Review – Material World by Perri Lewis – Lucy

I’m very critical of non – fiction books, especially craft books. It takes a lot to get my approval because some textiles books, I feel, talk down to you as if they expect you to be a professor of embroidery or a magnificent textiles cutter, and expect you to know the whole thesaurus of the textiles language.

The foreword is what got me intrigued, by the brilliant author Perri Lewis, using a Madonna quote from 1985 ‘ I am a material girl’, and the fantastic mantra ‘ DON’T FRET TOO MUCH ABOUT THE RULES’ as the counterpart page to the introduction.

This book is superb I think. It’s structure, the balance of explaining to an beginner who is intrigued of what she can make with a needle and wool to a intermediate/expert who wants to widen his or her knowledge more of a particular technique, from millinery to applique to leather work. Each chapter heading is not just a title, with a matching picture, and a list of 1 to 10 of how to, and a description of what you should end up with like vintage needlework books form the 60’s. The satisfying structure is a introduction to craft, explaining what and which tools are best, such as showing the difference between scissors. ALl purpose scissors, material scissors and tailors scissors – never ever mix them up! To own a pair of blunt tailors scissors is shattering. Needles – which types are best for which activity, a size 26 tapestry needle is most common for needlework and leather needles are ONLY for leather. Wools for knitting and needlework, the thickness and quality of softness. Additionally, luxury items such as sewing machines (personally sewing machine is a must, not a luxury item), thimbles, pin cushions and embroidery hoops, all tools that make productivity that little bit easier and help produce better quality.

The chapter structure is of a high quality standard and explains everything thoroughly, not talking down to you expecting you to know instantly what which where and how. This book explains and showcases the ‘what which where and how’ brilliantly and my favorite chapter for this is the cross stitch chapter. A two – page spread featuring the materials Even-Weave & Aida, use of embroidery threads, minimum two, most commonly three for bolder colour on lighter or darker fabrics. Common problems sector (even I myself have been known to be a victim of the wrong thread colour used) explains that if you cross stitch a wrong square, you unpick it depending how much it will affect the design. If a similar colour is next to it, leave it, or if it stands out very boldly, sit down with a unpicker and gently unpick the thread immediately after the error. Start your next square with the right thread colour, and you will be confident that your project will look superb.

Following the introduction is a feature interview with a designer highly established in the field, and my favorite cross stitch designer JAMIE MR X STITCH CHALMERS (I’m biased, I love his work since I first saw his work in my Cross Stitching magazine) explaining how to create your own colour key like ‘painting with numbers you must create a key symbols that correspond to the colour threads that you will use’. To gather your materials for your own designs for cross stitch, either buy software or buy tracing paper with graph lines and a sharp pencil , beginners sticking to a small palette of colours. Furthermore, there are some insider tricks from more needlework designers, such as mix and match materials for more creativity, and the length of your thread should be the same length as your arm – as I was taught at school, but some have it as the length between their wrist and elbow. The productivity / have a go mantra follows the introduction, enabling and encouraging the individual to practice the technique. The cross stitch project is an instructional on how to stitch onto a hessian bag the brilliant phase ‘ MY OTHER BAG IS A MULBERRY’.

Crafts included are Embroidery, Decoupage, Printing, Encrusting, Quilling, Millinery, Embellishment, Paper Cutting, Leather Work, Macrame, Patchwork, Jewellery Making, Tailoring and Applique.

In addition, the back pages are equally as resourceful as the main chapters, supplying templates for the featured projects, and a directory for the best shops to go to, like your local haberdasher, John Lewis or House of Fraser. Highly regarded online sites selling and showcasing creativity include Etsy, CraftNation and Folksy.

My Recommendation is GO out and get this book – you NEED to OWN it!

Lucy xx


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