American Arts and Crafts Textiles is one of those books you spot in the bookstore, pick up and get sucked into. I’ve had a passing interest in Arts and Crafts (or Mission as it is usually called here in the US) furniture and decorative items, and I’ve admired the textiles for a long time. The problem is that they are very hard to find, and so I’ve never collected any.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t read about them anyway. After thumbing through the book, I realized there was a chapter on Arts and Crafts influenced clothing, and so I was sold at that point.
The book does a good job of explaining the Arts and Crafts movement, and details all the major players. But the main attraction is the part of the book that tells about how the movement influenced textile design, not just in followers of the movement, but also for the average consumer of goods. Most of the other items associated with the Arts and Crafts movement – furniture, metalwork, and pottery – had to be purchased from skilled workers. But many women already possessed the skills required to produce embroidered objects so the motifs could be obtainable by most people.
I did especially enjoy the chapter on clothing, which explained how the Aesthetic Clothing Movement in England evolved into the relaxed fashions of the 1910s and 1920s.
On the negative side, many of the illustrations were just too small. I had to use a magnifying glass to see the details on designs that were reproduced from vintage catalogs. And the text was somewhat repetitive. At times it felt like the chapters were written as separate essays.
Would I recommend this book? Well, it really depends on the reader. If you just have a general interest in vintage clothing, I’d give this one a pass, but if you are also interested in embroidery, or in the Mission movement in general, you will most likely find this book of interest. It isn’t cheap. It was published at $50, but I got it at my local discount bookstore for about $30 (which is the price at Amazon.)
Written by Dianne Ayres, Timothy L. Hansen, Tommy Arthur McPherson II, and Beth Ann McPherson, who are collectors of textiles, and who own many of the items illustrated in the book.