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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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Book Review: 19th Century Embroidery Techniques

 

Gail Marsh, author of 18th Century Embroidery Techniques which I reviewed previously, has written another book. Let me tell you about it…

19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh presents to the reader the popular embroidery techniques of the 19th century.

19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh

Marsh focuses on six particular technique categories of the 19th century needleworker: canvas work, surface embroidery, whitework, patchwork and applique, fancy work, and learning to sew. In each category, she presents a case study, with pictures of historical pieces and information on materials used, method of work, and so forth.

19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh

Among the case studies are beautiful photos of pieces complete and incomplete, demonstrating different embroidery techniques from the era. Along with the photos is a detailed explanation of the history of the technique, with bits of information about the history of the different pieces in the case study.

19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh

In presenting the different popular techniques of 19th century embroidery, Marsh also offers excellent line drawings and instructions on different stitches commonly employed.

19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh

In the section on surface embroidery, she discusses silkwork and other surface techniques. The silkwork photos are gorgeous! She also talks about the history of supplies, the development of popular embroidery shops, the development of pattern printing, and so forth.

19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh

Under canvas work, you’ll find a windfall of information on the sampler.

19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh

The pictures of the various pieces in the book are sumptuous and inspiring! and sometimes, daunting. The small section of a flounce of the petticoat pictured above is worked entirely in eyelets, by hand. Whooweeee, that’s a lot of eyelets!

The book also has a nice section on the needleworker’s tool box and a good glossary of terms, as well as a thorough index.

Pros of the book:

Oh, no. Here we go again – too many to list, but these are the things I like particularly:

1. Engaging writing on the history of embroidery during this time period. The author supplies good insight to the time period through the discussion of needlework. In fact, I’d say the book would be intriguing to anyone interested in history, especially the history of the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution.

2. The case studies are splendid and her analysis is clear and engaging.

3. The book is riddled with quotes from letters and works of the times, which make the era come alive. They’re also often worth a good chuckle!

4. Her explanation of techniques and her stitch diagrams are excellent, as are her line drawings of different motifs.

5. I love reading about the development of different types of threads, dyes, fabrics, and embroidery supplies during the time period. Very interesting stuff!

Cons:

Haha. Only one:

The book is too short! I want more!

As far as readability and interest are concerned, I find both of Gail Marsh’s books extremely engaging. They’re tops on my favorites list. They’re not written like some weighty tomes on art or needlework (which have their place, but which I don’t find as entertaining), but they are thorough, appealing, and instructive. And while you get a sense of the era in reading her books, there are no commentaries on social mores, or judgmental prose. The focus is the needlework.

Where to Find

You can find 18th Century Embroidery Techniques through the following book affiliates:

In the US: 19th Century Embroidery Techniques at Amazon

Worldwide:: 19th Century Embroidery Techniques through Book Depository with free worldwide shipping.

 
 

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(3) Comments

  1. Thank you for the review. I have been thinking about buying this book, but am so far uncommitted. 🙂

    I really like the author’s 18th century book. Does this volume measure up to that one?

    1
  2. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for letting me know that this book existed. I’m still nervously contemplating actually trying embroidery instead of just admiring it. Maybe 19th century would be an easier place to start.

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