An interview with craft and sewing book author Jane Bull

I remember seeing some of Jane Bull's books many years ago and loving them… many of the craft books for kids that I'd come across seemed either too simple or too complicated or too boring…her books were like finding a little oasis of colour and fun and life. Jane lives in London with her husband and three children.

What do you think makes a project something kids love to do?

My rule of thumb has been anything with a face . There’s nothing like it for grabbing their attention and engaging them.  

Your books cover lots of crafts. Do you have a favourite craft activity?

I don’t have a particular favourite. I’ve always enjoyed having a go at different things whether it’s paper mache, pots or knitting dolls. Trying new things too, just recently I attended some workshops on ribbon embroidery and needle felting. It’s the process of making as much as the finished thing that I enjoy.

If you could only keep one book you’ve published what would it be?

I am really pleased with the way Made by Me turned out. I think the 8 year old me would have loved it. If I could sneak in another book it would be The Halloween Book. It was the first one that all my children were involved in with their friends.  They all became regular models and inspired me to make the books that followed.

What do you like most about your work?

I’m lucky. The best bit about my job is that it doesn’t feel like ‘work’. 

What advice would you give to parents who want to interest their kids in crafting?

1. Spark up some ideas – What are their interests? Find reference for inspiration – there are lots of craft books, kids magazines and online sites. Look out for workshops where they can join in to give them a taster.

2. Be prepared – Keep a craft box to hand, gather up materials and equipment such as scissors, sticky tape, paper and pens. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a youngster enthused about making something and you don’t have basics ready.

3. Join in – To get things started it helps if they see you having a go too. More often than not you’ll be needed to help with cutting and sticking and figuring out instructions.

4. Getting messy – Being crafty can generate a bit of mess but don’t freak out. Cover up tables, floors…and children if necessary.  Things can soon be packed up and tidied away. 

5. Encouragement – Be positive, nothing needs to be perfect. It should be fun.

What do you think kids learn from crafting?

They can learn so much. There are all the developmental things like co-ordination, dexterity, reading and comprehending instructions. There are new skills too, understanding how materials work, confidence with using equipment. And above all for the kids themselves it’s creating something of their own and having a sense of achievement. 

How did you get into publishing books for kids?

I come from a family of teachers going back generations. Although I didn’t want to follow the family tradition I was interested in information and how best to show it. After studying Graphic Design I got a job in publishing. This gave me the opportunity to design books about all sorts of subjects that would teach and inspire kids. As the years have gone by I’ve been fortunate to combine my love for craft with book design.

Do you remember the first craft project you made?

The project that feels the most fully formed is when I was 6 years old. I learnt to knit at school and we made a beany hat with bobble and a scarf with fringed ends. I used the exact same pattern for the teddy in The Crafty Art Book.    

Is there one craft project you’ve made that people seem to come back to again and again? 

There’s such a variety to choose from that I get to see pictures of all kinds of things people have made. My favourite at workshops are the glove toys where kids can bring along woollen gloves and make any creature their imagination allows. It suits all ages and abilities and they are way ahead of me with ideas.

What was your best crafting experience?

Doing workshops with kids making projects from my books. The best feeling is seeing the sense of pride they get when they’ve made something and go off clutching it showing their Mum or Dad what they’ve been up to.