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Part 6. All About Textiles

Part 6 - All About Textiles

In this issue three reference books are reviewed; not as light reading but for use when an unknown idea or word crops up.

The first book reviewed is From Fiber to Fabric by Harriet Hargrave and as can be seen from the spelling is not British, no comparable book is published here. So keep in mind its American origins when consulting it.

Harriet Hargrave subtitles her book The Essential Guide to Quiltmaking Textiles and covers all modern industrial aspects of the production of fabric, thread and batting. So the production of fabric from raw cotton is described accompanied by diagrams and colour photographs. Then come all the processes cotton fabric undergoes, including dyeing and printing and finishing. Next the production and characteristics of thread and batting are described and illustrated in similar detail, all in a readable and informative layout.

But there is more to the book than this; Harriet prefaced the chapter All About The Fabric with a caution about our expectations of fabrics and their differing standards, and the rest of this book is designed to help understand why fabrics behave as they do. This is called Learning by Testing - two chapters written to show how each piece of fabric or batting will perform. Included are simple tests for thread counts, shrinkage and colourfastness in all forms. Blank sample fabric / batting analysis pages are given for recording the performance of your own fabric. The book ends with a chapter on the Care and Keeping of Quilts and Fabric. Plus Appendices of addresses of manufacturers of cottons and battings (American). Then an extensive Glossary of Textile Terms, a textile science Bibliography (American) and an Index.

Published in 1976, The Needleworker's Dictionary by Pamela Clabburn is "essentially a book of extended definitions ". It has an American contributing editor to give cross references between differing American and British terminology and aims to "explain the meanings of terms and techniques in use over the centuries for all kind of sewing stitchery and embroidery". The two thousand entries are arranged alphabetically on three column pages interspersed with plenty of illustrations: fifty-six colour, seven hundred black and white drawings and photographs.

The entries are of necessity brief, but adequate as an introduction. For example, both Elizabeth Sanderson and George Gardiner merit several lines each and have citations to the bibliography at the end for future research. It is an attractive book, easy to read and use and helpful.

As well as the Bibliography, there is a world list of Museums and Collections and Picture Credits.

As we sometimes have difficulty with textile terms that would have been familiar to our forebears, I have included a reprint of a Victorian Dictionary of Needlework by Sophia Frances Anne Caulfeild and Blanche Saward. Subtitled An Encyclopædia of Artistic, Plain and Fancy Needlework, this was first published in 1882  - the "Golden Age of Needlework". Again this five hundred plus page volume is an alphabetical dictionary, with eight hundred black and white illustrations: the small print, two-column pages make a less busy book than Clabburn.

However, patchwork is a real muddle; figures are misnumbered and "Log Cabin" is called "Canadian" and "only lately introduced to England", quilting has a similarly unusual entry. But the fun of this book is to have the descriptions and definitions of all those long vanished fabrics, the bocasines and the linseys, the radsimirs and the gambroons! Happy browsing.

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2001

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.