25 April 2012

A Day in the Life of Perri Lewis - craft writer

Don't you just love it when you see stitching popping up in mainstream media? One of the people we have to thank for that is Perri Lewis, magazine editor by day and freelance craft journalist by night, who has been spreading her love of making things through specialist magazines as well as the Guardian and Daily Mail. She's even found time to write a book. How does she juggle it all? "And what telly does she watch while she's doing it?" I hear you whisper. Read about Perri's daily routine in this month's A Day in the Life...

I leave the house and head for the tube. I got up about 45 minutes ago – I’ve perfected my morning routine so I don’t EVER have to get up before 7.30am. My outfit is usually decided the night before – a dress, a suit jacket and some heels – so I don’t go to work looking too much of a mess. Walthamstow is my new gaff, and I've heard there's a huge craft scene here. The East London Craft Guerrilla are based up here, for example, and apparently the massive market is the place to go for cheap fabric and haberdashery stuff. This is the kind of thing you learn when you meet the ladies of Borough Belles WI (Women's Institute), as I did last month. Though I was sad to leave South London (especially the brilliant Wimbledon Sewing Centre in Tooting), I'm pretty sure I'll get over it the minute I discover the craft delights of Walthamstow.

A quick ride down the Victoria line takes me to Soho, where I work at Psychologies magazine (consider it the thinking woman's glossy). I'm a commissioning editor: I help plan what's going in the magazine and source the right writers. At the moment I'm also our entertainment editor, so I look after our film pages and coordinate the celebrity interviews. No, I don't get to fly out to LA to hold meetings every month. But I do get to watch a hell of a lot of films months in advance of their release.

These days I get to explore Soho in my lunch break (lunch is usually a trip to Pure, Pret or Leon), but that wasn't the case last year. Last September I signed a contract with Virgin publishers to write a book about craft, so I spent almost every lunch break researching, writing, interviewing or planning - I soon discovered you can't fill 224 pages by simply working in the evenings and at weekends. It's been something I'd dreamt about doing for a long time. I've been making since I was young - my Gran and Nana taught me the basics - and writing has always been my thing. Forgive my blatant plug, but it's called Material World: The Modern Craft Bible, and it's being published in October. You can find out more about what's in it here, but what I will say is that it's unlike any other craft book out there - rather than 50 odd projects, it's a mix of advice and features about the craft world. And I've drafted in quite a few of my friends, and people I wish were my friends, to share their wisdom.

Each month we have a features meeting where we plan the next issue. You'd be amazed at how often craft and psychology bump into each other, so every now and again I throw in a feature idea based around craft. Alas, they don't usually make the final cut - we are a women's mag rather than Craft Monthly. But, these morsels don't go to waste: I have a section of my blog dedicated to the subject, but I also urge you all to take a look at Stitchlinks. The organisation investigate the link between craft, our brains and our wellbeing. Their findings are fascinating - craft, it seems, can have a similar effect on our mind as meditation does - so this charity is certainly one to support if you can. My favourite craft/psychology blend was a feature in Oprah magazine where the main picture was a knitted brain - I still have it up by my desk.

My Real Job, as I like to call it, is officially over. If I'm not at a screening of a new film, or having drinks in Soho (mine's a pint of cider), I'll be back on the tube on my way home.


This is the time my Not Real Job kicks in - freelance writing, with craft as my specialist subject. I don't think of it as real work because it never feels like hard graft to me - if anything, I feel pretty darn lucky that I get to write features about something I love. Over the last four years I've done everything from being a craft columnist (in Making magazine), written projects (for the Daily Mail), done fashion reports on the new trends in knitwear (for Knitting magazine), and most often, written about all things craft for the Guardian. My all time favourite project was a pair of decoupaged heels, but the Obama cross stitch went down a treat too.

Time to get some food - although in all honesty it'll be the boyfriend who cooks it. He's the chef in our house, and while I wrote the book he made almost every meal I ate. Kudos.

This heralds the start of Good Stuff On Telly, so I'll ditch the writing and do one of two things: update my craft blog or make stuff (I simply cannot sit down and watch TV without doing something useful). I'm not a wordy blogger - you'll not get posts that are longer than 100 words - so I can easily do it while I watch CSI/Glee/the news. The aim of the blog is to make people chuckle, say "OMG", or think about craft differently. You're more likely to discover which low-rent celeb has taken up knitting, or what high street giant has a craft-themed ad campaign, than see endless pictures of things I've made myself. In all honestly I'm way more likely to be blogging than I am making though - the irony of my craft work is that I spend more time writing about making stuff than I do actually making stuff. When I do find the time to delve into my craft box I'll usually be sewing. I get most of my gubbins from the three-storey London craft shop, MacCulloch and Wallis, but as I work just down the street from Liberty, you're just as likely to find me lusting after fabric in their haberdashery.

Yup, I'm still at it. Having a full time job means that my craft stuff - whether it's making or writing - has to fit into my free time. Sometimes I wish I had a little more time off for myself (I didn't see my friends for six months last year while doing the book), but then I remember it's my choice to do all this extra work. And I really wouldn't have it any other way. Not only is it all a good laugh, I've also made some great mates. Now is the time to give them a shout out: my guerrilla knitting crew Knit The City, cross stitch extraordinaire Jamie aka Mr X Stitch, craftivism's most dedicated advocate Sarah Corbett, and so many more I don't have space to name. I try to get to bed by about 11pm, but that never happens - I’m most definitely a night person. So long as I’m in bed by 12pm, I’m happy."


Thank you, Perri, for helping to spread the good news about craft!