Thursday, 13 October 2011

'Sew Your Own' by John-Paul Flintoff

‘Sew Your Own’ is a sewing book with a difference. Aside from the glaring fact that it’s written by a dude (let’s be honest, you don’t have to spend too long on Amazon to see that that is a rarity). This book is about why we, or at least some people, engage in sewing, crocheting, knitting and DIY activities in general. And I’m so excited to see sewing-related books like this creeping in, compared to another book on how to do bound buttonholes, make a basic A-line skirt or spruce up your old tops with some crocheted flowers. Those types of books have their place, don’t get me wrong: they aim to arm the reader with some techniques and practical tips to give them enough confidence to give creating stuff a whirl. However, ‘Sew Your Own’ is about the emotional and intellectual journey that led one person to seek out those techniques and tips in the first place.

In this book (originally published under the title ‘Through the Eye of a Needle’), Mr Flintoff shows us why he felt it was worth altering his way of living and interacting with his physical environment. A lot of his inspiration for doing so comes from the many interesting and diverse people he meets and the array of issues he combats in his job as a feature writer for a major British newspaper. I can’t think of any other craft-related books that discuss Buddhism, Victorian industrial production, Peak Oil, feminism, children’s haircuts, voter apathy and refuse collection!

He flags up climate change issues, flaws in our global financial and political systems, the need to relearn long-forgotten practical skills and feel pride in our handiwork, so he’s already preaching to this particular choir. But he manages to do so in such a personable and non-preachy way, largely by filling the book with personal, sweet and thought-provoking anecdotes, that I think most readers would struggle not to be engaged.

Personally, now I’ve read this book I see it as a tool to help me convey to my friends and relatives many of my own motivations. AND explain to them the purpose and relevance of what I do at work, as the charity I work for (TRAID) gets a fair few mentions along the way.

Maybe you sew (or do any craft) for purely relaxation reasons. Maybe related wider issues are of no concern to you. But if they are in any way, I would recommend getting hold of a copy of this book. I’d be surprised if there was nothing you found in it which touched you.

10 comments:

Roisin Muldoon said...

I picked up a copy of this book in the library in my home town - I couldn't borrow it (I don't have a library card, not living in that area) but I did have time to read a few chapters, and I thought it was really engagingly written. Much like your blog does, he addresses wider issues of consumerism without becoming preachy. I also liked very much how he charted his journey - this wasn't your typical craft book showcasing lots of beautiful projects, but almost a guide for how to learn a craft and read around it to understand it better. I'll be buying a copy of this when I next have some spare change!

Donna said...

Thanks for sharing this - I definitely want to read this book!

Kestrel said...

I like the sound of this book, will have to put it on my Christmas list - thanks!

Jane said...

Oh this is amazing. If it's the same guy, I think he wrote an article in The Guardian a few years ago about his decision to start sewing (he begrudged spending £10 for somebody to sew a piece of elastic on his daughter's ballet shoes). Reading that article was one of the nudges I needed to take my first sewing class! Thanks so much for the link, have just bought the book this second! x

Uta said...

Thank you for the recommendation! I'm a bit apprehensive; in Germany there's a flock of male journalists taking on things that women have gone quietly about for centuries (namely, handling babies/raising children) and thinking their experience is so unique and amusing they have to write a book about it. Yawn. On the other hand I really appreciate a guy who takes on sewing and other handcrafts; my son who loves to knit and craft (and bugs me about learning to sew) has hardly any role models.

Kate said...

I'm glad you reviewed this book. I haven't actually read it - but I decided to start sewing my own clothes as a result of hearing John-Paul Flintoff do a talk at greenbelt festival this summer. I'm having so much fun and it feels great to be wearing something I've made myself! One thing I really liked about his talk was how he emphasised using things we already have rather than getting new stuff - so, for example, he made his daughter a dress out of old baby clothes, and let her decorate it herself with a fabric pen.

hebejeeby said...

I borrowed the book a month or so ago from the local library. It's really engaging and my husband picked it up, read it and said "I get it now" (he meant about the sewng and knitting and never getting rid of anything!) - highly recommended!

Catherine said...

Spookily enough I recently borrowed this from the library, read it, thoroughly enjoyed it and thought of you and your blog!!!

Tilly said...

Thanks for the review - looks like an interesting read, even if only to confirm what we already know. Some interesting comments here about a man having to say it for other men to understand why women (mostly women, let's be honest) sew - sad but often true!

Claire (aka Seemane) said...
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