Welcome to the return of Pincushion Book Club!
I realized after awhile that one of my favorite parts of our sewing classes is the various discussions we get into about the history of clothing, the impact of the fast fashion industry, and the lost art of sewing. Well, I decided to turn that favorite part into something even better, a monthly book club!
I've put together a year of books to read and discussions to have, all of them centered around the history of sewing and fabric, the politics of fashion, the future of the fashion industry, and the history of dress. Some of these titles were recommended to me and some were just found after doing some internet digging.
Each month we will read a different book and then have an in-person or virtual discussion on the last Tuesday of every month. You can sign up for the monthly discussion here. You can also skip to a specific month by clicking below:
January February March April May June
July August September October November December
Below you will find the various titles listed by month; you can join us for one or all of them! I've included links to where you can buy a copy, either locally or online.
I look forward to a year of reading with you all!
Every Tool's a Hammer:
Life is What You Make It
by Adam Savage
In this New York Times bestselling “imperative how-to for creativity” (Nick Offerman), Adam Savage—star of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters—shares his golden rules of creativity, from finding inspiration to following through and successfully making your idea a reality.
Every Tool’s a Hammer is a chronicle of my life as a maker. It’s an exploration of making, but it’s also a permission slip of sorts from me to you. Permission to grab hold of the things you’re interested in, that fascinate you, and to dive deeper into them to see where they lead you.
Through stories from forty-plus years of making and molding, building and breaking, along with the lessons I learned along the way, this book is meant to be a toolbox of problem solving, complete with a shop’s worth of notes on the tools, techniques, and materials that I use most often. Things like: In Every Tool There Is a Hammer—don’t wait until everything is perfect to begin a project, and if you don’t have the exact right tool for a task, just use whatever’s handy; Increase Your Loose Tolerance—making is messy and filled with screwups, but that’s okay, as creativity is a path with twists and turns and not a straight line to be found; Use More Cooling Fluid—it prolongs the life of blades and bits, and it prevents tool failure, but beyond that it’s a reminder to slow down and reduce the friction in your work and relationships; Screw Before You Glue—mechanical fasteners allow you to change and modify a project while glue is forever but sometimes you just need the right glue, so I dig into which ones will do the job with the least harm and best effects.
This toolbox also includes lessons from many other incredible makers and creators, including: Jamie Hyneman, Nick Offerman, Pixar director Andrew Stanton, Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro, artist Tom Sachs, and chef Traci Des Jardins. And if everything goes well, we will hopefully save you a few mistakes (and maybe fingers) as well as help you turn your curiosities into creations.
I hope this book serves as “creative rocket fuel” (Ed Helms) to build, make, invent, explore, and—most of all—enjoy the thrills of being a creator.
Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and
the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity
by Monica L. Miller
Slaves to Fashion is a pioneering cultural history of the black dandy, from his emergence in Enlightenment England to his contemporary incarnations in the cosmopolitan art worlds of London and New York. It is populated by sartorial impresarios such as Julius Soubise, a freed slave who sometimes wore diamond-buckled, red-heeled shoes as he circulated through the social scene of eighteenth-century London, and Yinka Shonibare, a prominent Afro-British artist who not only styles himself as a fop but also creates ironic commentaries on black dandyism in his work. Interpreting performances and representations of black dandyism in particular cultural settings and literary and visual texts, Monica L. Miller emphasizes the importance of sartorial style to black identity formation in the Atlantic diaspora.
Dandyism was initially imposed on black men in eighteenth-century England, as the Atlantic slave trade and an emerging culture of conspicuous consumption generated a vogue in dandified black servants. “Luxury slaves” tweaked and reworked their uniforms, and were soon known for their sartorial novelty and sometimes flamboyant personalities. Tracing the history of the black dandy forward to contemporary celebrity incarnations such as Andre 3000 and Sean Combs, Miller explains how black people became arbiters of style and how they have historically used the dandy’s signature tools—clothing, gesture, and wit—to break down limiting identity markers and propose new ways of fashioning political and social possibility in the black Atlantic world. With an aplomb worthy of her iconographic subject, she considers the black dandy in relation to nineteenth-century American literature and drama, W. E. B. Du Bois’s reflections on black masculinity and cultural nationalism, the modernist aesthetics of the Harlem Renaissance, and representations of black cosmopolitanism in contemporary visual art.
Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years
Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times
by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies.
Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.
Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture.
Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods―methods she herself helped to fashion. In a "brilliantly original book" (Katha Pollitt, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.
Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World
by Giorgio Riello
Today's world textile and garment trade is valued at a staggering $425 billion. We are told that under the pressure of increasing globalisation, it is India and China that are the new world manufacturing powerhouses. However, this is not a new phenomenon: until the industrial revolution, Asia manufactured great quantities of colourful printed cottons that were sold to places as far afield as Japan, West Africa and Europe. Cotton explores this earlier globalised economy and its transformation after 1750 as cotton led the way in the industrialisation of Europe. By the early nineteenth century, India, China and the Ottoman Empire switched from world producers to buyers of European cotton textiles, a position that they retained for over two hundred years. This is a fascinating and insightful story which ranges from Asian and European technologies and African slavery to cotton plantations in the Americas and consumer desires across the globe.
A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity
by William Coperthwaite, Peter Forbes, John Saltmarsh
William Coperthwaite is a teacher, builder, designer, and writer who for many years hasexplored the possibilities of true simplicity on a homestead on the north coast of Maine. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Helen and Scott Nearing, Coperthwaite has fashioned a livelihood of integrity and completeness-buying almost nothing, providing for his own needs, and serving as a guide and companion to hundreds of apprentices drawn to his unique way of being.
A Handmade Life carries Coperthwaite's ongoing experiments with hand tools, hand-grown and gathered food, and handmade shelter, clothing, and furnishings out into the world to challenge and inspire. His writing is both philosophical and practical, exploring themes of beauty, work, education, and design while giving instruction on the hand-crafting of the necessities of life. Richly illustrated with luminous color photographs by Peter Forbes, the book is a moving and inspirational testament to a new practice of old ways of life.
Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul
by Tanisha C. Ford
From the civil rights and Black Power era of the 1960s through antiapartheid activism in the 1980s and beyond, black women have used their clothing, hair, and style not simply as a fashion statement but as a powerful tool of resistance. Whether using stiletto heels as weapons to protect against police attacks or incorporating African-themed designs into everyday wear, these fashion-forward women celebrated their identities and pushed for equality.
In this thought-provoking book, Tanisha C. Ford explores how and why black women in places as far-flung as New York City, Atlanta, London, and Johannesburg incorporated style and beauty culture into their activism. Focusing on the emergence of the "soul style" movement—represented in clothing, jewelry, hairstyles, and more—Liberated Threads shows that black women's fashion choices became galvanizing symbols of gender and political liberation. Drawing from an eclectic archive, Ford offers a new way of studying how black style and Soul Power moved beyond national boundaries, sparking a global fashion phenomenon. Following celebrities, models, college students, and everyday women as they moved through fashion boutiques, beauty salons, and record stores, Ford narrates the fascinating intertwining histories of Black Freedom and fashion.
Fashionopolis: Why What We Wear Matters
by Dana Thomas
An investigation into the damage wrought by the colossal clothing industry and the grassroots, high-tech, international movement fighting to reform it
What should I wear? It’s one of the fundamental questions we ask ourselves every day. More than ever, we are told it should be something new. Today, the clothing industry churns out 80 billion garments a year and employs every sixth person on Earth. Historically, the apparel trade has exploited labor, the environment, and intellectual property—and in the last three decades, with the simultaneous unfurling of fast fashion, globalization, and the tech revolution, those abuses have multiplied exponentially, primarily out of view. We are in dire need of an entirely new human-scale model. Bestselling journalist Dana Thomas has traveled the globe to discover the visionary designers and companies who are propelling the industry toward that more positive future by reclaiming traditional craft and launching cutting-edge sustainable technologies to produce better fashion.
In Fashionopolis, Thomas sees renewal in a host of developments, including printing 3-D clothes, clean denim processing, smart manufacturing, hyperlocalism, fabric recycling—even lab-grown materials. From small-town makers and Silicon Valley whizzes to such household names as Stella McCartney, Levi’s, and Rent the Runway, Thomas highlights the companies big and small that are leading the crusade.
We all have been casual about our clothes. It's time to get dressed with intention. Fashionopolis is the first comprehensive look at how to start.
Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History
by Richard Thompson Ford
Dress codes are as old as clothing itself. For centuries, clothing has been a wearable status symbol; fashion, a weapon in struggles for social change; and dress codes, a way to maintain political control. Merchants dressing like princes and butchers’ wives wearing gem-encrusted crowns were public enemies in medieval societies structured by social hierarchy and defined by spectacle. In Tudor England, silk, velvet, and fur were reserved for the nobility, and ballooning pants called “trunk hose” could be considered a menace to good order. The Renaissance-era Florentine patriarch Cosimo de Medici captured the power of fashion and dress codes when he remarked, “One can make a gentleman from two yards of red cloth.” Dress codes evolved along with the social and political ideals of the day, but they always reflected struggles for power and status. In the 1700s, South Carolina’s “Negro Act” made it illegal for Black people to dress “above their condition.” In the 1920s, the bobbed hair and form-fitting dresses worn by free-spirited flappers were banned in workplaces throughout the United States, and in the 1940s, the baggy zoot suits favored by Black and Latino men caused riots in cities from coast to coast.
Even in today’s more informal world, dress codes still determine what we wear, when we wear it—and what our clothing means. People lose their jobs for wearing braided hair, long fingernails, large earrings, beards, and tattoos or refusing to wear a suit and tie or make-up and high heels. In some cities, wearing sagging pants is a crime. And even when there are no written rules, implicit dress codes still influence opportunities and social mobility. Silicon Valley CEOs wear t-shirts and flip-flops, setting the tone for an entire industry: women wearing fashionable dresses or high heels face ridicule in the tech world, and some venture capitalists refuse to invest in any company run by someone wearing a suit.
In Dress Codes, law professor and cultural critic Richard Thompson Ford presents a “deeply informative and entertaining” (The New York Times Book Review) history of the laws of fashion from the middle ages to the present day, a walk down history’s red carpet to uncover and examine the canons, mores, and customs of clothing—rules that we often take for granted. After reading Dress Codes, you’ll never think of fashion as superficial again—and getting dressed will never be the same.
meXicana Fashions: Politics, Self-Adornment, and Identity Construction
edited by Aida Hurtado and Norma E. Cantu
Collecting the perspectives of scholars who reflect on their own relationships to particular garments, analyze the politics of dress, and examine the role of consumerism and entrepreneurialism in the production of creating and selling a style, meXicana Fashions examines and searches for meaning in these visible, performative aspects of identity.
Focusing primarily on Chicanas but also considering trends connected to other Latin American communities, the authors highlight specific constituencies that are defined by region (“Tejana style,” “L.A. style”), age group (“homie,” “chola”), and social class (marked by haute couture labels such as Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta). The essays acknowledge the complex layers of these styles, which are not mutually exclusive but instead reflect a range of intersections in occupation, origin, personality, sexuality, and fads. Other elements include urban indigenous fashion shows, the shifting quinceañera market, “walking altars” on the Days of the Dead, plus-size clothing, huipiles in the workplace, and dressing in drag. Together, these chapters illuminate the full array of messages woven into a vibrant social fabric.
Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle
by Clare Hunter
“An astonishing feat, this patchwork of history, culture, and politics . . . takes us from Saxon England to colonized African tribes, Palestinian villages, rural China and the cramped homes of American slaves.” ―Sunday Times (London)
Threads of Life is a chronicle of identity, protest, memory, power, and politics told through the stories of needlework. It’s human history told from a new, surprising perspective.
This is a globe-spanning history of sewing, embroidery, and the people who have used a needle and thread to make their voices heard. From the political propaganda of the Bayeux Tapestry to the pink pussyhats of the Women’s March, women and men have used the language of sewing to make their voices heard, even in the most desperate of circumstances. Topics covered include:
The English royals
The Catholic Church
World War I soldiers coping with PTSD
Maps sewn by schoolgirls in the New World
The AIDS quilt
Hmong story clothes
And much more!
Clare Hunter, master of the craft, threads her own narrative as she takes us over centuries and across continents—from medieval France to contemporary Mexico and the United States, and from a POW camp in Singapore to a family attic in Scotland—to celebrate the age-old, universal, and underexplored beauty and power of sewing.
This is a thoughtful work of history and craft, full of little-known stories, and an evocative and moving book about the need we have to tell our story.
True Style: The History and Principles of Classic Menswear
by G. Bruce Boyer
From choosing the right pair of eyeglasses to properly coordinating a shirt, tie, and pocket square, getting dressed is an art to be mastered. Yet, how many of us just throw on, well, whatever each morning? How many understand the subtleties of selecting the right pair of socks or the most compatible patterns of our various garments-much less the history, imperatives, and importance of our choices?
In True Style, acclaimed fashion expert G. Bruce Boyer provides a crisp, indispensable primer for this daily ritual, cataloguing the essential elements of the male wardrobe and showing how best to employ them. In witty, stylish prose, Boyer breezes through classic items and traditions in menswear, detailing the evolution and best uses of fabrics like denim and linen, accoutrements like neckties and eyeglasses, and principles for combining patterns, colors, and textures. He enlightens readers about acceptable circumstances for donning a turtleneck, declaims the evils of wearing dress shoes without socks, and trumpets the virtues of sprezzatura, the artistry of concealing effort beneath a cloak of nonchalance.
With a gentle yet firm approach to the rules of dressing and an incredible working knowledge of the different items, styles, and principles of menswear, Boyer provides essential wardrobe guidance for the discriminating gentleman, explaining what true style looks like-and why.
Material: Making and the Art of Transformation
by Nick Kary
A master craftsperson explores the ways in which working with our hands reveals the essence of both our humanity and our relationship with the natural, material world
In our present age of computer-assisted design, mass production and machine precision, the traditional skills of the maker or craftsperson are hard to find. Yet the desire for well-made and beautiful objects from the hands (and mind) of a skilled artisan is just as present today as it ever has been. Whether the medium they work with is wood, metal, clay or something else, traditional makers are living links to the rich vein of knowledge and skills that defines our common human heritage. More than this, though, many of us harbor a deep and secret yearning to produce something – to build or shape, to imagine and create our own objects that are imbued not only with beauty and functionality, but with a story and, in essence, a spirit drawn from us.
Nick Kary understands this yearning. For nearly four decades he has worked on commission to make fine, distinctive furniture and cabinets from wood, most of it sourced near his home, in the counties of South West England. During this time, he has been both a teacher and a student; one who is fascinated with the philosophy and practice of craft work of all kinds.
In Material, Kary takes readers along with him to visit some of the places where modern artisans are preserving, and in some cases passing on, the old craft skills. His vivid descriptions and eye for detail make this book a rich and delightful read, and the natural and cultural history he imparts along the way provides an important context for understanding our own past and the roots of our industrial society.
Personal, engaging, and filled with memorable people, landscapes and scenes, Material is a rich celebration of what it means to imagine and create, which in the end is the essence of being human, and native to a place. As Kary puts it, “Wood and words, trees and people, material and ethereal – it is here I love increasingly to dwell.”
Perfect for fans of The Hidden Life of Trees or Norwegian Wood, Material is a rich, inspiring read for woodworkers, potters, craftspeople, bibliophiles and anyone who enjoys working with their hands.