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A wide variety of books have been coming into the TRC over the last two months, so it was decided to have a February book recommendation list rather than wait until March. This group of reviews  includes a number of, literally, heavy books that give the reader the feeling: here is something, a proper book. A feeling that simply cannot be appreciated or reproduced with an ebook.

Several books have been included below that come from Vetty Creations. This is a small publishing house in Australia dedicated to embroidery books. It was set up by Yvette (hence the Vetty) Stanton, who is an experienced embroiderer and teacher. Her books are informative and with well thought out instructions that help the reader carry out various forms of embroidery, especially whitework forms. The TRC hopes to get more of the Stanton/Vetty books in the future.


ALBRECHTSEN, Nicky (2015). Vintage Mode, Kerkdriel: Librero (this is a Dutch version of Vintage Fashion Complete, published in 2014, by Thames and Hudson, London). ISNB: 978-90-8998-615-3, hardback, pp. 432, fully illustrated with c. 1300 colour and b/w photographs, index. Price: €39,95.

A lovely book, which is covered with a printed reproduction of material from a dress from the 1930s. The book discusses and illustrates women’s garments from the 1920s to the 1980s. It includes a series of chapters dedicated to each decade with a description of the main garment fashions and accessories for women. The strength of this book lies in the way how all aspects are portrayed so there are bags, belts, bridal items, hats, shawls, shoes, spectacles, underwear, as well as a range of knitted items. A complete image is created.

Recommendation: This book can be used for dipping into in order to gain inspiration, but it is also a valuable tool for anyone working with vintage clothing, either as part of a public or private collection, or as the wearer of vintage clothing. It provides details that will help people to get the correct ‘look’ as it is not just about wearing a dress or a skirt, it is about what goes with it, even down to what sort of bras should be worn.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood



BECKERT, Sven (2014). Empire of Cotton: A Global History, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 10: 0375414142. Hardback, black/white illustrations, pp. 616, Price: €36.95.

This is a well researched, award-winning book with extensive footnotes. The author, a Professor of American History at Harvard University (USA), argues convincingly that cotton production laid the foundation for the modern world. He traces cotton’s origins in Central America, India and Africa, where it was cultivated by subsistence farmers for both domestic use and as a means to pay taxes, to the early 1900s, when 1.5 percent of the world’s population was involved in either the production or manufacture of cotton. Along the way cotton began the industrialization of countries such as the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Japan and China; this in turn shifted whole populations from rural areas to urban centres and brokered new relationships between labour, business and government. Cotton was the first international trade commodity; desire for more cotton fueled the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonization. Britain’s role in gradually dominating cotton production and manufacture from India was a template; Russia’s desire for its own source of cotton led in the late 1800s to increased Russian control in Central Asia; in the early 1900s Japan did the same in Taiwan, Korea and China.

Recommendation: This is an important history full of exploration, exploitation, greed and invention. It is recommended for economic, social and political historians, and anyone with an interest in the important role textiles  played in globalization and world history.

Shelley Anderson


HASHAGEN, Joanna and Santina M. LEVEY (2006). Fine and Fashionable: Lace from the Blackborne Collection, The Bowes Museum, County Durham. No ISBN number, instead some people are using ASIN 0954818245. Soft back, fully illustrated in colour, short bibliography, pp. 88, GBP 9.95.

In 2006 descendants of the Victorian lace dealers A. Blackborne and Company of London donated the Blackborne collection of lace to the Bowes Museum. There were over 7000 pieces of lace, dating from the 16th century to the early 20th century, including a 17th century needle lace band for a cloak that may have belonged to King Charles 1 (1600-1649) of England. This is the catalogue of some of the top pieces from the Blackborne’s remaining stock and study collection that went into the exhibition “Fine and Fashionable”, organized by the Bowes Museum from September 2006 to April 2007. The book’s first section is a brief history of the Blackborne Company, and how its founders began the collection in an attempt to re-discover lost patterns and techniques. The second section presents six beautiful laces as art works; while the third section provides more background information on techniques and uses of lace, with specific examples often shown alongside paintings of textiles from the same period.

Recommendation: This beautifully illustrated book will appeal to collectors and makers of lace, and to anyone interested in the social history of lace.

Shelley Anderson



MEYER-STOLL, CHRISTIANE (2015). Ferdinand Nigg [1865-1949] Gestickte Moderne, Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein. ISBN: 978-3-86335-866-2. Hardback, pp. 407, fully illustrated with colour and b/w photographs, glossary, bibliography. Price: €58.

An exhibition catalogue with a difference. This weighty (literally) tome contains a series of articles about the life and work of the Liechtenstein graphic artist, Ferdinand Nigg (1865-1949). There then follows a seven page catalogue of the items on display. This book is clearly intended to be read elsewhere and not used as the exhibition guide. Ferdinand Nigg was a famous designer in the 1920s and 30s and was very influential in Germany where he spent most of his working life. He was a graphic designer and teacher, but someone with a profound love and understanding of embroidery, especially the graphic nature of the cross stitch. He personally created many items of embroidery, especially those illustrating Biblical scenes. His use of the cross stitch in its many forms was and remains special. Nigg’s embroidery became so well-known that there was even a series of three Christmas postage stamps from Liechtenstein (1979) with depictions of his work.

Recommendation: This book explores the work of Nigg in great detail and provides many insights into his life, creations and especially his embroidery. There are illustrations of examples that are not produced anywhere else. This book is recommended for anyone who is interested in early 20th century graphic design, embroidery from the period and the history of European urban embroidery in general.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood


NARA NATIONAL MUSEUM: The 67th Annual Exhibition of Shōsō-in Treasures (two exhibition catalogues, one in Japanese and a smaller version in English). Nara: The Nara National Museum. Soft back, pp. 144 (Japanese version) and pp. 64 (English version). Fully illustrated with colour photographs. The English version also includes a glossary.

The Shōsō-in is literally a treasure house that dates back to the 8th century. The building was and still does store a very wide range of objects that have been donated to the Buddha by members of the Japanese royal family and other. Since the Second World War (1939-1945) there have been a series of annual exhibitions about various aspects of the Shōsō-in contents. This catalogue celebrates the 67th exhibition, which was held in 2015 at the Nara National Museum (Nara lies in southern Kansai region of Japan). The catalogue comes in two parts, the first is the main catalogue (in Japanese) and includes a wide variety of domestic objects, literally from a paintbrush to a table. However, the majority of the items are textile biased and include needles, threads, fragments of decorative cloth (embroidered, printed and woven forms), as well as a few complete garments. The second and much smaller work is an English edition of the main catalogue. The images are much smaller so it is useful to have both books. In particular the exhibition focuses on events that take place on the seventh day of the seventh month (tanabata), when women wish for excellence in the sewing arts. So the exhibition has included brightly coloured threads, large ceremonial needles and so forth.

Recommendation: A must for anyone interested in Japanese textiles and clothing. The inclusion of ‘everyday’ items such as needles and threads helps to show just how important textiles and related skills are within Japanese society. The illustrations are very clear and of a high quality. Because there is a smaller, English, version of the main catalogue these items can be appreciated by a much wider audience.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood


RIBEIRO, Aileen and Cally BLACKMAN (2015). A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, London: National Portrait Gallery. ISBN 978 1 85514 556 6. Soft cover, fully illustrated in colour, pp. 288, GBP 24.95.

This lavishly illustrated book looks in detail at the clothing (and accessories such as jewelry and hats) worn in 190 portraits in the collection of Britain’s National Portrait Gallery in London. The paintings (with occasional photographs, newspaper cartoons or sculpture) range in time from the 16th to the 21st centuries; and in subject from lesser known members of the English middle class to more famous members of the aristocracy. The changes in fashion between one century and the next are also well described, as are some of the social implications of the changes. For example, 18th century foreign travellers in Britain remarked on the clean, sturdy dress of British workers and noted it was hard to distinguish, based on dress, between the upper and lower classes; in the 19th century the widespread use of cotton led to improved hygiene, as cotton, unlike silk, velvet or wool, is more easily washed. Male clothing, men as well as boys, is described in equal detail as the clothing of women and girls.

Recommendation: This book will appeal to anyone interested in how clothing reveals age, sex and status. It will especially appeal to fashion historians and to anyone interested in art history or the social history of clothing.

Shelley Anderson


STANTON, Yvette (2012): Portuguese White work: Bullion Embroidery from Guimarães, Hornsby Westfield: Vetty Creations. ISBN 9780975767757. Soft back, pp. 104, fully illustrated in colour with photographs and diagrams, series of project sheets, index. Price: c. €15 (available from www.vettycreations.com.au).

The book starts with a short history of Guimarães in northern Portugal and this particular type of regional embroidery, with some historical examples. The embroidery is based on a combination of drawn thread work and bullion stitch, which is embroidered in white, although occasionally grey, beige, red blue and black forms or combinations may be found. The embroidery is worked in coton à broder, but perlé is now often substituted. There then comes a series of attractive projects, which have clear, step-by-step illustrations.

Recommendation: A well-researched and illustrated book that will be of use to anyone interested in whitework, embroidery history, European embroidery forms, and to those looking for something new to do.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood




 STANTON, Yvette (2014): Sardinian Knotted Embroidery: Whitework from Teulada, Hornsby Westfield: Vetty Creations. ISBN 9780975767764. Soft back, pp. 104, 

fully illustrated in colour with photographs and diagrams, series of project sheets, index. Price: c. €15 (available from www.vettycreations.com.au).

As with other Stanton books this one starts with a short history of Teulada in southern Sardinia and the whitework embroidery associated with the town. Teulada embroidery is a form of whitework embroidery. It is locally called Punt ‘e Nù (‘knotted stitches’), which refers to it being a form of counted knot work. The main stitch is coral stitch that is worked in geometric patterns. The designs are reminiscent of Holbein stitch (double running stitch) designs, especially those produced during the Mamluk period in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is not strange as there were and are close connections between the various communities living around the Mediterranean. This form of embroidery was traditionally used to decorate men’s shirts, especially on the collars, cuffs and yokes. Teulada embroidery is normally worked in white, but other pastel colours are also being produced. Following the introduction and information about materials, there is a series of projects of varying degrees of complexity with clear, step-by-step illustrations.

Recommendation: A book that will be of use to anyone interested in whitework, embroidery history in general and especially to those looking for traditional European forms.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood



VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (2016). Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, by Bloomsbury, London, 2016. ISBN 9780857853974. Hardback, fully illustrated in colour, bibliography, pp. 688, GBP£150.

This is a comprehensive and meticulously researched book on both modern and historical Arab embroidery. It is beautifully illustrated with 850 images (750 in colour), some of which have never been published before. The 46 essays are grouped into four sections, beginning with background information on designs and colours; hand and machine embroidery; materials and equipment; and foreign influences (such as the introduction of DMC threads in the 19th century) and sources. Trade routes like the Silk Road, and the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, also resulted in new exchanges and designs. The section on archaeological and historical embroideries opens with a discussion of the embroideries in the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun (died 1323 BCE) and then moves to embroideries from Nubia, the eastern Mediterranean and Iraq, Lebanon, and from Ottoman, Turkish, Coptic, Byzantine and Arab Sicilian culture.

The most extensive section on regional embroideries, from the 17th century to the present, follows. From Tunisia and Libya, Jordan and Iraq, to Palestine, Kuwait and the Gulf States these chapters offer fascinating details on textiles of all sorts, from construction to markers of identity. The embroideries of ethnic and religious minorities in the region, such as Berbers, Christians, Jews and Kurds, are also included. These chapters are enhanced by the researchers’ talks with local embroiderers and her unprecedented access to important private collections. Lastly there are two glossaries, one on textile terms, the other on national and regional dress terms; appendices on stitches, with illustrations, and a list of museums with N. Africa and Middle Eastern embroidery collections. While embroidery still provides a livelihood for many in the region, conflict and political changes are threats to its continuation. This encyclopaedia is thus both a timely and essential guide to this craft.

Recommendation: for anyone interested in cultural heritage, Middle Eastern cultural heritage, embroidery history, as well as museums and private collectors with Middle Eastern collections.

Shelley Anderson

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