Embroidery: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum

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Embroidery: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum

V&A Embroidery.jpg
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Category: Crafts
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A beautiful and inspiring introduction to fifteen different types of embroidery with fifteen projects to complete.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: October 2017
Publisher: Thames and Hudson
ISBN: 978-0500293270

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In Embroidery: A Maker's Guide we get a brief introduction to the craft by James Merry, embroidery artist, information on the tools you'll need, materials you can utilise and a guide to the stitches you'll be using. If you're just thinking about starting embroidery and not certain which type will suit you best or someone who's experienced in one area but wanting to branch out this book could be an ideal starting point. There are over 230 glorious photographs (of items from the V&A collections) and illustrations covering 15 styles of embroidery and giving all the information and designs you'll need for 15 projects.

No one actually needs embroidery, but doesn't it look beautiful and what an antidote to quick, disposable mass produced products. Value comes, not from novelty, but from precision, quality and original thinking. There are examples of machine embroidery in Embroidery: A Maker's Guide, but fourteen of the fifteen projects rely on the individuality of hand embroidery, no two of which will ever be the same: someone's embroidery is as individual as their handwriting in a letter.

For the most part the list of tools which you'll require is simple and reasonable. If you sew you may well have most of them already: you might need to enlarge your range of needles, but these are relatively inexpensive. I do have one caveat though: don't buy anything unless you're certain that you're going to need it. I've been embroidering for more than half a century and never had the need of a tailor's awl (sometimes called a stiletto), but I've often found unconventional uses for a large darning needle. Information on fabrics and threads is relatively limited but more than adequate for the projects in the book. I liked the instructions on transferring designs (something which I've always found difficult) and the stitch guide is excellent.

In the section of Counted Thread and Canvas Work we begin with Kogin, a Japanese form of darning stitch embroidery, which is effective, relatively simple and the project for you to complete is a very effective book cover. I was delighted to see that the fabric used is a 14-count Aida which is readily available. Berlin woolwork uses canvas. The project here is for a headband made quite delightful with the addition of beads and plush work. The Bargello zipped pouch would make a lovely purse and you could adjust the colours to complement a handbag. I've always thought of blackwork as 'Spanish Blackwork' this idea apparently coming from the belief that Catherine of Aragon made the technique popular in England. There are two lovely designs of insects to go on napkins, but they'd also make lovely greetings cards. The design for the moth can be embroidered directly onto the fabric, but the dragonfly needs a template transferring onto material with the outline being completed in stem stitch. I'll confess that this put me off starting something which looked quite beautiful. I've never encountered phulkari before, but it comes from north India and eastern Pakistan. Traditionally the designs were embroidered from the reverse. The project is a tasselled cushion.

Freestyle embroidery always looks quite beautiful and the detail we're shown from a late 18th century Chinese robe is exquisite. We begin with crewel work with a project to make a raspberry phone pouch. Crewel work designs tend to be stylised and this one is no exception. Chinese silk work is beautiful but it's brought completely up to date with a project for embroidery on a denim jacket. Goldwork has been around in one form or another for 2000 years and has always been associated with wealth or status. The green man sew-on patch is probably not going to break the bank though! Art needlework was championed by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. The project for an artichoke cushion is completely in keeping and uses Morris's original colour palette from the wall hangings at Smeaton Manor.

Whitework isn't simply a variant of blackwork, but something rather more complex. Broderie Anglaise is possibly the most famous style, normally bought as lengths of material these days, but the floral bunting project would look very pretty in the nursery. Mountmellick embroidery is unusual in forms of whitework in the it doesn't include open spaces, but is, instead, three dimensional and there's a project for a decorative collar.

Embellishments includes shisha work which uses small mirrors and it's associated with the embroidery of western India and Pakistan. The clutch bag project is beautiful and the end product is most unusual. Beetle wing embroidery might sound rather cruel but they're actually the protective wing casing which is naturally shed. The project is for a hanging embroidery and I have found the beetle wings available on the internet, but came up blank at Hobbycraft! Ainu appliqué produces an effect which is very modern looking: mid-19th century robes look like high fashion. The thorn-pattern bag project is beautiful and very practical.

I liked Contemporary Embroidery rather more than I expected. I was delighted to see what could be done with the Adidas logo, courtesy of James Merry. The project is floral-motif lingerie. You'll require a pair of black, French knickers and a sewing machine...

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

Ever thought about taking up Patchwork?

Buy Embroidery: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Embroidery: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Embroidery: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Embroidery: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum at Amazon.com.


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