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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Embroidery – A Free Online Book


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A couple weeks ago, when I reviewed the book BiblioCraft by Jessica Pigza, I might have mentioned that I have a Thing about Libraries and the Wonderful Wonders that they offer.

In the online world, you can find excellent resource books for hand embroidery – old books that are in the public domain, preserved in digital format for general use. I’ve mentioned many of the online spots for good needlework books here on Needle ‘n Thread over the years, as occasionally, I like to highlight a book that’s caught my eye, that you might find interesting, too.

Open Library is one of those hubs where you can search for old embroidery books available online.

Today, I’d like to point out one of my Absolute Favorite old embroidery books (I have it on my shelf and like to read it just for fun now and then). Unfortunately, it’s not a widely available book (you can find used copies available now and then, but they tend to be pricey). But fortunately, it’s available on Open Library in digital format, so you can enjoy it, too.

Then I’ll give you some tips on using Open Library when you’re foraging about for embroidery topics.

Embroidery by Mrs. Archibald Christie

Embroidery by Grace Christie (also known as Mrs. Archibald Christie, if you’re looking up any of her other books) was published in 1909.

It’s a fantastic embroidery book – it’s thorough, it’s interesting to read, and it has plenty of black and white plates and color plates throughout, that serve up a good dose of inspiration.

Embroidery by Mrs. Archibald Christie

The color plates throughout the book are of specific embroidery projects that Christie highlights in the book when discussing particular techniques.

Embroidery by Mrs. Archibald Christie

For Old Books, I find Grace Christie’s books very readable. I think they’re interesting, well-written, sensible, and adaptable. They’re some of the more timeless books of the old books on embroidery out there.

Embroidery by Mrs. Archibald Christie

Embroidery, by the way, is not to be confused with her book Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving, by the way, which I talked about many years ago. Nor is it the same as her book Samplers and Stitches (also previous discussed), although, if you’re familiar with that one, you may recognize a few repeat images (like the 16th c. embroidered jacket design).

Embroidery by Mrs. Archibald Christie

You can find Embroidery by Grace Christie available through Open Library. You’ll notice that you can choose to read it online, or you can open in various formats, which are listed on the right side of the page. For quick previewing, choose the “read online” link. If you want to save it to your computer, choose the PDF link and then save the PDF to your computer. If you want to read it on a tablet or mobile device, there are various file options listed.

Searching for Embroidery Books

When you’re at the home page for Open Library, you’ll notice there’s a search box on the top right of the page. You can enter key words, titles, authors, publishers, etc. in this box, to do a simple search.

If you search “embroidery,” you’ll come up with a really long list of books, but they aren’t all necessarily available online. The only complete, downloadable books you’ll find online through Open Library (without “borrowing” e-books through your state library system) are books in the public domain.

Besides searching “embroidery,” try to think of other options that might narrow your search. “Embroidery design” or “embroidery stitch” might be a good place to start.

Or, better yet, try a foreign word for “embroidery.” When I search online collections, I always search “broderie,” because the French were prolific in turning out good embroidery books in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s.

Embroidery by Mrs. Archibald Christie

Once you type in your search term and a list comes up, if you are looking specifically for online books that you can browse through or download for free, you’ll want to look for the open book symbol next to the listings (the red arrow is pointing to it). This symbol means you can read the book online or in various formats – that it’s available right now, free.

So, mark Open Library as a hub for searching for online embroidery books, and next time you have a nice quiet morning for browsing, pour yourself a cup of coffee and explore your heart out!

You can find all kinds of other Online Embroidery Book resources mentioned here on Needle ‘n Thread, if you’re in the mood for a browse! This link will take you to a list of articles previous written, highlighting online needlework-related books.


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(15) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    I’ve just had a look at the book it’s a great resource for the embroider and very detailed on all aspects of embroidery. The colour pictures are really good considering it was published in 1909. I like the way you can either look at the entire book in full view or it turns the page over for you or you can look at 2 pages at at time, I really like that and you can download the book. Thanks for letting us know about the Open Library wonderful reference.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Hi Mary,

    I feel I must interject a word of caution to your readers here. The Open Library does not seem to have a clear policy about copyright. While it seems one cannot actually “read” modern books (i.e. download them either on screen or pdf), and while it isn’t claiming any copyright of its own, it really cops out about this contentious issue: “When it comes to community projects, the legal issues are, frankly, very confusing…” Given your good advice the other day regarding copyright, I think your readers should be very cautious. It’s unlikely to have repercussions for them personally if they fall foul of the law (although it has happened), but it could have very serious consequences for you and this website. Just a caveat.

    1. Hi, Serind –

      The Open Library doesn’t give access to copyrighted books for free download, to my knowledge. They give links to libraries where they are available, either as a hard copy or as a digital download in appropriate lending situations (for registered library users in a particular system), or sources for purchasing. I think the confusion is in the cross-referencing of hosting domains and so forth for public domain resources, and in copyright issues for some (pretty rare) examples of books where copyright is expired in one place but not another, and yet, because it’s an internet resource, the item may be accessible in a place where the copyright still prevails. They are not giving open access to all books – the idea is just a page for every book, and either access to it (if it’s in the public domain) or the sources where the book can be found (libraries, digital lending resources through libraries where users are registered, sources for purchasing, etc.). They also offer access, with the appropriate qualifications, to the Library of Congress books for the blind and similar services (these require verification of qualifications and registration through the Library of Congress for the user). There are many state library systems that use Open Library – it’s recommended in our libraries here in KS. It’s not a suspicious resource – I’ve not heard anything against it, except occasional speculative articles – though it is a very “ambitious” project. If it were suspect, I wouldn’t have linked to it.

      But of course, I’m always open for correction if I’m wrong!

      In any case, this particular book is in the public domain. It’s available through other online resources that offer public domain books. In fact, if I had the time and the equipment, this is a book I’d scan and put on the website here, for people to download freely. It’s a great book! And it is completely out of copyright.

  3. Marie,
    Lots of thanks for the website Open Library ‘s, I do not know. For old French books embroidery, they are free of copyright in my country so a fortiori ditto elsewhere. We can all sell and make models of Teresa of Dillmont example.
    Again thank you Marie

  4. Hi Mary

    Thanks for your reply. I didn’t mean to imply that the Open Library is a suspicious source, and if I did, then I apologise. Honest sources of information covering such a huge range are rare as hen’s teeth, and I’m glad this is one of them. I suppose one could view this as a digital British Library or — since you are in the US — Library of Congress. And it does have wonderful embroidery resources! So this is going onto my bookmark list, along with the Antique Pattern Library.

  5. Oh, that’s a very useful tip, Mary, typing ‘broderie’ into the search box – I must try it, and in a few other likely languages. Thank you. I love exploring both Open Library and Antique Pattern Library – so many treasures! I discovered this Mrs Christie book some months ago, and it is a very good addition to the wonderful Samplers and Stitches. It’s a nice gentle introduction for people going beyond cross stitch and other obvious stitches.
    For books that are still in copyright, it’s worth keeping an eye open in charity shops, library sales, second-hand bookstalls and the like. I’ve got some splendid bargains that way over the years.

  6. I was very interested in finding out about Open Library. I looked at this book and it is spectacular reading a book like this from the past. I am going to visit Open Library for many other books I am interested in examining.
    Thank you.

  7. Dear Mary Corbet,
    There are times when a simple ‘Thank you’ seems entirely inadequate – this is one of those events. Rest assured, I have bookmarked the Open Library site and it looks like a spot I’ll be visiting often…So, all I can say is – THANK YOU!!!!

  8. Many thanks for the great link – much exploring to be done. Copyright is tricky – I’ve been surprised at some items available for download on the Digital Archive (another great source). Until recently law in the US differed from law in the UK / Berne Convention jurisdiction. I’m not a copyright expert but I suspect that no one is going to worry about private use from these online sources but anyone wanting to republish should clarify the status within their own country.

  9. Thanks for the link to another wonderful book and the hint about using French (and others) for search terms. Now to find a translator for some other areas of interest (knitting, crochet, sewing/tailoring…)

  10. Did you know that Mrs. Archibald Christie is also known by another, slightly more famous name? She also wrote as Agatha Christie… 😀

    1. Funny! 🙂 As enchanting as it would be to think that Agatha Christie had written a series of embroidery books, I’m afraid it’s not the case. When Grace Christie (embroiderer) was writing her books, Agatha wasn’t married to her own future husband (also Archibald, but not the same one) – Agatha was just just a kid.

  11. Bedankt voor het delen van deze info .
    Oude dmc patronen boeken zijn zeker nog te koop maar je moet lang zoeken en soms zijn ze erg duur .
    Gods zegen en gr Ine

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