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Part 28. Three from the Library

Three From The Quilt Museum Library.

As is obvious from the title, I'm reviewing three books you can borrow from the Guild Library.

The first book is Textiles, A History by Fiona McDonald. Fiona wrote this because she was “fascinated by the textiles used in her creations”, this perhaps explains the unusual slant to her book. There are five main parts, Part I:Raw Materials; four chapters and fifty pages on Plant fibres (flax, hemp,and other bast fibres), Plant Fibres (Cotton), Animal Fibres (Wool ) and Silk. Part II:Processing, four chapters and twenty pages on Spinning, Weaving, Felting and Knitting. Part III is Surface Decoration, three chapters and twelve pages on Dyeing, Printing and Painting, and Embroidery. Part IV is The Industrial Revolution (eighteen pages) and Part V: Textiles in the Modern World, fifteen pages and two chapters, Man-Made Fibres and Fibre Art - obviously her field and proportionately too much detail/too many illustrations - and Chapter 16 is four pages of Literary Textiles-quotes, metaphors etc. And the final four-page chapter is on Care of Textiles. The book ends with an impressive forty-three page Glossary, then Textile Places of Interest, Bibliography, Acknowledgements and an Index.

I have a lot of concerns with this book, for instance she defines quilting as “the piecing together of small shapes....born out of necessity....old garments cut into shapes and stitches (sic) together...As usual when one sees such inaccuracy about what one knows, how far can one trust the unknown?

And this book is very uneven indeed; lace gets just a page compared with three pages of illustrations of basic embroidery stitches. Plus, there are too many annoying typos and errors which should have been edited out. If you add the often poor illustrations, sometimes caption-less you may wonder why I am bringing this to your attention; it is because I do not want you to be fooled into buying it by its title and a synopsis which could easily make it sound an interesting and relevant book, which in other hands it could be! If you still think it might be useful to have such an overview with dates all in one place - and it does have some interesting and readable chapters - do please look at it before you buy - or borrow it from the library.

My next two books are of an entirely superior caliber, the first is based on Gail Marsh's thesis, the second came from her experience as curator of the Kay-Shuttleworth collection at Gawthorpe Hall. A committed non-embroiderer I still found the contents fascinating and there is enough information about quilting and patchwork to justify purchase.

18th Century Embroidery Techniques rambles through Acknowledgements, Foreword, Dedication, Introduction and a Contents page before the first chapter: The Eighteenth-Century Embroiderer, twenty four pages subdivided into Tools and Equipment and Working Life. The next hundred and thirty pages are Embroidery Techniques: Metal Thread and Spangles, Silk Embroidery, Quilting, Whitework - Case Study Hollie Point, a forgotten technique, Tambour and Chain, Crewel Work, Novelty Threads and Case Study, Knotting - a forgotten technique. All sections follow the same pattern so Quilting gets twenty-six pages: a general overview with illustrations then she uses garments from museums - three petticoats, a baby's sleeveless long coat, three stomachers, three quilted caps, a man's waistcoat and a pair of baby's mittens to describe in detail and illustrate to explain corded, stuffed and flat quilting. There are two Appendices: I. The Availability of Clothes - a brief history of 18th century cloth and shopping and II Museum Study Advice, a six-page Glossary and a three page Bibliography - my only quibble in this review - no dates of publication - plus an About The Author and a decent Index. The whole two hundred book is beautifully set out colour photographs with brown and white line illustrations throughout, facts are interspersed with relevant quotes; an erudite and charming book.

19th Century Embroidery Techniques follows the same format, Contents followed by Introduction. The hundred and sixty pages on Embroidery Techniques cover Canvas work, Surface Embroidery, Whitework, Patchwork and Appliqué, Fancy Work and Learning to Sew. Each section has a case study, for Patchwork it is Early Appliqué Work and highlights an appliqué table cover dated 1780-1820. Broderie Perse, appliqué, hexagons, tumbling blocks, log cabin and crazy patchwork are all illustrated and covered in reasonable detail. The book ends with ten pages on Needlework Tools & Cases, In the Workbox, a Glossary, Bibliography (with dates!), very brief Acknowledgements and About the Author and a decent Index.

Again, erudite and well written, charmingly illustrated with black and white line drawings and plenty of colour photographs, two original books that I can thoroughly recommend.


All three books may be borrowed from the Guild Library and I strongly recommend you have a look at Fiona McDonald before you buy, it may save an expensive mistake; I don't think you will be disappointed in the content of Gail Marsh's two books.

Fiona McDonald Textiles, A History was published in 2011 by Remember When, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, ISBN 978 1 84884 509 1 at £19.99.

18th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh was published in 2006 by Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd, Lewes, Sussex, ISBN 13 978 -1-86108-476-7. 19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh was published in 2008 by the same publisher, ISBN 978-1-86108-561-0.

Both are published at £16.99 but I managed to get the second at £11.04 from Amazon.

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2012

PLEASE NOTE - An indication is given of the availability and market price of the book at the time of writing and may not reflect today's availability and price.