Craft reading list

As we practice social distancing during a tumultuous season, it’s a great time to hunker down with a good book. 

If you love to read (or just want to take your mind off things), check out our favorite new books, self-help titles, and creative business guides. These are excellent additions to your reading list, or could make a thoughtful gift for a creative business owner. 

Disclosure: we use affiliate links to connect you to our reading list recommendations, which help support Craft Industry Alliance at no additional cost to you. Click the book cover or the title to purchase.

The Golden Thread book cover

The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair

From the author of The Secret Lives of Color comes a new exploration of the history of fabrics and textiles. St. Clair’s patchwork of stories covers the rich social and creative history of textiles, and the ways textile manufacturing has impacted communities and the landscape.

Topics span the centuries, from the linen used by ancient Egyptians to wrap their dead, to recent innovations in textiles for professional athletes. Extensively researched, St. Clair’s book breaks down broad historical concepts in compelling, human-sized stories.

The Wild Dyer book cover

The Wild Dyer by Abigail Booth

An exploration of natural dye techniques accompanied by thoughtful stitching projects. Booth runs creative studio Forest + Found, where she grows and forages materials for natural dyes. In this book, she outlines her creative journey as she experimented with materials and approaches.

Booth walks you through the basic steps of the dying process: selecting and preparing fabric, sourcing dyestuff, brewing a vat, and what to do with your beautifully dyed fabrics. With lush photographs shot in natural settings, this book is a restful and rejuvenating addition to your reading list. And perhaps that was the author’s intent: “A simple hand stitch or the picking of wild berries can slow us down and make us live within the moment,” says Booth.

Mending Life book cover

Mending Life by Nina Montenegro and Sonya Montenegro 

In their new book, creative sisters Nina and Sonya Montenegro offer tips for learning to mend your clothes, and how this simple act can be empowering.

Mending Life is an excellent primer for mending beginners. Sweetly illustrated, it offers overview of techniques, methods, and materials. The authors share their personal stories of mending projects, meant to inspire others to take up this eco-friendly (and budget friendly) hobby.

How to be an Artist book cover

How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz

A lighthearted guide for artists from Jerry Saltz, Pulitzer Prize winning art critic, and columnist for New York Magazine. Featuring colorful photos of some of the most inspiring artists of the last century, Saltz offers words of wisdom for artists, broken down into short, but thoughtful vignettes.

Each of the 63 chapters is highly digestible. In numbered sections, Saltz highlights concepts like radical vulnerability and storytelling by sharing the history of artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Louise Bourgeois. The tone is approachable throughout, with lots of quotable moments.

“Can I really be an artist is I didn’t go to school? If I work full time? If I’m a parent? If I’m terrified? Of course you can. There’s no single road to glory.”

Creative Success Now book cover

Creative Success Now by Astrid Baumgardner

Baumgardner’s guide to cultivating a creative career focuses on the inner work that artists can do to set their success in motion.  Her three-part method teaches the mindset, authenticity, and skillsets that allow artists to understand their goals, manage their time, and ditch tired ideas about “starving artists”.

Each chapter covers different facets of creative professional life, but the initial chapters focus on adopting an attitude that encourages growth and positivity. Highlighted review sections offers opportunities for reflection on how you can integrate the principles into your own life.

Fibershed book cover

Fibershed by Rebecca Burgess

In a beautiful intersection of craft and environmentalism, Burgess’ new book offers insights into the textile fiber supply chain. You’ve heard of farm to table — Burgess is focused on farm to closet. Fibershed invites you to better understand the impacts that our clothes have on land, air, water, labor, and our own human health.

Burgess’ book outlines the “soil to soil” model for thinking about clothing and textiles. Can a fabric be grown naturally and then return sustainably to the earth when it’s outlived it’s purpose? With stories from farms, factories, mills, and makers, this book is a great way to learn about place-based textile cultures.

Designing your work life book cover

Designing Your Work Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Authors of the bestselling Design Your Life have returned for a reflection on work culture, and how we can shape it to our preferences. With thought-provoking opportunities to reframe our dysfunctional beliefs about work, this book guides the process of self-reflection and changing your mindset.

Dysfunctional Belief: The only way to have a career is for someone to hire me, and to work for a company, in a job I can tolerate.

Reframe: One way to have an amazing career, with lots of autonomy, and have a job I love is to invent it!”

This guide seems to speak mainly to those in traditional salaried or hourly work environments. Running your own business? Check out the final chapter, which tackles the nuances of self-employment.

Threads of Life book cover

Threads of Life by Clare Hunter

Textile artist and historian Clare Hunter’s book explores the power of sewing, and why so much of its creative history has been overlooked or forgotten. Revealing stories from across centuries, Hunter’s chapters reveal themes of power, protest, community, and identity in needlework and sewing.

The book often highlights the way marginalized people have harnessed craft as a way to advocate for their rights and make their voices heard. While Threads of Life doesn’t feature images of the creative works Hunter references, her rich descriptions allow your imagination to run wild.

Don’t forget, you can always head to the archives to find previous seasons’ reading list for craft businesses. Are you reading anything inspiring right now? Share your favorite craft books in the comments below, and tag @craftindustryalliance on Instagram to show us your current reads.
Erin Dollar

Erin Dollar


Erin is the textile designer and artist behind the home décor company, Cotton & Flax. She licenses her surface designs for fabric, home décor, stationery, and other clients. She’s also a teacher, writer, and enthusiastic advocate for small creative business owners. She lives in San Diego, California.

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