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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Library of Needlework Books Online


Amazon Books

If you’re like me, you like needlework books. I especially like older needlework books, many of which are out of print, but which are generously made available online by different people involved in different special online textile projects. But, if you’re like me, you can’t necessarily spend lots of time sifting through the books to see which ones you might be interested in…. or, like me, you might spend the time sifting, only to regret it when you have other things to do!

So the purpose of this post, which will be available in the left side bar under “Online Needlework Books” is to help reduce the hours of searching for specific books online. I’m just going to create a casual “catalog” of online books devoted solely to needlework of various types that may be of interest to the hand embroiderer. I’ll include a short description, so that you can see if you’d be interested before you spend too much time browsing.

I’ll update the list as I sort through my links. If you know of any online books that are favorites of yours, feel free to let me know so I can add it to the list!

  • The Encyclopedia of Needlework
    by Therese Dillmont
    Made available by Project Gutenberg
    Description: A comprehensive book on needlework, covering a whole range of techniques. You’ll find photos of stitches and techniques, with text describing how they are worked. Some of the topics covered: surface embroidery of all types, crochet, knitting, lace-making, etc. If it’s needlework, you’re bound to find a reference for it in this book!
  • Jacobean Embroidery
    by Ada Wentworth Fitzwilliam and A.F. Morris Hands
    Made available by Project Gutenberg
    Description: This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in crewel work, needlepainting, or, of course, Jacobean embroidery. It includes a brief history, followed by plenty of information on techniques and a whole slew of designs that provide inspiration for the embroiderer.
  • Beeton’s Book of Needlework
    by Isabella Beeton
    Made available by Project Gutenberg (HTML format) and Antique Pattern Library in PDF form (links below)
    Description: This is another comprehensive needlework book. It contains instructions and pictures of different techniques, as well as patterns and – the part I like best – some very nice monogram alphabets. The Antique Pattern Library supplies the book in PDF format (from Project Gutenberg), in three files: Part I, Part II, Part III. I like the 3rd file best, as it contains very nice coverage of needlelace techniques, including embroidered net (guipure), as well as the extensive index, which will help you find other stuff throughout the complete work. You’ll find the section on monograms in the second file, starting on page 118 of the PDF.
  • Art in Needlework
    by Lewis F. Day
    Available on American Libraries Internet Archive
    Description: Another comprehensive resource, this one is made up of a good bit of text, but has some nice illustrations in it. There are some good descriptions of technique, but what I like about it is the dated commentary that runs through the book. “Linen is a worthy ground-stuff…Cotton is hardly worth embroidering.” I like the section on “A Word to the Worker,” starting on page 250 of the PDF. Much of what is said in this short chapter still holds true, and there are some very good tips for the embroiderer.
  • The Art of Modern Lacemaking
    Published by Butterick in 1891
    Made available by Project Gutenberg
    Description: People who like to embroidery don’t necessarily like the idea of making lace, admittedly – just because you like the one art doesn’t mean you like the other! – but it’s true that lace making and embroidery cross boundaries once in a while. Browsing through this book, you’ll find some great patterns and some techniques that can be used in surface embroidery as well as lace making. Note the section on darning, for example. In the patterns, you’ll find some really pretty inspirational pieces. The point lace butterfly pattern could be easily adapted to surface embroidery.
  • Assisi Embroidery
    by Therese Dillmont
    Made available by the On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics (hereafter, Digital Archive)
    Format: Two PDF Files: Part One & Part Two
    Description: Added at the beginning of August, 2007, this contribution to the digital archive will interest anyone who likes counted thread techniques and historical embroidery. The booklet has numerous magnificent examples, in color. The first part of the work is where you’ll find the technique explained, and the second part is devoted primarily to color plates.
  • Church Embroidery and Church Vestments
    by Lucy Vaughn Hayden Mackrille
    Made available by Digital Archives
    Description: This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in ecclesiastical textiles – whether you’re interested in making them yourself, or you just like historical needlework, etc. While some of the terminology and materials are a little outdated, the majority of the book is priceless when it comes to technique, design, etc. It’s an enjoyable book just to flip through, to see some inspiring needlework. The separate lin
    ks to the PDF files are listed in my brief blurb on the book.
  • Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving
    by Mrs. Archibald Christie
    Made available by Project Gutenberg
    This is a great book covering embroidery techniques, with plenty of pattern and design ideas. Fun to browse through!

I’ve still got a few more links to add, so check back for updates! And please don’t hesitate to suggest additions!


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(12) Comments

  1. I have placed three of my Outline Stitch Embroidery/Redwork books on my website. They combine both history and designs from actual Victorian period pieces. The books are: Just for Fun Redwork, Emma’s Quilt, and Redwork Embroidery and Needlework Traditions in Europe and America. Pat

  2. Hi ,
    I found this website is very useful for me as a beginner. I want to know how to trace a design on a cloth. Please help me.

  3. Well, if you’re tracing it, Deepa, I’d draw or print the design on paper, tape the paper to a window, and tape your fabric over the pattern. Then, depending on the type of embroidery it is, I’d use a regular pencil (I use a mechanical pencil) to lightly and carefully trace the design. If I’m doing white on white embroidery, though, I would use a blue dressmaker’s pencil.

    You can use the prick and pounce method – or you could buy iron-on transfer paper and iron-on pens / pencils – but I don’t personally like the iron on stuff, and the prick and pounce takes a lot longer than tracing in the window takes. You can find details on prick and pounce in the FAQ in the top menu (look under transferring a design).

    Hope that helps!

  4. Hi, I had visited your site before thu’ Sharon’s blog.I linked to all of the books mentioned in your cataloguebut had lost them to problems in our computer.I was trying to find them again when I found your link.Thanks for making my task so easy.

  5. Hi,

    I would like to thank you for the books links. I have been searching for such books for a while now.

    I practice various Indian embroidery styles and am amazed at the similarities that I find between the Kasuthi from South India (Karnataka) and the Blackwork of Europe. The difference is perhaps in the number of colours used in both styles. This is just a case to point

  6. Hi Mary,

    I've been searching on Google books and have found some really great children's books (school readers, etc.) as well as others that have images that could be used/adapted for embroidery. If you filter the search for "full" view books only you've find lots of victorian era books that you can download. I googled "garden fairies" and found a ton of stuff. Not sure what to do with it yet but I'll figure out something. There are a lot of images of insects, animals, etc., too. Clearly, they had a much more accepting view of insects than people do today! Another nice thing about Google books is that you can just save to your library rather than downloading the large files, then go back when you have time and select what you really want to download. Just thought I'd pass this tip along in case you haven't looked there yet.


  7. Hi, Helen!

    Excellent tip – thank you! I like the Google "library" feature, though so far I've only used it specifically for needlework books. Now I'll be sure to look around for other books, too – the Victorian era ones sound like they would be great!

    Thanks again!


  8. Hello Mary, just to let you know that it seems that Godfrey’s Bookshelf is no longer available. I haven’t checked the others as I was wanting the John Taylor poem. Regards, Joyce.

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