In the World of Needlework Books, there are books, and then there are Books. Stumpwork Medieval Flora by Jane Nicholas falls into the latter category: it’s a Book you need in your needlework library! Here’s an overview of it.
Jane Nicholas is an Australian needlework designer who specializes in stumpwork embroidery. She has multiple books on the market that feature her stumpwork projects in all their glory – projects that captivate any avid embroiderer and enchant even those who aren’t needlework prone. Her newest book, Stumpwork Medieval Flora, does not disappoint. In the introduction, Jane notes that, like Medieval illumination, stumpwork is a surprise – it begs the viewer to close inspection and delights with each new discovery within a design.
Stumpwork Medieval Flora, an ample hard-bound book about an inch thick, features sumptuous pictures of the many projects featured in the book, along with complete materials lists and thorough instructions for completing each project. The book is divided into four sections: a brief introduction to the subject of medieval flora in illuminated manuscripts and their adaptation to stumpwork, the botanical specimens projects, the illuminated panels projects, and the final section on techniques, equipment, and stitches.
The front cover of the book features three of the five botanical specimens project (the other two specimens wrap around to the back cover). These “speciments” are can be stitched either as separate panels – each specimen individually – or they can all be stitched on one larger panel.
Each specimen illustrates a type of flora common to Medieval illumination, and along with the plant comes a good selection of very appealing insects. At the base of each speciment, the Latin name of the flower can be stitched.
The “surprise” of these stumwork pieces does not come merely from the litle bug tucked here or there. While these are certainly fascinating (and downright beautiful – yes! even though they are bugs!), the “surprise” that awaits the close observer is the technique. Close inspection reveals the leaf ruffled by the wind, the twisted petal, the shaded bud, the dragonfly’s transparent wing and the beetle’s shiny armor, the butterflies fuzzy abdomen – all meticulously executed with needle and thread.
Without even looking at the instructional content, you’ve probably realized that the book could stand alone as a coffee-table conversation piece, it’s so darned beautiful!
But, let’s look at the insides, too – and the meat of the matter, for those of us interested in needlework technique.
Within the book, the author instructs on a total of eight projects – five speciments and three illuminated panels. The specimens are those individual sprays featured on the cover. The panels are somewhat more formal – they feature a slightly less “natural” spray of flower or plant, bedecked with bugs and the like, and encased in a vivid frame of colored silk and gold thread.
A materials list is presented for each of the eight project. The list includes all fabric, fibers, and embellishments required to complete the project.
Line-drawings of the patterns (in the actual size to be worked) are accompanied by templates for the raised elements in each design.
The order of work is presented for each project, taking the reader step-by-step through the process of embroidering the particular design.
Little details of instruction are demonstrated with drawn diagrams. Most of the instruction, though, is in the text. The diagrams simply serve to clarify the text. Jane’s text instructions in all of her books are very well and clearly written.
Mixed in among the text instructions and diagrams are up-close photos of the particular elements, completed. This is a nice touch; it not only adds interest to the black-and-white sections of the book, but it gives the reader a focused look at the element for the sake of reference.
These finished elements are printed larger than their completed size, in order for the reader to see the details of stitching and placement.
You can see here, for example, the line drawing of the butterfly accompanied by an enlarged image of the completed little beauty.
In the chapter on technique, equipment, and stitches, the reader will receive all the necessary “background” information for setting up the project, organizing and gathering supplies, the correct tools to use, and how to work the general types of stitches in the featured projects. The book, though, is not intended absolutely for beginners – unless you happen to be a very determined and enthusiastic beginner. For beginners, it would be helpful to have a few other reference books handy for stitch instructions, and Jane notes this at the back of the book (giving, in fact, a good list of resources available).
Book Depository has Stumpwork Medieval Flora available with free world-wide shipping, and you can also find it through Amazon: