Favourite embroidery books

From Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches

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This post is a brief wander through the books that I keep coming back to. I have a weakness for books and every now and then need to weed some out of my over-filled shelves. These ones are perennials!

I suppose stitch books are basic essential and there are so many around now. Early in my embroidery journey I invested in Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches, first published in 1934.  No, I did not get mine that long ago – mine is the 1974 edition. Forty odd years on I still refer to it, and my scribbled notes in it.  Interestingly, Mary wasn’t an embroiderer; she was a journalist and her analytical and well-written approach has definitely stood the test of time. You can still get secondhand copies for a few pounds – but make sure you’re getting the original, not the large, colour paperback version published in the nineties.

Jacqueline Enthoven’s The Stitches of Creative Embroidery from 1987 gives you far more than how to work a stitch.  She is clearly fascinated by the origins and use of stitches and the accounts of where some of the more unusual ones were discovered by her and the  stories connected to them give a rich understanding of the history and pervasiveness of embroidery skills.



Then there is my indispensable Left-handed Embroiderer’s Companion by Yvette Stanton. Indispensable not because I’m left-handed but because I frequently have left-handers in my classes and this helps me demonstrate what seems to me an entirely unnatural approach to many stitches! Her diagrams are exceptionally easy to follow too. She also generously includes brief instructions for us right-handers.


Now we have the internet and talented and generous bloggers like Mary Corbet and Sharon Boggon who have established wonderful resources for us. And videos! So much information out there.  Oh, but I do love a book.

Book cover Windsor FryI enjoy stitch books from earlier decades, not so much for instructions  but to see how stitches were used in past and the different approach there was to embroidery design and execution. One that earns its place on my shelves is Samplers and Stitches by Grace Christie or, as the book has it, Mrs Archibald Christie. Convention on married women’s names was clearly different in 1920.  Another is Embroidery and Needlework by Gladys Windsor Fry from 1934. My 1946 edition has pasted-in colour plates.  How different to today’s full-colour-throughout publications.

What are your go-to books? Do you have a trusty volume that you wouldn’t be without?

Next post I’ll talk about my favourites on various techniques.


Piecing for a tuffet

I have covered a tuffet!  I went to a great class with Linda Chevin Hall at Bramble Patch and now have a beautiful footstool.

A friend of mine went a couple of months ago and said she had such a good time I was determined to go myself; she was quite right, it was a very enjoyable day.  We needed thirty strips of fabric and I wanted to use up some of my stash, not buy a new jelly roll or yet more fat quarters.  In the end I used mostly my material with just a couple of beautiful additions from the wonderful range at Bramble Patch to complete my colour palette.

Linda seemed to effortlessly have loads of time for each of the ten in the group and was especially helpful with colour sorting.  I based my scheme around the colour of a painted cupboard in the room it was destined for and my husband painted the wooden feet with some chalk paint fortunately left over.  I love it.

Exquisite embroidery

Last week I indulged in a visit to the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. I’ve been before, to learn about the man himself, and his influence on the Arts and Crafts  movement and textiles in particular.

This time I went because there are now three rooms devoted, until January, to an exploration of his daughter, May. I’ve known about her role in the Morris and Co Embroidery Workshop, as manager from the age of 23, and some of her wonderful embroideries. The Gallery has gathered  some truly exquisite works, over 80, together with photos and other memorabilia documenting her significant role in the development both of active socialism and the arts and crafts movement, with women artists particularly.

A delightful, and enlightening, glimpse into the life and work of someone who has been too long neglected, in her father’s shadow. We were fortunate in the unseasonal warm and sunny weather and ate lunch on the veranda overlooking the park and very good day. There’s a good website here. All the pictures in the post are from the Gallery’s website.

Slow progress with quilt

Well I haven’t finished any more projects since my last post but I have kept busy.

A surprising amount of time spent holding various fabrics up against the bed quilt centre in an effort to decide on borders to get it up to a reasonable size.  At the moment it would perch uncomfortably in the middle of the bed! I think I’m there now and thanks to the great staff at the Bramble Patch the next fabric (see above – isn’t it beautiful?) arrived yesterday, so no excuse not to progress.

I taught the next crewel work session last week as well.  Projects have now been decided on and I can’t wait to see how they turn out.  We looked at using satin stitch in various ways, both for areas of colour and for moving through different colours or shades. I love this encroaching satin stitch, it adds so much texture to the shapes.

Quilted and embroidered

Two projects finished last week!  Not started and finished obviously, just completed in time for the deadline of my local EG branch annual display of members’ work. I so enjoy seeing what everyone has been doing that I feel it only fair to include some of mine.  This year’s theme was trees which meshed nicely with my textile group’s challenge.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the group – Wyvern Textiles – before.  We haven’t been together long, still finding our way.  We joined together because we wanted to have others to talk to about our work as it progressed.  I don’t know about the rest of the group but I’m really appreciating having such great people to give me help and constructive criticism.  We are all very different in background and in what sort of work we are doing, hence the use of ‘textiles’ in our name.  Definitely not tying ourselves down as a group, or individuals, to one technique.

We set ourselves a challenge. To all use a single point of inspiration to create,  in any way we wanted, a piece to be exhibited this coming month. We chose a painting by David Hockney, Three Trees at Thixendale, Winter 2007.  We have all produced very different work! It’s been an interesting journey. Here’s a detail of my piece  and I’ll ask the others if they can let me have photos of theirs.

This is machine embroidery worked on a pieced and hand and machine quilted ground.  I am enjoying combining different techniques, makes the process varied and challenging. The  image at the top shows my other piece with couched gold and after doing that I painted and quilted the batik it is worked on.

So now – on with the bed quilt and some other unfinished projects.  I’ll see if I can finish something else before my next post!