Volume 16, Number 1, Jan. 1994, p.23

Book Reviews

by various authors

This column contains two book reviews:

  1. The Directory of Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation, compiled by Martha Winslow Grimm, illustrated by Rachel Parr. Reviewed by John Griswold and Jane Hutchins.
  2. Caring for Your Collections, prepared by The National Committee to Save America's Cultural Collections. Reviewed by Laura Downey.
The Directory of Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation, compiled by Martha Winslow Grimm, illustrated by Rachel Parr. Prepared by the Study Group on Threads and Stitching Techniques of the Textile Conservation Group, New York City, 1993. Published looseleaf, ready for your 3-ring binder. Cost is $5.50 per copy, plus $2.50 US postage, $3.50 postage outside the US. Checks in US funds to: Textile Conservation Group. Mail your order to Susan Mathisen, Textile Conservation Laboratory, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, New York 10025.

Authors have drawn and described embroidery stitches for years, and conservators seeking information about technique have been obliged to read these dictionaries to obtain information about the relatively few stitches used in conservation treatment. Easier access, however, is only one of the advantages offered by this directory. Its flexible, looseleaf cross-referenced format makes it especially useful for those whose work involves reports of treatments incorporating hand stitching techniques. Comparison of the entries in the directory makes clear the differences among related techniques such as basic couching, the laid and couched stitch, and the self-couching stitch, or between diagonal basting, oversewing and overcasting, thus helping to achieve the authors' goal of enhancing communication among colleagues and clarifying written documentation.

Each entry names a stitch and its synonyms, and includes a simple diagram and clear step-by-step directions, comments on possible uses, and cross references. Stitches are indexed by name and by the conservation processes in which they may be useful. A list of references follows.

As the authors emphasize, "this is not a guide or 'how-to' study of stitches and their uses. The application and adaptability of each stitch is the responsibility of the individual conservator, and part of the much greater process of the treatment and care of textiles." For those familiar with the vocabulary and processes of textile conservation, this compendium should prompt discussion of the advantages and problems of the various conservation stitches; for others, it provides a broad overview of current usage.

John Griswold
Glenn Wharton & Associates
549 Hot Springs Road
Santa Barbara, California 93108

Jane Hutchins
Tidewater Conservation
6555 Tideview Road, RR 1
Sooke, British Columbia VO5 1N0

Caring for Your Collections, prepared by The National Committee to Save America's Cultural Collections, Arthur W. Schultz, Chairman. Published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1992, $37.50.

This is a good, general introduction to the care and handling of collections of art and historic and cultural artifacts. It has the appearance of a coffee-table book, but contains a substantial amount of information and seems to be most directed at serious collectors, with chapters on security, insurance, and donations, as well as the conservation of specific types of art and artifacts. Curators, volunteers, and organizers of historical societies will also find this book valuable. Attention is paid to all the major types of artifacts, with chapters on ethnographic objects, musical instruments, decorative arts, furniture, stone, metal, textiles, and paintings, as well as three chapters on paper and photographs. Major themes running through all the conservation chapters re proper handling and environment; there is a separate chapter, by Steven Weintraub of Art Preservation Services, with a good introduction to environmental concerns for a collection. Because much of the handling advice from one chapter to another is repetitive and general (use care, store and thus-and-such temperature and relative humidity), the book may be most useful for people dealing with one type of material at a time, in which case the general chapters on environment and security give the essential background while the specific chapters concentrate on the needs of each material. This book, finally, is reasonably priced and very appropriate for the coffee-table of a conservator, and would be a useful reference in educating non-conservators.

Laura Downey
Paper Conservation Intern
Fine Arts Museums of San Fran

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