The Ladybird Hobbies series began life in 1963, but got off to a slow start. It wasn't until 1969 that Ladybird decided to commission a batch of new titles, and the series then grew during the early seventies. Around 1977 the books were all withdrawn and replaced by new titles and a couple of revisions. Here we're concentrating on the original series.
The were aimed at different age groups, featuring craft and hobby skills covering varying degrees of ability, "providing answers to the question all children ask - "Mummy, what can I do?"" (as the dust jacket of the first book explained). Programmes like Blue Peter were at there most popular around this time, and many of the projects in the first book, "Things To Make", will be familiar to anyone who watched the show - snakes made of wooden cotton reels, potato printing, seashell vases etc. This first title was also the only one in the series to appear in a dust-wrapper edition, as it was three years before the next title appeared.
"Toys And Game To Make" covered similar ground, with a little more emphasis on toys which involved some kind of simple scientific principles to make them work. The book appeared as a coloured hardback edition and, apart from being subject to the usual changes of Ladybird logo, and updated catalogue information on the back cover, remained unchanged. "Indoor Gardening" explained simple plant propagation techniques to enable children to grow cuttings and identify a range of indoor flowers via well illustrated pictures, and was the first of four new titles added during 1969. "Stamp Collecting" was one of Ladybird's less well designed books. It failed to give any real guidance and simply featured page after page of themed stamp photographs, and mixed quite complex information (on the intricacies of measuring stamp perforation sizes!) with more basic text. Two uncredited illustrations do appear at the front of the book, which would appear to be the work of Ron Embleton, a skilful artist who specialises in historical subjects.
The rest of the books are all fairly self-explanatory. "Course Fishing" was nicely illustrated by B. H. Robinson, and included several pages on identifying fresh-water fish. "Tricks And Magic" (the last of the 1969 additions) expanded on a couple of the ideas shown in "Toys And Games To Make", with numerous card tricks and illusions using simple props. The "Swimming" and "Sailing" titles were for more grown-up children, and were the first of seven new books added during the early seventies. The "Knitting" and "Sewing" titles were for younger children, the former culminated in a handsome knitted tie - to give to "your father, as a surprise"! "More Things To Make" and "Puppets" were styled after the earlier titles. After 1973, the additions tailed off to just one a year and were as mixed as ever. The last, "Coin Collecting" (1976), was a much better introduction to the hobby than "Stamps" had been. Again it was largely based on photographs, and also had a photographic cover.
It's also a hard title to find, as not long after it came out all sixteen books were withdrawn. The series was revised a couple of times after this, with several of the older titles retained and others brought in from elsewhere in the catalogue to make a more cohesive collection of craft and hobbies books, eventually using the "Learnabout" heading on the spine.