Read up on crafts and then try your hand at creating them at Craft Cottage

It is a library, but with a difference. Books, stacked on its shelves, tell you about Kumihimo, a Japanese craft technique and cloisonné enamelling a method used to decorate the jewels of Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. I am at Craft Cottage, a store that sells raw materials for craft. It is a regular hub for school children and those who are into handwork. They spend weekend afternoons, flipping through pages with illustrations, reading up quilling, paper-machier and pottery. Sometimes right there at the store they try out what they have read using the fancy papers and ribbons available at the shop. Alifiya, one of the owners of the shop, helps them find books they need. “You can spend hours here reading my books, but you are not allowed to take it home,” she gently reminds them. The library houses more than 400 books, including beading magazines, craft manuals and leaflets, which Alifiya has collected from all over the country. “Some of them are bought online too,” she adds.

Just two years old, Craft Cottage is run by Alifiya, Zainab Mamoowala and their father-in-law Gulshan Mamoowala. “We wanted to introduce a unique concept that will encourage more people to pick up craft. There are numerous craft stores that sell finished products but not many that sell the raw materials to make them.”

From colourful buttons, laces, sequins, tatted hankies, and paper to art stencils, cane bags, paper bags, clay moulds and woollen threads, the store has everything you may need to set up your own craft shop. Many customers, often linger on and sitting on conveniently placed chairs work on a gift box, an earring and so on, with Alifiya and Zainab helping them along.

Benarasi brocades, stone studded lace and ribbons are hot favourites among the ladies who use them to embellish their saris. For children, there are sundae-shaped fancy pens, spray paints, glass painting and quilling kits and Scoobydoo wires. Alifiya shows me a set of beaded jewellery made by children who attended their jewellery workshops. “We also put up the pieces made by the customers for sale. It gives them such a high,” she says. “The idea is to encourage craft. For instance, there are some plain cane bags here. Customers can dress them up using what is available at the store,” says Alifiya.

Inspired, I try my hand at designing earrings. Alifiya helps me choose the blue ceramic beads. There are head pins in varied sizes, which help you design earrings to your preferred length. Earring hooks in silver and gold are available too. We pick all we need, and with guidance from Bhanu, a shop assistant, my earrings are ready in just five minutes! “Once you know the technique, you can play with beads of different colours, textures and sizes,” Alifiya points out.

An art graduate from Stella Maris College, Chennai, Alifiya says she was desperate to do something related to art when she came to Coimbatore after her marriage. “I started making gift boxes from jute and would decorate them with crochets and fancy flowers. I was surprised to see how popular they became with my friends.”

Seeing her passion for craft, her father-in-law encouraged her to develop it into a business one. “He is the backbone of Craft Cottage. In fact our whole family including my mother-in-law and sister-in-law engage in craft. My mother-in-law makes tatted hankies.” Their workshops on soap-making, jewellery, candles and flowers have been popular, especially among children. Even men are showing interest in craft says Alifiya. “Now, nobody wants to buy readymade gifts. They prefer personalised ones.”

(Craft Cottage is located at Raja Annamalai Road, Sai Baba Colony. For details, call 98422-58319, 0422-4208963)