Books to Give: Pattern Classics

Need a last-minute gift for the textile/design aficionado in your life? Books are the ticket. Here are my favorites — some are specifically about fabric, some are just about pattern. There are more surface design books in my Amazon store that look scrumptious, but these are ones I actually own and can vouch for.


Twentieth-Century Pattern Design by Lesley Jackson
Princeton Architectural Press, 2002 (paperback 2007)

The bible of surface pattern design (well, for the 20th century, at least). Twentieth Century Pattern Design goes decade-by-decade covering surface design trends in their historical and technical contexts. It profiles the most influential designers and is chock full of mind-blowing patterns. I reference mine all the time.


Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period by Susan Meller and Joost Elffers
Harry N. Abrams, original publication 2002

This is another bible for fabric lovers. It’s a visual encyclopedia, covering almost every sort of pattern type imaginable. A highly digestible bit of historical information is accompanies each. It’s a great source for learning pattern design terminology. Surface designers (even if you’re just an aspiring one) will find this an indispensable source of ideas and inspiration.


Vintage Fabric From The States: A Visual Introduction to American Vintage Fabrics
by Saeco Oikawa (Editor)
Pie Books

Anything from Japanese publisher Pie Books is a good bet, and this is a definite favorite of mine. Vintage Fabric From The States is written in Japanese, but there is very little text — the fabrics are meant to be the star. And there are hundreds of fabrics here, from the early to mid 20th century, grouped by sections such as “Dutch,” “Checks,” “Kitchen,” “Ribbon,” and “Kids.” As I wrote in my 2006 review on Dioramarama, there’s nothing showy or capital-D Designer in here — just everyday vintage prints grouped and catalogued in a simple, beautiful way.


Cutting-Edge Patterns and Textures by Estel Vilaseca
Rockport Publishers, 2008

After your immersion in the 19th and 20th centuries, you might be saying enough with the flowers already! Sure, Ms. Fancy Surface Designer, you can do beauty, but where’s your sense of humor? Well, it’s all here in this book. Cutting-Edge Patterns and Textures is full of current designers’ pattern artwork (250 patterns in all by 83 artists, arranged by color). Removed from the restraints of commerce and end use, these artists are free to play and experiment. You’ll be treated to the aforementioned wit and weirdness, some ugly/scary-yet-interesting work, and OK, lots of amazing beauty too. Above all there is boundless and inspiring creativity that will completely shift your pattern world-view. The artist bios will keep you busy ogling at artists’ portfolios online for days.

My only complaint is the choice for the cover art — textures are only a small percentage of the book’s content, and the works inside are bursting with color and vivacity — why choose a monotone golden brown texture to represent it all? The book comes with a CD containing 50 copyright-free patterns.

Get a glimpse inside the book from Print & Pattern’s review.


Over and Over: A Catalog of Hand-Drawn Patterns by Mike Perry
Princeton Architectural Press, 2008

Over and Over: A Catalog of Hand-Drawn Patterns is along the same lines of Cutting-Edge Patterns and Textures, only Perry’s book is a compilation of artists working with various media and styles who all use hand-drawn patterns. There’s lots of stand-alone patterns here, but interestingly, Perry chose to include many illustrations and works of art that use patterns as fills or backgrounds within the larger work. This fact gives Over and Over a wider appeal than perhaps any of the other books above.


  1. Malinda L says:

    I bought the second book a few weeks ago and I love it! It is gorgeous with so many new and inspiring images.

  2. daisy janie says:

    Wonderful round-up!!! Thanks for the list!

  3. Melanie says:

    A great collection of books! A few of them are going on my wish list.