RESOURCES / my top ten textile books

RESOURCES / my top ten textile books

Always working, always learning! Education never ceases when it comes to developing skill.

I have compiled a list of my top ten resource books that I feel are invaluable to my artistic process. Granted, while individual creative processes differ, I write this with the hope that one of these titles sparks an interest or fills a void in your own personal library. 

I have tons of fiber-y, art-y books, but I feel these cover the gamut of my interests pretty well. I have three sort of categories represented: dyeing, weaving and sewing/misc. fiber techniques. Click-through each image to purchase on Amazon. 

1. Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes (by Jenny Dean) 

This book is essential for natural dyeing! Jenny has tons of methods and different plant types listed to experiment with. The color photos make things a lot easier to grasp and the instructions are clear and concise. This was my first book about natural dyeing and it really enabled me to learn so much on my own. There is even a small section on indigo. A definite must-have in every dyer's arsenal. 

This book is essential for natural dyeing! Jenny has tons of methods and different plant types listed to experiment with. The color photos make things a lot easier to grasp and the instructions are clear and concise. This was my first book about natural dyeing and it really enabled me to learn so much on my own. There is even a small section on indigo. A definite must-have in every dyer's arsenal. 

2. Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles (by India Flint)

This is one of those insanely beautiful resource books that doubles as inspiration every time you open it. India is the master of creating beautiful and sustainable garments. While there is practical information (some that can also be found in Dean's Wild Color), this book encourages the dyer to be much more experimental in their process. One of my favorite sections is on mordants (using soy milk was a new discovery for me). Keep in mind, however, that this book may not be for the absolute beginner and is more abstract. All-in-all though, a wonderful resource for breaking out of your normal dyeing routine. 

This is one of those insanely beautiful resource books that doubles as inspiration every time you open it. India is the master of creating beautiful and sustainable garments. While there is practical information (some that can also be found in Dean's Wild Color), this book encourages the dyer to be much more experimental in their process. One of my favorite sections is on mordants (using soy milk was a new discovery for me). Keep in mind, however, that this book may not be for the absolute beginner and is more abstract. All-in-all though, a wonderful resource for breaking out of your normal dyeing routine. 

3. Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing (by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada)

A truly extensive and exhaustive resource on shibori resist techniques. It covers history and how-to, with lots of pictures (mostly in black and white, but still helpful). This is a recent addition to my library, but an important one nonetheless. Great source for dyers (or those who want to start!). This is one of those books you'll permanently keep in your studio. If you are even remotely interested in shibori, you need this book. Includes recipes for indigo vats in the back.

A truly extensive and exhaustive resource on shibori resist techniques. It covers history and how-to, with lots of pictures (mostly in black and white, but still helpful). This is a recent addition to my library, but an important one nonetheless. Great source for dyers (or those who want to start!). This is one of those books you'll permanently keep in your studio. If you are even remotely interested in shibori, you need this book. Includes recipes for indigo vats in the back.

4. The Dyer's Art: Ikat, Batik, Plangi (by Jack Lenor Larsen)

As great as the previous book, Shibori, is for illustrating different resist techniques, it is focused entirely on Japanese resist techniques. The Dyer's Art expands that scope into ikat (yay! weaving!), batik and plangi techniques. This book is out of print, but there are used copies floating around the internet. I feel that this was supposed to be more a coffee table type of book (mostly because of its sheer physical size), but it covers some great techniques and history. 

As great as the previous book, Shibori, is for illustrating different resist techniques, it is focused entirely on Japanese resist techniques. The Dyer's Art expands that scope into ikat (yay! weaving!), batik and plangi techniques. This book is out of print, but there are used copies floating around the internet. I feel that this was supposed to be more a coffee table type of book (mostly because of its sheer physical size), but it covers some great techniques and history. 

5. The Weaver's Companion (by Madelyn van der Hoogt)

Indispensable information for every step of the weaving process! Helps you calculate warp and weft yardage for projects, gives general suggested EPI for different yarn types, as well as a glossary of weaving terms (and tools).  This is geared towards those working on floor looms and the spiral binding makes it easy to have on the bench next to you while you're working. Part of the cover doubles as a quickie bookmark too when you're in a pinch. Even if you have been weaving for a long time, this is a really handy and quick reference to keep close by.

Indispensable information for every step of the weaving process! Helps you calculate warp and weft yardage for projects, gives general suggested EPI for different yarn types, as well as a glossary of weaving terms (and tools).  This is geared towards those working on floor looms and the spiral binding makes it easy to have on the bench next to you while you're working. Part of the cover doubles as a quickie bookmark too when you're in a pinch. Even if you have been weaving for a long time, this is a really handy and quick reference to keep close by.

6. The Handweaver's Pattern Directory (by Anne Dixon)

There are tons of weaving books full of patterns, old and new. Most of them rehash the same twills over and over again. I prefer this book for 4-harness weaving for a few different reasons. First, it's all in color. A lot of the older books are exclusively black and white (so old!) and therefore lacking the ability to really show the detail of the weave structure. All color photos mean you can visualize the end result better, which enables you to truly learn and grasp the concept of the weave structure! Second, the spiral binding makes it easy to have next to me while weaving. Third, it lays out drafting and treadling sequences very clearly (color-coded when needed). And lastly, it gives you suggestions for yarn and selvages for each weave type. Extremely useful when trying out new weave patterns.

There are tons of weaving books full of patterns, old and new. Most of them rehash the same twills over and over again. I prefer this book for 4-harness weaving for a few different reasons. First, it's all in color. A lot of the older books are exclusively black and white (so old!) and therefore lacking the ability to really show the detail of the weave structure. All color photos mean you can visualize the end result better, which enables you to truly learn and grasp the concept of the weave structure! Second, the spiral binding makes it easy to have next to me while weaving. Third, it lays out drafting and treadling sequences very clearly (color-coded when needed). And lastly, it gives you suggestions for yarn and selvages for each weave type. Extremely useful when trying out new weave patterns.

7. Mastering Weave Structures: Transforming Ideas into Great Cloth (by Sharon Alderman)

I have barely gotten into this book, but it is on my list of books I have to read this year. I bought this on sale a while back, knowing it would be invaluable, but perhaps difficult to get through. Yes, I am a weaver and I love it, but I am not good with math. Complex weave structures make my brain hurt. I tend to approach weaving in a much more intuitive way. Sometimes I don't know why it works, but I know that it does. With weaving, your education is never finished. There is always something new to learn. This book really takes weaving to the next level. It gets to the nitty gritty of each structure, explaining exactly what is going on and why. There are large color pictures and pattern drafts to fully explain and illustrate each point. If you even want to consider designing your own weave patterns, this is a great way to start.

I have barely gotten into this book, but it is on my list of books I have to read this year. I bought this on sale a while back, knowing it would be invaluable, but perhaps difficult to get through. Yes, I am a weaver and I love it, but I am not good with math. Complex weave structures make my brain hurt. I tend to approach weaving in a much more intuitive way. Sometimes I don't know why it works, but I know that it does. With weaving, your education is never finished. There is always something new to learn. This book really takes weaving to the next level. It gets to the nitty gritty of each structure, explaining exactly what is going on and why. There are large color pictures and pattern drafts to fully explain and illustrate each point. If you even want to consider designing your own weave patterns, this is a great way to start.

8. The Art of Manipulating Fabric (by Colette Wolf)

I was introduced to this book by one of my old college roommates. I saw it laying out one day and decided to thumb through it. Amazing! If you have ever wanted to sew sculpturally with fabric, you must own this book. It covers so many techniques, embellishments, structures. Everything is either done in white or muslin to really let you just see the structure of the technique itself. There are process photos and concise written instructions. I have used this book sooo many times. Every once in a while, it's fun to thumb through for inspiration too. All the photos are black and white, but it doesn't detract from the ease of understanding the process. A really great sewing book to keep around.

I was introduced to this book by one of my old college roommates. I saw it laying out one day and decided to thumb through it. Amazing! If you have ever wanted to sew sculpturally with fabric, you must own this book. It covers so many techniques, embellishments, structures. Everything is either done in white or muslin to really let you just see the structure of the technique itself. There are process photos and concise written instructions. I have used this book sooo many times. Every once in a while, it's fun to thumb through for inspiration too. All the photos are black and white, but it doesn't detract from the ease of understanding the process. A really great sewing book to keep around.

9. Piecing: Expanding the Basics (by Ruth B. McDowell)

This is a book geared towards quilters. More specifically, quilters who want to sew "free-form" quilts with a painterly quality. However, this is also a great sewing reference book. The reason I love this book (even though I'm not a quilter) is because of the seams. Quilting is all seams! Sometimes figuring out how to sew a funky shaped seam when you are designing something new is difficult. This book covers how to piece together bizarrely shaped seams. Where to trim or clip, which side to sew first, when you absolutely need some sort of interfacing. Things you may not think of on your own. This saves you some trial and error time. I used this book a lot when helping my friend Jackie sew part of her installation piece, SYNAH (Sometimes You Need A Hole). This is one of those books while you may not use it often, it really comes in handy when you need it. 

This is a book geared towards quilters. More specifically, quilters who want to sew "free-form" quilts with a painterly quality. However, this is also a great sewing reference book. The reason I love this book (even though I'm not a quilter) is because of the seams. Quilting is all seams! Sometimes figuring out how to sew a funky shaped seam when you are designing something new is difficult. This book covers how to piece together bizarrely shaped seams. Where to trim or clip, which side to sew first, when you absolutely need some sort of interfacing. Things you may not think of on your own. This saves you some trial and error time. I used this book a lot when helping my friend Jackie sew part of her installation piece, SYNAH (Sometimes You Need A Hole). This is one of those books while you may not use it often, it really comes in handy when you need it. 

10. Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework

This is the first craft book I owned, although I didn't actually own it, my mother did. I loved this book! I used to spend hours thumbing through it, dreaming of being able to do half of the techniques featured it. Apparently it's out of print now (WHY?!), but it's the sort of thing you could buy dirt cheap on the internet or find at a thrift store. It covers so much! Yes, the projects and photos are dated. That's not the point. I have used this book to teach me so many different techniques over the years: Tunisian crochet, embroidery, needlepoint, patchwork... it literally has SO much. It really replaces the need to have a bunch of different books on each of the subjects (especially if you just want a general reference). If you don't own this yet, get it now! 

This is the first craft book I owned, although I didn't actually own it, my mother did. I loved this book! I used to spend hours thumbing through it, dreaming of being able to do half of the techniques featured it. Apparently it's out of print now (WHY?!), but it's the sort of thing you could buy dirt cheap on the internet or find at a thrift store. It covers so much! Yes, the projects and photos are dated. That's not the point. I have used this book to teach me so many different techniques over the years: Tunisian crochet, embroidery, needlepoint, patchwork... it literally has SO much. It really replaces the need to have a bunch of different books on each of the subjects (especially if you just want a general reference). If you don't own this yet, get it now! 

Well, there you have it. My "desert island" craft book list, thus far. I feel though, in a few years, this list could easily expand. There are so many more great reference books I'd like to read and really dive into, but for now, these are the few that are hardly ever in their proper place on the bookshelf. These are the books piled high in my work spaces, on my sewing table, weaving bench and dye counter. That's how you know they're good. 

VIDEO INSPIRATION / sri threads' textile wonderland

VIDEO INSPIRATION / sri threads' textile wonderland

BORO / japanese textiles and the art of recycling

BORO / japanese textiles and the art of recycling

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