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.
The book starts off with a section on embroidery, a craft I love the look of but lack the patience for actually doing.
There are quite a few great embroidery samplers shown, followed by detailed illustrations for making loads of stitches.
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.)
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…
illustrated and written instructions for different types of double increases and decreases…
and the above-mentioned tips for neckline shaping.
There are also some great patterns, like this one for a classic Aran sweater…
and this one for a lovely evening set.
And, naturally, I love the crochet section, too. Like the knitting chapter, it includes a stitch guide…
and sections on quite a few specialized techniques including woven crochet…
and broomstick lace.
And also like the knitting section, there is plenty of information about shaping crochet garments.
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!
Status: Out of print, but available online, generally for reasonable prices.
Condition: Very Good.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is similar information in the Sew for Him! chapter as well.
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.)
This isn’t a pattern book, but an encyclopedia of sewing with a fashion and fitting primer.
There is information about fabrics…
Some of the information holds up for today…
and some of it is dated.
Some of my favorite sections are those about sewing for men and children.
There are these great sizing/fitting charts inserted throughout the book, too.
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.
Plus, now I know what a trumpet sleeve looks like, and how to use all the latest (through 1972) fabrics.
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.
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.
You can almost immediately feel the sense of whimsy, creativity, and joy that Walters has to offer.
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.
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
These are part of a section that explains how to construct motifs of different kinds.
There are examples of several freeform garments included in the book…
as well as explorations of specialized techniques, like hairpin lace.
Most of the projects are displayed artfully, rather than functionally.
I really wish I could bear to read through this book, because I am sure I would learn a lot and be completely inspired.
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?