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  1. #1
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    Vintage craft books

    Lately I've been finding lots of how-to craft books from the '60s & '70s in thrift stores, and I've begun to amass quite the little collection. Does anyone else collect books like these?

    There seem to have been a lot of multi-volume series of these books, so it's easy to pick up several at a time, cheap. At first I just bought them for the cheezy dated photos and language (one set uses the adjective "gay" to describe almost every project). But then I started noticing something: The books are good. They cover a huge variety of handicrafts, and they do it in depth.

    The instructions are usually detailed enough for a beginner to follow, but never condescending or oversimplified. The books don't assume the reader is completely ignorant, and they don't treat crafts like a fad that's of interest to only a chosen few. They take for granted that crafts are something normal people do.

    In these old books, crafts are not:
    - Something hip and trendy (meaning mostly for the young, who'll likely lose interest quickly and move on to the next thing)
    - Arcane knowledge that's in danger of being lost (meaning it's good that somebody knows this stuff, but those who do are eccentrics)
    - A political statement (neither saying that crafts are a quaint but non-essential pastime for those unfit for real work, nor angrily out to prove they're the opposite of that. Crafters simply take pride and satisfaction in their creations, without worrying they'll be appreciated for the wrong reason.)

    Many of these books are from the era of my childhood, and they reflect the attitude my mother and her friends had: These are fun and useful things that anyone can do, including you, and here's how. Much as I do appreciate the updated styles in the newer "revival" books (and simply the fact that they exist), there's a wealth of valuable knowledge in taking a look back.

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  3. #2
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    Yes, I have half a bookshelf devoted to them, and I love them for most of the same reasons you do. They're the first thing I look for in thrift stores and library sales. Most of the ones I have right now are old BH&G volumes from the 60s and 70s; they seem to be the easiest to find. And the Christmas ones are like rabbits, always multiplying.

    I find out about a lot of crafts I didn't know about through these books. (My mom was crafty in a clothes-sewing and camp crafts kind of way, but by the time I was old enough to appreciate it, she wasn't doing much crafty stuff anymore.)

    I've actually been looking forward all day to going through the ones I found at a book sale Saturday. It's a little bit of an addiction.

  4. #3
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    Old craft books are just about the only category of books I still allow myself to buy (I went through a bit of a book buying mania a few years ago and ended up with piles of reading material that I couldn't give a hoot about now).

    Those Reader's Digest books are my craft bibles. They are so clear and easy to understand, really packed with lots of great photos and diagrams.

    I picked up some knitting leaflets from the '50s at a flea market, also initally for the photo entertainment factor. But wow, there are some really stylish projects in them!

    The items I have from the 1970s are the most fun and fascinating, with a very earth mother/hippie/self-sufficient vibe to them.

  5. #4
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    Always, these books are the best! I refer to my seventies era Reader's Digest guide to Needlework on an almost daily basis.

    I also love the example crafts. So are so ridiculous they make you laugh your head off but some are actually cool and timeless. Anyways I prefer the old crunchy examples to cutesty ones in books now. Ducks and bunnies, bleaaahhh!!!

    Also these books are so much cheaper than new books. Thrift stores usually have an interesting selection, sometimes even with the previous owners useful comments written in.

  6. #5
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    wow, i didn't know craft items had a sexual preference of any sort.

    i used to have a few of these books for the cheesiness factor, but i got tired of looking at them and dusting them. i'm so *not* all about horrible abstract wallhangings and macrame plant hangers.

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by stella
    wow, i didn't know craft items had a sexual preference of any sort.
    Oh yes, I can make a gay potholder, or a gay apron, or some very, very gay throw pillows. ("Gee, Marge, those throw pillows you made really gay up your living room!")

  8. #7
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    I got a few vogue and other knitting and needlecraft magazines from the 60's at the magazine swap table at the library a few months back. they were in great shape and i love them so much! I love seeing the old ads, the cheap prices for everything, the dates clothes. But the most interesting thing is a lot of the patterns I would totally use - so much of it was timeless and classy. Not all of the projects in old books and magazines scream "out of fashion."

  9. #8
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    I've been going to trift stores most of my life and have also discovered the book section.
    I picked up books talking about reusing scraps how to weave and macreme. I'm not as thrilled about the pictures as how to adapt the techniques to items I would use. I also love the discount and "Half Price Books" stores.
    Something I've discovered is that the 60's and 70's books are the only books you can seem to find that will describe how to build solar and wind projects at home and provide blue prints. Most of the other more modern books on the subject only decribe where to buy the items. I only wish I could find some of these books at the thrift store. Ordering these out of print books is getting expensive.

  10. #9
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    I love those books too! I love that there will be something absolutely horrific right next to something amazing. But I'm a pisces, so I guess it's my nature to enjoy being repelled and attracted at the same time.

  11. #10
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    Old crafts and sewing books rock! As you all have mentioned, these books contain clearly written, easy-to-follow instructions. My favorite thing about them is that they usually feature practical projects and are driven by a frugal, self-reliance philosophy. Most current craft books are written from the perspective that making things is a hobby rather than an integral part of daily life. Some of my favorite old-school books:

    • Anything by Rusty Bensussen - with wonderful illustrations and detailed instructions, she shows you how to make your own patterns from your measurements or from clothes you love, adjust storebought patterns, and create new designs from your patterns.
    • Recipes for Art and Craft Materials - everything from glue to rubber stamp ink
    • the Creative Hands Series
    • Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (of course!)
    • Sew a Beautiful Gift - I love this book!
    • Better Homes & Gardens Patchwork Quilts - dozens of fun designs and projects
    • The Total Tote Bag Book


 
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