The Next Chapter

Forget colouring books. Brian Francis has the 411 on the next big trends.

Brian Francis found three books that pinpoint what he predicts are due for a comeback: macramé, cake sculptures and pencil sharpening.
Brian Francis picked up this 1973 book at a church bazaar. He predicts that the next big trend in crafting will be homemade cakes in unconventional shapes. (Paula Wilson)

Ready for the colouring book trend to meet its end? The Next Chapter columnist Brian Francis has gone hunting for the next big things in crafting and art, and has even found how-to books to go with his three top predictions.

Francis is the author of Canada Reads contender Fruit and the novel Natural OrderHere are the three "lost arts" the trendspotter thinks are due for a roaring comeback:

1) Macramé

What it is: You've seen it as cushion covers, as wall hangings, even as high-end fashion. A popular craft of the 1960s and '70s. If you're under 30, macramé is the time-honoured tradition of making things using knots rather than knitting and weaving. It was reportedly invented by sailors for decorating ships. 

Why it's great: You can sit the entire time you're doing it, which is ideal for someone like myself, if you're particularly lazy. 

What you need: You just need rope or string and the desire to make your world a prettier place.

About the book: Macramé Step by Step. The author is Tina Mara and it was published in Canada in 1976 by Coles Publishing. While a lot of people think macramé is really about hanging plant holders, it's so much more than that, as this book clearly demonstrates. You could make a choker to go with your new halter top, you could make a smart, fringe shoulder bag to hold your 8-track tapes. You could make earrings to accentuate that new home perm.

This 1976 book guides readers on how to make macramé items.

2) Cut-up Cakes

What it is: Cut-up cakes are cakes that have been cut up and you reorganize them into a variety of interesting and elegant shapes to surprise and delight all of your guests. 

Comeback potential: I wasn't invited to a lot of birthday parties growing up for obvious reasons, but I found that one of the hallmarks of those birthday parties was the homemade birthday cake. I find that now, birthday cakes are always the store-bought variety, with pounds of whipped cream, and they leave me feeling hollow and cold on the inside. So I think we're due for a resurgence in the art of a homemade cake. Where I came from, homemade cakes were always lopsided and had shredded coconut on them and globs of margarine in the icing, but they always tasted good.

Brian Francis, who wasn't invited to many birthday parties growing up, enjoyed reading this 1973 book about creative cake-making. (Courtesy of Brian Francis)

About the book: I found this book at a church bazaar. It's called the Cut-up Cake Party Book. It was published in 1973 by the General Foods Corporation and it features design plans for all kinds of cut-up party cakes for any special occasion. Here are just some of the cut-up cake designs you could make: an umbrella, a rabbit, a daisy — perfect for a nice spring day — a Christmas tree, a hot air balloon, and of course what Thanksgiving table is complete without a turkey-shaped cake? The book includes a cake recipe and frosting recipes, including my favourite, seven-minute frosting. It always takes me about nine minutes to take.

I'm spatially challenged, so these kinds of cakes stress me out a little bit. They are really like cake sculptures. When all was said and done, I took on what I thought was the most challenging design in the book, which is an airplane. It involved 18 individual pieces that were cut from an 8x8-sized cake. I blocked off the entire day making this thing and it didn't come out exactly looking like it did in the photo, but I think you could tell what it was supposed to be. It tasted good.

Brian Francis constructed this airplane cake (in progress on the right, finished on the left) using instructions from the Cut-up Cake Party Book. (Courtesy of Brian Francis)

3) Pencil Sharpening

Why pencils are due for a comeback: I'm here to talk about the lost art of pencils, because I think pencils are something that people don't think about. I'm a big pencil person myself. A lot of stores now are carrying high-end pencils. I brought one of my favourite pencils. It's the palomino black wing pencil (pictured below), and this is a limited edition pencil.

About the book: The book I'm going to recommend to go along with this trend is called How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees. Rees considers himself an artisanal pencil sharpener and refers to himself as the "#1 No. 2 Pencil Sharpener." He goes into full detail about the various different pencil points and the mistakes people make when sharpening their pencils. There are lots of photos to guide you through this very complicated process, as well as warm-up exercises. 

What you need: The good news is the supplies you need cost under $1,000. The tools you need include, obviously, pencils, and you need to get a smock, a pocket knife, various sharpeners. You will need tweezers because he recommends you collect the shavings and put them into a Ziploc bag because, in a sense, they are still part of the pencil, so they're still your property. You need vinyl tubing so you can insert your sharpened pencil into it, so you can protect the tip. You also need a dust mask and — this is a safety precaution — you might need bandages. 

Brian Francis, who describes himself as a "big pencil person," likes to use these limited edition palomino blackwing pencils. (Courtesy of Brian Francis)

Brian Francis's comments have been edited and condensed.