a new widget on this blog.
Different people learn in different ways. Lots of people I know learn new techniques by taking classes. I learn new techniques by reading. 
I was lucky enough to grow up in a town with a wonderful public library system. The Thomas Crane Public library  has a large collection of hand craft books. My family's usual Friday afternoon routine was to come home from school and then to load up on books for the weekend. 
This image of the Thomas Crane library comes from Quincy Daily Photo, a blog that I visit daily for glimpses of my home town. Architecture geeks may recognize this as being a H.H. Richardson building. The building is a gem, beautiful even when unrenovated. It has recently undergone a spectacular renovation.
My usual load of books would contain a mix of trashy novels, a couple of collections of classic plays, a book or two of etiquette from the 1920's , maybe a book on the fight for women's rights from the late 1920's, a book on architecture and a hand craft book or two. I didn't do all that much hand work as a kid, but I read lots of books on various forms of embroidery and fabric embellishment, black work, red work, trapunto. If my library had it i took it out and read it.
We would start reading in the car on the way home from the Library. Then we would stop at Montillio's bakery and one of us would be given the job of choosing a pastry for the four of us to share. We would sit in the car reading whatever book we had chosen and the four of us would pass that slice of ricotta cheesecake, or cannoli or cheese danish taking a bite, passing it on while reading the first book from the pile. I would read all weekend. Sometimes, I would read all night. OK, I didn't have much of a social life in high school but I did fill my head with a great mix of the high and the low.
When I was in high school I was obsessed with needlepoint. I purchased a huge  encyclopedia of needlepoint stitches with terrific diagrams and directions and proceeded to work my way through that book. So when I began to sew, I bought books so I could learn what to do.
After a while I began to stumble on old sewing books in antique stores and in thrift stores. I loved them. I love learning how to do things the low tech, no bells and whistles way. I assume if I learn how to do something the low tech way, I will understand the basic principles behind the process and will have more versatility in how I problem solve.
I also love the illustrations in the old books. I love how the older sewing books offer a peek into daily life fifty or one hundred years ago. ( What sort of a life requires an "afternoon dress"?) Finally, many of those old books are just plain good, with well written directions for tricky techniques and useful understanding of the bigger issues in sewing.

So I had added an Amazon widget where I have added links to books that I really value and use. I hope to continue adding books to this list. Yes, I get a kickback from Amazon if you buy a book. Many of these books despite their real value as sources of good information are really inexpensive. I have selected books based on my love for them.

I wanted in particular to point out Mary Brooks Picken. She began writing sewing books in the mid nineteen teens. She continued to write in her crisp style into the early 1960's. I own several of her Women's Institute Sewing Course books from the early 1920's. I have reprints of some of her other early books. Mary Brooks Picken is someone you want by your side telling you what to do and how to do it. I know nothing about her biography but I assume that she must have been quite something to have produced such a large body of work.

Dorothy Moore's book on pattern drafting is just a treasure. She provides a systematic and not al that difficult way to understand how to draft patterns. If you don't want to bang your head againt the problem of pattern drafting over and over again until you get it, the way I did, and actually learn from someone teaching you step by step, this book is the way to go. 

I do urge you to wander through my list. You may find those books in your local used book store or at a rummage sale  or even left out in the trash in front of a neighbor's house. Al of them are worth a good study .

( the Cannoli image comed from the website


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