The sign of the unicorn. A fabric shop for 18th century reenactors and historians.

Books: Textiles

On this page we cater to aficionados who want to know more about the fabrics and techniques involved in authentic costume-design. Here are historic, scholarly and contemporary works on textiles, weaving, embroidery, and lace-making.

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Costume | Accessories | Zeitgeist | Re-enacting | Textiles | Techniques


Wearable Prints, 1760-1860: History, Materials, and Mechanics

By Susan W. Greene

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A comprehensive guide to early methods of printing dress fabrics

Wearable prints are not only a decorative art form but also the product of a range of complex industrial processes and an economically important commodity. But when did textile printing originate, and how can we identify the fabrics, inks, dyes, and printing processes used on surviving historical examples?

In Wearable Prints, 1760–1860, author Susan Greene surveys the history of wearable printed fabrics, which reaches back into the earliest days of the discovery of the delights of selectively patterned cloth and is firmly interwoven with the Industrial Revolution. The bulk of the book is devoted to the process of printing and dyeing. Greene brings together evidence from period publications and manuscripts, extant period garments and quilts, and scholarship on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century chemis- try and technology. Making the text come alive, Greene includes some 1600 full-color images, including a plentiful array of textile samples.

Wearable Prints, 1760–1860 is a convenient encyclopedic guide, written in plain language accessible to even the most casual reader. Historians, students, costumers, quilters, designers, curators, and collectors will find it an essential resource.

600 pp.

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Wearable Prints, 1760-1860: History, Materials, and Mechanics by Susan Greene book cover

Selling Silks: A Merchant's Sample Book 1764

By Lesley Ellis Miller

Eye candy for the designer or historian interested in reproducing clothing of 18th century high fashion!

At the end of the 7 Years War, the French were trying to smuggle silks into English ports. In 1764 customs officials confiscate a large swatch book of gorgeous flowered silks. This book was then used by English weavers as inspiration for producing English silks. The book remained in the hands of British textile manufacturers up to 1972 when the Victoria and Albert Museum acquired it along with other 18th and 19th century textiles and books.

Selling Silks reproduces the entire swatch book in full size and brilliant color. Before this, it attempts to place the swatch book in perspective with four chapters centered around the book. One chapter discusses the French designers who created the designs of the original silks. Another chapter illustrates surviving garments and compares the silks to samples in the swatch book to show how closely the samples were remade although never exactly.

Hardcover, 271 pp., 9 1/4" × 12 1/2"

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Selling Silks by Lesley Ellis Miller book cover

Threads of Feeling: The London Foundling Hospital's Textile Tokens, 1740-1770

By John Styles

What has become recognized as Britain's largest collection of everyday textiles from the mid 18th century, Threads of Feeling illustrates and describes an overview of the textiles. From 1742 to 1760 over 4000 babies were left by their mothers at the Foundling Hospital. Samples were taken of the mother's or baby's garments for identification records. This book sheds a revealing light on the type of clothing worn by ordinary people of the mid 18th century. Threads of Feeling is the museum exhibit catalogue by the curator John Styles who is also the author of The Dress of the People. If you like this book you might consider Fate, Hope and Charity

Softcover, 72 pp., 7 1/4" × 9 1/2"

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Threads of Feeling by John Styles book cover

Swatches: A Guide to Choosing 21st Century Fabrics for 18th Century Clothing

By Hallie Larkin

This book includes about 30 to 46 swatches organized by fiber content and includes excerpts from 18th century sources to help explain how the fabrics were used. Compiled to help reenactors purchase the most appropriate fabrics based on budget, appropriateness, and the persona you have chosen. These books are individually made using fabrics available at the time of publication. Please expect variations.

Softcover, 35 pp., 11" × 8 1/2"

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Swatches by Hallie Larkin book cover

Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West

By Rosemary Crill

One difficulty of historical reenacting is understanding printed fabrics. This book discusses the beginning and growth of one type of printed and painted fabric, its trade to the west, how it was made, and what it was used for. The exquisiteness of this book, are the full color plates and details of those plates to illustrate the intricacies of the prints. About 90 full color glossy images of chintz fabrics are pictured all of which are from 1780 and earlier. The text describes the changing tastes from the early 17th century up to the 1780s and points out the plates which best illustrate those changes. A list of further reading is provided for those whose interest is stirred. You may look at some reproduction chintz fabrics on our cotton print page.

Hardcover, 144 pp., 12" × 10"

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Textiles in America 1650-1870

By Florence Montgomery

A dictionary on original documents, prints and paintings, commercial records, American merchants' papers, shopkeepers' advertisements and pattern books with original swatches of cloth.

This is the reprint everyone in reenacting has been waiting for. First published in 1984, it remains the definitive study of Textiles as they were used in early American homes. The book offers an overview of textiles in America, based on years of research that is unmatched in scope.

The late Florence Montgomery was the assistant curator of textiles at the Winterthur Museum.

Hardcover. pp 496; 8" × 10"
117 color and 225 black & white illustrations

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Costume | Accessories | Zeitgeist | Re-enacting | Textiles | Techniques