Mastering the art in easy stages

If you are keen to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill but find the prospect overwhelming, this series of guides could be just the thing

By Chris Hurley

Here at the AMG office we have a confession to make. Not one of us has stuck with our new year’s resolution of taking up a new activity. In fact, we haven’t even made any serious attempt at what we set out to master in 2013.

It’s all very well making the decision to do something new but quite another to actually do it.  No matter how good our intentions it can be a real problem just knowing how to get started.

However, if this is your experience too, before admitting defeat, you might find the help you need in a  series of books just published by DK called ‘A Little Course In…” which provides practical guidance on a range of skills and activities including: sewing, knitting, baking, preserving, wine tasting, yoga, pilates and growing fruit and veg.

Each of these books makes the subject sound so achievable and absorbing that I have found myself becoming inspired to take up new interests that I hadn’t even previously thought about.

Each book follows the same structure and is rather like a patient teacher taking you slowly through the learning process.  The course begins with learning the basics – and I mean the absolute basics.  It assumes that you know nothing and explains everything in simple terms from the very first step whether that is casting on a first row of knitting, threading a needle or sowing a seed.

In the second part it builds on what you have learnt and the final stage encourages you to show off your skills as your confidence and experience increase. 

The simplicity of the guides means you can learn without feeling overwhelmed. They explore key techniques in depth and with so many easy to follow practical projects you are always learning by doing. They have a chatty but incisive tone and there are clear annotations, helpful tips, photographs that clearly show the sort of results you should expect and notes on what might have gone wrong and how you can improve next time.

It had been my new year’s resolution to improve my cooking but when it came to putting the idea into practice I wasn’t sure where to start  and the inevitable inertia crept in.  A Little Course in Baking has really set me on the right track.  The instructions for my first attempt – a carrot cake – were so simple it would have been difficult to go wrong and I am really eager to progress through cupcakes, cookies and meringues to artisan breads and Danish pastries and all the other delicious goodies in between.

More than anything I found these books to be quite inspirational, even when reading about a subject that previously hadn’t much appealed to me. Flicking through A Little Course in Preserving, which I assumed would be all about jam making, I found a wealth of tasty chutneys and relishes and in the latter part a fascinating guide to curing fish and meat. Growing veg and fruit had also never interested me in the slightest until I opened the Little Course and discovered a step-by-step guide to creating an ornamental herb garden.  Now I can’t wait to get started.

I would recommend these books to anyone that wants to take up a new hobby as they really make everything seem so achievable and at just £9.99 they make perfect presents too.