The Anchor Manual of Needlework is a hefty needlework tome that’s been around since the 1950’s. I haven’t had it on my shelf that long, I assure you! But I do have the reprint, and today I’m going to tell you a bit about it. When it comes to reference books, this is one of the standard books that’s nice to have on the shelf.
The outside of the books is actually the only place where you’ll see color here! Now, don’t be dismayed – there are plenty of black & white books that are excellent and worthy of consideration! Remember, we live in a world that expects color, and color is much more affordable today than it was when this book was printed! But right off the bat, I thought you should know that it’s printed in black & white, in case that’s a turn-off for you!
It’s not a small book, either. In fact, as books go, it is a large book! It has a hard cover and is a good 1.25″ thick. It’s a bit on the weighty side. So while this might not be your carry-around stitch dictionary, it is a book worthy of the reference shelf, and it’s definitely a go-to book when you want to look up something about a given needlework technique.
The book, compiled by J&P Coats (same company as Anchor) has undergone several publishings; the most recent edition is printed by Interweave Press.
And all that is well and fine, but let’s look at the nitty-gritty: the content! You can see that, as an older instructional book, there is more text and fewer photos than what we’re used to today in instructional books. For me, this is great – I like to read, and I like reading instructions! In fact, I often find that I get more out of reading instructions than I do out of a single photo. Sometimes, the photo doesn’t show everything that the text can explain. So for me, when I’m trying to figure something out, I like having the text to refer to.
The stitches are illustrated through drawn diagrams, step-by-step. The diagrams are clear and thorough.
The content of the book is exceedingly thorough. When they say “manual of needlework,” they mean manual of ALL needlework! From surface embroidery to hand sewing to mending and patching, to filet lace to drawn thread to fringed edges and finishing, to sewing with a machine (the basics are all in there!) to goldwork to knitting to crochet…. it’s all in there! This is, in fact, a manual of needlework.
There’s an excellent section on drawn thread work and on Italian needle laces.
You’ll also find a thorough section on embroidering on tulle. In fact, I used this book for a little piece of embroidered tulle years ago. The instructions are clear and easy to follow.
And throughout the book, there are plenty of illustrations of finished pieces, historical needlework, regional techniques, and so forth. The description for the above image reads: “Detail of a rich luncheon cloth in Canusina embroidery. The cloth is divided into many squares, which are repeated around the edge of the cloth, leaving the center of the cloth unworked. The background material is ivory-coloured linen and the embroidery is worked in brown, natural, dark blue, and sea-green.” (Admittedly, it’s descriptions like this that leave me pining for a colored print!)
For a reference book, the Anchor Manual of Needlework is an excellent resource that avid stitchers will want on their bookshelves. As a resource book, I’d give it four out of five stars. It’s definitely worth having. That being said, I don’t think it would be your typical go-to stitch dictionary, as it’s too bulky; there are better and more convenient stitch dictionaries on the market! (ex: Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches; The Embroiderer’s Handbook; Embroidery Stitch Bible, all the A-Z books, etc.)
The nice thing is, you can pick up the Anchor Manual of Needlework through used booksellers for about $5 – $10. Don’t be tricked by sellers who have it on for $90 or more! With a little looking, there are plenty of them out there for less than $10!
So, what do you think? Is this the type of book that interests you? Why or why not? Do you find text-heavy, black & white publications difficult, or do you like them at least for reference? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!