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Oct 18 2017 - 11:03 AM
The Common Thread Staff Picks Oct 2017

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As a new member of the Library Services team, I am very excited and proud to curate my first Staff Picks Collection, The Common Thread: Domestic Arts and Handcraft on the second floor of the Gottesman Libraries at Teachers College.

This collection examines and addresses the often overlooked wonders of fiber arts and “women’s work.”  I do not have a generational tale about learning these arts from my grandmothers (although one was a seamstress and the other a quilter) but as an adult, I have fallen in love with handcrafts and have come to appreciate the value in the work. Many people (myself included) have dismissed fiber and domestic arts as menial and mundane, but closer observations and study have proven quite the opposite. Handcrafts are wonderfully complex, varied in their many forms and skills requires to master them. Knitting, weaving and crochet can be used to tangibly express mathematic theories and principles as in Making Mathematics with Needlework, a book featured in the collection. Knitting patterns can also be useful tools for teaching code, and the origins of computing can be traced back to the Jacquard Loom. Paulus Gerdes' book, Women, Art and Geometry in Southern Africa proves and identifies complex designs found in  the woven works of so-called primitive cultures.

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Class in Laundering. Laundry Laboratory. Teachers College (Ca. 1910) This image is provided courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries at Teachers College, Columbia University.

For many women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the only opportunities available in higher education were in teaching the domestic arts and sciences. Teachers College itself was primarily an instructional school for teachers of the home sciences. We currently have a robust collection of photographs, instructional manuals and other related documents from this era in our closed stacks and PocketKnowledge, the College's online digital archive. The images in the slideshow displayed with the Staff Picks were found in these archives and similar photos can be found in the Historical Photographs of Teachers College collection. Due to space constraints, older items in the library are housed in these closed stacks, which are included in Educat, our catalog. You can also perform an advanced search limited to closed stack items using SuperSearch.

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For further exploration, please check out these other books in our collection! Additional Print Resources in Our Collection The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture by Frank R. Wilson Just a Housewife: the Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America by Glenna Matthews Rhythms of Learning: What Waldorf Education offers Children, Parents and Teachers by Rudolf Steiner Shop class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford   E-Resources Craftivism: The art of craft and activism by Betsy Greer Cult Media, Fandom and Textiles: Handicrafting as Fan Art by Brigid Cherry How Knitters are Human Computers  - Code Academy Blog post by MK Carroll Knitters and Coders: Separated at Birth? Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age  by James Essinger Outside: Activating Cloth to Enhance the Way we Live by Penny Macbeth and Claire Barber Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles by Leanne Prain   Resources on Exhibit: The Art and Craft of Hand Weaving including Fabric Design  by Lili Blumenau Drawings by Martin Norman

"The mechanical world has begun to make many people feel like robots, and these people experience a need to do things inspired by themselves, not planned and dictated for them by collective standards. "

Classy Knitting: A Guide to Creative Sweatering for Beginners by Ferne Geller Cone

"Unraveling the mystery of knitting is like unraveling yarn - once it's exposed it's no longer a mystery."

Crafting by Concepts Edited by Sarah-Marie BelCastro and Carolyn Yackel

Mathematical explorations translated into fiber art projects.

Creativity in Education: The Waldorf Approach by Agnes Nobel

"We must reach the child through the hand, the heart, and the head. The hand must learn to cook, sew, knit, bind books and master other crafts."

Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina

"Break through the austere, formal stereotype of mathematics"

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett Illustrated by Jon Klassen

This Caldecott Honor book is a beautifully illustrated picture book celebrating the joy and magic that knitting for others can be.

Knit Your Bit: a World War I Story by Deborah Hopkinson

A historical fiction picture book about the national campaign to knit socks for soldiers during World War I

Labors of Love: America's Textiles and Needlework, 1650-1930 by Judith Reiter Weissman and Wendy Lavitt and Photographs by Schecter Lee

An expansive visual history of hand work across cultures.

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz Illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain

For Raffi, knitting and sewing become his creative outlet to celebrate his uniqueness. This picture book has become widely used as a way to introduce ideas of gender non-conformity to young children.

Making Mathematics with Needlework Edited by Susan-Marie BelCastro & Carolyn Yackel

A collection of mathematical concepts and theories translated and displayed into fiber art projects. These patterns illuminate how complex and intriguing needlework can be.

Never Done: A History of American Housework by Susan Strasser

A historical examination of housework in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

The Piece Bag Book: a First Book of Sewing and Weaving by Anna La Tourette Blauvelt

An adventure of crafting unfolds when Mother shares her fabric scraps with her two daughters on a rainy afternoon.

Rethinking Home Economics: Women and the History of a Profession Edited by Sarah Stage and Virginia B. Vincenti

This collection of essays examine the way in which 'women's work' and home economics have been viewed and framed in academia.

The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Elizabeth Lewis

Perseverance and a willingness to fail are essential to mastering any craft be it handwork or academic pursuits.

Sewing: a daughter and mother activity book by Jeanette Zarchy

"Take your time; work slowly and carefully. You can't rush good handwork."

Sewing Handicraft for Girls by Idabelle McGlauflin

"Every exercise in handicraft should train the judgment, the eye or the memory and tend to develop skill, patience, accuracy, perseverance, dexterity or artistic appreciation."

A Way of Working Edited by D.M. Dooling

"Craft cannot be separated from art any more than usefulness can be separated from beauty."

Women, Art and Geometry in Southern Africa by Paulus Gerdes

"Although the mathematical aspects of these traditional cultural activities have so far not, or hardly, been recognized by 'Academia', this does not render them less mathematical."