In our age of industrial production a lot of things that were common knowledge as recent as a century ago are being forgotten. The people who knew how to do things and could have taught them to a future generation are mostly gone, so alternative ways of preserving knowledge are getting more and more important. The Crafts Bookshelf at Project Gutenberg is one such alternative way, containing how-to books for a lot of different crafts written at a time when the knowledge described was still widely in use.
Because I’m interested in all kinds of needlework, Thérèse de Dillmont’s Encyclopedia of Needlework is a very special book for me. True to its title, this really is an encyclopedia, describing all the different kinds of needlework a woman at the end of the 19th century might need or want to do. Naturally the common kinds of needlework are covered extensively, like sewing, embroidery, knitting and crochet. But for me the real strength of this book lies in the crafts that are all but gone from common knowledge by now, like gold embroidery and the different kinds of needlepoint laces. When looking through this book I always get itching fingers wanting to try out different things, and more often than not have a problem because the materials needed have all but vanished, too.
Lots of illustrations explain the different techniques, and pictures of finished projects provide inspiration on what can be done. Having this book available in electronic form is a huge help for anybody who’s interested in keeping these crafts alive.