Book Notes: Swiss Silk and Japanese Pattern

These two lovely treasures have been sitting on my desk for more than a few weeks now, and I desperately need to tell you about them. Both of these books are produced beautifully, include significant research and study – but could easily be mistaken for coffee table books. They are, Soie Pirate: The History and Fabric Designs of Abraham Ltd. Two-Volume Set and Pattern Magic 2 .

Soie Pirate: The History and Fabric Designs of Abraham Ltd. Two-Volume Set

From the Swiss National Museum in Zurich (January 2011) comes this amazing two-volume compendium of textile history, documenting the history and fabric designs of Abraham Ltd. In case you were unaware of the importance this company had in fashion history (as I was), allow me to fill you in (briefly). Abraham Ltd was a silk company that designed fabrics for couture and ready to wear designers including Balenciaga, Givency, YSL, Chanel, and Dior (among others). The history begins in 1878 and ends in 2002, but it appears most strong in 1950s, 60s and 1970s fashions.  This pair of books presents the history and in fact an archive of the company (including page after page of textile designs – see photo above), and reproduces many pages from scrapbooks as well as European fashion magazines.

Detailing a beautiful and meticulously kept archive, the fabrics and designs of the company, the books are oversize and include documentary style photographs of the archives, museum storage, as well as photo-reproductions of company records. Abraham Ltd’s history is sketchy in parts and extremely well documented in others. The scrapbooks in particular draw connections between the design of specific textile and the couture garment it ended up creating. While these books are meant to accompany the exhibition (Wander over to the exhibitions website for more information and the Dutch version has a nifty video), the books stand alone as a detailed record of the company. They would be of value to any museum library, or historian of 20th Century Fashion.

Pattern Magic 2 Tomoko Nakamiehi (February 2011)

This small, nearly all photographic volume is the second in a series of illustrative books meant to teach you how to make patterns in intricate shapes. It is beautifully produced, and includes a number of VERY interesting designs in a step-by-step format. Be sure to check out Volumes 1 (English), and Volume 3 (Japanese) both of which came out last year as well.

Many of the designs are geometric, oddly three-dimensional and seem to reference origami. Originally produced in Japanese, this “now in English” volume also includes all measurements in centimeters. There are three chapters: “Playing with Geometrics”; Decorative Structures” and “It Vanished.” It looks useful for students and teachers of fashion design and pattern making – it’s also beautiful to look at and thumb through.

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