I've just come across a new book that says a lot of what I’ve always said about craft skills – and my dressmaking, knitting, etc, pre-dates the latest DIY fashion trend by decades – they allow you to be individual. Having the skills to make your own piece of jewellery or customise a jacket doesn’t mean you have something that’s second best. Instead you have the latest look your way, garments that fit properly or the item you’ve only previously been able to imagine.
That is very much the theme of Material World: The Modern Craft Bible by Perri Lewis.
The book is much more about giving readers the basic skills and plenty of advice on how to use them, rather than a prescriptive set of rules. In other words helping people unleash their own creativity.
I work part-time for the London Jewellery School and am ever fascinated how a group of six people being taught the same techniques and using the same materials can up with very different looks or styles in the pieces they produce in a workshop.
Across a range of craft skills Perri offers advice on the right tools and has collected some fantastic tips. I particularly like the idea of buying high street jewellery from the sale rack as “parts” for your own creations, or cheap garments for the buttons or embellishments because that can cost less than buying something similar separately.
The crafts covered are embroidery and cross-stitch, decoupage, printing, embellishment, macrame, quilling, leatherwork, millinery, jewellery, patchwork and tailoring.
Given my large collection of craft books and the amount of new skill information for me in Material World, I might have said that this is a great book for people looking to start or expand their crafting with lots to get them going. But there is another layer to the book which makes it attractive even to those with too many crafting years (and books) to count. It also features a series of interviews from designers, crafters and artists on everything from colour in embroidery to the much debated "what is craft? what is art?"conundrum.
The comments from designers and makers are a great addition to a manual like this. Whether it be Emma Bridgewater explaining that designing isn’t about sitting staring at a daunting blank piece of paper but rather collecting and channelling a set of thoughts and skills you already have, or milliner Philip Treacy telling you to break the rules and experiment.
Treacy also talks about the smile test – when someone tries on one of his hats and get a real sparkle in their eye, he knows he’s got it right. Something I certainly recognise from my knitwear and jewellery successes whether for myself or others.
This is certainly a worth addition the the craft shelf/bookcase/room.
Material World is out this week published by Virgin, £18.99