So many books have come in to the library during the last few months that we have decided to do an extra Books Showcased before the TRC shuts for the summer holidays. These books include items from the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles, from Uppercase Publishers in Canada, as well as books from various publishing houses in Europe (notably Spain). For this reason there is a very international air to the following list of book recommendations! (if you click on the illustrations, you will find information about how and where to order the book).
GARCÍA, Miguel Herrero (2014). Estudios Sobre Indumentaria Española en la época de los Austrias. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica (CEEH). ISBN: 978-84-15245-39-1. Softback, 387 pp., b/w and colour illustrations, bibliography. Price: c. €29 (excluding tax).
A really interesting book that is based upon 74 Spanish garments that date to the Habsburg period (16th and 17th centuries). These garments are now in various public and private collections in Spain as well as elsewhere. In particular, this study looks at those worn by members of the Spanish court and the elite, with a few from ‘lesser mortals’, notably from the world of theatre, as well as items from the Catholic Church. The written sources used include legal documents, items from the various Spanish courts and parliament, guild ordinances, as well as visual evidence in the form of numerous full length portraits and other paintings. The book is divided into various sections that look at the wide range of men and women’s indoor and outdoor garments. There is also a section on the jewellery of the period.
This is not a book of patterns, but an academic study of written sources about textiles and garments from the period in question. The book looks at economic, political, religious and social events and how they have influenced this important period in Spanish history – one that included international tensions, wars, sieges, the threat of and actual invasions. The author has put these elements together to form a history of Spanish dress and its influences on other countries during the 16th and 17th centuries.
There is a companion book, also by Miguel GARCÍA, about the textiles used for the making of these and other garments during the Habsburg period in Spanish history (see below).
Recommendation: As with Garciá’s other book (see below), this volume should be in any serious library about the history of fashion, especially one concentrating on European textiles and garments from the 16th and 17th centuries and the influence of Spain on North European garments and fashion in particular.
GARCÍA, Miguel Herrero (2014). Los Tejidos en la España de los Austrias: Fragmentos de un diccionario. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica (CEEH). ISBN: 978-84-15245-41-4. Softback, 283 pp., b/w and colour illustrations, bibliography. Price: c. €29 (excluding tax).
This is a companion book to Miguel GARCÍA's detailed study of dress during the Habsburg period in Spanish history (basically the 16th -17th centuries; see above). According to the publishers this detailed study identifies and analyses 196 textiles that were used by various Spanish courts and officials during the 16th and 17th centuries. However, this is not the case. The author has used contemporary documentation, literature and so forth to record and present written information and sources about particular terms. It is a dictionary of terms, not an analysis of the textiles themselves.
The book looks at silk as well as woollen textiles and presents information about the terms used to describe these textiles. In addition, there is a chapter on Spanish embroidery from the period.
The book is well-illustrated with both portraits of people wearing the relevant garments as well as more than sixty textiles in museum and private collections in Spain and elsewhere. A number of the pieces illustrated in the book are related in some manner to the Catholic Church (notably in the form of vestments).
Recommendation: As with Garciá’s other book, this volume should be in any serious library about textiles, especially one concentrating on European textiles and garments from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is well worth dipping into, even for those whose Spanish is not fluent.
GAVIN, Traude (1996). The Women’s Warpath: Iban Ritual Fabrics from Borneo, Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. ISBN 978-0930741501, hardback, 100 pp., fully illustrated in colour and b/w photographs, bibliography, short glossary. Price: US$ 20.00.
For generations men in Iban society in Borneo gained status by headhunting, while women gained status, and still do, by weaving. Weaving, and especially the ritually dangerous ceremony involved in applying mordants before dyeing thread with morinda (the root of the Morinda citrifolia tree), is referred to as kayau indu or the ‘warpath of women'. This book looks especially at the patterns found in pua cloth (textiles used as blankets or coverings) and in women’s skirts. These textiles, often ikat, are of hand spun cotton in natural dyes (red, black and beige) and completely covered in intricate abstract designs.
The author, who conducted several years fieldwork and numerous interviews with Iban weavers, places the importance of such textiles in context. She convincingly argues that the supposed anthropomorphic figures on many pua textiles is a misreading by Western collectors and anthropologists.
Most interestingly, some 75 textiles from the 19th and 20th centuries are illustrated in full colour photographs and described. These textiles formed the basis of an exhibition by the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History on pua cloth. The difficulties of dating and provenance are also described. Maps clearly show the land areas of the Iban, and there are black and white photographs that show some stages of ikat dyeing and weaving.
Recommendation: This book will interest collectors and curators of Southeast Asian textiles and anyone interested in the social and religious uses of textiles.
HAMILTON, Roy W. and Joanna BARRKMAN (eds., 2014). Textiles of Timor: Island in the Woven Sea, Los Angeles: Fowler Museum Textile Series no. 13. ISBN 9780984755080, soft back, 252 pp., fully illustrated with colour photographs, bibliography. Price: US$ 50.
Timor, with a population of over three million people, is an island set between Australia and Indonesia. Half of the island is the independent country of Timor-Leste, while West Timor is a part of Indonesia. This collection of eleven essays gives a comprehensive ethnographical view of Timor and its rich weaving traditions. Textiles reflect Timor’s complex history. High status women’s tube skirts (originally made from locally produced cotton) may be decorated with silk yarn, first introduced by Chinese traders. In some areas traditional motifs have been replaced by Christian images, reflecting Dutch and Portuguese influences. Sometimes specialized weavers make imitation patola designs, based on textiles imported by Indian traders. The idea of democracy means that many traditional high status and distinct clan designs are being abandoned in favour of an emerging new 'Timorese' style, while cheap textiles from Indonesia and the West mean that some villages have lost their weaving tradition all together.
The information on motifs and the main decorative techniques (e.g., warp float, warp ikat and supplementary-weft wrapping) is detailed and informative, as is an essay on local plants used in sizing and dyeing, and the woods involved in making spindles. This collection of essays also look at the role textiles have in maintaining communities' sense of identity, and at the ritually-charged nature of many aspects of textile production, such as dyeing and weaving. The profuse colour photographs that appear on each page are excellent.
Recommendation: This book will interest curators, collectors and anyone who wants to learn more about Southeast Asian textiles in general, and Timorese textiles in particular.
MCCRAY, Linzee Kull (2016). Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric, Calgary: Uppercase Publishing Inc. ISBN: Softback, 544 pp., fully illustrated in colour, bibliography. Price CAN$50 (c. €35)
I did not expect to get interested or even excited about printed feed sacks from the US, in fact I had never even heard of them until recently. But a few months ago we were given 35 examples for the TRC Collection and this gift roused an interest in the subject. This book has made me a convert. It is simply a fascinating story and the book helps to bring the whole history of this type of cloth to life (literally).
Cotton feed sacks were widely used for storing and carrying items, such as flour, grain, sugar and corn. During the 19th and early 20th centuries these items were sold in plain cotton sacks, which in turn were soon used in many US households for making items needed around the home. By the early 1920’s, manufacturers had realised that if the cloth was printed with attractive designs, then people would buy their products for their packaging. This led to the development of the decorative printed feed sack. Printing companies vied with each other to produce a wide range of designs that would appeal to feed sellers and, more importantly, their customers. These decorative versions of the feed sacks became very popular and were used for a wide range of items, including men's, women's and children’s clothing and household items, such as bedding (sheets, pillowcases, quilts), curtains, tablecloths, and clothes pin bags. In fact, they were used for just about anything. Their widespread use declined following the advent of paper and later plastic packaging.
The book can be used for just dipping in, looking for specific historical details, but also as a source of inspiration for the making of household objects, especially quilts. It is worth noting that the cover of the book opens up into a full size sack with four different designs, so that the reader can fully understand the size and shape of these objects. A nice touch! The aim of the series speaks for itself: “Encylopedia of Inspiration” (this is volume F). There is deliberately no ‘logical’ order for the series, but apparently there will eventually be the full alphabet (see also below, Uppercase, S for Stitch∙Illo).
Recommendation: This book will be of interest to anyone looking into the history of women in the US, sustainability, the relationship between commerce and daily life, as well as to quilters, textile artists and indeed those interested in the history of textiles and of printed forms in particular. It is one of those books that should be in a serious textile library.
PS We are now seriously thinking of having an exhibition about printed feed sacks at the TRC Gallery in 2018!
MILGRAM, B. Lynne and Roy W. HAMILTON (2008). Material Choices: Refashioning Bast and Leaf Fibers in Asia and the Pacific, Los Angeles: Fowler Museum Textile Series, no. 8. ISBN: 9780974872988, softback, 188 pp., fully illustrated in colour, endnotes, bibliography, index. Price: US$ 19.28.
This book is based on a major exhibition called “Material Choices: Bast and Leaf Fiber Textiles”, which was held at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, from August to December 2007. The book consists of a series of academic essays about the use of bast (stem) and leaf fibres from a wide range of plants from Asia and the Pacific regions. It quite deliberately does not include bark cloth from the region.
The plants producing bast and leaf fibres described include banana (Musa sp.), hemp (Cannabis sativa), kudzu (Pueraria montana), lemba (Curculigo latifolia), mulberry (Broussonetia sp.), pina (Ananas comosus), ramie (Boehmeria nivea) and wisteria (Wisteria brachybotrys). As will be seen these were, and still are used to produce a wide variety of loom-woven textiles for personal, as well as household use.
The complexity of production techniques, the range of textiles actually created and how they are used are certainly thought provoking and take the (general) reader far past the fibre plants that are commonly associated with European, Middle Eastern and Indian textile traditions (such as cotton, flax, jute and nettle).
The various chapters look in detail at the production of fibres in Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, as well as Micronesia and are written by specialists in the field. The chapters are well illustrated with colour pictures that depict various aspects of the making and use of the relevant textiles.
Recommendation: this book is another example of a book that should be in any serious textile library. It presents a view of textiles, their production and use that will probably be unknown to many readers. It should also make museum curators think about the fibre identification of items already in their collections! The illustrations in the book are well presented and certainly add to the value of the book and its information.
PHIPPS, Elena (2013). The Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth: Ancient Threads, New Directions, Los Angeles, Fowler Museum Textile Series, No. 12. ISBN: 978-0984755059, softback, 96 pp., notes, bibliography. Price: US$ 26.98
A book accompanying an exhibition with the same name that was held at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, from October 2013 – February 2014.
The exhibition concerned a particular type of cloth that has four, rather than the normal two selvedges. It examines this particular form of tapestry weaving (often using a split tapestry form), which can be traced back for hundreds of years in pre-Columbian Peru. It is particularly associated wieth the Chancay (11th-15th centuries) and Wari (6th-11th centuries) cultures. This technique was used for items of clothing as well as for household goods. The end results were often spectacular examples of the technical and visual skills of the weavers.
A twist in the story comes with the author, Elena Phipps, teaming up with contemporary textile artists, namely James Bassler, John Cohen and Sheil Hicks, to create modern textile art based on this ancient technique. Some of the results are spectacular, others are much more subtle, but it is a good example of how inspiration can be drawn from contemplating, examining and learning from older pieces.
Recommendation: In the first place this is a book for those interested in the history and technical skills of South American and Peruvian textiles in particular. But the added dimension of the modern textile artists means that it should also appeal to those working within and alongside the field of Textile Art. Well worth looking at and reading in a quiet moment at home.
SUNDBØ, Annemor (2001), Everyday Knitting: Treasures from a Ragpile, Bygland: Torridal Tweed (originally published in Norwegian, translated by Amy Lightfoot). ISBN 82-994657-1-0, softback, 192 pp., fully illustrated in colour, bibliography. Price: c. €50.
In 1983 Annemor Sundbø took over a recycling company (shoddy) with a depot that contained tons (literally) of used wool in the form of worn woollen clothing. She quickly discovered that this material was not only the basis for mattress and cushion fillings, but it could be used to form and tell the amazing story of hand knitting in Norway and elsewhere in Europe.
She used over 3000 knitted garments to tell the story of Norwegian knitting in a well-researched and humourful manner. The origins of knitting is described, the various developments of hand knitting are emphasised as well as the meanings of motifs on jumpers and socks. Many of the patterns are also given in the book.
Recommendation: A very special and informative book, which is a pleasure to dip into as it is so richly illustrated, as well as to read. This book is a ‘must-have’ for anyone involved in knitting (at any level), and all those interested in the history of knitting, as well as those who are focussing on Norwegian and Scandinavian regional dress. It is also a dip in book for those who are not 'into' knitting. You never know: this book may just convert you.
Nan van der Storm
STORM, Nan van der (no date). Het grote Stoppenboek, home published, softback, 48 pp., fully illustrated in colour with photographs and patterns. There is also a two page summary in English. Cost: €18 (€27 inc. postage abroad).
For thousands of years people have been repairing and mending their textiles and garments using various darning techniques. Examples of darned textiles were even found in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun. By the 18th century in Europe, the technique of darning was being used to create decorative effects and as a purely practical skill. The 18th century also saw an increase in the production of decorative darning samplers, which became works of art a century later.
This book is based on the darning techniques of the past, but in a modern and colourful jacket. It is essentially looking at darning as a decorative rather than practical technique.
The book is divided into six chapters. The first chapter pays attention to the materials used and the various techniques. There are also various tips given that help make the technique easier. There then follow several chapters that give various different types of darning patterns and techniques with examples of each form. The last chapter includes a pattern for a large example of darning that is based on patterns given earlier in the book.
Recommendation: this booklet is suitable for both beginners and those with more experience. It is also a source of inspiration for further experimentation with this ancient technique.
This is the third in a series of books about textiles, textile crafts, and about embroidery in particular (see the Feed Sack review above). The book features biographical and work details about 46 textile artists from around the world, literally from traditional ‘stitchers’ to those working with soft sculpture techniques. The range and diversity of approaches to the subject are designed to be thought provoking. And it works.
Recommendation: This book is used for browsing, spotting a style of work that is of interest or totally different to the one you are used to using and then learning a little more about it. The aim of the series speaks for itself “Encyclopedia of Inspiration” (this is volume S). There is deliberately no ‘logical’ order for the series, but apparently there will eventually be the full alphabet.