Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Magic Motif Crochet

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This week’s pick: Magic Motif Crochet by Maggy Ramsay.


Publication date: 1987.

Status: Out of print but available at reasonable prices online.

Condition: Very Good.

Craft: Crochet.

Magic Motif Crochet cover

I discovered this week’s pick via this post on one of my favorite blogs, Crochetbug.  Like Leslie, I was very intrigued by the Textured Squares Afghan.

Magic Motif Crochet textured squares

As you can guess, this book is primarily about motif projects.  Though the Textured Squares Afghan is an exercise in pure texture, there are many colorful projects in the book.

Magic Motif Crochet rainbowsThis picture features the Giant Rainbow Ball, a kid’s karate outfit (how awesome is that!), and a fun Rainbow Afghan.

The author, Maggy Ramsay, was apparently based in New York when the book was published.

Magic Motif Crochet Maggie Ramsay

I wonder if she still lives in the area?  I couldn’t find any recent information for her online (although admittedly, I only glanced through the first few pages of the Google search).

I was also intrigued by the different geometric patterns, especially since someone recently asked me to make a Necker cube baby blanket.

Magic Motif Crochet climbing blocks

The Climbing Blocks Afghan is made with 123 diamonds (in three colors) and 6 triangles (for the edges).

Magic Motif Crochet tumbling blocks

The Tumbling Blocks Afghan is made with 23 squares (in two colors), 12 half squares (in two colors), 4 quarter squares (in two colors), and 60 diamonds (in three colors).

(By the way, I didn’t make up baby blanket.  That’s a whole lot of pieces for a project that I don’t get to keep!)

Not all of the projects are solid fabrics.  There are some lacy designs, too.


Magic Motif Crochet lace

I especially like this Antique Medallion Placemats and Centerpiece design.

What’s your favorite source of vintage crochet motif patterns?

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework (1984)

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This week’s pick: Complete Guide to Needlework (Reader’s Digest) by Reader’s Digest.

Source:  MC’s mother’s collection.*

Publication date: Eighth printing (1984) of 1979 edition.

Status: Out of print but available at reasonable prices online.

Condition: Very Good.

Crafts: Applique, Crochet, Embroidery, Knitting, Lacework, Macrame, Needlepoint, Patchwork, Quilting, and Rug-making.

Complete Guide to Needlework cover

You know a book is a classic when you find it in the collections of two amazing women.  I came across this book in my grandmother’s collection after she died, and I took it home with me when we cleaned up her apartment.  Two years later, when I moved in with MC, I found another copy in the books he kept to the side after his mother died.  (I ended up giving my grandmother’s copy to one of my best friends.)

This book is a great resource because it includes information on so many different needlecrafts, but also because it goes beyond the basics in a way that most contemporary books don’t.  There is definitely an assumption that the readers of this book will need these crafts to make garments and home decor items for their families, and as a result, the writers attempt to share the skills needed for designing and finishing great custom items.

From the section on crochet necklines.
From the section on shaping crochet necklines.
From the section on knitting necklines.
From the section on shaping knitting necklines.

The book starts off with a section on embroidery, a craft I love the look of but lack the patience for actually doing.


Complete Guide to Needlework 21 embroidery sampler

There are quite a few great embroidery samplers shown, followed by detailed illustrations for making loads of stitches.

Complete Guide to Needlework 46 running sts

I haven’t spent much time looking through the next two sections, Needlepoint and Applique.

The Patchwork section has a lot of beautiful and inspiring pictures, but I’ve mostly avoided it.  (As a fairly lazy quilter, I’m partial to newer books with detailed strip piecing instructions.)

Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern.
Grandmother’s Flower Garden pattern.

The Quilting chapter mostly focuses on hand quilting, but there are some tips for machine quilters, too.

The Knitting chapter is one of my favorites.  Some of the highlights include tips for getting neat selvages…

Complete Guide to Needlework 284 Selvages

illustrated and written instructions for different types of double increases and decreases…

Complete Guide to Needlework 291 decreases

Complete Guide to Needlework 293 decreases

and the above-mentioned tips for neckline shaping.

Complete Guide to Needlework knitting necklines 2

There are also some great patterns, like this one for a classic Aran sweater…

Complete Guide to Needlework 315 aran pullover

and this one for a lovely evening set.

Complete Guide to Needlework 354 evening set

And, naturally, I love the crochet section, too.  Like the knitting chapter, it includes a stitch guide…

Complete Guide to Needlework 377 motifs

and sections on quite a few specialized techniques including woven crochet…

Complete Guide to Needlework 383 woven crochet

Tunisian crochet…

Complete Guide to Needlework 387 Tunisian crochet

and broomstick lace.

Complete Guide to Needlework 389 broomstick lace

And also like the knitting section, there is plenty of information about shaping crochet garments.

Complete Guide to Needlework crochet sleeves

After the crochet section, I tend to lose interest since I don’t do any lacework, macrame, or rug-making.  But I do like that there are sections on all of these crafts, because you never know when I might pick one of them up!

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans by Gladys Thompson

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This week’s pick: Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans: Fishermen’s Sweaters from the British Isles by Gladys Thompson.

Source:  Amazon.

Publication date: 1971 second revised edition.

Status: 3rd revised edition (1979) is available as a Dover book for $14.95.

Condition: Good.

Craft: Knitting.

Guernseys cover

I bought this book online a few years ago after I first learned to knit.  I’ve always been fascinated by knit and crochet cables and I heard that this was one of those “must have” knitting books.

As someone who will probably not be knitting a sweater any time soon, this is more of an interesting (but not critical) find for my vintage collection.

I haven’t read it very closely, but I do love the cable patterns contained within.  It’s almost as fun to look through as a stitch guide.

Flamborough diamond moss and cable pattern.
Flamborough diamond moss and cable pattern.

From what I can gather, the book includes some historical and regional information along with the patterns.  Periodically, I like to glance within its pages for inspiration.

Filey Pattern VIII: Zig zag, moss, and cables.
Filey Pattern VIII: Zig zag, moss, and cables.

I have yet to be feel the urge to read the entire book, but I’m sure one day the mood will strike me.

The Crimlisk Brothers.
The Crimlisk Brothers.

One of the major downsides to this book is its lack of an index.  I have no idea who these brothers are, but don’t they look interesting?

Charts for the Sheringham pattern.
Charts for the Sheringham pattern.

Some of the textured patterns are charted.

Scottish Fleet Pattern XXVI: Trees and Bars.
Scottish Fleet Pattern XXVI: Trees and Bars.

Has anyone made a project inspired by this book?

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: The Complete Family Sewing Book

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This week’s pick: The Complete Family Sewing Book edited by Cathi Hunt and Irma Fischler.

Source:  The Strand.

Publication date: 1972.

Status: Out of print, but available online, generally for reasonable prices.

Condition: Very Good.

Craft: Sewing.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk cover

Some of my longtime readers may remember this book from my first ever posted list of craft goals.  I had great plans of reading it cover to cover, but never actually finished.

It's pretty big.
It’s pretty big.

I found this wonderful book back in 2011 while visiting The Strand with two of my best friends.  We used to meet monthly for a craft circle for almost 4 years, but changes in our various apartments made that impossible in about 2009.  Since then, we try to get together for dinner or a movie about every 6 weeks.  We randomly decided to pop into the Strand after seeing a movie, and I found this amazing book.  I immediately snatched it up, which was a bit upsetting for one of my friends, since she wanted one, too.  (Not to worry, we ordered her one online for her birthday.)

This book is a great snapshot into the early ’70s, just a few years before I was born.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk something missing

It’s over 500 pages long, printed on a newsprint-type paper in a few colors, and displayed in a sturdy three ring binder.  The retail price was $6.98.  You could also order the binder for $2.49 or each chapter for 39 cents.  (According to the consumer price index calculator I used, these prices are equivalent to 2013 U.S. buying power of $38.83, $13.85, and $2.17, respectively.)

This book was written at a crossroads between traditional and contemporary expectations about gender.  It is clearly addressed to women, who are assumed to have both children and husbands.  But, at the same time, the authors understand the women may be working and may not have had as much sewing time as in the past.  There’s also an acknowledgement that these women readers may have missed out on some of the background knowledge – so it isn’t like reading a 1880s book where you are advised to do things in “the usual way.”  Instead, everything is explained in case you missed out on the important foundational sewing information that all women “should” have.

As someone who comes from a strong line of seamstresses yet seems to have missed out on that foundational knowledge about sewing myself, my favorite parts are the Shapes of Fashion sections, which illustrate and identify different clothing styles.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk dresses and skirts
Finally, I know what a Dirndl skirt is.
Complete Fam Sewing Bk pants and coats
I had no idea that capes were categorized thusly.

My next favorite parts are the various fitting guides.  I know that, in today’s times, a lot of people don’t follow the fitting guidelines from the past, but I still find them really helpful.

In particular, the first chapter, Do Wonders with Your Wardrobe, has a series of comparative illustrations that demonstrate how different features (line, colors, detail, etc.) can emphasize certain physical characteristics.


Complete Fam Sewing Bk fitting1


Complete Fam Sewing Bk fitting2


Complete Fam Sewing Bk fitting3

There is similar information in the Sew for Him! chapter as well.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk tall and thin

I really love the illustrations in this book, although it isn’t clear who has drawn what.  (The title page lists three artists – Francis H. Schwartz, Patricia Cullen, and William H. Silvey – as well as George W. Harrington for cover design.)

Here's one of my favorite illustrations.
Here’s one of my favorite illustrations.

This isn’t a pattern book, but an encyclopedia of sewing with a fashion and fitting primer.

There is information about fabrics…

Complete Fam Sewing Bk man made fibers

and detailing.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk embroidery

Some of the information holds up for today…

Complete Fam Sewing Bk swimwear

and some of it is dated.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk fringe

Some of my favorite sections are those about sewing for men and children.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk making most of man

Complete Fam Sewing Bk pantsuit

Complete Fam Sewing Bk kids

There are these great sizing/fitting charts inserted throughout the book, too.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk men

Overall, this is probably one of my favorite vintage needlecrafts books.  Even though it is specifically about sewing, there is a lot of interesting information about fashion, styling, and fit that can be applied to wearables in other crafts, too.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk sleeves

Plus, now I know what a trumpet sleeve looks like, and how to use all the latest (through 1972) fabrics.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk future of sewing

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Crochet Workshop by James Walters

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This week’s pick: Crochet Workshop by James Walters.


Publication date: 1983 reprint of a 1979 publication.

Status: Out of print, but available online (sometimes, for exorbitant prices)  Update: Thanks to PlanetJune for letting me know that Crochet Workshop will be republished by Dover next year.  You can order it on Amazon here.

Condition: Good.

Craft: Crochet.

Crochet Workshop cover

I first learned about this delightful book from Crochetbug.  (You can learn more about James Walters in this post on Crochet Concupiscence.)  Unfortunately, the book’s condition is such that it is difficult to enjoy.  You see, it reeks of smoke.  One day, I hope to air it out enough for me to actually want to read through it, but until then, I am limited to brief moments of picking it up until the smell is unbearable, and then washing my hands profusely.

I did take some time to photograph it so I could share some of it with you.

Crochet Workshop 8 suit
A freeform crochet body suit.

You can almost immediately feel the sense of whimsy, creativity, and joy that Walters has to offer.

Crochet Workshop 67 shaping

The book includes all kinds of information that you would rarely see in a crochet book today.  As a freeform pioneer, Walters shows you how to create your own projects, rather than rely solely on patterns.

Crochet Workshop 105 swirls

There are many great illustrations, and I can’t tell if these are by Walters or someone else.  Here is one showing the progression of various spiral crochet pieces

Crochet Workshop 156 motif2Crochet Workshop 157 motif1

These are part of a section that explains how to construct motifs of different kinds.

Crochet Workshop 207 freeform

There are examples of several freeform garments included in the book…

Crochet Workshop 214 hairpin

as well as explorations of specialized techniques, like hairpin lace.

Crochet Workshop 215 hairpin lace risque

Most of the projects are displayed artfully, rather than functionally.

Crochet Workshop 248 thigh highs

I really wish I could bear to read through this book, because I am sure I would learn a lot and be completely inspired.

Crochet Workshop 225 gown

Hopefully, one day it will come back into print (or be available as an ebook) and I will have the chance to read it cover to cover.  Until then, does anyone have any tips for removing foul odors from books?