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Best Books For Vintage Pattern References




We all probably already own all the same books, but I think there has to be some gems out there a lot of people don't know about. This is the reason why I've been compiling a long, long list of the books I use the most - and have finally managed to cut it down to a readable list. My best advice to any surface or pattern designer is to amass as many books as possible - whilst this might sound a tinge financially reckless, I guarantee you it is the best investment you will make. These resources will be the ones you will always go back to - trust me.


So without further ado and waffling, here is the list of books I use on a daily basis for my work:


Textiles, The Art of Mankind (Hardcover)

By Mary Schoeser

This is an incredible (super heavy) book with tons of historical references. It's always been my go to book for not just pattern inspiration, but surface in general; it includes a multitude of embroidery, screen printed, hand woven textures, etc. If you can, get it second hand as it does tend to be a bit pricey! I've found a quick link for you here.


The Book of Flowers

By Redoute

Well, I can't really call this pattern inspo, but my God, does this book deliver when you desperately need some floral references. With super detailed, colorful and botanically correct drawings, this book by far out ranks any other botanical references (and trust me, I have them all, even the garden books). I also prefer it to others as it has a slight tinge of romance in the colors and the way it's been drawn as opposed to dry, black and white botanical sections.

You can find it on the publisher's page here.


Liberty: The History

By Marie-Therese Rieber

If you're like me and you love anything post 1930s, this will be your favorite book. Liberty in itself is an institution, but the textiles they developed hold a history of their own as well. From classy to funky, they've done it all - I mostly use these references for color palettes as they are super refreshing and fun. I've found you a link to it here.


Grammar of Ornament

By Owen Jones

You know when you're supposed to draw a super detailed, geometric print - or something with a tinge of ethnic and your mind is just blank? This is where Grammar of Ornament comes in handy. A sort of dictionary on historic tiles, ornaments and patterns, it is a wealth of information that will be your companion for years to come. Here's a quick link.


Patterns: Inside The Design Library

By Peter Koepke

The Design Library, which has 2 spaces, one in New York and one here, in London, UK has published a wonderful book, chock full of vintage textiles. This is an absolute inspiration as a lot of these are quirky, never seen before prints. If you're local, you can also go visit them - you'll find info here and the book here!


The Pattern Sourcebook: A Century Of Surface Design

By Drusilla Cole

This is more or less constantly on my desk - whenever I need a quick reference or a new idea for a pattern set, this is where I usually start. It's got 342 illustrations with detailed descriptions, so I usually find a reference in here and then Google my way onwards. You can find it on the publisher's website here.


The Aloha Shirt: Spirit Of The Islands

By Dale Hope

This is sort of my secret weapon - in addition to our vintage archive of course. An incredible and breathtaking book by Patagonia (printed on recycled paper, ofc), this is a complete guide to the intricate world of Hawaiian shirts. From bark cloth to American tourists, this lovely book is an amazing reference for conversational prints. Yo can find it here on Patagonia's page.


One of the best ways to find cool reference books is by going through second hand shops - you'll find amazing resources in unexpected places, such as magazines or even garden tending books. So don't just stick to Amazon; trawl through treasures on Ebay or go and have a look in a second hand book shop yourself. Is there a book you swear by? Something you can't live without? Send me a DM on instagram (@angelainthefields) and let me know about it!


As always, if you want more helpful posts on how to make $$$ doodling and drawing, subscribe to my email list below! I aim to routinely send out tips, tools, trends and other helpful bits!