The best textiles books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about textiles and why they recommend each book.

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The Golden Thread

By Kassia St. Clair,

Book cover of The Golden Thread

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.


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.


I wrote...

Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary Act

By Orsola de Castro,

Book cover of Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary  Act

What is my book about?

On repairs and reparations: how keeping your clothes is a revolutionary act, and a powerful solution for today’s throwaway society. I wrote this book, and it contains my 20+ years of inside knowledge in the fashion industry.

Making changes starting from our wardrobes may seem like a small and insignificant first step, but from repairs can come the impetus for reparations, and broken clothes can be a metaphor for broken systems.

Women's Work

By Elizabeth Wayland Barber,

Book cover of Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Women’s Work is considered a seminal text in the study of fashion - whether that’s costume history, the culture of fashion, the history of textiles, or even the intersection of labor and feminism. If you’re interested in the study of garments, in learning why thread and cloth and sewing were so important in the past as well as why it continues to be important today, there is no better place to get started. This book has been popular for decades for a reason. Women’s Work helps to restructure and reorient your thinking around what we wear, a necessary component to understanding fashion.


Who am I?

Clothing is one of the most important aspects of our humanity, of the things which make us who we are. We use fashion to identify allies and enemies. To express our interests, politics, and belief systems. To make a statement about who we are to the outside world. To show our identity or ethnicity. Or to indicate our affiliation with certain groups. Fashion is everywhere, but compared to other disciplines, is very rarely talked about. Though I'm a lingerie expert, fashion in its totality interests me. I’m excited every time I learn something new, not just because I enjoy pretty garments, but because I also learn something about the nature of who we are.


I wrote...

In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie

By Cora Harrington,

Book cover of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie

What is my book about?

A comprehensive and accessible illustrated guide to lingerie from intimates expert Cora Harrington, founder of The Lingerie Addict, the internet's top intimate apparel blog.

While many love the idea of wearing special underthings, lingerie can be intimidating. How is it supposed to fit? How do you take care of it all? Is lingerie really for me? In this beautiful and empowering guide, lingerie expert Cora Harrington demystifies intimate apparel, making it accessible to all sizes, ages, and budgets. Covering everything from basic bras and panties to special occasion wear, shapewear, hosiery, corsets, and more, this no-nonsense handbook empowers you to confidently buy, wear, and care for the underpinnings of your dreams.

Basketry and Beyond

By T.A. Heslop (editor), Helen Anderson (editor),

Book cover of Basketry and Beyond: Constructing Cultures

If you’re interested in the origins of creative thought, this is the book for you. Baskets are key, it turns out, in the connections now made between humans and the tool- and nest-making birds and chimpanzees. Containing, yes, but holding so much more than “stuff”, baskets from around the world are holders of pattern recognition, histories, and even wisdom.


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.


I wrote...

World Textiles

By Mary Schoeser,

Book cover of World Textiles

What is my book about?

The history of textiles, more than that of any other artifact, is a history of human ingenuity. From the very earliest needles of 50,000 years ago to the smart textiles of today, textiles have been fundamental to human existence. Long a motivation for trade, the exchange of ideas and sometimes even war, textiles are a vast and fascinating subject for creatives, designers, textile and fashion professionals, collectors, students, and anyone interested in this history of humankind. I’ve explored how textiles are made, what they are made from, how they function in society, and the ways in which they are valued and given meaning, as well as reflecting on the environmental challenges they present today. Over 200 colour illustrations bring this global story to life.

Textiles and Textile Production in Europe

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

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

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.


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.


I wrote...

World Textiles

By Mary Schoeser,

Book cover of World Textiles

What is my book about?

The history of textiles, more than that of any other artifact, is a history of human ingenuity. From the very earliest needles of 50,000 years ago to the smart textiles of today, textiles have been fundamental to human existence. Long a motivation for trade, the exchange of ideas and sometimes even war, textiles are a vast and fascinating subject for creatives, designers, textile and fashion professionals, collectors, students, and anyone interested in this history of humankind. I’ve explored how textiles are made, what they are made from, how they function in society, and the ways in which they are valued and given meaning, as well as reflecting on the environmental challenges they present today. Over 200 colour illustrations bring this global story to life.

Fringe, Frog and Tassel

By Annabel Westman,

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

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!


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.


I wrote...

World Textiles

By Mary Schoeser,

Book cover of World Textiles

What is my book about?

The history of textiles, more than that of any other artifact, is a history of human ingenuity. From the very earliest needles of 50,000 years ago to the smart textiles of today, textiles have been fundamental to human existence. Long a motivation for trade, the exchange of ideas and sometimes even war, textiles are a vast and fascinating subject for creatives, designers, textile and fashion professionals, collectors, students, and anyone interested in this history of humankind. I’ve explored how textiles are made, what they are made from, how they function in society, and the ways in which they are valued and given meaning, as well as reflecting on the environmental challenges they present today. Over 200 colour illustrations bring this global story to life.

Fat Quarter

By Juliet Bawden, Amanda Russell,

Book cover of Fat Quarter: Quick Makes

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!


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...


I wrote...

The Secret Garden

By Claire Freedman, Shaw Davidson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Secret Garden

What is my book about?

This is a re-telling of the classic children’s book originally written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, retold as a picture book for younger children, and beautifully illustrated by Shaw Davidson. It’s a mysterious, magical story about an abandoned secret garden being brought back to life by three children. As the garden is lovingly re-created it dramatically changes all their lives, bringing hope and healing, happiness and friendships – and dreams come true.

Where Women Create

By Jo Packham,

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

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.


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.


I wrote...

She Sheds: A Room of Your Own

By Erika Kotite,

Book cover of She Sheds: A Room of Your Own

What is my book about?

She Sheds: A Room of Your Own shows women the possibilities of having their own tiny, quiet space to enjoy in their backyards. The book answers the question “what is a she shed?” and goes on from there. I show more than three dozen different sheds and highlight the way women enjoy and embellish their spaces. Divided by chapters about artists, gardeners, dreamers, and old souls, the book is deeply aspirational but also realistic. It contains lots of practical information and even provides a first-hand look at my efforts to build a shed for my sister-in-law from a kit. Warning: you’ll definitely want one of your own when the final chapter is read.

The Pocket

By Barbara Burman, Ariane Fennetaux,

Book cover of The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women's Lives, 1660-1900

Small things have large stories to tell. Here the topic is a particular type of pocket: generously-sized containers tied on, usually hidden from sight beneath a skirt. Brought to life through surviving examples and depictions of their use, the passages from novels, diaries, court proceedings, and more are especially revealing (in every sense). Is the pocket the necessary accessory of the neat housewife, or an aid to duplicity and secret immorality? This thorough and attractive study has the answer.


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.


I wrote...

World Textiles

By Mary Schoeser,

Book cover of World Textiles

What is my book about?

The history of textiles, more than that of any other artifact, is a history of human ingenuity. From the very earliest needles of 50,000 years ago to the smart textiles of today, textiles have been fundamental to human existence. Long a motivation for trade, the exchange of ideas and sometimes even war, textiles are a vast and fascinating subject for creatives, designers, textile and fashion professionals, collectors, students, and anyone interested in this history of humankind. I’ve explored how textiles are made, what they are made from, how they function in society, and the ways in which they are valued and given meaning, as well as reflecting on the environmental challenges they present today. Over 200 colour illustrations bring this global story to life.

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