The holiday season is coming up. I’m not much for giving or receiving stuff for the sake of stuff, but a good reading experience is something I love to both give and receive. In today’s blog post I share some of my favourite books.

Women’s work the first 20 000 years

In this magnificent odyssey over textile work for the past twenty millennia the author leads us through textile pre-history and history, starting from the very first time someone just happened to roll some plant fibers against their leg to find how much stronger it became.

Women’s work the first 20 000 years – women, class and society in early times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber and Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian Highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez

This is truly fascinating read. In my understanding, textiles and textile making haven’t gotten the scientific attention that they deserve. But through interdisciplinary research there is a lot to tell about textile history and pre-history. As a linguistic nerd my heart tingles when I read about how scientists can tell about the geographical and sometimes temporal origin of a technique through deriving the origins of the word for it. Read this book. I plan to reread it.

Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian Highlands

As you may know, I support the Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. In this book Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez presents history and traditions of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands and shares some of the technique in step-by-step guides. Read the book and support their causes.

All that she carried

A mother gives her nine-year-old daughter a flour sack, containing pecans, a tattered dress, a lock of hair and the mother’s love when the daughter is sold at an auction. Decades later, in 1920, the daughter’s granddaughter embroiders the contents onto the sack. The sack is forgotten and later turns up in a thrift store. Someone finds it and understands the value of it.

All that she carried – the journey of Ashley’s sack, a black family keepsake, by Tiya Miles

How someone can get so much important information from a flour bag is beyond me. But Tina Miles does. This is an important book, we all need to know this. Things that never should have happened did happen and the flour sack and the embroidery on it remind us of the injustices toward people of colour that have rippled through the centuries and are very much alive still today. In All that she carried the story is told through the perspective of the unfree black people, a perspective that traditionally has got very little space in literature. Just read it.

Braiding Sweetgrass

I have talked about this book (and read it) several times, I know. But Braiding Sweetgrass carries such a loving message that we all should carry with us. The indigenous perspective of a gift economy and a society of reciprocity is so natural when I read about it, yet I am so puzzled by all the hate in the world when we could all adopt the perspective of love and respect that Robin Wall Kimmerer shares in this book.

Braiding Sweetgrass – indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

There is so much we can learn if we just listen close enough. Instead people of the western world have done a good job of consuming ourself into climate change, that ultimately affects indigenous peoples the most. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Keepers of the sheep

This book is such a sweet read. The author writes beautifully about her visits with the local knitters and spinners and learns their traditional way of creating textiles. She has made an excellent and respectful job of translating their oral passing down of the construction of the projects into a western way of knitting. The writer also treats us to a lot of history and traditions about the wool and the patterns. Read my review of the book.

Keepers of the sheep – Knitting in Morocco’s High Atlas and beyond, by Irene Waggener with Muah Ahansali, Hussein Mardi, Muah n’Ait Tabatoot and Noura Eddelymy

I did knit one of the projects in the book, the Sirwal pants. I actually wore them earlier this week on my way to the lake for my daily bath. It was -4°C in the air and perfect temperature for bulky knitted snow shoveling pants. Have a peek at them here.

With one needle

Nalbinding is time consuming, but still one of my very favourite ways of textile making. The simplicity of the blunt needle, the yarn and my thumb gives it a meditative dimension that I cherish. A nalbound item is strong and durable, especially if it has been felted, and will last for a very long time.

With one needle – How to nålbind by Mervi Pasanen

Mervi Pasanen writes about both history and techniques, and gives the reader some pattern and basic guidelines for increasing, decreasing, casting on, binding off and embellishing. Lots of pictures and step-by-step drawings make the book accessible and welcoming to read.

Raw material

In the beginning of her book, Stephany Wilkes tells the reader how she came to become a shearer, and her story is not far from my own – a desire to put local wool into good use instead of watching it burn or otherwise go to waste. And just like me she simply followed a strong urge to take responsibility for a teeny tiny little part of local wool production. A path that has proven to be fulfilling on so many levels.

Raw material – working wool in the west by Stephany Wilkes

Raw material is my current read and a lovely companion in my morning routines. Wilkes writes about a sustainable local wool (and fashion) industry that truly appeals to me.

Visible mending

Speaking of sustainability, I try more and more to mend my clothes when I see holes or worn out spots. It’s such a sweet challenge to play with techniques, materials and colours to mend with love and dedication. Even if I’m not very skilled at mending (but working on it) I love to flaunt my visible mending. One example is the third-hand jeans legs I mended earlier this fall.

Visible mending – repair, renew, reuse the clothes you love, by Arounna Khounnoraj

The author invites us to some of her favorite mending techniques and when she uses what techniques. She also goes through materials and tools she likes to keep handy and shows step-by-step guides of how she goes about certain techniques. This is a great reference book to have handy as soon as you spot a hole or wear.

The Pocket

Okay, so I got a little carried away and made four tie-on pockets this year – one from two eBayed linen towels, one from a vintage evening clutch, one in broadcloth with påsöm embroidery and one from a vintage Harris Tweed men’s jacket. It’s such a sweet accessory and after having read The Pocket I got even more fascinated by its history and what it can tell about society and women of the time. There is so much to discover and understand by this sweet and utterly useful accessory, and like the bag of Mary Poppins it contains so much more than you would ever imagine.

The authors have done a massive research into old pockets of course, but also art from the time and criminal records, inventory lists and receipts.

The Pocket – A hidden history of women’s lives, by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux

I got this copy as a gift from my friend Sara, whom I have dragged with me down several rabbit holes, the pocket hole being just one of them.

And oh, I have ideas for a fifth pocket.

Knit (Spin) Sweden!

Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf and Josefin Waltin

Speaking of Sara: I am the co-author of the book Knit (Spin) Sweden! A different kind of traveling book, by Sara Wolf. This spring the second edition was released and is now available on Amazon. Read about the book here.

Sara Wolf covers history of knitting and theories of how and when it came to Sweden, along with typical Swedish knitting techniques, yarn from Swedish sheep breeds, knitting patterns from Swedish designers and a dictionary of Swedish knitting vocabulary.

On my list

I have a long list of books that I want to read. Here are some of them

Do you have any favourite textile related books that you would recommend?

Happy spinning!

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  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
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  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.
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6 Replies to “Books”

  1. Thank you for the recommendations. I am currently re-reading A Short History of the World According to Sheep, by Sally Coulthard. It is an interesting social history following the domestication of sheep and the development of sheep breeding for textile development.

  2. “Fibershed” is eye-opening. “Vanishing Fleece” is good but it kind of lost its luster for me when I found out that Ms. Parkes did not always pay the mills for all their work on her fleece.

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