BiblioCraft: Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects

Jessica Pigza, a rare book librarian at the New York Public Library, is an inveterate crafter. Via her new book BiblioCraft, she combines her creative skills with a keen interest in teaching others to use library resources as project inspiration.

Bibliocraft book review

Jessica provides a wealth of information about making the most of what a library readily offers. In the first third of the book, you'll learn to find and utilize specific collections both in person and online for your own creative inspiration and information. She writes clearly and with authority... I especially appreciate the way Jessica takes the mystery out of copyright.

Arts and Crafts Ex Libris Set - Anna Bondoc

As for the projects section, Jessica called upon crafters and designers to provide original ideas and instructions for making modern items based on vintage library collections. Each highlights the rich potential that awaits inside a research library.

Marbled Fabric Pouch
Marbled Fabric Pouch - Jodi Kahn

Sixteen makers, including the author (you might recognize quite a few names from the online craft and design world) created an appealing variety of doable projects that feature sewing and embroidery, fabric stenciling, paper cutting, stamping, working with felt, just to name several techniques. There's even a quilling project - more on that in a moment.

The styled photographs of completed projects are lovely and the detailed text instructions include some line drawings. Templates are provided where necessary. Note there are no step-by-step photos, if they are something you particularly look for in a craft book.


Ornamental Penmanship Embroidery with historical inspiration - Mary Corbet


I found it fascinating to read about each artist's carefully considered inspiration. The stylish, marbled fabric pouch by Jodi Kahn, for example, was launched by the sight of decorated papers. Calligraphy and penmanship inspired the gorgeous flourishes of Mary Corbet's bird embroidery on a vintage tea towel. Anna Bondoc created a useful cut paper bookmark and bookplate set, and animal illustrations and natural history sparked the idea for delightfully quirky votive holders by Grace Bonney.

 Antiquarian Animal Votive Holders - Grace Bonney

It was nearly two years ago when I noticed Jessica's call for contributors on her blog, Handmade Librarian [edit: no longer available], which led me to suggest a quilled project. (Books take a long time to reach publication!) I remember mentioning to her that Jane Austen had referenced quilling in Sense and Sensibility way back in 1811, and that the technique has essentially remained the same throughout history. Jessica replied that she had been studying gold tooled bindings at work and was taken with a few specific designs commonly used in English and European bookbindings of the 16th-18th centuries.


She thought they might offer filigree (quilled) design possibilities and sent over images from the British Library's online database of book bindings that showed branches and leaves. One glance at a bent willow pattern and I was off and running... the result was this spiral pendant made with modern day, gilded-edge quilling paper imported from England. And in case you are wondering, yes, it's very sturdy.

Quilled willow branch pendant
Quilled Willow Pendant - Ann Martin

Jessica is doing quite a bit of traveling around the U.S. in conjunction with the release of BiblioCraft... check her calendar to see if she will be making an appearance in your city and go if you can... some form of hands-on crafty goodness just might be involved!

Quilled willow branch pendant 

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

This is a short biography of the post author and you can replace it with your own biography.


  1. Kudos to you, Ann. The book is an excellent example of what can be done to bring out the artist in many.


  2. congrats ann...what a beautiful elegant classy pendant....i love how the willow curles around. colours are perfect!

  3. Your pendant looks stunning Ann. Beautiful idea !!

  4. How do you always manage to answer my first question? It does seem to be fragile at first glance - beautifully done and wonderful synopsis!

  5. Can't wait to get this book and your pendant is lovely! Congrats!

    1. Thanks about the pendant, Stephanie. I think the book will be right up your alley, as much reading as you do. :)

  6. You mentioned the mystery of 'copyright'. Is that in her book or did I miss the mention? Lovely items - I'm so fascinated with the creativity and the beauty of the projects. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, a section titled A Copyright Primer is in the book.


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