Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"The Art of Manipulating Fabric" by Colette Wolff

I like to buy books in a real bookstore – I want to see and feel them, and to leaf through the pages, perhaps read a short section before I buy, and I just love the situation when I am standing in front of the shelves, reading the titles, and looking for ones that I don’t know about but might like. There are a few books in my life that have been “wonderful reads”, and which I would have never found if it hadn’t been for that shelf-situation, and a title flashing out at me “read me! read me!” (A Short History of a Small Place by T.R. Pearson is one of them.)
But it is a different story when it gets to English books, and especially to books on quilting, fabrics, textiles. Living in Germany, English books that I find interesting are still not widely available in bookstores – although stores in large cities do carry English sections now. But I live in a small place, and the local bookstore's English section is rather small, and mostly crime and mystery. Books on quilting, on the other hand, are hard to get in normal bookstores anyway, and I live more than 60 miles from the closest quilt store that carries a wide range of books.
So every once in a while, when I know what I want, I do take the advantage and buy with that greatest data collector of all. Usually I ignore their suggestions based on what I have bought before, or the “other people who have bought this book also bought...”-section. But a few weeks ago the first book that popped up in that area of the display looked promising and interesting: “The Art of Manipulating Fabric” by Colette Wolf. Published by krause publications.

So I caved in and ordered it along with my other purchases, and when it arrived the next day, I was surprised at how heavy it was. Nothing compared to the usual quilting book – 310 pages! It dates back to 1996, but is certainly not out of date!
I dare say unless you were trained as a seamstress or tailor you probably would never have thought of even half of the multitude of possibilites of manipulating fabric that are presented in this book – which does not cover any kind of surface design currently in vogue, using dyes, prints, wonderunder or whatever. All samples which are presented in black-and-white photography were made from unbleached muslin. No fancy colors trying to attract my eye with currently fashionable fabric selections, styles or colors.

It reminds me a bit of a book I once received from my mother and from which I learned almost all my techniques of handicrafts, published in 1954 in its 19th printing:

But back to my discovery of “The Art of Manipulating Fabric”:
The book is divided into six parts by different methods, with a total of thirteen chapters:
Part I, “Controlled Crushing”, with chapters 1, Gathering, and 2, Shirring;
Part II, “Supplementary  Fullness”, with chapters 3, Making Ruffles, 4, Making Flounces, and 5, Making Godets;
Part III, “Systematic Folding”, with chapters 6, Folding, 7, Smocking, 8, Tucking;
Part IV, “Filled Reliefs”, with chapters 9, Cording, 10, Quilting, and 11, Stuffing;
Part V, “Structured Surfaces”, with chapter 12, Using Darts;
and Part VI, “Mixed Manipulations” with chapter 13, Combinations.
In addition, an appendix gives a brief introduction into stitches and a glossary. The book also includes a select bibliography, followed by the index.

Non-native speakers of English will learn a multitude of new vocabulary items – but I dare say even native speakers of English might be confronted with a number of things they had never heard of before. Or do you know what “shirring” is? (Shirring configures fabric with bands of soft, rolling folds released between rows of gathering. The pinched, puckery, stitching lines that bisect shirred fabric run parallel or diagonal to the fabric’s edge, cross each other, or form multi-directional patterns. With its network of gathered stitching separated by zones of fabric crowded with variable folds, shirring shrinks the original fabric while adding substance to the decorative fabric it creates. page 28)
The chapter on quilting already provides many insights even to an experienced quilter and exceeds the kind of information usually given in quilting books.
The chapter on folding presents a multitude of pleats – such as flat, partial, protruding, or double-controlled, to name only a few. So far I have only leafed through the section on smocking which hasn’t been my thing in clothing so far, but I was certainly struck by number of ideas how these things could possibly be included in textile art. The chapter on tucking was one which I thought I would need for the workshop I went to last week (but that’s a different post coming up.)

Still need a hint for somebody who wants to give you a Christmas present? How about this book? You’ll have plenty of exercises ahead of you, and many ideas developing from it.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe you got the last copy of this book in existence! The site wouldn't bring it up for me. However, it did give me an interesting message:

    Search Results for "colette wolff the art of manipulating fabric" -- Your search returned too many results. Please refine your search and try again.