Ready to shake off a crafting rut? Blogs, Pinterest, and how-to books are great go-to sources for ideas and inspiration, but curling up with one of these books about crafting can be an equally inspiring way to pass an afternoon. Here are five novels (and one collection of essays) that will encourage you to look at your crafting in new, more creative ways — no matter what you make.
How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Otto
This 1994 novel has the distinction both of having been adapted into a Winona Ryder movie and of being termed a “remarkable first novel” by Publishers Weekly. As it explores the lives of eight quilters collaborating on a crazy quilt, it provides insight into love, life, and the ways in which the things we make define us.
Read it if…you’re inspired by a combination of compelling storytelling and practical advice — each chapter closes with an exploration of design and technique.
Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting Edited by Ann Hood
This anthology knits together (get it?) writers from Sue Grafton to Barbara Kingsolver to Elizabeth Berg as they discuss the role knitting has played in their lives The collection is uniformly strong, but Ann Patchett’s meditation on the women who’ve shaped her as she knits a scarf. And as a bonus, there are plenty of stories about knitting fails — nothing beats a little commiseration, right?
Read it if…you’re a of Ann Hood’s novels — if you’re meeting her here for the first time, The Knitting Circle is a great place to start.
The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee
Bettie Shelton, the indomitable heroine of this fast-paced novel, is a firm believer in the idea that scrapbooking changes and enhances lives. This is a story about memories — good and bad — and why it’s important to preserve them. Bettie encourages a diverse group of women in her small Illinois town to tell their stories on paper, so all readers will find a character to identify with, and author Darien Gee’s own experiences as a scrapbooker imbue the book with an extra sense of realism.
Read it if…you’d like a side of scallion pancakes with your scrapbooking inspiration. The recipes that compliment Gee’s story are reliably delicious.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
In Victorian times, the meaning of flowers was literal and essential: red roses symbolized love, calla lilies symbolized love, and even acorns had meaning (life and immortality, if you’re curious). This novel by first-time novelist Vanessa Diffenbaugh explores those meanings while telling the story of Victoria Jones, a young woman who sleeps and gardens in a public park after aging out of the foster care system. She’s discovered and hired by a local florist, and the book follows her as she discovers her gifts and grapples with her past.
Read it if…you don’t mind a side of angst with your floral inspiration. Diffenbaugh is often unflinching when looking at the hardships of Victoria’s life.
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
This dystopian novel explores a society where choices are taken away and THIS are this.
Kira, a young, gifted embroiderer is tasked with creating a robe that depicts the history of her people. (It’s less weird than it sounds, I promise.) As she creates, Kira connects with other artists and sees the power of her work to propel her beyond her circumstances. Although it’s billed as a young adult novel, adults will be just as drawn in by the story as teens.
Read it if…you’re a fan of The Giver, the first book in this “quartet” of novels (although Gathering Blue works as a standalone book as well).
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Perfume-making might not be the most common craft, but this well-written story of a 1950s socialite discovering the history behind the woman who inspired Paris’s greatest parfumier will appeal to anyone who works with scents, from floral arrangers to soap makers and beyond. One part mystery and one part love letter to the fine craft of perfume making, this book will will spark your olfactory imagination.
Read it if…history and high glamour inspire you…and you’re prepared to splurge on new perfume after you’ve turned the last page.