5 Books about Historical Needlework: Plain and Fancy
Amazing Embroidered Gloves
Historical Needlework: An Annotated Bibliography
Dillmont, T. (1996). The complete encyclopedia of needlework (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: Running Press.
This comprehensive volume is a reprint of an 1884 book by a woman who ran an embroidery school and opened shops in several cities in Europe. The needlework encyclopedia was the culmination of her many years of study, teaching, and research in the field. From the hand sewing of plain seams, hemming, darning, and mending, Dillmont moves on to an amazing array of needlework techniques, some of which are almost forgotten today.
While this book would be worthwhile if only for its vast quantities of information on embroidery techniques, it also covers knitting, crochet, tatting, weaving, appliqué, and various lace making techniques. Black and white illustrations and charts abound, making this a good book for those who want to try some historical needlework for themselves or identify the techniques used in a treasured heirloom textile.
Note: some free, e-book editions of this book do not include illustrations, so the e-book is not very useful. Get an illustrated version!
Knox, G. (Ed.). (1988). Traditional american crafts . Des Moines: Meredith Corp.
While not exclusively devoted to needlecraft, this book includes chapters on patchwork, Victorian needlework, colonial crafts and samplers. Each chapter includes a discussion of the craft as well as projects with complete instructions and patterns. Some patterns will need to be enlarged on a grid while other projects include full-sized templates to trace or charts to follow. All projects are shown in full-color photographs. This is a good resource for anyone decorating a home in traditional American styles.
Macdonald, A.L. (1988). No idle hands: A social history of American knitting. New York: Ballantine Books.
The knitting enthusiast will enjoy learning about knitting as a social activity as well as a useful craft. The history of knitting in America follows the history of America: knitting for the revolution, knitting on a wagon train, knitting for the troops during the War Between the States and the World Wars, knitting in good times and bad. Photographs include first ladies knitting, men and children knitting, and some of the projects knit in decades past.
The author is both a history teacher and an accomplished knitter, ideally suited for creating this interesting book! Knitting is not just a pastime for old ladies.
Parker, M.S. (2002). The Folkwear book of ethnic clothing . New York: Lark Books.
Ethnic clothing involves a variety of decorative needlework techniques. This book is lavishly illustrated in color and blends history and sociology with sewing and embellishment. Project instructions are included so the reader can try techniques from around the world: Seminole patchwork, Hmong squares, a Japanese kimono and much more.
Swan, S.B. (1995). Plain & fancy: American women and their needlework, 1650-1850 . Austin: Curious Works Press.
Swan has done extensive research from primary sources and pored over examples of historical needlework from the Winterthur Museum collection to create this wonderful book. Swan gives humble housewives their due, explaining the sheer volume of plain sewing and knitting required by the households of times past. For girls fortunate enough to be educated, plain sewing and fancy needlework were always part of that education.
A fine discussion of samplers and of schools for young ladies is included. Illustrrations from the Winterthur collection are interspersed with discussions of childbirth, mourning customs and indentured servitude. Women's history is recorded in diaries, letters, magazines and textiles. Swan knows where to look for this history and provides access to all through this excellent book.
Note: This bibliography is done in APA style.
Written by an Historian and a Knitter
More Vintage Needlework Information
- Making Lace: Basic Techniques
Lace fabrics look beautiful and complicated, and many types of lace are quite intricately constructed. Others are easier to make, though. Try some basic techniques.
- Piecework Magazine
This beautifully illustrated bi-monthly publication has articles and projects related to historical needlework of all types from around the world.