My reviews are listed below, but you can also click on these links to buy & find more reviews of general books on Needlecrafts
Needlecrafts is a bit of an all-encompassing term, so rather than list lots of titles here that are not necessarily related to each other, please check the sub-categories in the side bar. Only ‘general’ needlecraft titles (eg those covering a number of disciplines, or those not fitting neatly into another sub-category) will appear on this page.
N.B. Needlepoint has its own separate category, simply because there were so many books under that heading that I wanted to review.
(Titles are listed A-Z by author. Check side bar for links to book reviews covering different stitch techniques. Please feel free to add comments – especially if you disagree with me!)
TEXTILE ART: A Practical and Inspirational Guide to Manipulating, Colouring and Embellishing Fabric by APPLE PRESS
Machine stitching scares the life out of me, felting has never held any appeal, and quilting seems like a very time-consuming craft (this coming from a tapestry weaver…!). This book largely covers those areas, and will be mostly useful to people already familiar with those techniques and/or those interested in garment/fabric design. But there are also sections on pin weaving, different types of dyeing, beading, stamping, and various forms of embroidery.
While predominantly not covering my own main interests, that is also exactly why this is a good book for me, as it covers all the techniques that I don’t have any background in, but from time to time will need to know how to do to complete a project to best effect. The technique sections have step-by-step photos that seem easy to follow, and the results are inspirational, even for someone not working in textiles per se.
Definitely a great reference resource for anyone working with textiles, fabric, fashion, needlework etc etc…!
TEXTILE: The Journal of Cloth and Culture – String edition by PENNINA BARNETT (ed.)
This is a special edition of the journal ‘Textile’, devoted to the theme of ‘string’. The theme is interpreted very laterally, through a series of in-depth articles/editorials. The journal takes textiles as art very seriously, and there is no sense of lightheartedness in the overall tone at all; rather it is quite an academic read. That said, I also found the articles very interesting (rather than bone-dry, as I had feared), and the diversity covered within the broad thematic structure worked well. It did get very art-y sometimes, though.If you’re just looking for a light-ish magazine-style read, try ‘Craft’ (ed. Tina Barseghian) instead. Although I did enjoy reading this journal, I would say it has a fairly limited market, and is not the most accessible of reads.
Much as I usually love vintage, retro-styled needlework books, there is nothing outstanding about this one. Covering free embroidery, counted thread, needlepoint, florentine (/bargello), smocking, patchwork, applique and quilting, it’s fairly all-encompassing; the text is functional, the stitch diagrams do their job, and the patterns themselves are nice enough but unexciting. All a matter of taste, of course, but this is not the best example of the funky needlework that was around in the 60s and 70s.
HAVE YOU ANY WOOL? by JAN MESSENT
Jenny Dowde and Renate Kirkpatrick have both recently written books on freeform knitting and crochet, but this one (first published over 2 decades ago in 1986) is on another level altogether, and will liberateyour creativity in all-new ways.Although brief, one of my favourite parts of this book is the first chapter which includes card-wrapping, cardboard loom weaving, needleweaving and god’s eyes. These are very simple techniques, and the brief introduction here is enough for the creative thinker to realise they suggest all sorts of possibilities.Subsequent chapters cover knitting and crochet, but not in the same way as by the authors mentioned above: knitting is combined with card-wrapping, crochet evolves into cacti (long before the current amigurumi craze anthropomorphised everything). Just don’t come to this book expecting a project book (although a few patterns are included). All the techniques and methods are explained, and lots of illustrative photos show you what you might achieve, but Messent’s focus is on developing your own creativity, encouraging you to keep a notebook and develop your own ideas.A patterns section explores the different efects you can create uing different stitches and textures; a colour section shows you how to develop yarn colour schemes from photos, and how to blend and combine colours in original ways. A knitted/card-wrapped colour wheel illustrates the basic colour wheel terminology. Working from nature you will be inspired to create three-dimensional shapes and tactile textures.If you have an interest in textile crafts and even an ounce of latent creativity, by the time you’ve finished reading this book, I guarantee it will be unleashed!
Beginning with a bit of a history of wool, sheep, and weaving, my hopes weren’t too high when I opened up this book. Although photos of more innovative work is included, I was disappointed by the number of patterns (compared to its predecessor, above), which include 3-dimensional sheep, a shawl, and the mermaid (cover photo) . However, the following chapter on texture soon reverts to type, and the ‘project’ is really more of an experiment. More specific guidance is included than in ‘Have You any Wool?’, but more in terms of a workshop tutorial than a prescriptive how-to.
The colour section is a far more comprehensive guide to choosing and using colours than HYAW and gives a very practical suggestion for oven-dying yarns. (I would just like to take slight issue with the author in her brief analysis of a tapestry weaving, when she says ‘tapestry weaving is not so easily portable and will never fit into a handbag quite so easily as knitting or crochet’. Tiny tapestry looms are readily avilable and very portable; and of course you can make a cardboard loom to whatever size fits your bag – so there!)
The next chapter is my favourite, working with rings and hoops (and lampshades). These present lots of creative possibilities, and it’s a shame the idea isn’t taken just a little bit further to incorporate weaving, too (I have some great books covering that independently, though). This chapter also includes instructions to make Dorsetshire buttons, which may interest some. The chapter incorporating embroidery and knitting in some cases seems to ground the freeform styling a little, but there is also lots of exploration of texture and adaptation from landscape that works well.
The final chapter is a disappointment to me, given that it claims to be what all the previous chapters have been leading up to: free-style kntting, crochet and embroidery in…garment design. Hmm. Well, the styling is very 80s, but that can be forgiven, given its original publication date. Guidance is given for designing, piecing and making up patterns, and of course, the freeform techniques embellish the finished items (some far more convincingly than others); but I would say ths section is only the culminative purpose of all the techniques covered if you happen to have an interest in fashion design. Otherwise, the combined techniques can be used in almost any way you feel happiest expessing yourself.
Although there are parts of this book that don’t quite hit the mark for me, it does provide a very eloquent and constructive ‘next step on’ from HYAW, and the good bits are so good, it’s worth it for those alone. It’s still a fantastic book overall, and one of the most creatively inspiring books available.
Links to some more books that I haven’t read yet, but look quite cool: