THREADS: The delicate life of John Craske by Julia Blackburn
The title of this fascinating story is very apt, as there are so many threads linking famous people of 1930s with others of 1970s.
The hero is a sick ex fisherman who spends his good days painting or embroidering. Much of his output has disappeared but according to exhibition reviews and eyewitness accounts was produced by a man who knew the sea in all its moods. Medical science of the day could do little to help his condition, described as “a stuporous state”. Continually tended by his devoted wife John lived a quiet, almost death-like life. Various notorious people visited, purchased his paintings and encouraged his talents.
This story links the lives of many people, including the author and her husband. Some are unexpected, like Peter Pears and Albert Einstein. The best chapter, from an embroiderers’ view, is about Craske’s embroidery of the Evacuation of Dunkirk and includes photos of the work; this should be seen by more people, especially those who understand the skill in producing it from his sick bed. It is like a detective story, with the author chasing clues in unexpected places while the atmosphere of Suffolk and the east coast permeates the book.
HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW:
the secret story of Quilts and the Underground Railway by J L Tobin & R G Dobard.
This book describes the many patterns used in 19th century quilts in southern USA and the discovery of the significance of the patterns. Until comparatively recently the coded messages in such quilts have been unknown due to the oral tradition of the makers. Even family members were unaware that heirloom items had such importance to escaping Negroes before emancipation. Ms Tobin is an historian who was given the information by one of the last quilt makers in Charleston, Louisiana. The strong connections with West Africa, from where the natives were forcibly moved, influenced their designs. Professor Dobard was an experienced African American quilter who helped to unravel the story of the importance symbols giving directions to the fugitives.
There is an extensive bibliography and helpful glossary and diagrams of designs.
“This book unfolds like a scholarly detective story and offers convincing evidence that quilts were used to conceal and yet reveal a means of escape on the Underground Railway”
Anchor Books 2000
THE BUTTON BOX: Lifting the lid on women’s lives by Lynn Knight
Ms Knight takes her readers through the treasures she finds in the family button box, an item most readers can empathise with. Each treasure brings forth her family, memories and events connected with the button. Sometimes she elaborates into social memories, how her aunts impressed her with their needle skills and escapades. There is much about the make do and mend of the war years. Her grandmother was a strong influence as was gran and mother where sewing was concerned. Gran’s silver thimble was included and the memories handed down through the female line.
Throughout the book the gradual freeing of women from domesticity into the wider world, either social or necessity, is discussed and expounded. A small ladybird button reminds the author of her childhood, the gap between those who had and the children who were made to feel the stigma of not having, through no reason of their own; the numerous layers of underclothing worn by all who could afford; the delights of reading various comics that even now causes some to become misty eyed.
This book certainly presents a new view on the history of women’s intimate lives with domestic duties, families work and fashion. Some of the chapters may make the reader laugh or nod in agreement .Lynn Knight’s book gives a new meaning to micro history.
Chatto & Windus 2016
TAKE SILK by Judith Pinnell- a guide to silk paper for the creative fibre artist
This book will take the reader into a world of colour, creativity and an exciting new dimension in textile art. Thus the blurb begins on this lovely paperback. The illustrations in the project section are magical; the photographer deserves much praise.
The author delights in making silk paper then transforming it into many desirable objects, bowls, masks etc. Follow the clear instructions to make your own lovely items. Machine embroidery dominates but the hand stitcher is also catered for. The instructions appear clear and various materials can be used to enhance the designs.
Have a go!!
2002 Search Press £10 99
SCHOOL OF SEWING by Shea Henderson
This book contains 12 months of sewing lessons, following a group of beginners learning to use their sewing machines. Each detailed lesson plan includes easy-to-follow instructions, advice on buying fabric and other necessities.
The first third of the book has interesting chapters on the sewing machine, which should be of great help to people who are complete beginners. Choosing materials is discussed before the projects start. Each one may appear simple but they contain different skills that help the sewer progress with confidence. Being an American publication there are quotes from pupils alongside the progress; perhaps schools over there do even less stitching than UK ones have taught over the last few years.
This was an enjoyable read for beginner and more experienced stitchers; all can gain some ideas to impress family and friends,
Lucky Spool Media 2014
Search Press £16 99
MEND AND MAKE FABULOUS by Denise Wild
Subtitled “stylish solutions to give your clothes a new lease of life”.
The author starts by saying “A true fashion devotee strives to keep all her clothes looking as good as new. The ability to repair, revive and even revamp a garment is priceless”. The first part of this book explains how to make basic repairs in all types of materials and garments. From repairing denim to lace and all weights in between are discussed.
The “Make it fabulous” sections should produce many ideas for those with a need to increase their wardrobe without too much diminution of their purse. The final sections are full of tips on laundering, fabric care and a glossary on the tools used by the author. This book will inspire the modern “make and mend” woman!
Search Press 2014 ISBN 0781782210290
THE LAST RUNAWAY by Tracey Chevalier
This historical novel is set in mid Victorian Ohio, in a Quaker settlement. The story is mainly gentle but includes a considerable amount of detail regarding Quilt making. It appears to be the main recreational activity of the female characters when they are not growing food or hiding runaway slaves. Scraps of cloth are gleaned from many sources and contain precious memories.
The period atmosphere permeates the story, and the letters from the emigrant reflect her loneliness as she makes a new life. The author shows her research in the stitching, diet and domestic conditions faced by early settlers. I enjoyed this story much more than her earlier one. It makes a good go-to-bed book and one to borrow from the library.
HarperCollins Pub 2013
THE DESIGN LIBRARY MAORI DESIGNS, by Penny Brown
This is a fascinating design source book with a wonderful selection of 100 specially commissioned, original images inspired by the traditional art of the Maori people. The patterns and motifs in this book are based on their stunning tattoo designs and woven work, their pottery and jewellery, and their beautiful and impressive stone, wood and bone carvings.
Illustrations can be combined with other images, or enlarged and used as the main theme for special projects, whether they are stitched designs, cards, journals, collages, mixed media or ceramic pieces, pictures, panels or paintings. This wonderful source book, which is accompanied by a CD, will fire your imagination and give you all the help you need to create stunning, original works of art. (I’m sorry you cannot click to look inside this book)
SEARCH PRESS Paperback £12.95 ISBN 9781844488421
HOW TO DECORATE AND EMBELLISH YOUR FABRICS, by Laurie Wisbrun
The ultimate guide for all crafters seeking to achieve the perfect finish for their fabric-based projects. Comprehensive step-by-step instructions are accompanied by detailed illustrations that introduce readers to an extensive range of fabric alteration and embellishment techniques, such as tie-dying, block printing, and beading. Galleries throughout the book feature examples of these techniques, demonstrating how they have been applied to fabric and providing readers with a wealth of inspiration.
SEARCH PRESS Paperback ISBN 0781844488339 £14.99
DRESSMAKING 200 QUESTIONS ANSWERED By Mary McCarthy
An ideal book for both the proficient and the less experienced dressmaker. The book is divided into questions with clear photographs and diagrams of the problems. These range from ‘How do I use Tailors chalk?’ to more challenging items such as ‘How do I match the right fabric to my pattern?’ and ‘How do I cut out stretchy fabrics?’ Answers to your dressmaking problems can be solved with this very useful book. Chapters cover sewing equipment, measuring and fitting, preparing and cutting out fabric, machine stitching and lots more helpful advice for anyone who is interested in sewing. A good all round advice book.
ISBN 978-1-84448-839-1 Published by SEARCH PRESS £9.99
STITCHING FOR VICTORY by Suzanne Griffith
This is not a book to give pattern or inspiration but one that lets us be thankful for all the materials available to us. As a War baby I have only dim memories of Shortages or Mum making much out of little. There has been much talk about make and mend recently. This book explains how society did have to stretch existing materials and how the needle was so important.
Personal accounts of youngsters stitching items makes me want to weep for the present generation that has scant knowledge of sewing or handicrafts. The few that do learn the skills, like our Young Embroiderers, will bless their instructors.
All aspects of life between 1939-1950 are viewed from the vantage of sewing, from Blimps to ladies’ underwear. The Government appears to be strict but benign is sharing materials; I can remember Mum grumbling but everyone apparently did!
There are many pictures, showing a collection of prized mementos, wedding dresses, toys and W.I. tapestries. A clear simple style makes the book easy to read. One to borrow from a library if you’re not a social history fan.
The History Press 2009 £16 99