Happy New Textile Year!

I do enjoy the notion of a fresh start for a new year.  An illusion, of course, as I never really ‘finish’ a year off in terms of having completed all projects and having nothing to carry over into the next! I do have some minor rituals to mark the passage of time.  I tidy and clean my workroom and make an attempt to reduce the amount of clutter. I start a new desk journal to capture this year’s to-do lists, jottings, plans etc.  I once again determine to work more effectively – to get things done, rather than find them unfinished in a box at the end of the year. Have you done anything to mark the transition to 2018?

A couple of posts ago, I when I reviewed my favourite stitch books, I said I would tell you about technique books that I have found valuable.  The first is one I have written about before: The Anchor Manual of Needlework, a volume that sparked my love of embroidery.

Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques

More recently I have learned a great deal from Gail Marsh’s Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques. This is a wonderfully illustrated, thoroughly researched  and delightfully written exploration of the embroiderers who developed traditional skills and designs and influenced the course of embroidery for the rest of the century.  The Gawthorpe collection provided the source material and much of it has not been seen in print before. Fascinating.


Casalguidi Style Linen Embroidery

An Australian author, Effie Mitrofanis, has a fresh approach to  traditional techniques such as Casalguidi work. Her work is firmly rooted in needle skills but allied to a more contemporary and lively appreciation of the potential of colour in previously neutral and monochrome schemes. Her 2009 book, Threadwork, presents a lively combination of beautifully worked stitches and cords and beading with an exuberance of colour.

Mitrofanis Threadwork

I am also enjoying the ongoing series of technique manuals from the Royal School of Needlework. If you want to know the ‘right’ way to do something then these are the books for you.  Stitches and methods are well illustrated with photographs of the workings and there are lovely examples of contemporary interpretations of such traditions as crewel work, canvas work, blackwork, whitework and more.


Favourite embroidery books

From Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches

A very warm welcome to those of you who have come here from Mary Corbet’s website!
I have followed Mary for years and was surprised and delighted to be mentioned by her. I hope you will enjoy my blog and subscribe to be notified by email when I post (which is about every two weeks at the moment).

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.


New Quilting Magazine

todays quilterI love to browse the magazine shelves in the supermarket and there is no shortage of craft-based ones on display. The range of patchwork and quilting titles reflects the growing number of devotees over the past few years and also the appeal of ‘modern’ quilting design.

Today’s Quilter was new to me and I indulged myself with Issue No 1 to be enjoyed with a cup of tea when I got home. I was initially attracted by the absence on the cover of the common lexicon of ‘quick and easy, speedy’ etc and the presence of names of well-established experts and practicioners such as Lynne Edwards, Susan Briscoe,  Linda Clements and the Lintotts. It presents itself as being “the first magazine to take a completely fresh look at the world of traditional quilting”and the approach is bright and contemporary but firmly based on traditional skills.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of articles and projects, some that would definitely extend my skills.  There were excellent illustrated instructions for tackling a set-in seam and a couple of tempting projects that used it.  The eye-candy factor wasn’t missing either!

The magazine also offered what seemed to be a clear and comprehensive calendar of shows and events and useful reviews of products and fabrics.

As an additional treat there was a separate magazine celebrating Kaffe Fassett’s fifty years in textiles; a stunning colour-burst of his creativity which tempted me to consider using some of his exuberant fabrics – not usually my style but they are so full of life.

And then, on the last page, an article on the maker of the ‘Best in Show’ quilt at this year’s Festival of Quilts – and she is local to me, based near Colchester.  Congratulations, Janette Chilver, the quilt is stunning.

Altogether a satisfying read with plenty to come back to again and again.  I will be looking out for Issue No 2.

Inspirational and practical book

stitched-textile-flowersI have been dipping into Bobby Britnell’s  Stitched Textiles: Flowers as bedtime reading this week.  I’ve had it for quite a while but only just started careful browsing.

bobby britnell 1It’s visually delicious, a real treat, but more than that, it is full of clearly explained techniques for adding colour, pattern and texture to fabric. All of these have accompanying photos of the processes and beautiful examples of how she uses them in her work.

There are also five projects with clear instructions, very tempting but I will stick to finishing my coursework before indulging myself!

bobby britnell 2

Textiles in Focus

Textiles in Focus is on annual exhibition I haven’t visited before;  it’s quite a long way from me but on the route to my daughter’s home. This year it coincided with a family visit so we diverted to it off the A14. The college provided an excellent venue with plenty of light-filled space for the exhibition and the all-important traders’ rooms.

textilesinfocus2Two textile groups had their work on display, New Horizons and Material Girls, so there was plenty to see. I  liked the Material Girls’ theme of basing work on different cultures and they presented a fascinating range of techniques and design approaches.

The photograph (taken by Val Harrowven) is of one of my favourite pieces but my apologies to the maker as I didn’t make a note of her name.


slow loris clothAs usual the traders’ hall had plenty of opportunity to give in to temptation. Slow Loris offers wonderful embroidered and appliqué work from Chinese tribal minorities collected by Martin Conlan. I could not resist a truly beautiful piece of cloth; repeatedly indigo dyed, then with other natural dyes, then beaten and burnished. The depth of dark coppery loveliness was irresistible. I don’t know what I will do with it yet, it deserves careful thought to make the most of its lustrous surface.

Britnell bookA book by Bobby Britnell was another purchase. ‘Stitched Textiles: Flowers’ is a very practical introduction to surface decoration of fabric, with clear instructions on various techniques. I have liked her work very much for years and she has a clear, graphic style, a sure use of colour and the techniques don’t overwhelm, they enhance, the design. I shall be experimenting with some of the printing method in the coming weeks.