The most recommended textiles books

Who picked these books? Meet our 9 experts.

9 authors created a book list connected to textiles, and here are their favorite textile books.
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Book cover of Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Lilith Saintcrow Author Of A Flame in the North

From my list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy.

Who am I?

Like any writer, I’m fascinated with what makes people tick and why they act the way they do. Naturally, this means I read a lot of history. I love reference reading; I love researching arcane questions for a tiny detail that will bring a character or their world to life. Creating epic fantasy is an extension of both my drives as a reader and a writer. Pouring myself into characters who inhabit different settings is a deeply satisfying exercise in both craft and empathy, and each history book has some small bit I can use to make my settings more compelling, more enjoyable for readers, and more real.

Lilith's book list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy

Lilith Saintcrow Why did Lilith love this book?

Too often, our idea of history (or prehistory) is of men doing things and women silently following. Barber dives into the history of textiles to show how spinning, weaving, and cloth were not only drivers of culture and civilization but also a major technological achievement akin to harnessing fire and developing agriculture.

I was blown away both by the book’s premise and by the obvious passion and breadth of knowledge Barber brought to showing just how the stunning leap forward taken by women with spindles kick-started what we think of as civilization.

We take clothes for granted, but the first person to think of cloth rather than animal skins gave a great gift to humanity, one which may never be equaled.

By Elizabeth Wayland Barber,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Women's Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies.

Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.

Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have…


Book cover of Labels of Empire: Textile Trademarks - Windows Into India in the Time of the Raj

Peter Koepke Author Of Patterns, Inside the Design Library

From my list on textile for your design library.

Who am I?

Nearly 50 years ago I was completely taken with the patterns drawn, woven, or embroidered by the Indigenous Peoples of the Upper Amazon of Peru. This was my first experience with the power of pattern and led to a career in collecting and curating the pottery and textiles from that area. By the end of the 1980s, I was ready to start a family and a more settled job. The Design Library was the perfect segue. The patterns created in Europe, Africa, and Asia over the past 250 years are also important cultural statements and are continually re-interpreted by our clients for today's market.

Peter's book list on textile for your design library

Peter Koepke Why did Peter love this book?

I am immediately drawn to this magnificent book for the many textile designs it contains and then, a new discovery for me, the vitality of the label imagery. The labels are sensual and sensational, devotional and secular. Most were created by British artists inspired by earlier Indian paintings and engravings just as so many textile designs are descendants of earlier patterns.

I learned how the stories told by these labels provide a rich view into an important period of British textile history and trade as well as Indian culture – from the heavenly realm of the Hindu Gods to the earthly palaces of Maharajas – from the mill workers of Lancashire to the khadi-clad followers of Mahatma Gandhi.   

This book will be released in February/March 2023, but advance orders are being taken. Just take a peek and brace yourself for a wild, wonderful trip. Over 1000 period labels illustrate the…

By Susan Meller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Labels of Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At one time Great Britain clothed the world. In the 1880s, when the British textile industry was at its height, 85 percent of the world's population wore clothing made from fabric produced in the mills of Lancashire. From 1910 to 1913 alone, seven billion yards of cloth were folded, stamped, labeled, and baled. Most of this output was for export, and 30 percent of it went to India.

British textile manufacturers selling into the competitive Indian market were dealing with a largely illiterate population. In order to differentiate their goods, they stamped their cloth with distinctive images-a crouching tiger or…


Book cover of Worn: A People's History of Clothing

Clare Hunter Author Of Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle

From my list on needlework that will surprise and move you.

Who am I?

I have sewn since I was a child, taught by my mother to keep me out of mischief. From having the best-dressed dolls in the neighbourhood I graduated to making my own, sometimes outlandish, forms of fashion and then became a banner maker and community textile artist. Sewing is in my DNA and I love the tactile, rhythmic soothe of it. But I have long been curious about how, in the many books are published about needlework, very few ever mention why people sew. This is what fascinates me, the stories of sewing, because it is through its purpose that we discover the spirit that lies within it. 

Clare's book list on needlework that will surprise and move you

Clare Hunter Why did Clare love this book?

This is a brilliantly researched book which allowed me to accompany Sofi Thanhauser as she travelled across continents to unearth the origin and the fate of fabric production.  It made me realise the terrible damage done to our environment and to communities through colonialisation, exploitation, industrialisation, and our throw-away economy. Tracking how craft is being replaced with slave labour, how traditions are being eroded, and local economies destroyed in the pursuit of cheaper and greater textile production, Worn is not a comfortable read, but it is, for me, a reminder of the human cost involved in most of what I wear. 

By Sofi Thanhauser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Worn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sweeping and captivatingly told history of clothing and the stuff it is made of—an unparalleled deep-dive into how everyday garments have transformed our lives, our societies, and our planet.

“We learn that, if we were a bit more curious about our clothes, they would offer us rich, interesting and often surprising insights into human history...a deep and sustained inquiry into the origins of what we wear, and what we have worn for the past 500 years."
—The Washington Post

In this panoramic social history, Sofi Thanhauser brilliantly tells five stories—Linen, Cotton, Silk, Synthetics, Wool—about the clothes we wear and…


Book cover of Where Women Create: Inspiring Work Spaces of Extraordinary Women

Erika Kotite Author Of She Sheds: A Room of Your Own

From my list on women who want to create their own personal space.

Who am I?

I am an English major turned magazine editor turned book author, with a longtime love of outbuildings. Sheds, carriage houses, studios, barns… I love them all. When I had the chance to do a book about she sheds I was thrilled. Now with two books about she sheds on the market, I’m busy running She Shed Living with my business partner. We design sheds for women throughout Southern California, sell our own line of exterior chalk-based paint, and offer resources and advice to women who want a room of their own.

Erika's book list on women who want to create their own personal space

Erika Kotite Why did Erika love this book?

This book should be considered the bible of women’s artistic expression. Built on the idea of physical spaces and how they nurture the creative endeavor a woman does there, Where Women Create introduces you to dozens of extraordinary artists, textile designers, mixed media artists, book producers, entrepreneurs, and product designers. You get lost in their stories and inspired by their ingenious outlook on organization, clutter, and ways to keep the artistic spark alive.

By Jo Packham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where Women Create as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of The Golden Thread

Orsola de Castro Author Of Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary  Act

From my list on for fashion revolutionaries.

Who am I?

I'm an internationally recognised opinion leader in sustainable fashion. My career started as a designer with the pioneering upcycling label From Somewhere, which I launched in 1997. My label’s designer collaborations include collections for Jigsaw, Speedo, and 4 best-selling capsule collections for Topshop. In 2006, I co-founded the British Fashion Council Initiative Estethica at London Fashion Week, which I curated until 2014. In 2013 I co-founded Fashion Revolution, a global campaign with participation in over 90 countries. I'm a regular keynote speaker and mentor, and Associate Visiting Professor at Middlesex University. My first book Loved Clothes Last is published by Penguin Life, Corbaccio Editore in Italy and in France by Edition Marabou.

Orsola's book list on for fashion revolutionaries

Orsola de Castro Why did Orsola love this book?

A very detailed and beautifully written history of the textile industry throughout time, this book really underlines how our industriousness has turned into a multibillion-dollar industry, disregarding many of the principles and values it stems from.

As a go-to a history of the textile industry, you can’t read much better than this, an unbroken thread of useful knowledge for whoever thinks fashion is frivolous.

By Kassia St. Clair,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Golden Thread as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From colorful 30,000-year-old threads found on the floor of a Georgian cave to the Indian calicoes that sparked the Industrial Revolution, The Golden Thread weaves an illuminating story of human ingenuity. Design journalist Kassia St. Clair guides us through the technological advancements and cultural customs that would redefi ne human civilization-from the fabric that allowed mankind to achieve extraordinary things (traverse the oceans and shatter athletic records) and survive in unlikely places (outer space and the South Pole). She peoples her story with a motley cast of characters, including Xiling, the ancient Chinese empress credited with inventing silk, to Richard…


Book cover of Fat Quarter: Quick Makes

Claire Freedman Author Of The Secret Garden

From my list on arts and crafts.

Who am I?

I am a children’s author and have written over 100 picture book texts for young children, including the best-selling Aliens Love Underpants series. I also enjoy making beautiful things for my home and garden, and for friends and family. Whilst writing is hard work, this other creative side is pure relaxation and ‘switch off’ time. But any projects have to be easily achievable within snatched moments in a busy work life. So here are my top crafting books for people who love creating things but, like me, don’t have much time...

Claire's book list on arts and crafts

Claire Freedman Why did Claire love this book?

Twenty five quick and easy sewing makes for using up fat quarters or leftover remnants of fabric. Lots of cute ideas to pretty up your home, or great little stocking fillers for Christmas. There is a series of these books if you get hooked!

By Juliet Bawden, Amanda Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fat Quarter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fat Quarter: Quick Makes is part of a fantastic new series of stash-busting sewing books aimed at beginner to intermediate crafters. There are 25 super-quick and easy projects to make, all from fat quarters to fabric scraps. Each project has easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions and beautiful accompanying photography, as well as a useful tools and techniques section. This book is ideal for using up leftover remnants of fabric from your stash to create a range of decorative and useful items in a flash. Projects include: book bag, baby dress, eye mask, bunting, festival flag, owl brooch passport cover, makeup bag.


Book cover of Fringe, Frog and Tassel: The Art of the Trimmings-Maker in Interior Decoration

Mary Schoeser Author Of World Textiles

From my list on getting you hooked on textile histories.

Who am I?

It seems I was destined to write about textiles. Long after I started documenting the tapestries of the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh—over 45 years ago—I discovered that my great-grandfather was a cotton mule-spinner, working one of those machines that spurred on the industrial revolution. So it’s in my blood. I’ve interviewed dozens of people who’ve made similar discoveries, and have become a firm believer in the long-lasting inherited significance of textiles. We’ve made them and they in turn have made us who we are. Now more than ever, my hope is to entangle people into the wonderful web that connects every era and every culture.

Mary's book list on getting you hooked on textile histories

Mary Schoeser Why did Mary love this book?

This masterful study of trimmings made and used in Britain and Ireland from 1320-1970 is a lesson in how to look carefully. Westman’s understanding of the most sumptuous elements in interiors, essentially the “bling”, offers insights into specialist working practices and the relationships between clients, suppliers, makers, and fashionability. Her forensic approach means that often the stunning images are paired with a detail of a tassel, cord, or fringe. You’ll never look at a painting of an interior in the same way again!

By Annabel Westman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fringe, Frog and Tassel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Trimmings are often overlooked as mere details of a furnished interior but in the past they were seen as vital and costly elements in the decoration of a room. They were used not only on curtains and beds but also on wall hangings, upholstered seat furniture and cushions, providing a visual feast for the eye with their colour and intricate detail. Sometimes more expensive than the rich fabrics they enhanced, trimmings are often the only surviving evidence of a lost decorative scheme, reapplied to replacement textiles or found as fragments in the attic.

This book, the first of its kind,…


Book cover of Concrete

Peter Koepke Author Of Patterns, Inside the Design Library

From my list on textile for your design library.

Who am I?

Nearly 50 years ago I was completely taken with the patterns drawn, woven, or embroidered by the Indigenous Peoples of the Upper Amazon of Peru. This was my first experience with the power of pattern and led to a career in collecting and curating the pottery and textiles from that area. By the end of the 1980s, I was ready to start a family and a more settled job. The Design Library was the perfect segue. The patterns created in Europe, Africa, and Asia over the past 250 years are also important cultural statements and are continually re-interpreted by our clients for today's market.

Peter's book list on textile for your design library

Peter Koepke Why did Peter love this book?

A serious departure from my list from a guy who is dedicated to surface design and pattern, but it is a beautifully designed book with wonderful photographs of architectural sculptural structures. Not much color but there are patterns of course, in the surface textures, created by repetition in the design details, and by the light finding its way through these often grand forms.

By William Hall, Leonard Koren,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Concrete as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is a celebration of concrete: collating fascinating and beautiful images of concrete structures from the breathtaking New York Guggenheim to coldly functional aircraft hangars, Concrete will engage anyone interested in architecture and encourage them to think about the sculptural qualities of buildings. Familiar icons by Le Corbusier and Tadao Ando are featured alongside vernacular structures such as petrol stations, vast power plants and London Zoo's famous penguin pool.


Book cover of How to Tell If You Are Human: Diagram Poems

Mark Yakich Author Of Poetry: A Survivor's Guide

From my list on poems for people who don’t usually read them.

Who am I?

As a child I did not enjoy reading of any kind, detested English class, and loathed poetry in particular. I simply couldn’t comprehend what relevance poems had to my life. Then, while living overseas, in my mid-twenties in a country in which I didn’t speak the language well and had no friends, I took refuge in an English-language bookstore. There, I would find the slimmest books I could find, which happened to be poetry collections, and I’d pull one down hoping for commiseration. At some point, I realized that I could make certain friends with certain poems. Twenty-five years of growing friendships later, now I read and write poetry for a living.  

Mark's book list on poems for people who don’t usually read them

Mark Yakich Why did Mark love this book?

This book will challenge your notion of what a poem is or can be. Let it. Subtitled “Diagram poems,” these works mix both word and illustration to get at their playful effects. The illustrations come from “found” or ephemeral sources, e.g., a manual on textiles, or a guide to common beetles of North America, or a grammar on computer languages, or the layouts of American playgrounds. The interplay in the poems creates a wonderful uncanniness. The friction, say, caused when you read “You are special” next to a few numbered puzzle pieces in Figure A. and “Everyone is special” next to a completed puzzle in Figure B, and yet when you try to superimpose the one on the other, you realize that some of the pieces have had to adjust themselves to fit the whole. The sudden epiphany is: How special is anyone? And yet answering that question…

By Jessy Randall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Tell If You Are Human as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an entirely new approach to poetry and the art of collage, Jessy Randall transforms diagrams, schematics, charts, graphs, and other visual documents from very old books into poems that speak to the absurdities, anxieties, and joys of life in this modern age.


Book cover of Textiles and Textile Production in Europe: From Prehistory to Ad 400

Mary Schoeser Author Of World Textiles

From my list on getting you hooked on textile histories.

Who am I?

It seems I was destined to write about textiles. Long after I started documenting the tapestries of the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh—over 45 years ago—I discovered that my great-grandfather was a cotton mule-spinner, working one of those machines that spurred on the industrial revolution. So it’s in my blood. I’ve interviewed dozens of people who’ve made similar discoveries, and have become a firm believer in the long-lasting inherited significance of textiles. We’ve made them and they in turn have made us who we are. Now more than ever, my hope is to entangle people into the wonderful web that connects every era and every culture.

Mary's book list on getting you hooked on textile histories

Mary Schoeser Why did Mary love this book?

This excellent introduction to the latest archaeological textile studies should convince you that this is the most exciting field for new interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the past. There are 23 essays discussing finds from 16 counties, each telling intelligent but accessible stories about social, chronological, and cultural aspects of ancient societies. Well illustrated and with lots of further reading listed, you’ll end up wanting more.

By Margarita Gleba (editor), Ulla Mannering (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Textiles and Textile Production in Europe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is evidence that ever since early prehistory, textiles have always had more than simply a utilitarian function. Textiles express who we are - our gender, age, family affiliation, occupation, religion, ethnicity and social, political, economic and legal status. Besides expressing our identity, textiles protect us from the harsh conditions of the environment, whether as clothes or shelter. We use them at birth for swaddling, in illness as bandages and at death as shrouds. We use them to carry and contain people and things. We use them for subsistence to catch fish and animals and for transport as sails. In…