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.