Recommended Textile Books
Top Twenty-two Textile Books
Out of all the books I own, these are the ones I would recommend to others, especially people who are just starting out in the textile world. Most of these are technique “how-to” books; and a few are textile history. I have linked all the books to their pages at WorldCat, the world’s largest network of library content and services. I have chosen books that are in the areas I’m more familiar with, so I have not included any books on knitting, crocheting, embroidery, basketry, lace-making, and other areas of expertise.
And for more books about textile techniques or history, look at the Books and Resources tab on the top, or click on “book reviews” in my category cloud in the tag cloud at the bottom of the page.
The Maker’s Hand, by Peter Collingsworth, 1987, Lark Books and Interweave Press. Beautiful utilitarian textiles from around the world, made by traditional linking, looping, knotting, and wrapping techniques. I am always amazed at the gorgeous creations that can be made with simple tools, or no tools at all.
Textiles: Collection of the Museum of International Folk Art, by Bobbie Sumberg, 2010, Gibbs Smith. This one is organized by the intended purpose of textile – household, sacred, dress, etc. I have the hard copy and the Kindle version, so I can always have at least one big inspirational book with me.
World Textiles: A Visual Guide to the Traditional Techniques, by John Gillow and Bryan Sentence, 1999, Thames and Hudson. This book is organized by the technique used to create the textile.
Textiles: The Art of Mankind, by Mary Schoeser, 2012, Thames and Hudson. This phenomenal coffee table book kept me reading and reacting for weeks, starting here.
Art + Quilt: Design Principles and Creativity Exercises, by Lyric Kinard, 2009, Interweave Press. One thing I especially like about this book is that the work of many different artists is used to illustrate the design principles.
The Quilting Arts Book: Techniques and Inspiration for Creating One-of-a-Kind Quilts, by Patricia Bolton, 2008, Interweave Press. This is a collection of some of the articles from Quilting Arts magazine – it’s nice to have them gathered into one place.
Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes, by Rebecca Burgess, 2011, Artisan Books. If you are the “jump in without being bogged down with lots of background information” type, this is the natural dye book to start with.
Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes, by Jenny Dean, 1999, 2010, by Octopus Publishing Ltd. If you are the precise type, this is the natural dye book to start with.
Guide to Dating Fabrics
Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1800 – 1960, by Eileen Jahnke Trestain, 1998, American Quilter’s Society. Also Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1950 -2000, by Eileen Jahnke Trestain , 2005, American Quilter’s Society. These books are helpful if you are trying to figure out the date of an old quilt, or if you are trying to reproduce a quilt or costume from a certain era.
History of Fashion
Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion 1840 – 1900, by Joan L. Severa, 1997, The Kent State University Press and My Likeness Taken: Daguerrian Portraits in America, by Joan L. Severa, 2005, The Kent State University Press. These two books help you decode those little sepia pictures of your ancestors – what year were they taken? What do their clothes say about their financial standing?
Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century, The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute, by Akiko Fukai, Tamami Suoh, Miki Iwagami, Reiko Koga, Rii Nie, 2002, Taschen. Pages and pages of gorgeous photographs of actual garments, women’s fashions from the Western world.
When Art Became Fashion: Kosode in Edo-Period Japan, by Dale Carolyn Gluckman and Sharon Sadako Tekeda, 1992, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I have yet to read all the history in this book; I just get lost in the photographs.
History of Looms
The Book of Looms: a History of the Handloom from Ancient Times to the Present, by Eric Broudy, 1979, Brown University Press. Lots of black-and-white illustrations – maybe not a book to read through cover-to-cover (unless you’re an engineering sort), but definitely a great resource when you are wondering about different looms and weave structures.
Passionate Patchwork, by Kaffe Fassett, 2001, Taunton Press. There is not a lot of information on actual techniques of quilting, but for me this book was the tipping point that got me into quilting. The big bold blocks made me see quilting in a whole new way.
Quilting – Machine
Quilt as Desired: Your Guide to Straight-Line and Free-Motion Quilting, by Charlene C. Frable, 2007, Krause Publications. This book does not cover design or piecing – it concentrates on the mechanics of quilting by machine. It is very clear, and has a spiral binding, so it lays flat when you are consulting it.
The Intentional Spinner: A Holistic Approach to Making Yarn, by Judith MacKenzie McCuin, 2009, Interweave Press. Crystal clear information and instructions on so many aspects of fiber, spinning, and achieving the yarns you want.
Surface Design – Fabric Printing
Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design: Techniques, Tutorials, and Inspiration, by Laurie Wisbrun, 2012, Chronicle Books. There are instructions for hand printing fabric, but I think this book has especially clear step-by-step instructions for digitally designing fabric.
Exploring Textile Arts: The Ultimate Guide to Manipulating, Coloring, and Embellishing Fabrics, by the Editors of Creative Publishing International, Inc. 2002, Creative Publishing International, Inc. ISBN# 1589230485. This book has simple instructions and lots of color photographs to demonstrate 50 different techniques.
To me, learning to weave is a lot like learning to cook. You start out by following a few recipes to the letter; after a while you figure out how to make substitutions based on the ingredients at hand; and you may proceed to understanding why certain techniques work.
These next two books both explain how to achieve fabric effects by choosing different threads, and choosing how to arrange them in the loom. But following the cooking analogy, Ann Sutton’s book is like the magazine All Recipes — it offers lots of eye-catching results in combinations you probably never thought of before. Sharon Alderman’s book is like Cook’s Illustrated magazine — it goes in depth into why each technique works as it does, which ingredients (threads) work best, and how you can adapt the technique to achieve the results you have in mind.
I would say all weavers would enjoy Ann Sutton’s book; Sharon Alderman’s I would recommend for advanced weavers or those of an analytical bent. Both books have great full-page color photos of the fabrics, and nice clear drafts.
The Structure of Weaving, by Ann Sutton, 1982, Lark Books, ISBN# 0-93727-408-9. There are lots of recipe books for weaving, but for me, this is the book that best explains the relationship between the basic components of weaving and the endless permutations from varying them. Every time I look at it, I notice something new that I want to weave.
Mastering Weave Structures, by Sharon Alderman, 2009, Interweave Press, ISBN# 9781596681378. This book is all-encompassing and awe-inspiring. I cannot imagine weaving this much cloth in my lifetime, much less researching each structure and explaining it in clear terms. This book could serve as a textbook to becoming a master weaver.
So there are my Top Twenty-two Textile books. If you have a recommendation, would you please share it in the comments? Thanks!
Quick Reviews of Even More Books
The Complete Guide to Vintage Textiles, by Elizabeth Kurella, 1999, Krause Books, ISBN# 0-87341-676-7. Obviously prices will have changed since this book came out, but it is a great reference for the history of various textile crafts. It does focus mostly on European and North American textiles, but it covers a lot of topics, from lace to feed sacks to flags. Kurella’s descriptions are concise and easy-to-read. And on the topic I know most about, weaving, she is very accurate. She gives the best explanation of overshot, summer-and-winter, and Jacquard coverlets that I have found. Which means that on the topics I don’t know much about, I trust her information.
MFA Highlights: Textile and Fashion Arts by Pamela A. Parmal, 2006, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, ISBN # 0-87846-699-1. I love this book because it really does include textiles from the whole world, not just Europe and North America. Some of the topics included are: Peruvian textiles from 300 BC, Chinese dragon robes, Medieval Islamic textiles, fans, and Greek Island embroideries. The chapters are short and profusely illustrated, and this is not one of those giant coffee table books. It’s a book you can carry around and read in short bursts.