Two Book Reviews on Historical Needlework: Knitting and Fashion

Discover two magnificent books on historical needlework and textiles, which appeared in the September/October 2009 issue of PieceWork. The first explores the timeless knitted lace of Herbert Niebling. The second celebrates the history of the color black in fashion.

historical needlework

Knitted Lace Designs of Herbert Niebling
Translation from the German of Eva Maria Leszner’s Gestrickte Spitzendecken
Berkeley, California: Lacis, 2009. Softbound, 95 pages, $28. ISBN 978-1891-656873.

The knitted lace patterns of the prolific German knitting designer Herbert Niebling (1905–1966) are back in demand. This book, originally published in German in 1986, shows why. Niebling, who was knitting by the age of six, was a master of his art; he contributed thousands of lace knitting patterns during his forty-year career as a designer. Twenty-three of his doilies and tablecloths (eight of which are shown in full color) are the focus here. The clear black-and-white photographs and charts, along with notes on materials, equipment, casting on and binding off, changing needles, reading charts, and blocking, guide lace knitters in re-creating some of Niebling’s beautiful, intricate designs. All are worked in crochet thread ranging in size from 100 to 10, most are worked on size 000 (1.5 mm) needles.

—Alexandra Eastman

historical needlework

Black in Fashion: Mourning to Night
Melbourne, Australia: National Gallery of Victoria, 2008. Softbound, 88 pages, $29.95. ISBN 978-0724-102938.

Published as the catalog for a 2008 exhibition in Australia, Black in Fashion: Mourning to Night celebrates the diversity of black attire throughout history. It consists of four essays: “The Diversity of Black,” “The Luxury of Woe,” “Black and the City,” and “Black Magic.” Used for mourning in many cultures since antiquity, black became a fashionable color for European dress in the fifteenth century; it signified wealth and power because it was a color that was hard to achieve with the dyes then available. Stringent rules for wearing black for two-and-a-half years following the death of a loved one originated with England’s Queen Victoria (1819–1901) but filtered down to all classes and reached far beyond the British Empire. Coco Chanel’s “little black dress” has been a fashion mainstay since she created it in the early twentieth century, and the color remains a favorite for twenty-first-century haute couture. All of the portraits, clothing, and fashion photographs shown here illustrate the mastery of black.

—Jane Morrow

Read two more great book reviews from the September/October 2009 issue of PieceWork in our blog post “Two Book Reviews on Historical Needlework: Embroidery and Quilts.”

Discover more about the history of historical needlework in PieceWork!

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