Bead Embroidery,  Blackwork,  Books,  Books - Embroidery,  Books - Handsewing,  Crewelwork,  Embroidery,  Essential Stitch Guides,  Hand-Sewing,  Royal School of Needlework,  Stumpwork,  White Work

Useful Embroidery Books for Beginners

Racaire in front of the Schnütgen Museum in Köln (Cologne)/Germany
Racaire in front of the “Schnütgen Museum” in Köln (Cologne)/Germany

Now I have this lovely and nearly empty “virgin” blog in front of me and the blog postings of more than 8.5 years – about 2.300 postings “behind me”. This count includes many book reviews as you can imagine. I can really draw on plentiful resources and I am willing to do take advantage of it. 😉

During the last 14 years I bought many books about embroidery, historical costuming, medieval art, calligraphy, museum catalogues,… – just to mention a few. And since I started blogging in April 2005, I reviewed several of them.

What shall I say – I admit that i am a book nerd & bookworm. Actually today two books insisted on following me back home from an antique shop. The price for one book about (early) medieval jewelry from 1966 and one about the Arabian from 1980 – was just too good to say “no”. Especially because the book about the Arabian contains at least two pictures of Arabian fighters with flags. The facebook group “Meridian Crusade : Gathering of the Faithful” is at the moment searching for examples of Islamic flags and banners… What a fortunate coincidence… *lol* …ok, enough of funny anecdotes from my life for today – lets get back to the topic of the posting. 😉

From time to time I get asked which books I recommend concerning embroidery, calligraphy, costuming,… Therefore I thought it might be good to start with a revisiting of some of this “old” book reviews. This includes also the checking and updating of the links and adding more information. Which books could be better for the beginning than useful embroidery books for beginners.

I thought also about how I can make the access more clearly arranged for you. I think I came up with a good idea – a “short” summery page of reviewed books, which is accessible from the header menu here: “Books”. I want to provide a nice overview for all of you who are looking for a special book to deepen their knowledge and/or want to enlarge their book collection. If you are just looking for a nice gift for someone else, you are also heartily welcome. …and yes, I think that I have many “new” interesting books on my bookshelf you might like to read about. I will add more sub-pages and summary book reviews to this pages as soon as I write and post them.

The hereafter listed embroidery books focus mostly on “modern” embroidery techniques but many of the described techniques and stitches are also very useful for “period”/”medieval” embroidery. 😉

The Embroidery Stitch Bible

 Long time ago, when I was still “rather new” to embroidery, a friend recommended this book to me and after all this years it is still one of my favorite general stitch dictionaries.

Therefore I recommend this book to beginners to embroidery as well as to advanced embroiderers – it is a very nice and helpful dictionary of general embroidery stitches and from time to time I use it to look up a name of a certain stitch or a special technique.

…and to give you a better idea of the book & content – here a sneak peek for you

About the content of this book – the major two parts of this book are “The Stitch Collection” and “Working Practice”. I really like the comprehensive stitches overview on page 8 – 23 (the small pic in the middle on the left side on the pic above) – whenever I am not sure about the English name of a certain technique this is the place where I look it up.

I think the diagrams of the stitches are very clear and easy to follow – ever wondered about how to “couch a circle” – you can find it on page 96… do you like the late period smocked aprons? …well, you can find the “Honeycomb stitch” and the “Surface honeycomb stitch” on page 127… you can find all this stitches in the first part – “The Stitch Collection”.

…and in the “Working Practice” part you can find a short description of a small but cute Assisi work project (page 209) and a short information about Blackwork (page 210-211)… well, this sections give just rather general information and you will need to do some further research, but for someone who is new to embroidery or to period embroidery this is a nice source of inspiration…

Here a short overview of the two main sections:

The Stitch Collection – 1) Stitches for Fabric

  • Line stitches p. 38
  • Chain stitches p. 46
  • Blanket stitches p. 58
  • Crossed stitches p. 69
  • Feather stitches p. 81

The Stitch Collection – 2) Stitches for Canvas

  • Diagonal stitches p. 148
  • Straight stitches p. 161
  • Crossing stitches p. 169
  • Composite stitches p. 188
  • Loop and pile stitches p. 200

Working Practice

  • Counted thread techniques p. 206
  • Freestyle embroidery techniques p. 216
  • Canvaswork techniques p. 232
  • Finishing touches p. 240

If you would like to get a copy of this book you can find it here: The Embroidery Stitch Bible: Over 200 Stitches Photographed with Easy to Follow Charts Embroidery Stitch Bible

Essential Stitch Guides from the Royal School of Needlework
My collection of “Essential Stitch Guides” books from the Royal School of Needlework

Essential Stitch Guides from the Royal School of Needlework

The Essential Stitch Guides series from the Royal School of Needlework is another great addition for everyone who is interested into embroidery – here you can find some of my favorites till now:

Essential Stitch Guides – Stumpwork

This book is my favourite book of the “Essential Stitch Guides” series from the Royal School of Needlework. Interesting sections of this book: “Flat Surface Stitches”, “Raised Surface Stitches”, “Needlelace Stitches”, “Metal Thread Work”,… – just to name a few.

 I especially would like to outline following sections and stitches which I think are very interesting and could be very helpful for some of you:

  • “Flat Surface Stitches” (including basics like the “Running Stitch”, “Back Stitch”, “Couching Threads”, “Couching A Silk Cord”, “Satin Stitch”,…)
  • “Raised Surface Stitches” (starts with “French Knot”, followed by “Bullion Knot”, “Woven Picots”…)
  • “Needlelace Stitches”
  • “Metal Thread Work”…
  • my favourite sections: “Padding” & “Slips” (…”separate piece of embroidery worked off the frame and then applied to the main embroidery“…)

I think this is a great book for beginners and also a lovely book for experienced embroiderers who would like to get some inspiration/new ideas for new embroidery projects… 

If you would like to get a copy of this book you can find it here: Stumpwork (Essential Stitch Guides) Stumpwork (Essential Stitch Guides)

Essential Stitch Guides – Crewelwork

This book about “Crewelwork” is another great book from the Essential Stitch Guides series – again, like in the book about “Stumpwork”, all stitches are very well explained – I especially enjoyed the sections: “Filling Stitches” & “Long and Short Stitch”.

If you would like to get a copy of this book you can find it on Crewelwork (Essential Stitch Guides)
Crewelwork (Essential Stitch Guides)

Essential Stitch Guides – Silk Shading

Though the books about “Stumpwork” and “Crewelwork” are really great and raised high expectations concerning this book, it really couldn’t make up to my expectations. …and even after all the time I own it now, I am still not a big fan of this book but I kept it to complete my collection of Essential Stitch Guides.

The book contains a few nice projects but the information about silk shading is – in relation to the other RSN books – really just “very general and basic” and in my opinion even rather disappointing.
I also wanted to tell you about this book in case you run into it somewhere and/or were thinking about to purchase it – I just can say that I wouldn’t buy it again.

If you like to get a copy of this book you can find it on Silk Shading (Essential Stitch Guides) Silk Shading (Essential Stitch Guides)

Essential Stitch Guides – White Work

After answering the question of a friend of mine about White Work I recently found out that the Essential Stitch Guides already offers a book about White Work too – unfortunately I don’t own a copy yet.  Therefore I recently added this book to my personal “Wishlist” on Amazon to get it as soon as I have some money to spare…

I am really looking forward to ordering it rather soon – especially after I read Mary Corbets review about it and that she thinks that it is as great as the book about Crewelwork which is already a favorite of mine. 

If you like to get a copy of this book you can find it on Whitework (Essential Stitch Guides) Whitework (Essential Stitch Guides)

Essential Stitch Guides – Blackwork

The book “Essential Stitch Guides – Blackwork” contains a nice short section about “The history of blackwork” and shows some basic embroidery stitches as well as some nice filling patterns for blackwork.

Basic embroidery stitches shown:

  • back stitch
  • double running stitch
  • chain stitch
  • sketched satin stitch
  • stem stitch

It also shows many different filling patterns for blackwork but I miss a small tutorial how the author Becky Hogg ‘constructs’/’works’ the pattern at the fabric like in the book New Anchor Book of Blackwork Embroidery Stitches: “Stitching Techniques” page 16 & 17 – I added this book for your information underneath. 

If you like to get a copy of this book you can find it on Blackwork (Essential Stitch Guides) Blackwork (Essential Stitch Guides)

New Anchor Book of Blackwork Embroidery Stitches

Though I really like the “Essential Stitch Guides – Blackwork”, I think that the New Anchor Book of Blackwork Embroidery Stitches is a better book for beginners to start with.

This book has a very nice section about “Getting Started” and shows some basic stitches and fillings. I would recommend to start with the New Anchor Book of Blackwork Embroidery Stitches to get an idea of the technique and maybe then to add the Blackwork (Essential Stitch Guides)

If you like to get a copy of this book you can find it on New Anchor Book of Blackwork Embroidery Stitches The New Anchor Book of Blackwork Embroidery Stitches

Essential Stitch Guides – Bead Embroidery

 Recently, after I finished my small beaded reliquary box, I stumbled upon this book on Amazon and ordered it and I have to say, that I am still very pleased with it. 

Though this book is really not a “big” one – not concerning the amount of pages or the size of the book – it provides quite a lot of helpful and useful information for an affordable price – therefore, if you would like to start with bead and/or pearl embroidery, this could be a nice book for you to start with.

Concerning inspiration – maybe some of you already noticed this lovely veils with the bead decoration at the border – I can easily imagine that the section about “Edging and Fringing Stitches” (especially page 84-85 & 90-95) might inspire even more ladies within the SCA to add a decorative edging with some lovely glass beads to their veils – it’s such a nice and rather easy technique and it is really nice to see such a nice and simple explanation of this technique.
Btw. from time to time my sister Bella still wears the veil with the beaded edging I gave to her as a thank you gift for her awesome veil class many years ago.

The rest of the book is also very interesting – though for all of you, who are interested into period embroidery but have not much practise in bead and pearl embroidery yet, the “Bead Embroidery Stitches” (-> “Circlets” on page 57, “Couching with a single needle” on page 58, “Couching with two threads” on page 59) might be of special interest. 

If you like to get a copy of this book you can find it on Bead Embroidery (Essential Stitch Guides) 
Bead Embroidery (Essential Stitch Guide)

Encyklopaedie der weiblichen Handarbeiten
Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont

This is a rather old book but a really great one when it comes to old needlework techniques – a great, very helpful and comprehensive resource when you need too look up an old technique.

I have the German version of this book – Encyklopaedie der weiblichen Handarbeiten – and I consider it one of my book-treasures.

It starts with a comprehensive section about hand-sewing, which also includes smocking techniques, as well as how to make proper buttonholes, how to reinforce a slit (yeah, the technique I used to reinforce the slit end parts of the slit neckline of my 12th century dress – I found it here). This section is followed by a mending section (was very helpful when I had to mend my wool stockings), a “Weissstickerei” (white work) section, my beloved section about needlemade lace, netting,… – just to name a few sections of this book – it is really an awesome source of inspiration when it comes to old techniques…

If you like to get a copy of this book you can find it on Encyklopaedie der weiblichen Handarbeiten 

Helpful Online-Links for Advanced and Premium users:

Online:  Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont

I will add more books, book reviews and links soon – in the meantime, If you are looking for a book about a special  embroidery technique or would like to read a review of a book you can’t find on my rather short list here – I recommend the book reviews of my friend Mary Corbet on her blog Needle’n Thread here: Books & Links

Best regards Racaire