Needlework books

Before the web existed, it was sometimes hard to find much information about handcrafts, online or not. (Usenet and Gopher were useful, but insufficient.) I combed the libraries where I lived, and haunted bookstore craft sections.

I learned to broaden the kinds of books I looked at, and if you’re fond of handcraft books, you might want to look at some of these too.

If you’re looking for books about knitting, it might not occur to you to look at needlework books. The category name makes it sound like they’re about embroidery or other things like that, but that’s not necessarily the case.

I’ll use a particularly good example to illustrate what I mean:

The Step-by-Step Needlecraft Encyclopedia, by Judy Brittain.

When I was learning to tat, I wanted to find books of tatting patterns. I had somehow already picked up on the existence of needlework books, so when I saw this one on the clearance table at Waldenbooks, I flipped through it and bought it immediately when I saw it contained what I wanted: tatting patterns and instructions. I wasn’t even concerned with the other chapters at the time, but many of them have been useful since.

There are basic instructions, stitch patterns (or equivalent), and patterns for knitting, crochet (using UK terminology in this case), knotting, macrame, netting, tatting, braiding, rugmaking, weaving, embroidery, needlepoint, patchwork & quilting, and basic sewing.

None of the chapters is really extensive, but they are more detailed than you might expect. The knitting section, for instance, has patterns for basic garments, has stitch patterns, explains how to knit circles and other shapes in a few different ways, and provides several different selvedges, among other things. The macrame section startled me; the only macrame I’d ever liked before seeing this book was friendship bracelets. But did you know that historically there was macrame done with fine thread that made really beautiful trim? Turns out it looks really different when it’s not made with rope.

Anyway, if you enjoy haunting used bookstores or the like, I really recommend looking for needlework or needlecraft books; they sometimes contain unexpected treasures, including instructions for less familiar crafts.