Archive for the Category » Book Review «

Hands, Hilda – book download problem

Vpdate,  13th Dec – the site owners have told me that it was a temporary problem and is now fixed :-)

Firstly, my ‘ewe’ key isn’t working, so please excse the fnny typing.

Kimberly S jst tried to download the Hilda Hands Chrch Embroidery book from the site and it gives errors for opening the PDFs and EPb files. I went for “All HTTP files” and fond that yo can access the color PDF from 

I’ll tell the site managers. Meanwhile, if yo want it – there yo go.

Hands, Hilda – Church Embroidery – Ancient and Modern

I wrote recently how pleased I was to find a copy of this book. Then “Anonymous” put in a comment that the book is available on-line!

Thankyou Anonymous! Now we can all share in the beautiful beautiful designs and detailed text.

Much padding and couching going on…….

This isn’t a proper review – I’m not awake enough for that – Mary Corbet reviews it at

The patterns! The patterns! 


Howard, Constance – Design for Embroidery from Historical Sources

I’ve gotten a bit sick again – that’s why I’ve been quiet, but I have quickly read Constance Howard’s Design for Embroidery from Historical Sources.

The book is a cross between  

Barbara Snook’s Historical Embroidery  which describes history on design change and technology/materials, with lots of design *drawings*, which – althought I can provide no source, I have read are not terribly accurate (but the book is good although fairly brief)

Embroidery Masterworks; Classic Patterns and Techniques for Contemporary Application by Virginia Churchill Bath, who talks about re-designing various extant items from many periods using techniques for ‘more modern tastes” (which one might freely ignore or maybe like a particular idea, it’s not like she’s adapting them to machine work!) but talks about the original implementation of the embroidery in technical detail as well.

There are many many useful small pattern segments drawn in clear black and white in the book and black and white (not great) photos of extant items. I’d like to do so many of the projects! It’s very educational to read.

Here’s one page :

Mary Corbet recently featured the hard to find needlework bookshop
In the Ecclesiastical section (coz those projects are mixed silk and goldwork – just what I like) I found the Hilda Hands book!!!!

I’ve wanted this book for years – ever since Mary featured part of one project from it at

I’ve never ever seen the book on sale and I have searched for it periodically.

Here is the piccie of the project – I imagine the rest of the book is similar….the Great and Only Mary reviews the Hilda Hands book at the link above. :-)

It was only $35! :-) Bette from HardToFindNeedlebooks is lovely, and very helpful.


A Great Source for Embroidery Books

Are you after a copy of Erica Wilson? Mary Brown? Theresa Dillmonte? the older crewel books? Lace? Whitework?

I was just having a trawl through the vintage embroidery books on Etsy. I think the Dillmonte (hardback) was $12, and the Erica Wilson (several copies) $8. There’s 822 books in the search today. One book on Assisi embroidery selling for over $80, so that one must be special. I don’t think a lot of the sellers have a clue what they are selling as their descriptions are sometimes a bit vague…..

Of course there are modern books as well – but I’d recommend searching by a particular embroidery subject in that case if you search under “All Items”, rather than under the “Vintage” catagory where the link above will put you….or you’ll be buried in results :-)

Searching on “embroidery book” in the category “All Items”, just to survey the variety of books brought up (way too many pages to look through) I saw a couple of particularly good ones :
1971 Edition of The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scotts – $US12.

I also saw 2 Helen Stevens (needlepainting) books selling for $8 each.


Mira Calligraphae Monumenta – Extracts are cheaper

I mentioned in my last post, on the Green Man, having the Mira Calligraphae Monumenta as a design source.

If you’ve looked up the prices of the book, and fainted – yes, this is the most expensive book I own. But there are 3 paperback ‘extract’ books taken from it – one on the calligraphy, one on the pen art and “Nature Illuminated” (the one that would interest us) – $10ish on Amazon for the hardback.

Nature Illuminated reproduces forty-one pages from the original codex. Those who love and collect beautiful books will be endlessly fascinated by Hoefnagel’s imagery and invention. The accompanying commentary identifies and explains the details of Hoefnagel’s exquisitely crafted illuminations.” (Amazon)

Mira Calligraphae Monumenta – The Green Man

I’ve always wanted to embroider a Green Man. But looking at embroideries of him, I’ve never seen one that has inspired me to do my own version.

“A Green Man is a sculpture(SP), drawing(SP), or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves(SP). Branches or vines(SP) may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament(SP), Green Men are frequently found on carvings in churches(SP) and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical)”  (Wikipedia)

Finally I’ve found a source of inspiration! From the Mira Calligraphae Monumenta, of which I own a copy :

” In 1561-62, Georg Bocskay, imperial secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, inscribed the Mira calligraphiae monumenta as a testament to his preeminence among scribes. He assembled a vast selection of contemporary and historical scripts, which nearly thirty years later were further embellished by Joris Hoefnagel, Europe’s last great manuscript illuminator. This book, now in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is reproduced here in complete facsimile form,… Topics include Hoefnagel’s nature imagery, which encompasses plants, fruits, and small animals, and its relation to the spread of interest in botany and zoology at the end of the sixteenth century. ……” (Amazon)

Never mind Herbals – I regard this as my best ‘natural image’ source book for embroideries. Here’s a couple of images from it :

The Green Man that inspires me :-

 Laid gold passing for his hair and whiskers, with some darker gold for the shadows (eg the underside of his hair), some padding around his eyes and mouth, and the actual face done in needlepainting. The beard would be interesting to do – in silk or in shades of gold metal thread, or a mixture?

The actual eyeballs would be really hard to get correct – I’d have to think about that. Maybe consult with Jane of Chilly Hollow Adventures – she’s good at things like that.

I don’t plan to do the branches with the acorns that extend out the top sides of his head, or the red thingy on top. Just his face would be enough. I think that I would include the horns, to provide balance in the ‘weight’ distribution in the piece.

More images :-

Green Man Embroideries

More images from the Mira Calligraphae Monumenta

Dolby, Anastasia – Church Embroidery, Ancient and Modern

The Textile Blog has a fascinating and thorough review of Church Embroidery, Ancient and Modern by Anastasia Marice Dolby, published in 1867 at

Here’s the first two paragraphs of the review…..

“In 1867, Anastasia Marice Dolby published Church Embroidery, Ancient and Modern. The book was produced as a practical and technical guide for the use of embroidery for ecclesiastical furnishings. Although certainly pitched at an amateur audience, she did have professional help and reference guides from a number of individuals including Daniel Rock the English antiquarian and ecclesiologist who had a specific interest in church history and a practical approach to church functions such as the Mass. She is known to have used his Hierurgia or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which he originally published in 1833.
Dolby also considered herself to be a professional, rather than an embroiderer of leisure, a section of society to which the book was largely aimed. She had been a court embroiderer and termed herself ‘late embroideress to the Queen.’ In this respect, she felt that she had the connections, professionalism and the skills base to produce a confident book concerned with the correct approach to ecclesiastical embroidery.
The book itself while not giving detailed plans and pattern work as such, is largely a practical guide to church embroidery……..”

There is also a long list of fascinating live links (to Amazon books, tho I haven’t checked them all) at the end of the review.

Amior, Shelagh – Jacobean Embroidery

This arrived in the post yesterday, and I just had a look at it.

For a proper review of the book, check out Mary Corbet’s review –

I just wanted to add
- the Sources of Inspiration section is good
- I like that she uses historical muted colours rather than brighter modern ones. Her patterns seen very historical from what I’ve seen of Jacobean work (tho I haven’t studied it jet, just seen a lot of pieces)
- she has a useful section at the end, where she has clearly photocopyable shapes of flowers and leaves, and also a rabbit and squirrel.

Enthoven, Jaqueline – The Stitches of Creative Embroidery

I saw a reference to this somewhere, as a book that talked about the historical origins of stitches, so I got it from the library.
I now want my own copy.
Jacqeline Enthoven talks about stitches from their historical and their ethnic origins, meaning there are many stitches that you don’t normally see in an embroidery dictionary.
She also talks about building your own sampler and how to put stitches together to form new stitches, or a border.
I think the Amazon reviews say the rest :
And also, some of the index (Click to enlarge)

Twixt Art and Nature

This is truly a stupendous book, in size and content.

I can barely pick it up, and it only just fits on my scanner.

When I first opened it, I got stuck on the frontspiece piece of embroidery for awhile before I could proceed.

The first half is essays, the second the catalogue.

Essays :

  • Collecting English Domestic Embroidery/Melinda Watt
  • Embroidered Furnishings: Questions of Production and Usage/Kathleen Staples
  • “An instrument of profit, pleasure and of ornament”: Embroidered Tudor and Jacobean Dress Accessories/Susan North
  • Embroidered Biblical Narratives and the Their Social Context
  • Regaining Eden : Representations of Nature in Seventeenth Century English Embroidery

and my favourite, a page of which is shown below,

  • Materials and Techniques of Secular Embroideries/Christina Balloffet Carr

The Catalogue is divided into

  • The Royal Image
  • Embroidery and Education
  • Accessories of Dress
  • Interior Furnishings
  • Biblical Subjects
  • Nature and Pastoral Imagery

I show the pages for 2 items below. An item may have up to 4 pages on it.

You can see the quality of the photography.

The words on an item might include some history in general of the items, history of the particular item, discussion of the item’s elements and their meanings and comments on techniques used.

(this are all full pages)