot of the content isn’t stuff I’d normally choose to colour, I can’t wait to work my way through every page in this book because the artwork is just so beautiful!

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s absolutely gorgeous and a great challenge to get you out of your comfort zone, the paper is fantastic for pencil-lovers and the illustrations are incredible. It’s ideal for those with mental or physical health problems as it’s so distracting and isn’t ridiculously intricate so it’s accessible and if you’re prepared to sacrifice the reverse image, or you want to buy two copies so you don’t have to, then you can even remove your finished pieces and frame them to brighten up your darker days and remind yourself of all that you can achieve!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s currently available on Amazon US and for those of you in the UK and elsewhere don’t despair as they do ship to other countries though I’m not sure exactly where they do and don’t ship to. I tried checking out to my address in West Sussex, UK and they do allow it and including shipping the book costs just £17 or thereabouts which is a steal so do check it out! International group orders are often set up and run through a dedicated Facebook Group which can be found here and they also share their finished pages from the book so it’s a great place to start if you need inspiration!

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils and blended with a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil. 

Abenteuer Natur (Adventurous Nature) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Abenteuer Natur is published by Christophorus Verlag GMBH and illustrated by Richard Merritt who very kindly sent me a copy to review. You may not know his name but you’re sure to know his work because he’s one half of the incredible duo who illustrated The Menagerie, The Aviary, The Aquarium and The Labyrinth and he also solely illustrated another German published colouring book, Tierzauber (Animal magic), last year. He’s well-known for his stunning drawings of highly intricate, hyper detailed and patterned animals and these have been featured in the Art Therapy series of books which was where I first discovered his work. Abenteuer Natur translates as Adventurous Nature and the content really doesn’t disappoint with a wide range of exotic and unusual animals pictured inside.

This book is 22.5cm square, a little smaller than the bestsellers, paperback, with thick card covers that are double-thickness and open out to reveal pairs of animal images at the front and back that are contained within the book. The covers are soft-feel and have gold foiling accents on both the front and back images. The spine is glue and stitch bound so it’s durable but a little tight, however this will ease up with use. The formatting inside is different from Tierzauber and this time the images are printed single-sided and all are perforated meaning they can easily be removed for colouring or framing but these perforations are quite subtle and therefore the pages will only come out if you remove them, not accidentally.  The paper is bright white, medium thickness with a bit of tooth, you can get a few layers with pencils but it’s a little tricky to blend and shade, water-based pens do shadow but this isn’t a problem due to the pages being single-sided and you could use alcohol markers as long as you put some protection behind the page to avoid bleed through. The 27 images are of a huge range of exotic and unusual animals including Mandarin Ducks, Warthogs, Humpback Whales, a Bushbaby, Bison, Grasshopper and loads more. Everything is pictured from insects to sea creatures, land mammals to tree inhabitants, birds to reptiles and everything in between. So many things from the animal kingdom are pictured including lots of animals that aren’t often found in other colouring books.

In terms of mental health, if you love animals, or at least love colouring them, then this book is sure to help! I have always found Richard’s illustrations wonderful for my own mental health because there are so many small sections to colour and really focus your mind on which is ideal when I’m very anxious and need to get out of my head. The images are all filled with lots of patterns creating small sections that you can colour within or colour over and leave as texture behind your work so although this book is very intricate and detailed, it doesn’t have to be used in that way so it’s ideal for almost anyone, regardless of vision or fine motor control depending on how you wish to use it. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is medium/thin so again, it’s suitable for almost anyone but not those with particularly poor vision or dexterity. Unlike in The Menagerie series, there is no added colour so you’re free to add your own backgrounds and colour schemes to every image. While a number of the animals are featured in the Menagerie series, they are all drawn differently (see comparison photos below) so you won’t be getting any duplicates if you want copies of both. Images of nature and animals are fantastic for calming you down and these images are particularly good because there are so many sections to attend to. The size of the book means the pages are a bit more manageable which is great for those of you with poor concentration as these pages will take less time to colour than The Menagerie which is much larger. While these illustrations are all of realistic animals, the patterns within allow you to use natural or totally outlandish colour schemes as and how you wish and both will look equally fabulous! The images are really cohesive and great fun to colour and they would look amazing removed from the book and framed for a really funky office or a cutesy nursery.

I would highly recommend this book to people who love colouring animals, to fans of Richard’s work and The Menagerie or Art Therapy series, and to anyone who likes intricate and detailed images. This is a beautiful book with fabulous and unusual imagery, even the inside and outside covers are colourable with alcohol markers so this book is a true example of a fully colourable colouring book.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Abenteuer Natur
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Abenteuer-Natur-Richard-Merritt/9783862303786/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners, Stabilo 68 Fibre-tips and Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.

I recently created a dedicated Facebook Group for artwork by Richard Merritt, Claire Scully and all that found in the Art Therapy series, Menagerie series and those books illustrated singly by either of them. This group can be found here and I’d love you to join and share you work!

Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send is published and was kindly sent to me to review by Virgin Books. It is with a heavy heart that I have to write a less than positive review of these postcards. I had high hopes for them after detailing my criticisms of the Lost Ocean Postcards and raising these issues with the publisher and hoped things would be changed, but when they arrived I’m afraid to say I was very disappointed. This set of postcards contains 36 scaled down images from Johanna Basford’s hugely successful Magical Jungle adult colouring book (reviewed by me here). Each postcard is printed single-sided with a leaf-outlined stamp space and space for an address (left blank with no lines) on the back so that you can send them to family, friends and loved ones. The postcards arrive in a sort of box that doesn’t have a top or bottom and opens out to reveal the postcards inside with three black images drawn in a white line from inside the book, in two designs. The cover is cream with beautiful gold accents and a scaled down version of the book cover. The postcards are attached to the inside back cover of this box and have a glue binding which isn’t attached to anything other than the cards, it’s very sticky on the outside and also not very hard or strong, after the first careful look through the postcards I had already loosened a few and by the fourth time looking through them over half had completely detached. I’ve only had this set for two days and I’ve already had to completely remove the glue binding because so many postcards had fallen out and they’re now all loose in the box-type cover which they fall out the bottom of.

This time there is only one size of set including 36 postcards rather than the 50 we were offered for Lost Ocean. Of my 36 postcards, one was duplicated meaning I got 36 postcards with 35 designs and of the duplicated cards, one had a printing error with a centimetre gap of unprinted design at the top (see photo below), I’ve been in touch with a fellow reviewer whose set also has the duplicate. Four of the postcards didn’t have the design printed centrally and were drastically shifted to one edge of the card (see photo below) and a further one had some text printing at the very top which I assume should have been cut off during manufacturing. The majority of the postcards are landscape and a few are portrait (7 including the duplicate image twice), they measure 16×11.2cm (a little smaller than the SG and EF postcards). Some are of the whole original image scaled down (8) and others are of sections of the original image that have been shrunk so there is a variety of intricacy levels from very intricate to virtually impossible to colour – the majority of the postcards are nowhere near the same size as the original illustrations with some being shrunk from 22.5cm across to just 9.5cm so you can imagine just how small these are. All but one of the designs are unique and they’re a beautiful selection of images from the book.

The postcards are made of thick, cream card which doesn’t bleed with water-based pens. The cards are a much yellower colour than the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest Postcards and books. There were issues with white circles and patches on the Lost Ocean postcards which haven’t continued with this set, however, the card is identical and as before, water-based pens don’t colour smoothly or evenly and are repelled by the surface causing a much paler colour and a patchy appearance (see photo below – I will definitely be avoiding pens on these cards because of this). The postcards are lightly textured but don’t take pencils well, when covering larger areas the pencils almost clump and won’t apply smoothly, no matter what brand I’ve used, and it’s difficult to get smooth coverage over any size of area. I’ve found my Holbein pencils the best on this card but even they struggle and burnish quickly. There isn’t much space within the designs to blend or shade unless you want to colour over the lines. The line thickness is spindly thin, I have very good vision for small, close things, and also have very good fine motor control but many of the images on these postcards are so tiny that they’re almost impossible to colour and I went over the lines a number of times on my card which was one of the larger designs. Fineliners would be best to colour such intricate images but can’t be used due to being repelled so you’ll need some super sharp pencils and patience to colour slowly and sharpen very regularly. It’s such a shame because I’m a huge fan of Johanna’s images and I just love her books but scaling down the images to postcard size really wasn’t a sensible choice because it’s so limiting. The postcards are beautiful to look at and would be gorgeous to send or display as they are but given that they’re sold as colouring postcards, I expect to be able to colour them and I just haven’t found that possible to do as neatly as I’d like to. I had assumed that the images would include full-size zoomed in sections of the original images so that you can still blend and shade with pencils but because the images have been shrunk, many of them are just too small to colour (see the photos below where I’ve shown a 0.4mm Stabilo nib for scale).

Unfortunately, from a mental health perspective I really can’t recommend these, I really struggled to colour them and found it quite stressful because I just couldn’t get it to look right. They require a huge amount of concentration and while they’re less intricate than the majority of the Lost Ocean postcards, this is because Magical Jungle was Johanna’s least intricate and detailed book and therefore had larger spaces but when scaled down this doesn’t make a huge difference. Though they’re really interesting to look at, I would have to say that they’re really not well designed for colouring (I coloured one of the largest, least detailed images and still really struggled). All in all, I’m afraid I’m really disappointed. It’s such a shame these postcards didn’t follow the format of the Secret Garden Postcards, or those of Millie Marrotta’s Animal Kingdom and Tropical Wonderland which had very few uncolourable images due to them being zoomed in sections of the illustrations, a much more sensible and usable format. My recommendation would be to get the book of Magical Jungle instead, this is a fairly expensive set of postcards when you factor in that many of them aren’t colourable. These postcards would look beautiful framed as they are but for me, they’re just not suitable for colouring, a real shame!

If you’d still like to purchase them or view them online, they can be found here.
Amazon UK – Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-Johann-Basford/9780753548158/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The book of Magical Jungle can be found here:
Review – Magical Jungle
Amazon UK – Magical Jungle
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-Johann-Basford/9780753557167/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils and blended with a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.