Once, domestic arts were learned at grandmother’s knee or in home economics class. Today, crafters are looking across the globe for ideas and instruction.
In Folk Art Embroidery (Thunder Bay, Sept.), Carina Envoldsen-Harris takes inspiration from 10 cultures, modeling her patterns on Moroccan tile, Russian matryoshka dolls, and more. The book is packaged with a bamboo hoop and sufficient materials for two projects.
Threads Around the World (Schiffer, Dec.) by Deb Brandon showcases traditions that run the alphabetical gamut—in the words of the subtitle, “from Arabian weaving to batik in Zimbabwe.” Brandon, a mathematics professor and professional weaver, is a longtime member of Weave a Real Peace, and that organization’s mission—to raise awareness of the importance of textile traditions to grassroots economies—inspired the book.
“What other cultures make is a really accessible handle to investigate other parts of the world,” says Sandra Korinchak, publisher at Schiffer. “When made by hand, textiles are personal, and our customers are looking for those personal connections.”
Here, we look at select books that connect crafters to particular regions around the world.
Whether Kondo-minimalist or kawaii-cute, Japanese aesthetics have a hold on the popular imagination, and that extends to the country’s crafting traditions. Maybe that’s because, as Diana Rupp of Brooklyn’s Make Studio says, “Japanese crafts have a highly designed look that really appeals to millennials.”
Among the workshops Rupp hosts at her studio, where she also sells craft books and supplies, are one on shibori, a Japanese dyeing technique, and another on sashiko mending, which uses a Japanese method of embroidery whose name translates to “little stabs.”
Jessica Marquez, who leads the sashiko mending class, is the author of the forthcoming Make Mend (Watson-Guptill, Aug.), a 15-project primer. “Sashiko seems to appeal to many different kinds of people,” she says, “including those who appreciate the strength it can give to fabrics.” The technique, which Marquez says evolved as “a way to use every item to the fullest extent,” both repairs and decorates textiles; the geometric patters of stitches are meant to be visible. “It’s impressive that so much can be done with just the running stitch,” she says.
Originally published more than two decades ago and appearing for the first time in English, 250 Japanese Knitting Stitches by Hitomi Shida (Tuttle, Oct.) follows the author’s Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible, which has sold 20,000 print copies since its 2017 publication. Gayle Roehm, a knitting instructor who focuses on Japanese patterns, translated the text in both books; the stitch diagrams, however, use symbols only and require no knowledge of Japanese.
Christopher Johns, sales and marketing director at Tuttle, says the publisher, which specializes in books from Asia, is seeing particular interest in Japanese crafts. “ ‘Japanese cool’ is an actual thing,” he says. “Crafters in Japan seem to set the trends rather than follow them.”
Another Japanese craft, kumihimo, involves braiding strands of cord or ribbon, often with beads, to produce colorful, strong lengths. Samurai wore kumihimo belts; modern crafters favor bracelets and other jewelry, as in Beginner’s Guide to Kumihimo by Donna McKean-Smith (Search, Oct.), who owns a shop called Riverside Beads in Lincolnshire, England. The craft’s key piece of equipment, a portable disk that guides the cords into patterns, is widely available online for a few dollars.
The word kawaii, meaning “cute,” refers to an entire aesthetic, such as that of Kawaii Doodle Cutie by Zainab Khan (Race Point, Oct.), whose YouTube channel, Pic Candle, has 576,000 followers. In 2017’s Kawaii Doodle Class, Khan gave step-by-step instructions for drawing tacos, sushi, clouds, lipstick, and other objects with faces—two dots for eyes plus a simple, curved mouth. The new book takes a trip around the world, applying the same visual technique to macarons and the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Amigurumi, tiny crocheted stuffed animals, people, or inanimate objects, epitomize the concept of kawaii. Thunder Bay has several forthcoming book/kit combos, including August’s branded Animal Planet Safari Crochet; March 2019 brings amigurumi kits for dog, cat, and horse lovers, plus a My Little Pony–branded kit.
Scandinavian looks and trends continue to be popular at bookstores, says Ellen Jarrett, co-owner and adult-trade buyer at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass. “Anything that captures the spare and minimal—Swedish death cleaning, hygge, even mystery novels,” she says. “The love for all things Scandinavian can definitely be seen in our crafts books, too.”
Forthcoming titles that have caught Jarrett’s attention include Winter Knits from Scandinavia by Jenny Alderbrant (Trafalgar Square, Dec.), with two dozen patterns for socks, mittens, and hats, all to be completed in the multistrand method that makes knitwear of the region so distinctive—and warm.
Also from Trafalgar Square, Socks from Around Norway by Nina Granlund Sæther (Trafalgar Square, Feb. 2019), who grew up outside of Oslo, follows the 2017 title Mittens from Around Norway. In each book, Sæther offers some 40 patterns based on Norwegian archival designs and rendered in contemporary colorways.
The archetypical Scandinavian design aesthetic—simple, chic, minimalist—is well represented in Breaking the Pattern by Saara Huhta and Laura Huhta (Quadrille, Nov.). The siblings launched the pattern company Named in their native Finland in 2013; it’s since garnered 35,000 followers on Instagram, and craft stores around the world stock its designs.
The book showcases patterns for 10 garments: tops, dresses, skirts, and trousers. “We also want to encourage people to sew good-quality, lasting things,” Saara says. “Self-made is the new luxury. Millennials have noticed that. It’s very trendy to wear unique, self-made clothes.”
Across the Baltic Sea from Finland, knitted wristlets are part of the women’s folk costume in Lithuania, imparting warmth while keeping hands free (for, perhaps, knitting?). Irena Filomena Juškiene’s Beaded Wrist Warmers from Lithuania (Trafalgar Square, Nov.), another forthcoming favorite of Ellen Jarrett at Porter Square Books, comprises 63 patterns for knitted projects, modeled mainly by women in traditional and modern dress.
It’s no surprise that northern countries, Scotland among them, have strong knitwear traditions. Easy Cable and Aran Knits (Trafalgar Square, Sept.) features 26 patterns by Martin Storey, who looms large in the knitting world: he was chief designer at Jaeger and has spent two decades as a key designer at Yorkshire-based knitwear company Rowan Yarns.
Storey’s designs for chunky cabled sweaters and scarves contrast with the feathery look of the creations in Brooke Nico’s Simply Shetland Lace (Lark, Jan. 2019). “Not a lot is known about how this form of lace knitting originated,” says Wendy Williams, who edited the book. “It’s in the medieval tradition, and Scottish knitters created these stitches and designs. Considering the styles in the book are all made with just six stitches, they’re quite striking.”
Bethanne Patrick is a writer and book critic who lives in the Washington, D.C., metro area.