Recommended Books October 2016
The range of books described in this selection is very varied and includes publications on both prehistoric Chinese and European textiles and textile production. There are also several books about Central and South American textiles and costume (more books on this part of the world will appear in the next “Books Showcased”). It is becoming clear that textiles and dress are being taken seriously and this is reflected in the range and depth of the academic and popular books that are being being produced. A trend that we at the TRC can only applaud!
ALVAREZ, Nilda Callañaupa (2007). Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands: Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories, Loveland: Thrums in cooperation with Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco. ISBN: 978-0983886037. Paperback, 112 pp. fully illustrated in colour, short bibliography, Price: US$ 19.95/€18.00.
This is a deceptively simple book, written by a master weaver who began by herding her family’s sheep when she was six years old. Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez is also the founder and director of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru, which works to preserve and promote the textile traditions of the Peruvian Highlands. She accomplishes both of these aims in this book. She opens with a chapter on the region’s traditional clothing and how this varies from community to community and across time, in particular after the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish introduced both sheep and knitting into the region. Wool and acrylics are now the most common materials, but wool from llamas and alpacas (and to a lesser extent guanacos and vicunas) is also sheared and processed. There are sections on spinning, natural dyes and looms, on weaving techniques and most of all on designs, complete with the Quechua and English names. Every design and textile is accompanied by a colour photograph and often by a direct quote from a weaver. It is the latter which makes this book special. Many of the weavers are widows who supported their family by weaving and farming.
Textile production is a living tradition in the Cusco region, surrounded by stories and rituals, some of which are depicted in the book.
Recommendation: This book was written as a guide ‘to quality, understanding and appreciation’ for travelers to the area, but it is a book weavers and anyone interested in textiles will enjoy. Available from: http://thrumsbooks.com/book-catalog/weaving-in-the-peruvian-highlands-dreaming-patterns-weaving-memories/
FRYE, Susan (2010). Pens and Needles: Women’s Textualities in Early Modern England, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 978-0-8122-2252-4, paperback, 302 pp., 21 colour and 31 black and white illustrations, bibliography. Price: US$ 27.50/ £18.00.
This book explores the relationship between needlework, painting and written text for women in England between 1540 and 1700. It is not a relationship that seems obvious at first glance. The author (Professor of English at the University of Wyoming in the USA) does a convincing job, however, of showing how women used needlework both as a means of creative expression and to protest the restrictions imposed upon their sex. Indeed, she argues that women’s work on both cloth and paper helped reshape the makers’ identity and gave new meaning to what it meant to be a woman. The samplers, needlework pictures, self-portraits, poetry and notes of wealthy women, such as Elizabeth I; Mary, Queen of Scots; and Bess of Hardwick are looked at intensively, as are the works of professional needle workers and miniaturists, such as Levina Teerlinc (court miniaturist to Henry VIII), Jane Segar and Esther Inglis. In the choice of subjects they depicted in their embroidery (e.g., powerful Biblical figures such as Deborah, Jael and Queen Esther, or mythological women such as the clever Penelope or the goddess Diana) and in how the figures were stitched, the makers made clear statements about how they saw themselves—and how they wished to be seen. The photographs of the samplers and other decorative needleworked objects are highlights of the book.
Recommendation: This is a book more for academics and for those interested in literature and women’s or gender studies, though anyone interested in the social history of textiles will also enjoy it. Available from: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14728.html
GRÖMER, Karina (2016). The Art of Prehistoric Textile Making: The Development of Craft Traditions and Clothing in Central Europe, Veröffentlichungen der Prähistorischen Abteilung (VPA) 5. Vienna: Natural History Museum. ISBN: 978-3-902421-94-4. Hardback, 533 pp, glossary, sources, bibliography, index. Price: 35 euros.
The study looks specifically at the Neolithic to Late Iron Age of Central Europe, so from about 4000 BC to 100 BC. It basically ends with the Roman occupation of Central Europe. It is a detailed study of the textiles, equipment and related items (such as depictions, statuettes, etc), which have come from excavations in Austria and neighbouring countries. This is the English (and updated) version of a book that originally came out in German (Prähistorische Textilkunst in Mitteleuropa – Geschitchte des Handwerks vor den Römern) in 2010. It is based on a research project carried out at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. The book has been updated with details concerning various scientific analysis techniques that have been developed over the last decade and how the data obtained can be applied to the study of textiles and garments.
The book is divided into seven sections, namely, (A) Introduction, (B) Craft techniques, (C) Textile craft in prehistory, (D) From clothes to household textiles, (E) Clothing in Central European prehistory, (F) Summary and (G) Appendices. The subjects covered include the way in which textiles have been preserved (metal corrosion products, waterlogged, ice, oak coffins, imprints, etc). The raw materials used, preparation techniques, spinning, weaving, designs, finishing, as well as sewing and tailoring techniques. There is a section on the production of textiles in society and the uses, not just in the form of garments, but also soft furnishings, funerary uses, even recycling. There are even details about, for example, the damage caused (size of hole) made in various types of cloth produced by a thick pin shaft (fig. 207).
KARL, Barbara (2016). Embroidered Histories: Indian Textiles for the Portuguese Market during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Wien, Köln, Wimar: Böhlau Verlag. ISBN 978-3-205-20209-7. Hardback, 316 pp., some colour photographs, but mostly b/w images and line drawings, bibliography, index. Price: 60 euros.
This book is based on a PhD thesis written between 2001 and 2004 at the University of Vienna about the history and use of colchis (colja, colxa). This is a form of embroidered textile that was produced in western India (Bengal and Gujarat) initially for the Portuguese market and later for other European countries. Colchis are between 3 m x 2.5 m in size and may be of several layers stitched together, generally with a small running stitch in order to produce very elaborate figurative and geometric designs. They are the forerunners of the kantha textiles that are still produced in western India.
Most of the colchis were produced during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A number of examples have survived and are in various museums, although not surprisingly most are now in Portuguese museums. This is a fascinating study of a group of textiles that represent world trade in a microcosm at an important moment in history of the world. The study looks at a wide range of social and economic aspects using contemporary documents and actual artifacts. In addition, the author discusses art historical considerations, such as Indian interpretations of Biblical and Portuguese motifs. The author has presented a detailed analysis of the monochrome and polychrome forms in order to give details concerning where they were made and the trade implications. There is also a detailed catalogue of the colchis that she has seen and studied in various museums. The downside of her book are the poor drawings, which are in fact sketches of the various textiles that occur in the catalogue, but visually they bring the book down.
Recommendation: this book should be in any library dedicated to Indian studies, European trade, textile history in general and embroidery history in particular. Well worth reading. Available from: http://www.boehlau-verlag.com/978-3-205-20209-7.html
KAY-WILLIAMS, Susan (2013). The Story of Colour in Textiles: Imperial Purple to Denim Blue, London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-4081-3450-4, soft back, 176 pp., illustrated with numerous colour photographs, extensive bibliography, index. Price: £19.79.
A general history of the production and use of colour to decorate textiles. The chapters include the early history of dyes and dyeing using archaeological evidence from countries such as Egypt. There are also chapters on the production and use of colour in the Middle East and elsewhere (including China) up to the medieval period. The emphasis then changes to the burgeoning dyeing industries of medieval Europe and that of France and England in particular. The later chapters in the book emphasise industrial developments in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The information is provided in a clear and concise manner, and unlike, some earlier Berg/Bloomsbury books there are sufficient colour illustrations (essential for a book about the role of dyes and colour).
Recommendation: A useful book to show that medieval and earlier people did not walk around in brown and green (Robin Hood colours), but enjoyed a wide range of colours that could be produced again and again. This book will be of help to students entering the intriguing world of decorative textiles, as well as those who want to understand the history of textiles in general, and the early development (pre-modern industrialisation) dye industry in particular. Well worth dipping into. The extensive bibliography is useful for those wanting to go even further into the subject. Available from: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-story-of-colour-in-textiles-9781408134504/
LINSKENS, Harry (2014). Met Pelerine en Toer: Klederdracht in Noord- en Midden-Limburg, Horst: Museum de Kantfabriek. ISBN: 9789490276003, hardback, 208 pp., fully illustrated in colour and b/w, bibliography. Price: €19.75.
A beautifully illustrated book looking at the range and history of men and women’s regional dress in the Limburg region of The Netherlands. The book includes general information which is presented in a logical manner that makes it easy to find information about specific garments. In addition, there are several chapters on the different types of lace caps associated with the region, including the various forms of under caps, lace caps and the impressive poffers (type of headdress). There then follows information about how to make and wash the caps, details on how to identify the types of lace (bobbin and net forms) used for the lace caps, as well as chapters on jewellery, mourning garments and children’s clothes. The appendices include various interviews with people, as well as a section on local sayings that refer to the garments.
Recommendation: A really useful book for understanding the history and types of men and women’s garments and headwear from the Limburg region. It is especially strong with respect to the many types of lace caps and headgear (notably the poffer) worn by women from this part of The Netherlands. Well worth reading and including it in a library dedicated to European regional dress and Dutch klederdracht in particular. Available from: http://www.museumdekantfabriek.nl/documentatiecentrum/met-pelerine-en-toer/
MORRIS JR, Walter F. and Caro KARASIK (2015). Maya Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas, Loveland (Colorado): Thrums. Library of Congress number: 2014952088. Soft back, 214 pp., fully illustrated in colour, index, bibliography. Price: US$ 23.
An intriguing study about the textiles and garments associated with the Maya in Chiapas, Mexico. In particular attention is paid to the association of textile production and use with Maya cosmological beliefs, Catholic influence upon garments and designs, the role of festivals, the use and adaptation of modern materials for traditional garment forms and especially in how the use of textiles and garments plays an important role in everyday life. The authors stress how textiles and garments form a living and vibrant tradition, which is growing in popularity as a public and personal symbol of Maya culture and identity for men, women and children. Throughout the book the authors refer to the use of different forms of weaving and embroidery (hand and machine) techniques. They emphasise that colour plays an important role in the choice and use of textiles, especially for clothing. The book is filled with numerous beautiful illustrations that help to explain what is happening and the reasons behind many of the changes. Between pages 184-185 for example, there are a series of dated tops (huipil) that show the difference between the appearance of a huipil from 1975 to 2011, with an explanation of what these changes are and how they occurred.
Recommendation: This book presumes previous knowledge, such as where Chiapas is, who are the Maya, and so forth. An introduction to the subject for non-specialists living outside of the Americas would have been useful. The titles of the chapters are also in-house references, which has its charm, but is also irritating to the outsider. But these are ‘minor details’ as the book provides a wealth of detail about the range of textiles produced, decorated and worn by the Maya community in Chiapas. It will be of great help and interest to anyone working in the field of Central American textiles and clothing, as well as those looking for inspiration for their own work. Well worth having! It was the winner of the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for excellence in editorial content, design and photography. Available from: http://thrumsbooks.com/book-catalog/maya-threads-a-woven-history-of-chiapas/
STYLES, John (2010). Threads of Feeling: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens, 1740-1770. London: The Foundling Museum. ISBN: 9780955180859, softback, 72 pp., fully illustrated in b/w and colour photographs, bibliography. Price: £12.
A booklet about a sad, yet intriguing subject, namely the textile tokens left with babies and young children when the infant was left at the Foundling Hospital in London during the 18th century. The aim of the tokens was to act as a means of identification should the babies be claimed by parent(s) at a later date. There are various examples of these and other forms of tokens (often metal and wooden forms) on display in the Foundling Museum, but this booklet concentrates on the woven, embroidered and printed textiles associated with the children. In some cases these tokens are still attached to the original notes that give details concerning when the child entered the orphanage. These tokens also have a secondary function for modern textile historians, as they provide samples and information about the range of textiles made and worn by the poor in mid-18th century London. And these are very different from the range of textiles often presented by museums and books concerning ‘typical’ eighteenth century pieces, namely, the silk textiles (which are wonderful items in themselves), bought and used by a relatively, very small group of people.
Recommendation: A booklet that stirs the emotions and presents a very different social and economic history of textiles in eighteenth century Britain. Well worth reading.
ZHAO, Feng (1999). Treasures in Silk: An Illustrated History of Chinese Textiles, Hong Kong: ISAT/Costume Squad Ltd. ISBN: 962-85691-1-2. Soft back, Chinese-English, 359 pp., fully illustrated in colour, glossary, bibliography. Price: c. HK$ 480.
A beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of Chinese silk textiles, from prehistory to the 19th century, but with an emphasis on items from about the 12th century onwards. It also has chapters on patterns and designs, auspicious subjects, rank and status as well as various religious subjects. There are detailed illustrations and texts concerning the various techniques used to make and decorate the textiles, including a wide range of weaves, looping forms, as well as embroidery. In addition, the author presents numerous examples of finished products such as garments, footwear, headgear, temple banners, and so forth. Many of these items are now in both public and private collections in China and elsewhere. There is also a chapter about Western influences on Chinese textiles, and by Western the author means Greek, Roman, as well as Sassanian (Iranian) influences. Commodities and knowledge associated with the so-called Silk Road went in both directions, and this book illustrates this point very clearly.
Recommendation: If it is still possible to obtain this book, then please do! It is a joy to hold and the detailed and suburb illustrations make it a great pleasure to either dip into this book or to find out further details about specific forms of early Chinese silk production. It is an essential item for any serious library concerned with the early history of silk production and use, Chinese textiles, the trade and economy of the Silk Road, and a lover of textiles in general.
ZHAO, Feng (2004). Liao Textiles and Costumes, Hong Kong: Muwen Tang Fine Arts Publication, Ltd. ISBN: 988-97206-0-4. Chinese and English. Hardback, 269 pp., fully illustrated in colour, bibliography. Price: HK$ 850. This study is based on various archaeological textiles that date from the Liao dynasty (907-125 AD) period. Many of the pieces illustrated come from excavations in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, notably in the Ying country, Shanxi Province. The book illustrates and describes various forms of Liao dynasty textiles, their associated techniques and uses. The study has been divided into three main sections. The first is a technical section that looks at weave techniques, namely samit, damask, twill, tapestry and gauze weaves, followed by chapters on dyeing and printing techniques and embroidery. There is a separate chapter on designs in general. The second section is dedicated to Liao period costume, with a description of upper body coverings, trousers and skirts, headdress, footwear, hand wear and other accessories. The third and final section deals with the historical position of Liao textiles and costume. The whole book is beautifully illustrated with painting details, line drawings (patterns for designs and garments), as well as statuettes, and so forth. But its main strength are the detailed and precise illustrations of the textiles and garments themselves.
Recommendation: This book should be in any library that is concerned with the early history of silk production and use, Chinese textiles, Chinese costume and so forth. It will also be of great use to reenactment and theatre groups wanting to recreate the garments of the Liao period. This book can also be recommended to anyone who loves textiles and wants to be inspired by a series of amazing items.
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