Antique Pattern Library

Months ago, someone at Distributed Proofreaders pointed out the Antique Pattern Library website and suggested that they could be a good source of scans of public domain needlework and craft books for us to work on.

Fast forward to this week and it has finally happened! Volunteers from the Antique Pattern Library have agreed that we can process their scans to produce versions suitable for submission to Project Gutenberg.

I’m really excited about this! They have a great selection of 19th and early 20th century knitting, crochet, tatting, embroidery and other needlework books up there. That is a huge treasury of patterns and methods and inspiration and I love that we can help make it more widely available.

The projects are still in initial preparation at the moment but will hopefully be available for proofreading soon.

You may be right, I may be crazy

to quote the Billy Joel song. There aren’t many things that I’ll get out of bed at 7am on a Saturday morning for, there are even fewer that I’ll get up that early and then drive 200 miles for. A town of books will do it every time though.

Yesterday I met up with some fellow Distributed Proofreaders in the town of Hay-on-Wye, which bills itself as the world’s first Book Town. With around 40 bookshops (and not a Borders or Waterstones for miles!) it certainly deserves the title. The town itself is very pretty and the surrounding scenery, provided by the Black Mountains, absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, my camera spent the entire day in my bag so I have not got any pictures to share.

After a quick coffee to gather our strength, Ian, Brendon, Steve and I hit the shops. It turned out that 4 bookshops was all that we had the energy for but since each of those was at least 3 or 4 times larger than a standard second-hand bookshop, I don’t think we did too badly.

Having experienced before how easy it is to get carried away on one of these expeditions, I had set myself a budget and a rough list of particular books and particular subjects that I was going to look for. Everything was going fine for the first 3 bookshops. I picked up a book on South London by Walter Besant. I’ve been putting a selection of his books on London through Distributed Proofreaders so it was great to finally find one that covers the area we live in. (Completed Walter Besant books on Project Gutenberg.) I also found a 19th century children’s book called “The Jolly World of Boxcraft”, which explains how to make what seems like an entire town out of different sized cardboard boxes. This was slightly off-mission but looked like lots of fun. In the last-but-one bookshop, I upset the bookseller by asking the price of an unpriced copy of “Science from an Easy Chair”, a collection of general science articles published in the Daily Telegraph in 1909 and 1910. Some internet research reveals that the £2.50 she eventually charged me was a reasonable market price so she had nothing to worry about!

The last bookshop was where it all went a bit wrong. This was the Hay Cinema Bookshop, which is linked with my favourite second-hand bookshops in London, Quinto. Within about a minute of entering the shop, I had already picked up three books from the “Chats on …” series, an early 20th century series of antique-collecting guides. “Chats on Household Curios” is already available from Project Gutenberg and “Chats on Old Lace and Needlework” and “Chats on Old Silver” are currently in progress (via DP). I had hoped to find more of the series in Hay so was delighted to find “Chats on English China”, “Chats on Old Prints” and “Chats on Autographs” in the Cinema bookshop. So far so good, this was definitely on-mission and nicely finished off the budget.

Books from Hay

The bookshops were not done with me yet, though.

The Cinema bookshop has an outdoor half-price sale section that, for some reason, we hadn’t looked at before going into the main shop. Despite being pretty laden with books already and having exhausted my budget, I couldn’t resist a look for a last minute bargain. I ended up with 8! I’m a sucker for “Scottish” books of any description and there on a shelf was a series of 8 of the “Famous Scots Series”, a late 19th century series of biographies of you guessed it, famous Scots. The eight volumes that I bought are Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, James Boswell, Robert Louis Stevenson, Allan Ramsay, James Watt, Thomas Carlyle and The Blackwood group. They’re quite slim little volumes but with beautiful illustrated bindings and decorative title-pages and at £2.50 or less, each, definitely bargains!

Famous Scots Series

Book Review: Knitting Vintage Socks

I recently bought Nancy Bush’s book, Knitting Vintage Socks. I was looking for good patterns for men’s socks and realised that several of the patterns I had added to my Ravelry queue were all in this same book. I decided that it was obviously my destiny to own this book and ordered it.

The book contains a selection of 19th century knitting patterns updated, where needed, for modern yarn, needles and jargon. There is a section on the history of the periodical that the patterns were originally published in and a section on how the author went about updating the patterns. Given my work with Project Gutenberg and, more especially, my interest in their Craft bookshelf, I found these sections just as interesting as the patterns themselves.

Not that the patterns need much by way of support. There are 20 patterns; a mixture of ladies and gents. I have only made the Gentleman’s Fancy Sock pattern so far (see this post) but I will definitely be making more of these. The patterns are clearly written, with charts where appropriate. The book itself is spiral bound, which is very handy.

There are only two things that I would change about this book. The patterns are only given in one size, which may not be a problem for more experienced sock knitters, but as a new sock knitter I was relieved that the pattern I wanted to make was given in the size I wanted to knit! I realise that the original patterns would only have been published in one size and that it would have taken a lot more time and effort to provide the patterns in various sizes but it would really have added to the value of this book.

My other complaint is that the patterns have been published under their original names, which means it is not immediately clear what size the updated pattern is intended for. There is at least one pattern that has been sized as a ladies sock using modern yarn and needles but was originally published as a child’s pattern, with “child” in the name. Since only the name is listed in the Table of Contents, it is unclear how a reader is supposed to know that this is actually a ladies sock without reading the whole book.

These are reasonably minor complaints though and I can highly recommend this book to anyone looking for traditional or gents sock patterns.

The Text, The Whole Text and Nothing but The Text

Since I’ve recently updated my other blog and added a link to it from here, I thought I’d post a brief description of what it is and why people might be interested in it.

I should explain that it’s not a ‘chatty’ blog like this one. Its purpose is to help me keep track of books that I’ve bought to process through the Distributed Proofreaders site. Each book gets a post that provides some publishing information and any other interesting snippets about the book or the author that I’ve come across. An example would be the publisher’s advert for the Concise Dictionary of National Biography that I found in another book.

The bit that might be of interest to people is the “Posted!” category. These are the books that have made it all the way through the Distributed Proofreaders system and are now available for downloading from Project Gutenberg. There’s a link directly to the Project Gutenberg catalogue entry for each book in its post. (If there isn’t, let me know!) In the future, I plan to post here from time to time about most of these books, explaining why I chose them and what’s interesting about them (if anything).

The ‘Cleared’ and ‘In Progress’ sections will be of less interest. ‘Cleared’ just means that Project Gutenberg have confirmed that the book is public domain in the US and so they’ll accept it into their collection. ‘In Progress’ means that the book is currently working its way through the Distributed Proofreaders site. If you think you’d be interested in proofreading a particular text, you could always sign up at DP and help.

Encyclopedia of Needlework

One of the books I’ve been most proud of during my time so far with Distributed Proofreaders has been The Encyclopedia of Needlework. It really was a labour of love (and a little hate) over about a two year period.

It’s a 19th century text, which hasn’t been out of print (in English) since then. This is the English translation of the original French and there has been a German translation as well. The German version is planned to go through Distributed Proofreaders as well (if it hasn’t already started). The text covers most forms of needlework including knitting, crochet, macramé, lace, embroidery, tapestry and others. It gives details of tools, techniques and patterns and is heavily illustrated throughout (which is what made it so difficult to process).

I’ve already received comments from various people on how useful it will be and how pleased they are that it’s available but today I got a message from a friend about something completely unrelated that led me to take a look at her blog. I hadn’t been there for a while so had a little wander round and discovered that she’s actually working on a needlepoint lace project from the Encyclopedia! I spent so long working on these illustrations and thinking about how beautiful some of these pieces would look that I’m just unbelievably chuffed to discover that someone is actually using it to make something. I can’t wait to see the finished piece.

If you’re interested in other books like this, the crafts bookshelf on Project Gutenberg is a good place to start looking. There are lots of non-needlework crafts on there too; taxidermy, anyone?