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