The first time I entered TAC’s Resource Library, I felt I could stay and read there forever. The shelves are crammed with every imaginable tidbit of textile knowledge, from the history of Guatemalan weaving to intricate batik instructions and the biographies of renowned designers. The library is an ever-growing resource to TAC’s instructors, residents, and members, and is jam-packed with inspiration, history, and expertise. I scanned through an armful of books, each page sparking new ideas and adding to my list of textile skills to learn. I left with a brain full of beautiful images and one overwhelming thought: there are not enough hours in the day, but, perhaps, in a lifetime.
Growing up, many of my family members were teachers and writers and invariably offered books as birthday and holiday gifts. At the height of holiday festivities, you could usually find me off in a corner, engrossed in my newest Judy Bloom or friendship bracelet guide. Craft books were the best, combining the page-turning excitement of a new book with the reward of some hand-crafted good I could barter with my friends or give as next year’s gifts. Today, I often flip through my sewing encyclopedia, vintage crochet magazines, and costume history books in search of color inspiration or some long-forgotten pattern. My small Brooklyn apartment has no room for anything, but I can always find space for a new book!
With the craft movement in full force, textile books have become more and more modern, with lovely photography and projects aligned with today’s tastes. The love of learning a new skill is as strong as ever, and, according to Forbes, many people now prefer experience-based gifts to material goods. So whether you’re shopping for a budding creative or an experienced textile artist this holiday season, textile books offer the best of both worlds. To help you share some textile love, I’ve sorted through the Tatter Library stacks and consulted with our instructors to compile this list of great textile books available today!
Natural Color by Sasha Duerr
In this fast-paced city life I don’t always find the time to stop and smell the roses, let alone trek through the woods in search of lichen and blue spruce. Yet after reading Sasha Duerr’s new book, Natural Color, I felt myself yearning for that long-lost connection to nature and curious about the colors in my compost. From onion skins and citrus peels to rosemary and mint, I found that several of the dye plants covered in this book are already present in my home, confirming, for me, the connection between food and dye. The photography is beautiful, with chapters broken down into seasonal color palettes, and features several elegant, contemporary home decor projects, including rose-printed curtains and dip-dyed indigo bedding. I love the detailed color palette charts, which show the range of muted and vibrant colors that can be achieved with plant dyes and mordants. Sasha Duerr, an artist and designer who teaches natural dyeing and other slow fashion classes at California College of the Arts, offers expert advice on working with some of the trickier dye plants and dye techniques. This is a great book for those looking to start a natural dye practice or move beyond the basics to experiment with local color.
On The Loom: A Modern Weaver’s Guide by Maryanne Moodie
I was lucky enough to meet Maryanne Moodie a couple years ago after months spent drooling over her Instagram account. Her Brooklyn studio is as inspiring and sweet as she is, and her patience with students and passion for sharing the art of weaving left me with my own case of "weaver fever." Her highly-anticipated new book was released this summer, and is full of beautiful projects in her signature color palettes. While known for her fringe-filled, geometric wall hangings, On The Loom, shows how tapestry techniques can be used to create a variety of home and fashion projects in all shapes and sizes. I love tapestry weaving because it doesn’t take a ton of equipment to get started, and Maryanne’s book is an inspiring, step-by-step guide for those looking to get back in touch with their creative side.
Print Liberation: The Screen Printing Primer by Nick Paparone & Jamie Dillon
The studio has had a definite “artivism” vibe these past few months, and what better way to share your message than through screen printing? Print Liberation has an equally down and dirty activist vibe to it, with authors and high school pals, Nick Paparone and Jamie Dillon, encouraging anyone with $40 and a tiny apartment bathroom to DIY their own prints. This was the go-to book for our screen printing instructors when they first started out, and details the materials needed to begin your own mini print studio as well as several “hacks” for those on a budget. For anyone who loves photography, typography, and making a statement, Print Liberation is the ultimate guide to printing your own T-shirt, patches, tote bags, and more.
The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar
Kristine Vejar’s textile studies in India led her to use natural dyes as a means to connect with the present and appreciate the environment around her. This philosophy of using textiles to tell our stories is consistent throughout her beautifully photographed book, The Modern Natural Dyer. The book is a great step-by-step, project-based guide to several different types of dyeing projects, and focuses on a core group of dyestuffs and extracts. My favorite part of the book is the Shade Card, which shows a range of natural dye colors on photographed swatches, which really gave me the feel for the color and texture I could expect with the finished cloth. The projects in this book are great for beginners.
Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshops: A Bend-the-Rules Primer by Rebecca Ringquist
Embroidery is making a serious comeback, from jean jacket patches to cute embroidered succulents. Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshops pays homage to the rule-ridden beginnings of needlepoint and cross-stitch with her own modern and colorful take on the craft. After learning how to embroider in a feminist art history class, Rebecca’s philosophy is all about experimentation, and her book covers the basic steps and more advanced techniques to help you create lovely layered pieces. Some of my favorite projects include a floral statement necklace and single stitch patches, and many of her projects have a fresh vintage vibe. The best part of her book is that it comes with a cloth embroidery sampler to finish at home!
The Art of Hand Sewing Leather by Al Stohlman
Some books just stand the test of time, and Al Stohlman’s 1977 manual, The Art of Hand Sewing Leather, is unrivaled in the world of leathercraft. Our leather working instructors agree it’s the best, with detailed instructions and clear illustrations. The book details the specific tools and materials needed for working with leather, and guides beginners through cutting, punching, and stitching techniques that will offer a professional finish. Al Stohlman dedicated his life to leather craft, and his expert advice continues to guide modern shoe designers and leather goods makers. This small but comprehensive book is a great starting point for the budding shoe maker or bag designer on your list.
Lena Corwin's Made by Hand: A Collection of Projects to Print, Sew, Weave, Dye, Knit, or Otherwise Create by Lena Corwin
What’s the hardest thing about interning at TAC? Deciding which classes to take! I want to try all the things, right now, which is one reason why I love Lena Corwin’s Made by Hand. She covers a multitude of textile techniques, from block printing to braiding rag rugs, offering great beginner instruction for your “multi-potentialite” textile artist. The Brooklyn-based artist also calls on the expertise of her creative friends to share their own skills and projects. For anyone who loves to dabble in many different crafts, this book introduces several surface design and sewing techniques that are great for beginners.