Book Review: The Textile Artist’s Studio Handbook

Yes, I’m giving away my review copy. All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me you want it. You can say why, but since the drawing is totally random, you don’t need to make up clever reasons. Except it’s much cooler if you do.

This review is entirely my opinion, based on my subjective approach to reading a book. Your opinion may vary. That’s fine.

Title:  The Textile Artist’s Studio Handbook

Subtitle: Learn Traditional and Contemporary Techniques for Working with Fiber, Including Weaving, Knitting, Dyeing, Painting and More. Price: $24.99

Authors: Owyn Ruck and Visnja Popovic

Details: Quarry Books, 176 pages (including index), soft cover

Content: Nine chapters of technique how-tos, and how to set up a textile studio.

Part I: Building a Home Textile Studio

  • Planning the Layout
  • Fiber Basics (natural and man-made fibers)

Part II: Creating Textiles in a Home Studio

  • Spinning, Knitting, and Crochet
  • Weaving
  • Printing
  • Dyeing
  • Sewing, Quilting,and Appliqué
  • Needlework

What I like about the book:
The book carefully covers, in a serious, professional manner, a large amount of information for the beginner and intermediate textile artist. There are tips throughout the book as well as photographs that show techniques in step by step. The book is well organized and well-written.

The steps are numbered and the photos lettered, and the numbered steps include the letters for the photos. This makes it easy to compare the text and photo part. Good idea for both visual and reading learners.

There are illustrations of specialty tools with the correct name. I now know the difference between a niddy-noddy and a raddle.

There are projects throughout the book, but not one for each topic. Once you’ve read about weaving, for example, you can learn how to make, in exacting detail, woven placemats.

There are technique projects throughout the book: how to space dye, how to mend a tear with reverse appliqué.

What I don’t like about the book:

In the introduction the authors say, “Our wish is to provide you with a foundation upon which to grow.It is our hope that you will feel inspired to set up your own studio, get your hands dirty, and learn through the exploration and understanding of the fundamental principles of textiles.” So if you are exploring a choice of art/hobby/craft to pursue, this book will give you enough information to choose a textile hobby. Fair enough.

If that’s true, I want mouth-watering, big, incredibly gorgeous photos throughout the book. And while there is a gallery, there are five and seven photos on some of the gallery pages, and that’s too small to be mouth-watering.

Overall, the layout is practical more than inspiring. This may not bother most people, but I would have liked to see a better flow throughout the book. If you see it as a textbook, however, it makes it easier to understand the layout.

The section on weaving is about 33 pages long; the section on quilting (which includes a brief history of quilting and how to appliqué) is two pages long. Of course the authors can choose how to curate the book, and yes, there are length restrictions, not everyone will choose to emphasize the same thing, but I would have liked to see a little more information on art quilting, and free-form stitching.

Some instructions have photos with great contrast between the surface or background and the yarn. Felting for example. And how to finish a skein of yarn into a smooth braid, ready for use.That’s good.

On the other hand, both the knitting and crocheting how-to photographs use beige yarn on a beige hand against a beige background, with gray or beige needles. And the photos are slightly smaller than an inch-and-a-half per side. I’d like to see more contrast and more close ups.

The illustration for block printing could have used a more interesting example.

I found what every author hopes will never happen, a typo. It doesn’t disrupt the information, and it’s easy to understand what it should be. So it doesn’t matter. Why am I mentioning it? Because I want to say, as an author and a reviewer, that some typos matter and some don’t. This one doesn’t.

Overall: The book covers a lot of techniques and a lot of interesting material. I’d recommend it for someone wanting a general overview of various textile techniques, or someone curious how to set up a textile studio. For people already interested in textiles, it provides facts and how-to’s on several techniques, some of them in depth: weaving, block printing and dyeing, for example.

Full disclosure statement: A publicist for the book asked if I’d like a review copy; I did not pay for the book. I am not keeping the book; leave a comment that you want the book, and I’ll hold a drawing on Friday evening (Aug. 3, 2012)  to give it away.

The winner: Carol Denning was chosen as the winner by a random number generator. Congratulations, Carol!

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who likes to read. She is working on her next book: The  Inner Hero’s Art Journal: Mixed Media Messages to the Inner Critic.