The early stages of the pandemic weren’t all about baking sourdough bread: those who suddenly found themselves with empty hours to fill also turned to knitting, embroidery, and other crafty pastimes. “People rediscovered how satisfying and rewarding and soothing it is to take your time and to make something lasting,” says Shawna Mullen, editorial director of interior design and craft at Abrams.
This season’s craft books encourage the drive to create and also embrace an appreciation for the natural world. PW spoke with editors, publishers, and authors about how their forthcoming books reflect these trends, and how they’re fueled by reader desire to reconnect with nature and craft sustainably.
Crafts to dye for
Mullen was drawn to Sara Larson Buscaglia’s Farm & Folk Quilt Alchemy (Abrams, Sept.) because of how authentically the author represents a back-to-nature, slow-making ethos. In the book, Buscaglia, a self-described “sewer and grower” who farms and makes folk art in Durango, Colo., takes readers through the process of making naturally dyed, hand-stitched, heirloom-quality quilts.
“She really walks the walk,” Mullen says. “She’s an organic farmer, and she works in linen, cotton, and hemp; she dyes it with things from her garden and then creates the quilt.”
Buscaglia’s patterns, too, hearken to the natural world—one, the mycelium quilt, takes inspiration from the underground network of tiny fungal threads that connect trees in what’s known as the “wood wide web.”
At Quadrille, senior commissioning editor Harriet Butt seeks out “authors who also represent the lifestyle that people are looking for.” That lifestyle involves “conscious crafting and slow-making,” especially with “sustainable and greener crafts,” Butt says.
Babs Behan, author of Botanical Dyes (Quadrille, Aug.), fits that rubric perfectly: she runs Botanical Inks, a natural dye house in Bristol, U.K., where she produces bioregenerative textiles and creates collections for designers and brands. Her book brings that professional knowledge to the home hobbyist, taking readers through the history of how plants, minerals, and insects have been used to color fibers; explaining how to achieve a rainbow of colors from materials including avocado pits and logwood; and demonstrating techniques like scattering flower petals and leaves across fabric for bundle dyeing.
Sustainable knitwear maker Ria Burns, author of Dyeing Yarn Naturally (Crowood, Oct.), also lives in Bristol and attended a botanical dye workshop that Behan facilitated in 2017. “Sustainability to me as a young crafter, and also a knitwear designer, is about responsible sourcing of materials,” Burns says.
Beyond local traceability of the wool she knits with, Burns chooses plant-based dyes to add color in an environmentally conscious way. “A lot of the synthetic dyes are derived from petrochemicals, so they’re either a nonrenewable resource, or they’re quite heavily polluting,” she says. In contrast, the plants Burns dyes with—cosmos to create bright orange, weld for lemon yellow—come from her garden plot.
Burns, who now teaches workshops of her own, geared her book toward beginners. “I wanted to make it really accessible to the home knitter who’s interested in starting dyeing,” she says. Dyeing Yarn Naturally details each step of the process,
from which fibers to choose (wool and cellulose work best), to preparing that fiber to soak in dye, to mixing up dye baths.
Norfolk, U.K., textile artist Caroline Hyde-Brown not only shares natural dyeing techniques but also incorporates whole foraged materials directly into her crafts in Forage & Stitch (Search, Nov.). The book opens with a guide to foraging, pointing out that the menu of natural materials for dyes and textile crafts is broader than that of wild food—it includes “leaves, twigs, lichen and moss.” Then, Hyde-Brown shows readers how to work dried leaves into wet-felted raw wool fleece and use couch stitches to attach birch twigs to embroidery pieces, to name two techniques.
Beyond reflecting what Search publishing director Samantha Warrington calls the “movement toward all things sustainable,” the projects in Forage & Stitch offer readers a way to create and preserve memories. “The idea is that you can go for a walk with your grandma, pick some flowers, and dry them,” Warrington explains, “and that becomes a memento to that day and something you could then weave into your craft.”
Decor from the outdoors
Floral designers Terri Chandler and Katie Smyth run a flower studio called Worm in East London but are inspired by “the imperfect wild flowers that grew around us when we were growing up on the coast of southern Ireland,” they write on their website. In the September Quadrille release Wreaths, the duo offer 18 designs that showcase a combination of fresh flowers, foraged materials, and dried botanicals. “On the shoot days for the book,” Butt says, “they would go to the market in the morning, and their designs would depend on what they found in the market and on the way to the market.”
Lucy Hunter, a floral and garden artist in North Wales, U.K., turns to a variety of terrains to spark creativity. The Flower Hunter: Creating a Floral Love Story Inspired by the Landscape (Ryland Peters & Small, Sept.) leads readers through the countryside and along the coast via photography and storytelling before translating those expanses into floral arrangements. “A Summer Carnival in a Bowl,” for instance, pays homage to public parks in cities and villages where, she writes, “roses hang low, slightly overgrown and chaotic.”
In addition to instructions for floral arranging, Hunter shares craft how-tos, including ones for pressing and drying flowers and making botanical drawing ink. This versatility is part of what drew Annabel Morgan, senior commissioning editor at Ryland Peters & Small, to Hunter. “That bit of craft overlap broadens the book,” Morgan says, “and it all ties back to her passion, which is encouraging people to be creative.”
Where Wreaths and The Flower Hunter focus on blooms, Veronica Main teaches readers to craft with grasses according to long-standing traditions. In Straw Plaiting (Herbert, Oct.), she explores the history of weaving baskets, homewares, and accessories, a handicraft that once employed tens of thousands of people in the U.K., where Main lives; it’s now considered a critically endangered heritage craft.
According to Jayne Parsons, publishing director, arts and crafts, at Bloomsbury, “At the moment, the trend in all sorts of craft is conservation.” Straw Plaiting reflects that conservationist mindset in two ways—it revives traditional plaiting patterns, and it instructs readers on how to work with natural materials like grasses, palm, and cereal crop grains, as well as recycled materials.
Connecting with nature is more than a pastime for Raechel Henderson, who is a pagan and witch—it’s a spiritual practice. Her book The Natural Home Wheel of the Year (Llewellyn, Dec.) shares recipes, crafts, and activities that revolve around the seasonal festivals of paganism and encourage the use of natural, foraged, and recycled materials.
“For pagans, it isn’t just about crafting for your own well-being; it’s also crafting for the planet’s well-being,” says Elysia Gallo, Llewellyn acquiring editor for witchcraft, paganism, and magic. At the same time, many of Henderson’s seasonal craft projects are nondenominational, such as dried citrus wreaths in winter and what the author calls “natural confetti,” made using a hole punch on dried leaves and flower petals in spring.
Allison Vallin Kostovick, an organic gardener in Maine, arranged The Garden Maker’s Book of Wonder (Storey, Aug.) by season, starting with sowing in spring and ending with garden planning in winter. The book includes advice about growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers, as well as instructions for crafts and projects that make use of what the reader grows. In the spring, for instance, gardeners can grow their own jewelry—the husks of the Job’s Tears plant can be turned into beads.
For Carleen Madigan, editorial director at Storey, Kostovick’s approach speaks to how gardening and other nature-based pursuits are about more than self-sufficiency. “During the pandemic, a lot of people started gardening,” she says. “What we at Storey also realized is that people are looking for something to feed their soul, and gardening feeds people’s souls and is a source of joy for them.” Crafting with natural materials—whether grown in one’s garden, foraged, or purchased from florists—is a way of tapping into that joy.
Kristen Martin is a cultural critic in Philadelphia. Her debut narrative nonfiction about American orphanhood is forthcoming from Bold Type.
Read more form our Hobby, Craft & Home Books feature:
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