Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches


Whether you’re serious about embroidery or a beginner just beginning to explore the art, every stitcher needs a stitch dictionary! There are all kinds of stitch dictionaries available, but if you’re going to invest in one, invest in a good one.

Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches

I’ve got several in my own library, and one that I like and that I refer to often is Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches.

Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches

This particular stitch dictionary is a full color book with over 400 illustrated embroidery stitches. The book begins with essential information about embroidery supplies.

There are several particular features that I like about the book:

While the stitches are “diagrammed” (rather than photos of the actual stitch in process), there are clear, colorful photos of the completed stitch in regular application as well as in major works of embroidered art. The photos of the major works provide inspiration.

The book is divided into stitch types, as opposed to an alphabetical directory. This is useful if you know what kind of stitch you want. Do you want to stitch an outline? Do want some ideas for filling stitches? You can look them up easily this way. It’s more helpful than wanting a line stitch and looking through an index at names like “Palestrina” or “coral” and not knowing what type of stitch it is.

Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches

Step-by-step directions of thread direction, etc., are given on the more complex stitches. On simple stitches, generally only a one-step diagram is supplied, and this generally suffices.

While there are plenty of other stitch distionaries on the market, this one seems to be a standard. I know I like it for quick and easy reference. It suits both beginner and advanced embroiderer, and it’s relatively inexpensive.

Do you have a stitch dictionary you prefer? Let the rest of us know what it is and why!

You can find Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches through Book Depository in the UK (if you need to order it outside your own country, they have free world-wide shipping). It’s also available through Amazon:


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(5) Comments

  1. I associate embroidery with such wonderful memories of my mother (who is 86 now) patiently teaching me as a child. I have a desire to begin embroidery again, but have forgotten some of the “how to’s” of some of the stitches. Thank you for your wonderful website, that I just came across! It is in my “favorites”.

    1. I too have happy memories being taught at a very young age to embroider by my mother who was an expert needle woman and teacher. Unfortunately she died 29 years ago aged 54. I recently began some felt work and had forgotten how to do even the simplest stitches to embellish my projects. This website has been most helpful and inspiring. Thank you.

  2. Hello Mary,

    As you have both these books I want to ask you if one had to choose between Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches and “The Embroidery Stitch Bible” by Betty Barnden, which one would you recommend as a reference book? I want a book that has lots of stitches to refer to and choose from. I think I will buy only one, so which one will be best? Or do you suggest any other book?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi –

      Well, it’s kind of hard to choose between the two, as they both have about the same type of content in it. I think I’d probably go with Mary Thomas. I think there’s a better variety of surface stitches in there. Hope that helps! ~MC

  3. i just found you i love the feel of needle&thread in my hand as achild i did learn a little bit of embroidery i was looking for a book to help me my grandchildern to girls want me to teach them i love that they want me to but there is so much i dont know please help me i told them i would try that we could learn together

    1. Hi, Bonnie – This would be a good book to start with (Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches). It has all the basic stitches, plus a whole lot more!

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