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The Top Five Books in My Library

Tuesday, September 10, 2013
My crochet library, which includes  over 300 volumes, is very personal to me. My books are my friends and that’s because I personally know so many of the designers and authors with books in my collection. A sizable number of the books are even autographed and that increases their value! 
Crochetqueen's crochet book collection of over 300 books!
Deciding on which five books to highlight here was an enormous, close to impossible, task. Because crochet is so diverse, there is a wide variety of offerings in the books that grace the shelves of my large bookshelf. I started out trying to pick a book that would be representative of each of five decades. However, I quickly realized that my oldest book is from 1916 and I have one from the 1920s, but  there is a gap in which I don’t have any books from the 20s, 30s or 40s. Booklets were common in the 1940s and probably very few books were published.

I began crocheting in 1971 and as my skills grew, so did my wide-eyed excitement about crochet patterns and designs. I was on a collecting rampage of both old and new volumes that piqued my interest. As I looked over my bookshelf today with a discerning eye, I found that i have a very large representative selection of books from the 70s, 90s and a special place on the shelf for the most current books. 

The following list of my Top Five Crochet Books is purely emotional; I admit it! Each  one has some meaning to me. Qualification for this list includes warm memories associated with meeting the author; well used and even  tattered due to much use;  a specific technique of crochet that is of particular interest to me; or it is a good general representation of crochet history and technique.
 1)  A Living Mystery – The International Art & History of Crochet by Annie Louise Potter. United States: A.J. Publishing International, 1990. AUTOGRAPHED

A Living Mystery - The International Art & History of Crochet, 1990

This book is the quintessential story of Annie’s love affair with crochet and at the same time it is an amazing reference on the history of crochet all brought together in a full-color coffee table book format.Annie is recognized as one of the world’s masters of crochet. It was an incredible honor meet Annie when she attended the first-ever Chain Link Crochet Conference in 1994.  She spoke about her travels and adventures while writing this book. 

Crochetqueen with Annie Potter (R) and Deborah Hamburg, 1994
Annie spent many years traveling around the world with a research team and professional film crew to find the roots of crochet. The endearing photos of her meeting crocheters along the way and the images of artifacts she discovered in museums and collections makes it easy for the reader to feel like he/she actually accompanied Annie!  Newly created crochet reproductions beautifully photographed and styled are quite inspiring.

A bonus leaflet,The International Collection of Crochet Patterns, was included inside the book as a bonus and my copy is well worn as I  made several of the patterns inside. My most triumphant accomplishment is Antique Baby Dress by Emma Jones worn by my granddaughter at her christening

As the Founder of Annie’s Attic, Annie developed a multi-million dollar enterprise whose roots are still firmly entwined in the newly branded Annie’s, a division of DRG. Annie’s incredible design skills are still in demand by crocheters and are published under the trademark, Annie Presents

22)    Old and New Designs in Crochet Work Book No. 5 by Sophie T. LaCroix. St. Louis, MO: St. Louis Fancy Work Co., 1920.
Old and New Designs in Crochet Work, 1920s
 Sophie LaCroix was a prolific crochet designer and this booklet is full of her designs billed as “nice, dainty articles entirely different from the ready-made, ‘hand-me-down' variety of Christmas Novelties usually offered for sale.” It makes me chuckle because it appears that crochet is the hero being pulled into use for a wide range of household necessities such as a spectacle case, safety pin holder, ribbon case, burnt match receptacle, gentleman’s collar bag, in addition to the usual baby booties and sachets we are more familiar with. Can you imagine a household today with that many items filling the house and all crocheted?

I am in awe of this book and suggest it as an exercise in testing one’s crochet skills. The projects are small but the vintage-style method of pattern writing is challenging, to say the least!
  3)  Crochet Workshop by James Walters. London: Sidgwick & Jackson Limited, 1979. AUTOGRAPHED
Crochet Workshop by James Walters, 1979

James Walters is an amazing man and brilliant crocheter. He is my friend and has been my mentor off and on over the years. His tome, Crochet Workshop, personifies the James I know. For the serious crocheter or the beginner, I daresay that you will not find another book (or man) like this, past or present!

I have often thought that if I had no other book in my library, I’d be fine with just this one because if I started at page one and crocheted my way through the book, I’d be an exceptional crocheter in the end! Right off the bat in the introduction, James makes his approach very clear without apologies: “There are no fully developed or completely worked out parcels of designs or even ideas, for you merely to regurgitate. The various stitch patterns for instance are never included simply because of their prettiness, but because they each illustrate at least one separate, identifiable basic principle of quality/constructions, etc. This is a workshop: there are no discussions about art and no aesthetic value judgments. If your study is going to be fruitful, let it be because you use the information as a set of tools to take the lid off your own creativity."

James’ personality and British sense of humor flows through the book and reading it is like having James standing over your shoulder teaching, supporting, encouraging!  To view  a photo of James in his body suit is well worth the price of the book
     4)  Crocheting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.

Crocheting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti, 1988
 I often turn to Maggie's book as a reference when I need crochet help or want to confirm a fact about something I may be blogging about. A definitive classic for years, Maggie is another author that offers friendly advice in her book as if she is in your home giving you a private crochet lesson! 

The book is organized in such a way that beginner’s can use it as an introduction and guide book; skilled crocheter’s will use it as a reference tool and source for the finer points and pattern stitches; and teachers will use it as a text. In the introduction Maggie says, “My purpose in writing this book is to ive confidence, courage, and creativity to crocheters everywhere. Thank you, Maggie!

A long-time designer and teacher, Maggie died in 2006 at the age of 94. In 2008, she was honored with the release of the 2nd edition of her book, updated and revised and it is available here
    5) Crocheting with Beads by Kate Coburn.  Gilbert, AZ: KTB, 1995 AUTOGRAPHED

Because of my long-standing interest in bead crochet – I crocheted my first bead crochet necklace in 1986 - I must highlight Kate Coburn’s self-published book, Crocheting with Beads. No mean feat at the time, she did a wonderful job with this full-color spiral-bound guide to crocheting with beads.

Kate was my mentor and friend and taught classes in bead-crochet and exhibited her bead sculptures at the early Chain Link Crochet Conferences. In the book, she starts with bead crochet basics and includes detailed instructions on finishing, including backings, jewelry findings, tassel fringe and assembly. Her book can be found here and be search for her other two books, Tubes I and Tubes II.

Obviously, this small survey is a drop in the ocean as compared to my entire library! Try a small survey like this yourself; it is a good idea for any crocheter to get the periodic boost of inspiration will come their way and add to the “to-do” list as well! Whether you categorize your books by genre, author, year or some other clever category doesn’t matter; just be sure to visit your books often. They are like old friends and need to be visited when you crave an idea, when you’re feeling down, or when you just want to see fantastic images! Have fun and be on the hunt for your own book collection! As you can see by the photo of my bookshelf, I still have room for more!

I am the author of The Fine Art of Crochet 2013 

Kids Can Do It Crocheting, co-authored with Jackie Young, 2003.

Magical Misers Purses Crochet Patterns with Victorian Inspiraion, co-authored with B.J. Licko-Keel, 1999. 


Carole said…
Gwen, your blog is taking on a beautifully organized history of crochet interwoven with your sparkling enthusiasm. A delight to read your royal ramblings!

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