Review of Embroidery Sources

Lady Genevieve d'Valois

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General Period Embroidery Books
Style Specific Embroidery Books
Area Specific Embroidery Books and Magazine Articles.
Non-Embroidery Sources That Are Useful to the Embroiderer

General Period Embroidery Books

Beck, Thomasina. The Embroiderer’s Flowers

When I first got this book I loved it so much that I slept with it by my bed. It is so beautifully done it defies words. It is not all period information, but a worthy addition to your collection none-the-less. A great deal of valuable information on late period embroidery styles from Western Europe, including many extant pieces.

Don, Sarah. Traditional Embroidered Animals

I LOVE this book. There are tons of pictures of period embroideries featuring animals. There are descriptions of period embroidery styles. And the stitch diagrams are fantastic. Excellent source and fairly inexpensive.

Gostelow, Mary. Embroidery: Traditional Designs, Techniques and Patterns from all over the World.

Generalized embroidery book that touches on each region of the world and its embroidery styles. Does cover some history and shows some period examples, but most is post period. Nice section on Scandinavia.Grimstad, Kirsten Ed.

The Conservation of Tapestries and Embroideries

This is a collection of articles from a symposium. It is one of my absolute favorite books. I love it because of the practically microscopic close-ups of period pieces. The photos are large and mostly in color. You can see excellent stitch details. There is also some construction information on a few of the pieces.

Huish, Marcus. Samplers & Tapestry Embroideries.

Interesting historical text and a handful of period pieces I had not seen before that are in the author’s own collection. Much of the book is post-period. However, it is a very cheap book and well worth it for the info and pics of extant pieces it has.

Kozaczka, Grazyna J. Old World Stitchery for Today

Has brief description of the history of the following embroidery styles: Goldwork, Beadwork, Cutwork, Drawn Threadwork and Cutwork. Also has good stitch descriptions and diagrams.

Paine, Sheila. Embroidered Textiles: Traditional Patterns from Five Continents

Mostly post period and yet a gorgeous book. Focuses on non-western styles and has an excellent history including religious influences on embroidery. The most frustrating aspect is that the tons of gorgeous pieces shown are not dated.

Sebba, Anne. Samplers: Five Centuries of a Gentle Craft.

The First 30 pages of history are dedicated to our period the rest is post-period. There are pictures of 4 period samplers. Rather than buying this book, I checked it out from the library and copied the relevant chapter.

Snook, Barbara. Creative Art of Embroidery

This is a basic embroidery book. Does have a good overview of the history of embroidery from ancient times to present. Also has good stitch diagrams and basic “how-to’s” for the beginner.

Staniland, Kay. Medieval Craftsmen: Embroiderers

Beautiful book, if somewhat small for my taste. Excellent color pictures of extant period pieces. Informative text, though I have heard a few comments of inaccuracies in the text. What I’ve heard seems to be inconsequential to the value of the book. This is a great source.

Synge, Lanto. Art of Embroidery, History of Style & Technique

This is a textbook. Very valuable source for information. Has beautiful color pictures of extant pieces. Is very explanatory and yet easy to read. Only about half of the book is in period and focuses on styles from Western Europe. Still a remarkable work and excellent source.

Wilson, Erica. Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book

Has a great deal of info on period needlework styles with pictures of period pieces. All in black & white. However, this is a very easy to find and cheap book. Good first embroidery book.

Needlework Pattern BooksCasa Editrice Mani Di Fata. Ricami D’Assisi

This is a pattern book of Assisi Style Embroidery. There is no documentation that any of it is period. However, it could be of use to someone who has studied the style well-enough to pick up what design elements are period, or for someone who just wants to do something in the style and doesn’t have any need to document it’s “period-ness”

Evans, Susan J. Ed. Niccolo Zoppino’s Esamplario – 1530

I’m not sure if this book can still be bought. It was given to me by a friend and it is in spiral notebook form. These are counted styles, mostly geometric and border motifs. It is an excellent source for period patterns. Printed by Falconwood Press.

Evans, Susan J. Ed. Counted Thread Patterns From “The True Perfection of Design by Giovanni Ostaus in Venice – 1567”.

Same as above.

Foris, Andreas & Maria. Charted Fold Designs for Cross-stitch Embroidery – 278 Charts of Ancient Folk Embroideries from the Countries along the Danube.

This is a Dover book with a very short generalized history of Cross-stitch. There are tons of patterns, several of which are noted in the introductory text as being from period pattern books and sources.

Hanson, Carol. Designs, Period

This is a nice little book that is out of publication and the author has put it up on her website. Yeah, a free book! The patterns are well documented and lovely. All counted styles. Very Useful!!

Keiwe, Heinz Edgar. Ed. Charted Peasant Designs From Saxon Transylvania

This is a Dover book. Nice and yet frustrating in ways. The patterns a charted very small, so you have to squint a little bit. The source for each pattern is documented in the front of the book, but they are very sketchy. Most include dates, but not all. Some include actual pictures of the items, but they are tiny and grainy and you can’t tell anything from looking at them. Quite a few are from our time period, but not all. Having said this, it is a good source for period patterns from this area.

Newell, Kathryn. Ed. Needlework Patterns from Renaissance Germany (Johan Sibmacher’s “Schon Neues Medelbuch 1597)

These designs are re-charted from a primary source that, according the author is practically unheard of in the U.S. The designs are lovely and easy to use.

Nourry, Claude & Pierre de Saincte Loucie. Patterns: Early 16th Century

This is a reprint of four early 16th Century French Pattern books. It is much like the Vinciolo book, with one exception. It has a great deal of free-style embroidery patterns as well as counted styles. The really neat thing about this book is that I recognized several of the patterns from extant pieces that I have seen.

Vinciolo, Federico. Renaissance Patterns For Lace, Embroidery and Needlepoint

When I first bought this book I was new to period embroidery and the book seemed perfectly useless to me. Having learned more as time passed, this book’s value has increased in my eyes. The patterns are not what the modern day person thinks of as patterns and would take some adaptations to use. However, it is a primary source for designs and everything is period. While I would recommend this book, I would not recommend it for a new embroiderer, it may only frustrate you more.

Museum & Collection Catalogues of Embroidery Cavallo, Adolph. Needlework; Cooper-Hewitt Museum

This is a collection catalogue that is an excellent source. There is an interesting introductory history and many period pieces with excellent color photos.

Gomez-Moreno, Carmen. Medieval Art From Private Collections: A Special Exhibition at the Cloisters.

This is a nice collection that has a small section on embroidery. There are a couple of pieces I hadn’t seen before, the others are St. Martin embroideries. All pics in b&w, but with excellent description.

King, Donald and Santina Levey. The Victoria & Albert Museum Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from 1200-1750.

This is an excellent book with many, large, color photos of extant pieces. It includes a brief history and the descriptions of the pieces are fairly thorough.

King, Donald. European Textiles in the Kier Collection 400BC – 1800AD

This book is a very valuable resources, for more than just embroidery. It has many beautiful pictures of extant pieces, with descriptions of styles and techniques. It encompasses all types of textiles, therefore making it a good resource not only for embroidery, but also for picking out period fabrics for costumes and for weaving.

Levey, Santina M. Elizabethan Treasures: The Hardwick Hall Textiles

This is an amazing and beautiful book. The pictures are all colorful and the pieces are 99% in period. Excellent history as well.

“Textiles in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” The Met. Museum Bulletin, Winter 95/96.

The Met has one of the best textile collections in the US. Tons & tons of extant pieces from our time period, but some are not. Excellent picture book, the descriptions are detailed and thorough.

Thurman, Christa Maya. Textiles: The Art Institute of Chicago

Somewhat larger than the Met Catalogue, and very impressive. Quality of the work is comparable with the above.

Style Specific Embroidery Books

Campbell-Harding, Valerie, Jane Lemon & Kit Pyman. Goldwork.

This book has very little period information, with the exception of a brief 4-page history of Goldwork. HOWEVER, it has very good technique information for someone that wants to do embroidery with metallic threads, which can be very frustrating.

Clarke, Dorothy. Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery.

This is a beautiful book on Raised embroidery – the just barely pre-stumpwork version that IS period. It is a good descriptive work of the techniques used and the patterns she provides are period. Includes a 2-page history. One of my favorites.

Freeman, Margaret B. The St. Martin Embroideries

Extant Pieces, These are excellent examples of Or Nue style embroidery. Many color pictures that show close-up detail. Very nice book

Geddes, Elisabeth & Moyra McNeill. Blackwork Embroidery.

The first 50 pages of this book are an excellent source on the history of blackwork, with period examples. However, the rest of the book is all modern.

Goldberg, Rhoda Orchser. New Dictionary of Counted Thread Embroidery Stitches.

This is a good “how-to” book for beginners. Excellent sections on how to do Blackwork, Assisi and Pattern Darning.

Gostelow, Mary. Blackwork

This is considered by many to be one of the best sources on Blackwork. I was frustrated with this purchase initially b/c I was wanting a “how to” book and this is primarily a “history of” book. Still an excellent source, with a wealth of information and I value it highly - now that I know “how-to”.

Hirst, Barbara & Roy. Raised Embroidery: A Practical Guide to Decorative Stumpwork.

This book has good historical information and pictures of extant pieces, most of which are post period, but not all. The projects in the second half of the book are all modern applications of raised embroidery, but the technique is still the same.

Keay, Diana. The Book of Smocking

This is a “how to” book on smocking that surprisingly has a very adequate history that includes very pertinent documentation. I was pleased.

Ness, Pamela Miller. Assisi Embroidery

This is a Dover book and therefore pretty basic. Has a small section on history that is fairly consistent with other sources. The majority of the book is patterns that have no historical documentation. (But they’re pretty!)

Nichols, Jane. Stumpwork Embroidery.

One of the best books on this subject. Beautifully done. Has some historical background and the patterns & projects are in a period style. This is the best “how-to” book on Raised Embroidery I have found.

Swain, Margaret. The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots

Oooh, I love this book. Has some good historical information, pretty color pictures and is one of the best sources of info on Tent Stitch embroidery I’ve seen.

Wilson, Erica. The Craft of Silk and Gold Thread Embroidery & Stumpwork.

This is an interesting little book that has a good amount of period information and explanation of techniques. Unfortunately, the chapter on stumpwork is almost completely post-period.

Wymarc, Richard. A Stitch Out of Time

This was originally published as one of the Compleat Anachronist Pamphlets. It is now available on Mr. Wymarc’s web page. It is a great source for 14th-15th century counted German embroidery. Many extant pieces are used as examples and basis for patterns.

Area Specific Embroidery Books & Magazine Articles

Ellis, Marianne. Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt

All information is in period being that it covers the 9th to 16th centuries. This is an excellent resource. Tons of great pictures. Good History and excellent descriptions. Photos are close up so you can see stitch details.

Ellis, Marianne & Jennifer Wearden. Ottoman Embroidery.

This lovely, oversized book has 9 pages of history followed by a list of the plates, which describes the pieces in detail. Nine of the plates are of period pieces. All are in color. The plates are followed by a description of stitches and techniques used that is very user friendly. Overall a great resource.

Fanelli, Rosalia Bonito. Five Centuries of Italian Textiles: 1300-1800.

The main focus of this book is popular design elements in Italy. Most of the examples shown are woven textiles, however there are several embroideries illustrated as well. This would be an excellent source to show a link between design elements being copied back and forth between several different art forms. For Example: It discusses the “S” motif and then shows a woven piece with the design, 2 different embroidered designs and a period design plate. Other design elements show a piece of pottery w/ a design and then a woven piece with the same design. There is a lot of comparison back and forth. Interesting book.

Gervers, Veronika. The Influence of Ottoman Turkish Textiles and Costume in Eastern Europe

This book has a scholarly bent. Very useful and interesting information for someone who is interested in delving deeper into the embroidery of the Turks as well as of the Hungarians – which are the main bent of the book. Several photographs, some are in period, some are not. All Black & White.

Gervers,Veronika. Ipoly-Arnold Embroidery Collections from the Hungarian Christian Folk Museum

Still working on translating this one as well. Much of the text is dedicated to period embroidery, though only a few of the pictures. Surviving examples of period Hungarian embroidery are few, therefore making this an extremely valuable source.

Greek Islands Embroideries, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Mostly Post-period. Some text refers to period embroidery. Lots of gorgeous photos, but none are dated.

Kasparian, Alice Odian. Armenian Needlelace and Embroidery.

This is a good history of Armenian Needlework, though there are no period examples.

Krody, Sumru Belger. Flowers of Silk and Gold, Four Centuries of Ottoman Embroidery

This is a lovely and informative book. This history section does include period information, but the examples are post-period. Being that there are so few surviving period pieces from this region, this is still a valuable resource.

Portugal and the East through Embroidery, The Museu Nacional De Arte Antiga, Lisbon

This is a very tiny book, more of a pamphlet really. Has lovely pictures, but only one of a period embroidered piece from India, the rest are post – period. There is also a small section on furniture that is mostly period. (about five pages). I would only recommend this book for documentation on Indian style embroidery.

Rogers, J.M & R.M. Ward. Suleyman the Magnificent

This book has beautiful color photos and has lovely section on textiles/embroidery/costume. There are also some embroidered pieces is the armory section.

Santangelo, Antonino. A Treasury of Great Italian Textiles

This massive book has a large history section in the beginning with a chapter dedicated to each century of textile production beginning with the 12th century & going through the 17th century. It also discusses external influences including the Islamic influence. Includes discussions of embroidery. History section is followed by section of color plates, several of which include embroideries.

Silke Og Guld: Ungarske Broderier Fra Renaessance Og Barok, Museet Pa Koldinghus. (Silk & Gold: Hungarian Embroidery from Renaissance times.)

I’m still working on translating this one. It has three pictures of 16th century Hungarian Embroidery and most of the rest are early 1600’s. I would say this is an excellent source for someone interested in Hungarian styles.

Swain, Margaret. Historical Needlework, A study of Influences in Scotland and Northern England.

Has excellent historical information on Period embroidery in Scotland and N. England. Has a few period examples in black & white. Much of the info is post-period.

Varju-Ember, Maria. Old Textiles: Treasures From the Hungarian National Museum

This is the most thorough source I have found on the history of Hungarian Embroidery. Begins in the 12th century and moves through the 19th century. Has several period pieces pictured, some in color. Excellent Source.

Wardle, Patricia. Guide to English Embroidery

This is a fantastic book. Tons of pictures of museum pieces and their descriptions. All black & white. Text describing the evolution of English Embroidery. Excellent Source.

Non-Embroidery Sources That Are Useful to the Embroiderer

Andere, Mary. Old Needlework Boxes and Tools.

History of various Needlwork accessories. Includes pictures of a 16th century Russian Chatelaine, B.C. era and Roman era needles and pins, medieval thimbles, Anglo-Saxon needlebox and lucets.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard & Kay Staniland. Textiles & Clothing 1150 – 1450: Medieval Finds from Excavations in London.

This is a SUPER-Technical book with no embroidery in it. However, it has 2 examples of 14th century pouches, plus a large section on hand sewing and tailoring stitches and techniques. It also shows how some fringes and buttons were made.

Dodwell, C.R. Pictorial Arts of the West, 800-1200 AD.

This large, extensive reference has a chapter on Embroidery from 800-1200 with both black & white and Color photos of 17 extant pieces. Very useful source for documentation of early period styles.

Groves, Sylvia. The History of Needlework Tools and Accessories.

The book is exactly what the title implies. Includes pictures of 3 medieval needle cases, Roman & medieval thimbles, a 16th C. Coif done in Elizabethan style Raised Embroidery that had been made into a pin cushion, and an Anglo-Saxon Sewing Box.

Holkeber, Katherine Strand. Patterns for Theatrical Costumes

This is a Theatre Costuming book. VERY basic. However, it is a good source for the beginning costumer. It includes very basic embroidery designs with each style it presents, which would be good for someone who is just beginning to do embroidered garb embellishments.

The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

95% of this book is post period. HOWEVER, the 5% that is in period – is good information. There is a description of Hungarian Costume and Embroidery from period that is about 4 pages long.

Kohler, Carl. A History of Costume

Mostly of use to costumers, however there is some discussion of decorative embroidery on costumes

Norris, Herbert. Tudor Costume and Fashion

This is a very in-depth study of fashion in the period – and not just clothes. It discusses embroidery in several areas and also includes period accessories, including needlework accessories, also details period furniture styles.

Thornton, Peter. The Italian Renaissance Interior: 1400-1600.

This is a gorgeous and thoroughly researched book. It goes into great detail on each element in the Italian Renaissance home. It has a lovely section on Textiles and Embroidery. Also goes into some detail about bed hangings. It is also a good source for period Italian furniture.

Zuffi, Stefano. Renaissance Painting

When all else fails look at paintings. Many of the portraits in the book are useful for documenting period needlework, from costume embellishments to furniture and wall hangings. Also a great source for costuming.

(All copyright privileges remain with the author. Copyright 2004 Valerie Renfro, also known as Genevieve d'Valois)