Reading: Material World

Material World by Perri Lewis

I’ve talked about some of my long-standing favourite craft books before. Those books are like the classics of my craft book collection.

And now, even though I’ve only had my copy a few months, Perri Lewis’ book Material World (The Modern Craft Bible) is a book I have had to add to my ‘classics’ list.

If you’ve taken a look at my giveaway, you’ll know that you can win a copy of this book for yourself! But why, of all craft books, am I giving away this one? [ETA: Giveaway is now over.]

Yes, this book is fantastic. Of course it is. But it’s more than that.

Material World is more than a book of pretty projects. It’s more than a book that walks you through techniques. Material World is a book that will push you as a crafter and make you think long and hard about why you craft.

Material World by Perri Lewis, table of contents

Perri Lewis a journalist, and her ability to make us think about crafts and handmade is something she infuses all of her writing with. That’s probably why she’s perfect for writing about crafts for The Guardian. She’s written some pretty cool stuff for craft magazines too.

I picked up my copy of Material World in month two of this project, when I was settling into the reality of this year-long pursuit and thinking about what the heck I was getting myself into. (A lot of fun and sore fingers, as it turns out!)

Review of Perri Lewis' book Material World

While so many crafters are loving retro styles and vintage dresses, Perri shakes the ‘make do and mend’ thrifty attitude from the start and talks about modern reasons to craft. Yes, there’s the recession. Yes, mending and thrifting is cool. But it’s not the point. Point is, we can craft because we want to. Not because there’s a clothing ration. Not because it can be thrifty. Not just because it’s something trendy.

We craft because we can.

Because we don’t have to. Without going over the top, Perri makes crafting feel like a liberation.

Review of Perri Lewis' book Material World

So it makes sense that instead of giving us step-by-step projects (“craft by numbers,” she says) the book goes through 15 techniques, shows an example of each, and pushes us on our way. We are given the skill and the freedom to do with them what we will.

It’s the complete opposite of books like Tilda’s series, that don’t just give us projects but a list of exact fabrics to buy. This is modern crafting, letting us take advantage of every possibility  from reviving a boring pair of thrifted shoes to making the seams crisp in a handmade dress.

Review of Perri Lewis' book Material World

The best part about Material World is that it includes advice from and interviews with successful, been-there-done-that-dropped-that-stitch crafters. She’s talked to Emma Bridgewater, Liberty (yes, THAT Liberty), and Jan Constantine, just to name a few squeal-worthy names.

Or maybe the best part is the very matter-of-fact attitude about handmade’s worth.

Review of Perri Lewis' book Material World

From the start, Perri says it as it is: Handmade is not cheap. No matter how much of a bargain it feels to buy a £1 dress from a charity shop, sew it into pillows, and embellish it until it’s unrecognisable, that’s not being cheap. It’s clever, green, and a choice that goes beyond price tags.

Because handmade isn’t cheap. It’s not just price. It’s the time, the tools, and the skill put into it that makes even that £1 dress cost more than you think. And why should we want handmade to be cheap? It’s an attitude that still plagues too many of us. Should the years of stitching, cutting, gluing, pining, and pricked fingers be taken so lightly? What are the hidden costs of cheaper-than-chips clothing and decor?

Review of Perri Lewis' book Material World

It made me think of Melanie Biehle’s article on paying what you’re worth. Don’t just charge what you’re worth. Pay what you’re worth.

That applies to more than just business. It’s just a good way of living.

What is handmade worth to you?