How many craft books do you have? One or two? A shelf full? And how many of those do you actually use? My craft books fall into the categories of 'often used' (only about 3 or 4), 'sometimes used' and 'only flicked through' - you know, those ones with lovely pictures but that don't quite move you to ever make anything.
Material World aims to be a craft book with a difference. In the introduction, Perri Lewis explains,
"This book is not like most craft books. I've not filled it with step-by-step projects that you must follow word for word (like craft-by-numbers). Instead I'll teach you 15 different techniques so you can go away and use these to make whatever you want, however you like it."
Even a quick flick through the book will tell you that it is certainly different from most craft books - less of the glossy photos (hey, that's what Pinterest is for!) and more of the craft nitty gritty. There is plenty of inspiring reading, with interviewers from makers throughout the book plus pieces like 'How to avoid a Craftastrophe' and 'Craft Your Way to Happiness'. Perri's list of reasons for crafting are very similar to the reasons that I (and I'm sure, many of you) starting making things: fed up of cheap rubbish fashion and wanting to be different. The happiness she mentions comes partly from the joy of making something and partly from the joy of connecting with a community of other people who love your hobbies too. Again, a sentiment that many of us can relate to.
The crafts covered in Material World range from embroidery and patchwork to the more adventurous craft of millinery and the very retro macrame and quilling. Quilling! What a blast from the past - I remember doing that years ago and can't say it's crossed my mind to ever try it again, but I really liked the project featured - greetings cards with initials on the front, that look really effective.
Although I'm not a cross stitcher (although again, I used to cross stitch in my childhood) I also liked the cross stitch project, a reusable shopping bag:
Ever practical, I could see this as something I would actually use, which is my usual issue with cross stitch, I don't really know what to do with it when finished.
However, as the introduction explains, the focus in the book is not on the projects but on learning more about each craft, and seeing what piques your interest. Each section includes information on getting started with the technique plus tips from crafts people.
I really like the democratic approach that Perri has to crafting. There are interviews from crafts people at all levels, including prestigious names like Emma Bridgewater, Tatty Devine, Grayson Perry, Kaffe Fassett and Philip Treacy. The world of commercial crafting is referenced too, with former QVC presented Dawn Bibby talking about her craft legend (William Morris) and 'All things weird and wonderful' exploring Etsy and the popularity of 'Geek Craft'. In another section, Stitch & Bitch pioneer Debbie Stoller discusses craft, feminism and the Martha Stewart effect. All aspects of craft are covered here.
With that in mind, this statement on the back cover of the book did strike a jarring note with me:
Not only do I love tea cosies (so useful!) but I know several sewing bloggers who totally rock gingham. To me, the sentence goes against the democratic and all-embracing attitude that is prevalent in the book, so I can only think that the publisher has got a little over-zealous. In any case, I wouldn't let that put you off - inside the book is full of the kind of inspiration and encouragement that is found throughout the online crafting community.
There is plenty in Material World to inspire crafters of all backgrounds and levels, whether you could do with following the rules a little less (i.e. me), haven't settled on your 'favourite' craft yet, or just want a bit of inspiration, there is plenty here to enjoy.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review but all opinions are my own.