As my Facebook friends know, I host a series called A Writer In the City. In thinking about what to focus on for my Thursday 13 responses, I decided to give my readers a glimpse into the books in my library – for, as I’ve been told, I have rather a lot of books.
Today I’d like to focus on one of the sections of my library, my craft books. I have several sections within it, including knitting, crochet, weaving, pysanky, woodworking, candlemaking, needlecraft (which includes Bargello, needlepoint, counted cross-stich, etc.), beads and jewelry making, polymer clay, PMC (precious metal clay), and more. (I’m startled to see how much more, as I am preparing for this Thursday 13.) Join me as I discuss thirteen of my craft anthologies.
One word on methodology. I’ve been keeping a bibliography of my library for more than a decade now, partly because I have so many books I need some simple way to keep track. A while back, I mentioned this to a writing friend of mine, someone who is already published. She gave me the assignment to write down the publisher for each of my books, because the library of books we like will be a window into the publishers who publish works we want to write. I decided that makes a lot of sense. Here are the categories I use in my Excel spreadsheet:
Label? (This tells me if I need to put a book plate in the book. I designed my own custom plates using Avery labels; you can use a regular one from the store or a fancy embosser, your choice.)
Location (i.e. what shelf or, sadly, box. I need a bigger house!)
City (If it’s New York and a bunch of others, I just write, New York et al)
Format (Hardback, Trade, MM for Mass Market)
Checked-Out? (I don’t loan my books. Ever. This column is for when I do.)
Thirteen Books from the “Crafts: Anthologies” section:
1. Family Creative Workshop, Ed.; Family Creative Workshop, 23 Vol. & Index; Plenary Publications International, Inc.; New York & Amsterdam; 1976.
These are awesome. Hands down, one of the best anthologies for crafts I have ever seen. If you’re lucky, you can even find the volumes library bound – if you do, buy it. They’ll last even longer. They cover truly the largest spectrum of crafts I’ve seen in any anthology – and note, it’s 23 VOLUMES – as in, 23 separate, big, lovely books with color pictures. An orgasm on the bookshelf.
And do you know what? These books are so popular, crafters keep them alive. There’s even, I kid you not, a Facebook page!
2. Nine volumes of the Singer Reference Library:
Creative Sewing Ideas
Decorative Machine Stitching
Quick & Easy Decorating Projects
Quick & Easy Sewing Projects
Sewing for Style
Sewing Projects for the Home
More Sewing Projects for the Home
Published by Cy DeCosse Incorporated; Minnetonka, MN; various years from 1985 to 1995.
These are very, very good sewing instruction books. As you can see, they cover a myriad of subjects, and are thin enough to not overwhelm but thorough enough to give you a good grounding in the topic. The “Quick & Easy” ones are excellent for beginners, and the others are good once you’ve got the basics down. Singer does a great job of filling their books with lovely glossy photographs that are a visual feast.
3. Greystone’s Creative Hands; The Complete Knitting, Dressmaking and Needlecraft Guide, Vol. 1-3; Greystone Press; New York, Toronto, London; 1975
I should say, at this point, that I like older craft books. Prior to about 1975 or maybe 1980, craft books actually had in-depth chapters and articles that weren’t driven by pictures and short-attention-span-theater. I have an EXCELLENT sewing book, for example, published in the 60’s that tells how to alter clothing for a full-figured woman. Since the average American is size 14 or higher, this is a useful skill – particularly when most off-the-rack stuff is 14 or smaller.
Greystone’s books are interesting in that they cover a lot of ground. I only found 3 volumes at a used book sale, but according to Library Thing, there are a total of 22. I like them because they cover all the basics and advance from there, and are targeted toward someone who is interested in doing most of the work themselves on clothing and home furnishings.
4. I’m not a huge fan of Time-Life books, at least not where anyone can hear me. (Which is a shame, because they’re really quite something.) I have two sets of books, the first of which is The Art of Sewing. They were published in 1975. They are incredible. The covers are different colors, depending on the topic at hand, and are inspiring from that alone – but the range of topics is even more awesome. Sadly, a search of the Time Life website today yielded no match; however, a look on Google for the art of sewing yielded many raves for the “vintage” collection of books.
The Art of Sewing: Boutique Attire
The Art of Sewing: Classic Techniques
The Art of Sewing: Decorative Techniques
The Art of Sewing: Exotic Styling
The Art of Sewing: Making Home Furnishings
The Art of Sewing: Novel Materials
The Art of Sewing: Personal Touch
The Art of Sewing: Restyling Your Wardrobe
The Art of Sewing: Separates That Travel
The Art of Sewing: Shortcuts to Elegance
The Art of Sewing: Sporting Scene
The Art of Sewing: Traditional Favorites
In particular, my two favorites are Personal Touch and Restyling Your Wardrobe. While the pictures are out-of-date because they’re from 1975, they are classic enough that with modern fabrics and a modern eye one can use them with current fashions. Restyling discusses how to, for example, make a skirt from a pair of suit pants – what a novel idea and a great way to use expensive suiting fabric! Pretty cool if you’re into the modern D-I-Y movement, too.
5. Oddly, my second set of Time Life was published in Alexandria, VA, and the first in New York. Weird, no? Anyway, this next antholody is Home Repair and Improvement. I actually remember seeing adds for this series, though the version I have is from 1997 and I won’t admit to watching TV in that year. ~smirk~
Home Repair and Improvement: Adding On
Home Repair and Improvement: Basic Wiring
Home Repair and Improvement: Energy Alternatives
Home Repair and Improvement: Fireplaces and Wood Stoves
Home Repair and Improvement: Kitchens and Bathrooms
Home Repair and Improvement: New Living Spaces
Home Repair and Improvement: Plumbing
Home Repair and Improvement: Porches and Patios
Home Repair and Improvement: Weatherproofing
These are fun for me, even though I don’t yet own my own home, because they give me ideas and information on how to do things when I do. Also, New Living Spaces helped me figure out ways to more efficiently use the space I do have now, even though it’s a rental.
6. The next several are single volumes. Better Homes and Gardens; Creative Crafts and Stitchery; Better Homes and Gardens Books; United States; 1976.
This has been published in multiple versions and I’ve wanted a copy since I was about 14 and saw it at my friend’s house who was a crafting goddess. (She had some seriously cool stuff at her place, and her mom owned the local knitting shop, so I was in serious adoration of these ladies.) This book is fun and feels like a textbook – same size and weight as my college calculus book, actually. (More fun though.) (Yes, I know I like math. But I like textile arts more. Hush, now, I’m’a talkin’ here!)
The section on knitting is fun to look at, because I never know what techniques I might want to borrow. I always browse the patterns in older books too, because the constructions are remarkably similar to current garments and sometimes the older explanations are easier to understand.
7. Guild, Vera P.; Good Housekeeping: New Complete Guide to Needlecraft; Good Housekeeping Books; New York; 1971
Similar to number 6, but from a different home company. I like both Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens; I think they’re both thorough and fun to read. I like this one because it presents a lot of needle crafts in ways that are easy to follow. I find the older pictures as inspiring as today’s glossy magazine photos, though I could wish more of them were in color.
8. McCall’s; Needlework Treasury; Random House; New York; 1964
Something I only learned in recent years, McCall’s, Vogue, and Butterick are all the same company. They each have a slightly different ‘feel’ from each other, and I’m not sure if it’s a recent development or they’ve always been part of the same group. This treasury is fun because it’s got, like 6 and 7, a lot of different options for exploring needlearts.
Sometimes, the older books cover things like tatting, bobbin lace, and other forms of knitting that aren’t looked at by the more modern books.
9. Crafter’s Choice; Complete Illustrated Stitch Encyclopedia; Crafter’s Choice; New York; 2001
I accidentally got roped into Crafter’s Choice a couple years ago. They’re like Columbia House, but for craft books. If you have any impulse control issues around books, which the fact that I’m doing a TT on books might clue you into the fact that I do, I do not recommend getting involved with any club that sends you stuff you have to send back in order to not buy. Once it’s in your hot little hands, you’re not gonna want to let it go.
This isn’t a bad book, by any means. It’s big, and glossy, and modern, and has lots of good ideas. I kept it when I did a purge of my library, so obviously something in it calls to me. It’s just not one I’d say “thou must run thee out and buyest thee this book” or something.
10. Michael’s; Michael’s Book of Needlecrafts: Knitting, Crochet and Embroidery; Lark Books; New York; 2005
Okay, okay. It’s silly, I admit it. I mean, it’s a craft store, what could they POSSIBLY offer me in a book that I can’t get by a better publisher like the ones already listed above?
d00d. You walk by something for long enough, and pretty soon that puppy will be talkin’ to ya and seducin’ ya and then poof, it’s in ya’ll’s shoppin’ cart… (I admit, the backpack design had me at hello, and the needlepoint on modern projects just clinched it. I fought buying the stupid thing for months, walking past it at Michael’s stores from here to the coasts and back. I bought it though, ~mumbles~ ahem, Crafter’s Choice…selection of the month…~mumbles~)
11. Better Homes and Gardens; Decorating Book; Meredith Corporation; United States; 1976
Better Homes and Gardens publishing offices in the 70’s must have been friggin’ Mecca.
This.book.is.awesome. It’s full of ideas and, even better, it’s full of how to do stuff. LOFF! And it’s set up like their cookbook, the one that’s in the binder and has extra little pages and stuff…
12. Better Homes and Gardens; Handyman’s Book; Better Homes and Gardens Books; Des Moines, New York; 1970
Same thing, but for Handyman people. (Handypeople probably didn’t scan well in the early 70’s.) (Besides, one doesn’t really hear of “handypeople jobs.”) (ANYWAY…) This one is useful for all sorts of things that go bump-crunch-bang in the middle of the night. Even if you have to hire someone to fix something, this book will tell you everything you need to know to evaluate what sort of, ahem, person you need to hire.
13. Rupp, Diana; Sew Everything Workshop; Workman Publishing; New York; 2007
I’ve seen a LOT of sewing books. (Really. I once spent four hours in a circus tent full of books at a used book sale, drowning in the home ec section.) This is the single best sewing book I have ever seen in my life, trumping even the sewing bible, the Vogue Sewing Book. If you can only afford two books, get this and the Vogue one. If you can only get one, buy this one.
The one and only time I’ve WANTED to visit New York City was when I found out that the author has her own shop there. Make Workshop.
d00d. I wonder if she wants a love slave?