Guest blogger :: Crafty girls book

by kath_red on 19/10/2012

in Books, Historic Craft

Jennifer Forest is the author of Jane Austen’s Sewing Box, Behind Jane Austen’s Door and Crafty Girls Talk. When she is not making something, she is reading, looking for something to read or admiring vintage hats. travels in my sewing box.

I love going to a craft class, you meet so many wonderful crafty women, each one with a love of creating and a story to share.  Be it a knitting workshop or a quilting bee, it doesn’t take long for the stories to start. If you’ve ever been on a crafty workshop you will know that crafty girls talk! And that’s where the idea for my third book, Crafty girls talk started: that crafty girls have fascinating stories to share, and that we all craft for many different reasons. While many crafty girls turn their passion into a business, other crafty girls make for family, friends or those in need.

I interviewed 20 creative women from around the world: USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And it was interesting the similar experiences we all share. Many crafty girls are looking for a way to create something new. Once the children are born, someone has to make a choice between pursuing a traditional career path or creating something different. It’s often the woman who takes control of her time and creates a business, while looking after her children.

I’m also a bit of a multi-crafter myself. I love learning a new craft and there’s so many fascinating skills to learn. I adore screen printing and felting, and spent many years sewing and embroidering. Right now I’m addicted to knitting, and have a few orders in from the family for things like blankets, scarves and purses. My daughter keeps checking on the progress of her blanket, worried that it is taking me some time! I have plans to learn spinning wool, which is all part of my current love affair with yarn.

For Crafty Girls Talk I was very keen to interview women from a range of crafts. I wanted to explore the many different and wonderful ways we create. Just to give you an idea of who I spoke to, there is: Lynne Sharp who creates these amazingly gorgeous felted vessels, as well as lots of other things she’s a true multi-crafter and Melissa Wastney and Fiona Clark who are both stunning designers, Melissa sews beautiful vintage inspired  pieces while I love Fiona’s mandala embroideries.

The front cover of the book has Morgan Wills’ apple pincushions. Morgan runs The Crafty Squirrel in my home town, which is a retro heaven. She stocks all wonders of vintage haberdashery and fabrics as well as designing her own ranges, including the divine apple pincushions. I also interviewed all sorts of other crafty girls: like Jan DiCintio, who is a fabric designer and Tamara Watts who makes lamps. There are also a few store owners who stock gorgeous supplies from ribbons and scrapbooking to fabrics, craft writers and editors, mums crafting for family and women who lead textile tours to France and China.

I turned the tables in Jennifer – and asked her a few questions about self publishing and her creative experiences.

How did you decide who to include in this book? What it is about these women that inspire you? Who are your crafty heroes?

I wanted Crafty Girls Talk to explore the range of ways we have taken our passion for crafting – into different skills, into business or for family and charity. So I went looking for crafty girls who added a different dimension to that question. Plus, of course,  some of the women I know personally, and I thought their work would add a new layer to my exploration. I particularly admire these women for a range of reasons: their desire to help people with their craft, putting their environmental beliefs into their work, their design talent, and their ability to create a business from their passions.

Can you tell us about your experiences with self publishing and going through the Kindle process? How would you compare the self publishing process to your experiences with traditional publishing?

I think it’s a really exciting time to be part of the book world. There are many opportunities opening up for both authors and readers, for authors to develop their content in line with their vision and for readers to access books in ways, and at prices, that best suit them. My first self-publishing experience was Behind Jane Austen’s Door which is an e-book on Kindle. The process of publishing it on Kindle was such a delight that I’ve decided that’s where I will take my many other book ideas. I will still put out a print book version but e-books are very much the way of the future for me, and for many others.

As a reader, and I read lots of books, I like the ease of access to e-books, the price and the immediate delivery. The key difference for me, as an author, between traditional publishing and self-publishing is that level of control. I usually have a very strong design vision for where I want my book(s) to be, in terms of both content and graphic design. The beauty of self-publishing for me is that, with my team, I can achieve that fairly quickly and easily compared to traditional publishing, which is a whole lot more layered and complicated.

I would also love to know about your best selling book Jane Austen’s Sewing Box and the more recent book Jane Austen’s Door – can you tell us a little about your fascination with Jane Austen – how did you research these books and what are your favourite crafts from this era?

I’m a long term Jane Austen fan! We never read Jane Austen at school, can you believe that? I discovered them myself and was delighted that my husband-to-be was also a huge fan!

One day, while I was working in a museum, I became curious about the crafty items Jane Austen has her female characters making, for example Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park makes a lot of knotting. With my museum background, I knew that museums around the world are very good at keeping original objects and recording useful information, things like the materials used to make them and their sizes.

I started researching just what all those things Jane Austen’s women were making, and from that grew Jane Austen’s Sewing Box. Each project is based on an original item made by a Regency woman, now housed in a museum somewhere. Behind Jane Austen’s Door then developed out of that first Austen book. I’m interested in the role of women and I think the home plays a huge part in the roles women play. But I didn’t want that concept to turn into a boring history book. So that second Austen book is really just a gentle (and short) exploration of Regency women’s lives in the house as a home.

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