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Topic: The Step-by-Step Needlecraft Encyclopedia, by JudyBrittain  (Read 1808 times)
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wifeofbath
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« on: August 14, 2006 07:37:26 PM »

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

This book was first published in Great Britain in 1979 by Ebury Press as The Good Housekeeping Step-by-step Encyclopaedia of Needlecraft. There was a Bantam edition in 1980. The book was reissued (possibly somewhat revised) in 1995 by DK, the British publishers who put out all those thoroughly-illustrated non-fiction books, and Portland House published that edition in the US in 1997. I don't know if the book is still in print or not, but I figure with that many editions, there must be secondhand copies out there for people who are interested.

This is a great one-volume reference to just about every kind of needle craft you can think of. I bought it back in the '90s just because I like having big honking reference books, not because I thought I would ever actually try some of the crafts in it,  but I've already gotten more use out of it than I would have thought.

The chapter titles:

Knitting
Crochet
Knotting & Wovenwork (subdivided into Knotting, Macrame, Netting, Tatting, Braiding, Rugmaking, and Weaving)
Embroidery
Needlepoint
Patchwork Quilting & Applique (subdivided into Patchwork, Quilting, and Applique)
Basic Sewing


Each chapter or subchapter (except the final one; who would attempt a history of sewing?) starts with a history of the craft it introduces, and the how-to information that follows is surprisingly thorough for a book that doesn't focus solely on one craft. For example, the knitting section even includes a bit about frame knitting and machine knitting; I've looked at knitting-only books in bookstores or the library, and not seen that. Another example would be that the crochet section, after covering all the basics, goes on to Afghan (Tunisian in the table of contents), hairpin, and broomstick  crochet. In addition to the information on how to do the craft, each chapter also has projects, such as knitting a baby jacket, making a hammock, or needlepointing a rug for a dolls' house.

The how-to drawings are supplemented by lots of photos of antique needleworks. There's also photos of some more contemporary works, especially illustrating the projects, but some of those are kind of "seventies-riffic", while the antique ones are generally gorgeous. Speaking of the seventies-rific stuff, there's a child's vest in the weaving section that I think the now-adult child is probably seeking damages for having been made to wear and in the crochet section (p.111 in my edition) there is what I firmly believe to be the ugliest garment ever created on this earth. Those two sartorial abominations, combined with a rather old-fashioned look to the drawings and the black&white photos of stitch patterns, may turn some people off the book, but it shouldn't, because there's a lot of helpful information here.

The only part of the book I have a quarrel with is the quilting chapter. The method for making quilt tops covered is making "patches" by wrapping fabric around a piece of cut-to-shape paper (although the book does say you can skip the paper) and making running stitches to hold the fabric to the paper's shape, then attaching all the patches together by hand with overcasting stitches. I'm not saying this is not a valid method, only saying it is not a common method in my experience. I grew up sleeping under quilts my grandmothers had made long before I was ever born, and those quilts were not made like that; even the ones I know for a fact were hand pieced (they were all hand quilted) were not made like that. It is also not the method shown in any American quilting magazine or book I've looked at. Or quilting TV show. In fact, the only time I may have seen that method used is in the episode of Good Neighbors (aka The Good Life) in which Barbara is stitching hexagons onto a quilt top. But the author makes it seem as if this method is the most normal method and only mentions what, in my experience, really is the most common method almost as an afterthought in a quarter-page column titled "Machine joining"; even then it suggests that if the pieces aren't square or rectangular you might need to zig zag them together instead of regular stitching. Once again, I'm not saying the author's method isn't valid, I just think it's bizarre that it is presented as the standard method.

Upshot: Someone who's only interested in one needlecraft might want a book on just that subject, but people who are interested in multiple crafts could save a lot of shelf space by buying this reference book instead of one (or more) for each.


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0751302945/ref=pd_rvi_gw_2/102-1983577-2060144?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=283155

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