Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Golden Hands Encyclopedia of Crafts (part two)

Goodness, what a long time it's been since my last post! Life has been busy with a great many distractions - I have turned twenty-nine, been visited my my grandmother, been introduced to Homestuck and Tumblr in quick succession*, therefore I have lost a great deal of sleep and more projects than this have fallen by the wayside. Time to pick them up, methinks.

 And on that note, where was I? Oh, yes, reviewing the Golden Hands Craft Encyclopedia, published by Marshall Cavendish in 1975. Of course they're not on sale now but if you want to keep an eye out, there are the single magazines, and the white PVC binders, and as far as I've seen, most people who collected them managed to get at least one binder, so those are fairly common. Whether there are books other than the one I have I do not know.

I'll start with the magazines themselves, and I'm not going to review them all - that would be highly ambitious and very silly! I've picked out an issue from early in the series and one from late in the series so I can compare what the projects are like.

Issue 6 is not the earliest I have - in fact I have a binder with all the early issues of Crafts, as I have been used to calling it (the reason, as you see, is obvious), but this was the first issue I had with the cover still on, so this is the one you get.
And the cover is important, because each issue has on the back cover either 'Picture Making' or 'Junior Craft Cards' - we'll discuss the former in a minute, but this one has the latter, and says, in simple language with folksy seventies pictures, how to make a simple clothespin doll. A pretty standard craft card, although they did get pretty complex occasionally and at least one of them involved hacksaws (how to make a 'jolly paddle steamer', if you're wondering. Somewhere towards the middle of the series).

Inside the front cover, we have an imperial to metric conversion chart, the usual subscription, credits, etc, and the contents, which explains roughly what's going to be happening in each chapter - I wouldn't remark on it, except that a couple of these have a star beside them for a 'special money-saving, re-cycling chapter' and one has an exclamation mark for 'not suitable for children without adult supervision'. That means Marshall Cavendish think carpentry is suitable for children without adult supervision, because the only one to get this mark is the glass chapter. The chapters in this issue are Glass(!), Clay, Dyeing(*), Crochet, Patchwork(*), Carpentry, Beadwork, Pin Art and Design Know-How, the latter of which you get in, I think, every issue.
Before we get to those, though, we have Creative Ideas, which is also another thing that happens pretty much every issue, and means 'here's something we thought was cool but was too simple or random to actually make a chapter out of'. This one is painted bead necklaces, and it's one of those projects that looks just perfect for a rainy afternoon when there's really nothing better to do and no-one seems to be online.

Finally we get to the actual chapters, and first is Glass 1: Glass Etching Made Simple. After gaining the only danger mark in the whole index, one of the first things the author of the article says is that too many people don't try this because they think glass is dangerous and what silly people they are.** It gives a short history of acid etching and outlines first what the pros use for this - then tells you what you, the amatuer, should be using so you can have fun and get a decent result at the end. There are photos of the finished product, but all the instructional images in this chapter are felt tip drawings - throughout the series, the actual instructional images tend to use a mixture of drawings and photos, but they are always very clear. After discussing everything for about a page, then you get to the actual instructions, which are bullet-pointed step by step instructions and, since I haven't tried glass etching, I can't say how clear the ones in this chapter are, but if they don't make perfect sense upon careful reading, they are definitely the exception. The chapter finishes with a bunch of safety tips, which I would think should come first, but I think the editors assumed you were going to read the whole chapter before starting.

That's a pretty standard chapter layout, but the next chapter, Clay 4, is pretty pedestrian by comparison, and you get 'First Steps in Modelling', with unfired clay. I think the previous clay chapter was about picture tiles, and Crafts has a lot to say about clay. You get to build your own kiln later on and everything.
The next chapter will show you that the index lied to you and 'Dyeing' is actually 'Colour - Dyeing 1'. This one is pretty much entirely theory, and tells you what dyes are, about different types of commercial dyes, special dyes, special problems with dyes and a bit of colour theory. Crochet moves you on from granny squares to circles, Patchwork offers machined squares and rectangles, and Carpentry teaches you how to make 'perfect picture frames'. Any child can do it! Beadwork shows you, basically, how to string seed beads, and was the reason I was very confused when I came to buy seed beads for the first time, because the magazine calls them rocailles, and the bigger ones rotelles. 'Yarn - Pin Art 1' of course shows you how to do those delightfully retro geometric string and pin designs, Design Know-How gives a simple geometry lesson on straight lines, and then finally, in the back cover, you get an addition to your Motif Collection, which this issue is a selection of spiffy tribal-esque African designs.

Issue 95 is again, not the last I have, but issue 98 is actually the index, and the latest issue before that has a Junior Craft Card on the back. This one has a Picture Making piece, which is another 'hey, we thought this was cool' item like Creative Ideas, only generally a lot less practical.
The Creative Ideas this issue basically involves making a painted picture frame to hold your cookie cutters - I can't explain it any better than that.

 But it does show that the reader is expected to have improved a lot over the series. We are presented with Flowers and Plants, in which you can make fantasy flowers out of dried flowers and leaves; Carpentry (chapter 32, this was another popular one) - introduction to wood turning; Leather, which shows you how to make stitched gloves; and Shellcraft (chapter 6, Crafts didn't have much to say about this, clearly), piercing and threading shells. In Beadwork we're still with rocailles (I just like the word) but it's teaching you bead weaving, Basketry has you doing hedgerow work - that is, using undyed materials from hedgerows, Cloth - Upholstery teaches you how to renovate a chaise longue which looks exactly like the one my mum has, only pink. There's no design know-how chapter in this one - presumably by this point you know all the necessary how of design. But there is a section of a Kurdish rug for the motif collection, which reminds me that I really much go through all these and trace the motifs...

 Aaaand that's about it. I'm not going to review the book, it's pretty much the same as the magazines only in bound form. If you can get some of these, do so, they're instructional and inspiring and I can nearly guarantee you'll learn something, maybe find a new hobby. Possibly most importantly in my life, they meant that I wasn't trying to limit myself to just one craft, I had this stack of everything - the chapters I've mentioned here are not half of what was on offer - and so I chose what looked fun.
Sometimes the best thing you can give a budding artist of, oh, twelve years old is a stack of miscellaneous instructional books, a big box of random supplies and permission to see where she goes from there.

* - I am not going to link my Tumblr here, since it's my personal Tumblr and it's already shown a distressing tendency to accumilate, er, alarming Homestuck fanart. What can I say, once a fangirl always a fangirl, even pushing thirty...
** - I may be guilty of hyperbole here, but you get the idea.


  1. A very interesting article. I have just recovered a full set of the "Crafts" magazine from my mum's loft and cleaned them up for my craft loving 5 year old daughter. I would be very happy to let you see any that you were missing if you were interested.

    I am looking for 3 more of the white binders and would be grateful if you or anyone else could tell me where to find any.


    Neill (

  2. I collected the magazines in the 70's and was foolish enough to get rid of them. Then by a stroke of luck I got given the whole set. I think it is one of the best collection of craft techniques published (even with some dated jewellery made from forks).

  3. I have the complete six volumes (red set). I used one of the patterns to embroider the front of my wedding dress