Vintage craft publications hold an irresistible charm; a delightful glimpse into yesteryear. For frugal crafters looking to save money and gain fresh inspiration, vintage craft publications represent a cornucopia of opportunity! Exactly what qualifies as vintage varies according to collectors and experts within the fiber arts field. The term “vintage” usually applies to a more modern period. Broadly speaking, hobby and craft books, magazines and pamphlets published between 1940 up to and including the early seventies would be defined as “vintage.” Some collectors may be more flexible and include the mid to late seventies. Anything prior to 1940 would generally be defined as antique.
Building Your Collection
One can find vintage craft books and magazines which encompass every skill level and subject (e.g., crochet, cross-stitch, jewelry design, knitting, macramé, sewing and stuffed toys). As always, it helps to do some preliminary research. Your local public library is an excellent starting place to learn about the history of the hobby and crafts industry.
There are 3 areas on which to focus for research as you plan your collection: manufacturers, publishers of hobby and craft books and mass consumer periodicals.
Becoming familiar with the leading manufacturers of the era is extremely helpful as you are likely to encounter their names frequently during the process of building your collection of vintage craft publications.
Some of the leading sewing pattern companies are familiar to everyone: Advance®, Butterick Publishing®, Hollywood Pattern Company®, McCall’s® and Simplicity Pattern Company, Inc.®
Well-known yarn brands are Bernat®, Berroco®, Bear Brand®, Botany®, Brunswick®, Bucilla®, Caron®, Coats & Clark’s®, Columbia Minerva®, Fleisher®, Lion Brand®, Reynolds®, Spinnerin® and Unger®. Interestingly, many people enjoy collecting discontinued vintage yarn as a hobby.
Publishers of craft and hobby books include Craft& Hobby Book Service, Charles Scribners & Sons (and/or Scribner), Columbia House, Craft Publications Inc., Craft Works Publishing, Creative Home Library, Fawcet Publications Inc., Golden Press, Interweave Press, Lane Books, Leisure Arts, Northland Press, Random House, Sterling Publishing Company Inc. and Sunset Books.
Vintage instructional crochet and knitting books, magazines and pamphlets enjoy tremendous appeal among both crafters and collectors. Yarn manufacturers published vast numbers of instructional booklets and magazines to promote their products. Those with a passion for crochet and knitting are likely to be acquainted with the line of American School of Needlework books and leaflets, American Thread Company, Bernat, Brunswick and Unger pattern booklets along with many of the widely circulated magazines such as Modern Knitting®, Popular Needlework®, Seventeen’s Make It®, Today’s Woman Granny Squares® and Vogue Knitting®.
Magazines geared to the hobby and crafts sector, homemaking, women and family interests include the line of magazines published by All American Crafts®, Better Homes and Gardens®, DRG® (acquired American School of Needlework) and McCall’s®. Specific magazines of interest are American Home Crafts®, Crafts ‘n Things®, Decorating Craft Ideas®, Family Circle®, Good Housekeeping®, Great American Granny Squares®, Lady’s Circle®, Ladies’ Home Journal®, Popular Handicraft®, Woman’s Day® and Woman's World®.
Where To Find Vintage Craft Publications
Finding vintage hobby and craft publications is a lot easier than one would think. The following are a few suggestions:
• Antique shops, specialty bookstores and thrift stores. Aside from books and magazines, look for out-of-print catalogs (e.g., bridal catalogs, department store catalogs, school catalogs and sewing pattern company catalogs). Skimming through old catalogs is a constructive exercise. You can incorporate vintage touches to contemporary designs.
• Network with various crochet, knitting, needlework and sewing clubs and associations. While many copies may be purchased online through legitimate vendors, one can also find vintage books at estate sales, flea markets, house sales and yard sales.
• Past issues of old magazines and newspapers may be available for purchase directly from the publisher. One can also find out-of-print consumer magazines and other periodicals at fairs and shows organized by hobby and collector associations.
Obviously, there are many more avenues to explore when it comes to collecting vintage hobby and craft publications. Collecting vintage hobby and craft publications is immensely educational and emotionally enriching. In no time at all, you will find yourself building a unique collection which will bring you joy and inspiration.
Here are my favorite publications:
Simplicity’s How To Book Needlework Plus, Simplicity Pattern Company (1974)
The McCall’s Book of Handcrafts, Nanina Comstock (1972)
And, any and all vintage knitting booklets!
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