Meet the Author
Hey there, can you introduce yourself?
I love to cook, garden and make things so I feel very lucky to have turned my obsessive compulsive domesticity into a career. I'm the Associate Food Editor of Red magazine and have worked for River Cottage as their food editor for four years too. In both places, it's great to be surrounded by inspired, inspiring and creative people.
Tell us a bit about the book?
Gifts from the Garden is filled with great food, home and beauty projects which make wonderful presents. There are lots of jams, jellies, liqueurs and biscuits, but there are room sprays, soaps, face masks, bath salts and body lotions too. Though the intention is to give them away, it was important to me that the projects were simple and enjoyable to make too. We all have so much on our To Do lists, I believe we should get maximum pleasure from our free time - spend a couple of hours in the kitchen or sewing at the dining table and you can produce a whole host of fabulous gifts. If you're like me, you'll make a few extra so you have some for yourself too.
What was the inspiration behind it?
The book is the second in a series which began with Annie Rigg's beautiful Gifts from the Kitchen.
Which is your favourite project?
That's a very difficult question! They're all very personal to me and things which I make myself all of the time so picking just one is almost impossible. For simplicity though, I love the herbal bathtime teas - an infusion of herbs which are good enough to drink but you put them in your bath. They take minutes to make but are a relaxing and luxurious treat.
What is your craft space like?
My favourite place in the house is my bright and spacious kitchen. I'd planned it in my head for ten years before we finally built it and I love to spend time there. It looks out onto the garden and it's where I do most of my work. If I'm not at the stove, I'm tapping away at the island on my laptop. The island might be my favourite thing in the whole house - it's so big, in the end we had to get the marble from a man who specialised in restoring or creating altars for the Catholic church. Kitchen fitters just couldn't get a slab big enough! We restored the old fireplace in the kitchen too, so it's very cosy in the winter.
Have you always been creative?
Yes! I don't remember a single moment in my life when I've been bored as in our family you always had to be doing something - drawing, writing stories, cooking, making things or messing about in the garden. It might have had something to do with my parents not having a television until I was eight - they only bought one because it was impossible to get a babysitter without one!
When did you first start crafting?
I've been making things for as long as I can remember. My grandmother and her sisters lived very close by and we spent a lot of time with them. They were Welsh and all had 'good hands'. My grandma was a wonderful knitter and sewer, her sister Louie was a great baker and my auntie Dolly crocheted the most intricate and beautiful things. My brother, cousins and I were always making things with them. My brother is a really good embroiderer - though as a 6ft1 rugby player, he may not thank me for telling you this! The first things I can remember making were dresses for my dolls and little pieces of furniture for my dolls' house, which was my favourite thing in the whole world.
Who are your crafty heroes?
I like Ros Badger's books and Christina Strutt of Cabbages and Roses does lovely books too. I find Dottie Angel charming and inspiring. I also love thewomensroomblog.com which is co-authored by my friend Jane Kellock - it keeps me up to date with all sorts of exciting new things, from crafts to exhibitions, books, fashion and style.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. I live in Hackney, which might be one of the most creative places on the planet. From street art to markets and tiny shops, there are people creating amazing things. Every Sunday, I go to Columbia Road flower market. My friend Sean has a stall there selling all kinds of weird and wonderful things. He saves old cooking, gardening and craft books for me, as well as old sewing patterns - so much inspiration there! I particularly like women's magazines from the 1940s - it's astonishing the level of ingenuity those women put into living a stylish and gracious life even in the most difficult of circumstances. I love the idea of making a lot out of very little.
What's next for you?
One of the very best things about working on this book was it allowed me to combine all of my interests, from gardening to cooking and crafting. I'd love to be able to work on more projects like this as I think for many of us, our interests are seamless - it's a short step from making jam or a chutney to wanting to grow at least some of the fruits and vegetables yourself, for example. If you love your home as I do, making and growing things to go in it is pure pleasure. Writing about all of those things together was the best gig ever.