Textile and needlecrafts are among the oldest crafts in human history. Along with the ability to craft rudimentary tools came the use of those tools to fashion draped skins and other natural fibers for protection from the elements. Humans are the only animal on Earth to wear clothing.
It might be argued that to both clothe oneself and one’s loved ones, as well as creatively and culturally express oneself through fashion choices, is a time-honored endeavor that reaches into the very roots of what it means to be human.
I suspect that it is no accident that as mass-produced clothing now overflows on department store racks across much of the industrialized world, a renaissance has taken place with a renewed enthusiasm for handcrafting in the textile and needlecraft arts. In addition, shows like Project Runway have spurred interest in the creative art of fashion design.
The Kansas City Public Library has a huge selection of books and videos to help you get started or expand your abilities in textiles and needlecrafts. So great is this selection, scattered throughout our Consortium system, (a Catalog search yielded more than one thousand titles on “quilting ” alone), that I can only touch on some of the many materials available. But let’s survey some of the categories, along with some of the items available.
First of all, the 746 call number is your browsing area for this selection of books. Starting out, you’ll find general introductions to the various textile and needle crafts. For example, Textile Crafts , edited by Constance Howard, includes chapters on spinning, embroidery, weaving, crochet, knitting, lace, and macrame, with information on tools and basic techniques for each.
Looking further into the 746 area, I found titles on sewing, quilting, needlepoint, textile designs, fabric and yarn dying, fabric painting, millinery (hat making), ribbons, applique, tapestry, and fashion design, among others. Wow. There are also subcategories within these categories. For example, weaving may include hand-weaving, card weaving, or different types of looms. What about bobbin lace vs. crochet lace? Or hand quilting vs. machine quilting? In any case, be sure to play with catalog search terms to bring up the best variety, and use the catalog tools to both narrow and expand results.
Tip: Don’t shy away from older titles in the collection! Some techniques and tools don’t change over time, and older books sometimes have a depth and breadth of information (as well as the weight of the book to go with them), that isn’t found in more recently published softcover titles. One of the greatest values of libraries – as compared to bookstores – is our ability to maintain this range of both older and newer items.
Here are some of the titles available to instruct and inspire:
- Spindle Spinning from Novice to Expert, by Connie Delaney,
- Spinning Wool; Basics and Beyond, by Patsy Zawstikoski (on VHS)
- Embroidery: A Beginner’s Workshop, by Jock Levinson,
- Chinese Embroidery; Traditional Techniques, by Josiane Bertin-Guest
- The Art of Knitting and Crochet 2 (DVD), by Various
- Swedish Knits; Classic and Modern Designs in the Scandinavian Tradition, by Paula Hammerskog
- Yarns to Dye For; Creating Self-Patterning Yarns for Knitting, by Kathleen Taylor
- Quilting Designs from the Past: 300+ Designs from 1810-1940, by Jenny Kinney
- Quilter’s Catalog; A Comprehensive Resource Guide, by Meg Fox
- The Complete Guide to Vintage Textiles, by Elizabeth Kurella
- African Printed Textile Designs, by Diane Horn
- Crocheted Lace; Techniques, Patterns & Projects, by Pauline Turner
- The Technique of Filet Lace, by Pauline Knight
- Creative Weaving; Beautiful Fabrics with a Simple Loom, by Sarah Howard & Elisabeth Kendrick
- The Joy of Hand Weaving; the Complete Step-by-Step Book of Hand Weaving, by Osmer Gallinger Tod
- Beautiful Bows (VHS), by Juanita Lewis
- Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques, by Nancy Bednar & JoAnn Pugh-Gannon
- The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing; 1100 Full Color How-To Photos, by Singer
- Classic Millinery Techniques; A Complete Guide to Making & Designing Today’s Hats, by Ann Albrizio
- Scarves To Make, by Linda Lee
- Inside Fashion Design, by Sharon Lee Tate
- Fashion Design, by Sue Jenkyn Jones
And as always, don’t forget to utilize periodical databases, interlibrary loan , and ask for assistance whenever needed!
If you’re in need of a little inspiration, here’s one of my favorite verses on weaving, from the Native-American Tewa, “Song of the Sky Loom.”
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow,
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness.
About the Author
When she’s not assisting customers in the Central Reference department, Jean Rivard DuFresne  makes glass beads and designs jewelry, which she sells at riveroflight.etsy.com . She also writes and is a voiceover artist.
More crafty reading from Jean:
How to Use the Library to Get Started in Jewelry Making 
How to Get Started on Your Music Hobby