Rare Needlework Books to Level-Up Your Hobby

Updated April 19, 2022
floral needlework

Rare needlework books are sought after by both crafters and collectors alike. Whether you love to needlepoint or embroider or need a historically correct pattern for a chair restoration, these old books are full of valuable patterns and information. They aren't hard to find, but many are very reasonably priced.

What Makes a Rare Needlework Book?

All books share the same definition when it comes to rare books. According to the museum division of the National Parks Service, a book is rare simply because it has information that is deemed important and there are not many copies of it.

Needlework books of all sorts are helpful to costume designers, set designers, historians, and others who need an accurate portrayal of a certain time period. Whether the books are 20 or 200 years old doesn't matter. It is also important to note that just because a book is rare does not mean that it is valuable.

Finding Rare Needlework Books

There are many different places you can look for rare needlework books, but you might not be able to determine how rare a book is until you can search for that particular title online and see how many other people are selling it (or looking for it.)

Where to Shop for Books on Needlework

Here are some places you'll want to check out in your quest for rare needlework books:

  • Used bookstores and online used bookstores - These stores specialize in all types of used books, but they often have a section devoted to crafts. This can be an excellent place to find vintage needlework titles.
  • Antique stores - Many antique stores have book sections, and some have vendor stalls devoted entirely to used books. Browse these to see if you can find a great book on needlework.
  • eBay - You can find just about anything on eBay, including rare books on needlework. If you have a specific title in mind, this can be the best place to find it.
  • Garage sales and estate sales - When people change hobbies or pass their library of craft books on to later generations who may not be interested, these books can come up in garage sales. There's a certain amount of luck involved in finding rare titles at these sales, but it happens frequently.
  • Your local library's sale room - As libraries make room for new titles, they sell off some of their older, less popular books. Sometimes, this may include titles on needlework. You can also find needlework books at other organizations' book sales.
  • Older relatives and neighbors - Needlepoint and needlework have been very popular at times in the past, so many older people have books sitting on shelves. If they are downsizing or changing hobbies, this can be a good time to pick up some rare titles.

How to Get a Deal on Rare Books

A lot of people who aren't interested in needlepoint or other crafts end up inheriting a relative's stash of books and then want to get rid of it all. These books sell for low prices just to get rid of them. That's one reason eBay is such a great option, because you can often find large lots of needlepoint books (some may be rare, some not) for very low prices. The key to getting a great deal is keeping an eye on the selection and searching for specific titles you may have on your wish list.

Specialized Needlework Book Searches

Some websites and search engines specialize in out-of-print and rare needlework and craft books, and these are also a great place to hunt, especially if you love to browse. Here are some sites worth checking out:

  • Needlework Books has a huge number of categories to browse, leading to out-of-print books and magazines. Not all categories have entries at any given time.
  • UK Book World has many used and rare needlepoint books from sellers across that country.
  • Joslin Hall has an excellent collection of rare needlepoint books, and you'll pay the price for rarity as well.
  • New Needlepoint stocks a variety of books including the hard to find Glorafilia books.
  • Antique Pattern Library has a variety of books that have been scanned online and the patterns available for free. There are a variety of needle arts represented.

Rare and Valuable Needlework Titles to Look For

As you're browsing, it can make sense to keep and eye out for rare and valuable titles. These are some that might be especially great for your collection:

  • Quaker School Girl Samplers From Ackworth by Carol Humphrey - This 2006 title features photos of needlework samplers from Quaker school girls. It's very rare and recently sold for over $300 on eBay.
  • Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men - This rare book from 1973 is highly collectible. It sells for about $50 on eBay.
  • Flowers in Needlepoint Lace by Doreen Holmes - This lovely book from 1987 has some beautiful needlepoint patterns and is rare. It sells on AbeBooks for about $35.

Caring for Rare Needlework Books

Because most needlework books were used by their original owners, it is rare to find these books in pristine shape. As mentioned above, pattern books often have covers that are torn or missing, and crafters using patterns often mark up the pages. Sometimes you will find books in good condition, and these generally are worth the higher price you will pay for them. If you are collecting out of a love for the craft more than an interest in monetary gain, you'll probably love those books that look like they have been used even more than you would the rare pristine ones that look like they belonged to someone who never stitched.

To keep books from deteriorating further, it's a good idea to store small booklets in plastic sleeves like you would comic books and keep them away from light and humidity. Needlepoint books should be cared for like any other rare book and stored in a place of consistent humidity.

Enjoy Your Hobby

Having a collection of rare needlework books can ensure that the items you create are unique and unusual. By creating patterns from these old tomes, you bring history to life and allow others to enjoy something that would otherwise be lost to time.

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