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.
What a beautiful example of why we work so hard to preserve books! My grandmothers were both very proficient at all manner of needlework; my mother made all our clothes when we were kids; but I can barely sew on a button. 😀 Still, I find the artistry fascinating. Kudos on a great contribution to our store of knowledge about our past!
Books such as this one are great fun to smooth-read, too. Like alisea, I am also tempted to lay down my crocheting and pick up a needle and pillow to attempt bobbin lace. I have Irish ancestors, so Irish lace and crochet is another area I would love to investigate some day. It makes me feel better to know that PG is preserving these books, and that I have had a hand, however small, in that endeavor.
I agree, our heritage of crafts and common household how-to-do things is being lost, and that is one of the reasons I am so enthused with DP. In the past I’ve downloaded cookbooks that told which woods produced the most heat for an oven and other such things that may have been common knowledge in the past, and are now lost to most people. And as things progress now, who knows what we may need to know for the future in 20 years. Also, in reading some of the books which came from such thinkers as John Locke and Dewey, we are doing a lot of what they were talking about, and those histories of such as John Adams and the Massachusetts Bay Colony provide insight into our past that is priceless.
Yes, yes, and yes! There are so many things that we don’t know how to do any more. This is a wonderful way to preserve as much as we can.
It’s a lovely book. I actually have the book – it’s a very small format, with a bright yellow jacket published in 1971. The pictures are exquisite and instill a yearning to create with every page. I’ve also used it as a reference when I’ve been stumped for some technique.
A wonderful edition to a permanent collection available to all!
I’ve felt at times that fiber/thread crafts were lost, and some certainly nearly are, but there also seems to have been a resurgence of some delicate fiber work. There’s hope, and books like this help so much.
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