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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Ackermann’s Repository & Embroidery Patterns


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From 1809-1829, during the Regency era, Rudolph Ackerman published a periodical called the Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics, or, for short (thankfully!) Ackermann’s Repository.

Ackermann’s Repository can serve as a nice source of free hand embroidery designs, and today, I’ll show you how to access the designs easily.

So grab a cup of coffee and join me for a browse through a fascinating piece of history!

Ackermann's Repository

Fortunately, thanks to the folks at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the whole collection Ackermann’s Repository has been scanned and preserved in digital format, and is available online for everyone through Internet Archive.

The easiest way to find all the volumes on Internet Archive is to search “Ackermann’s Repository” – but to make it even easier, I’ll include below a wonderful resource that has all the volumes listed in order, with direct links to each.

For history, literature, and costume buffs, the Repository holds all kinds of interesting bits, but since we’re embroiderers here, I’ll just focus on what it has that’s of interest to the embroiderer.

Ackermann's Repository

In many (most, but not all) of the volumes, in the table of contents, under Embellishments, there’s this “Pattern for Needlework” listed.

Ackermann's Repository

When you get to any volume of the Repository on Internet Archive, you’ll find that the main page for that particular volume has a two-page e-book of the work already open right there, for you to begin browsing.

The easiest way to scan any volume of the Repository for embroidery patterns is to click the “full screen” link below the e-book, and then to click on the thumbnail icon (pointed to by the green arrow in the photo above – it looks like four little squares), which will give you a thumbnail overview of the book. It’s much easier to scan through the thumbnails for images, than to go page-by-page through these 450+ page books!

You can also use the “search” feature in the top right corner of the e-book, and search for needlework, but you have to be prepared to browse! Some volumes have many, many occurrences of the word in them, but some volumes have none (even though there might be needlework patterns in them). So the search feature can be hit-and-miss, and a little time consuming.

Ackermann's Repository

The needlework patterns deposited in the repository are definitely Regency Era. Think Jane Austen here – designs suitable for adorning the light muslin gowns or the colorful wraps of the Regency lady.

Ackermann's Repository

Once you find an image you like in the Repository by scanning through the thumbnails, note the page the image is on, and open the book as a PDF, which will give you a clearer, zoomable image. (You can also download the PDFs to your computer, if you want your own copy.)

Once you’ve noted the page from the thumbnails, you can easily find the same page in the PDF version and print that individual page.

Ackermann's Repository

If you’re handy with the computer, you can isolate the images you like right in your graphics software, so that you only print the parts you really like.

To make it really easy to browse through the Repository in order, you’ll find an index of volumes in chronological order on artist Jennifer Jermantowicz’s blog post: Where to Download Ackermann’s Repository. It’s a nicely organized, direct-link index.

You can also find, on Internet Archive, a listing called Muslin Patterns (1816). It’s a compilation of some patterns from the Repository. There are very few patterns in the compilation, but some are nice.

I hope you enjoy the Saturday browse through Ackermann’s Repository and can glean some inspiration for your needlework from the images therein!


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(14) Comments

  1. Mrs. Corbet,
    Did you finish those two leaves on the S.G. Hummingbirds project yesterday like you had hoped?

    -Sarah 🙂

  2. Mary,
    Thanks for this info about Ackerman’s Repository. I’m always interested in this type of old design resource. I think I’ve seen Ackerman’s also referred to as a resource for penwork designs. Nice to know it’s available on the Internet.

  3. Dear Mary

    Well done for finishing the leaves.

    I’ve just been browsing the volumes of the Ackermann’s Repository and they are a really interesting read with lots of patterns and interesting articles I just have to chose which pattern if not all to download. Thanks for the website link and for sharing this lovely periodical with us.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Hi Mary,
    As a person with no artistic ability,any design source is useful to me.
    Thanks you very much for posting this.

  5. Oh, Mary, what a delightful treasure trove and source of inspiration! I predict many cups of tea and many hours enjoying the Repository. What about the Corbet Repository?? Seriously, your archives are a priceless, extensive treasure trove of embroidery instruction, inspiration and patterns. Thankfully Ackermann’s print edition was preserved and we have it to enjoy today. But what about all your digital archives? So much info today is digital. Will it still be around in 100 or more years? I hope there is some way to preserve all your outstanding work for generations to come. What a contribution you have made to needlework!

  6. Thank you, and thank you Jennifer Jermantowicz! I picked a volume at random and thumbnailed through – some lovely designs indeed, and the fashion lithographs are exquisite. (Congrats on finishing the leaves, too.)

  7. Dear Mary
    Today is a very cold and rainy day ; but thanks to you and the Repository, it was after all my sunny sunday !

  8. Oh dear, Mrs Corbet, I had plans for today…

    … but archive.org … well, lets say: 4-year-old left unattended in a sweet shop.

    Found tons of new stuff, but I think you will like these:


    This one starts out with pages of nothing, and then becomes interesting:

    And finally, this excercise in German thoroughness made my jaw drop, with its pages and pages and pages of patterns:


  9. Mary,
    I love this périod for embroidery. I am crazy of patterns. I buy again and again very old patterns french, english,germain. But I find much in french with no explain only drawing and after i can embroidery traditionnelle or funny (?). Thanks for the “new” link for us.

  10. Dear Mary Corbet,
    I was wondering if you knew what year the middle needlework pattern is from, and preferably what volume/month as well. It would be really helpful as I would would like to use the design but need to cite it as it’s for a school thing.
    Just to clarify I’m asking about the 2nd pattern you have a photo of, the second to last one with an individual flower cupped by leaves.
    Thanks so much for all the info about Ackermanns repository 🙂

    1. Hi, Izzy – You’d have to go back through the digital file itself – there are links in the article above – to find it. There’s a link to the publication in Internet Archive at the beginning of the article.

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