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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Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters – Book Review


Amazon Books

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O’Connor first came out in 2007, and I’ve had it on my shelf (and on my work table for reference, and in my grubby paws just for the pleasure of reading and browsing) since practically the day it hit the shelves.

It is The Book to have, if you love embroidered monograms and decorative initials worked in traditional embroidery methods.

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

So, yes, it was published first in 2007. And I’d almost venture to say it was published just slightly before its time.

What do I mean? Well… it was published in 2007 and available for sale for a while. But about three-ish years ago (and ever since then), monograms have all of a sudden come into their own again. They burst once more onto the “in” scene – not just in embroidery, but in all kinds of decorating, crafts, and whatnot.

I know a trend doesn’t just pop up overnight, so it would probably be better to say that Monograms was published right on time – at the leading edge of this new interest in the monogram.

I think the new found interest in monograms can be attributed to many factors, among them the increasing popularity in fancy paper crafts, wherein monograms and lettering have found a nice little niche (think quilling, embossing, and so forth); trendy approaches to monograms in decorating (think very large decorative initials on canvas on the wall); and… Pinterest. Look up “monogram” on Pinterest, and you can bet your favorite clock that you’ll be whiling away hours, browsing.

So what happened with this particular book during this new boom in interest in monograms? Interest spiked, embroiderers began seeking sources to learn the art of monogramming with embroidery, and the remaining copies of the book sold up.

And then individual booksellers noticed it was sold out practically everywhere but still in high demand, and they starting selling the book through Amazon, ABE, Alibris and similar sites, at incredibly inflated prices. I’ve seen the book available for prices from $60 (which is a little more reasonable for an excellent but hard to acquire book) all the way up to $700 (which is more than slightly unreasonable!).

Well, the good news: It’s been republished (updated 2015). The book cover has changed…

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Lettering by Susan O'Connor

…so you’ll know what to look for, if you’re keen to get a copy!

Whether you like the new cover or not (I’ve heard from several readers lately who don’t – and, admittedly, I find it a little cold and generic looking, myself), if the material is the same, which I believe it is, then I don’t really give two hangs about the cover. It’s the content that makes this book the gem that it is.

So, what’s in it?

Three things: Background information on the art of embroidered lettering, thorough instructions on different methods of traditional monogramming, and some projects.

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

Don’t overlook the first part of Monograms! This is where you discover why we monogram, how we monogram, who monogrammed, and what was monogrammed.

From the history of monogramming…

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

… to letter etiquette (the formation of monograms and ciphers, what they were put on, and how they were placed and arranged)…

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

…design sources for monograms…

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

…choosing and adapting letters for embroidery…

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

…and general information about embroidering monograms, including fabric choices and sources, stitches commonly used in traditional embroidered monogramming, and threads.

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

The first section of Monograms, then, is not to be missed! There’s tons of good and interesting information here!

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

Then, we get into the whole instructional section.

Here, you’ll find instruction on the important aspects of stitching traditional monograms, from the different types of stitches commonly used to the various methods of padding and raising stitches.

The instructional part of this book is super-duper thorough!

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

The instructions here are presented in two ways: step-by-step photos for the stitching methods, and clear drawn diagrams for pertinent tips that will help you manage some of the more challenging aspects of the embroidery.

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

There’s an excellent section on trailing, which is a form of satin stitching over bundles of thread that are removed and replaced to increase or decrease the thickness of the embroidered line.

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

For finishing monogrammed pieces, you’ll find instructions on several peripheral techniques, including hem stitching…

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

…and pin stitching.

You’ll also find instruction on appliquéd monograms.

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

Finally, you’ll learn how to care for your monogrammed pieces, from washing to ironing to storing safely.

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O'Connor

The last section of the book is dedicated to a few projects you can create to show off your new monogramming skills. These projects include a pillow, a sheet, cushions, lavender sachets, a blanket, a handbag (the one displayed on the original cover), and a christening shawl.

Where to Find It

You can find the book available now through the following book affiliates:

In the US, it’s available here through Amazon.

Worldwide, you can order Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters through Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

This article features affiliate links for both book sources, which means Needle ‘n Thread receives a small commission for any purchase made through those links, with no added expense to you.


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(31) Comments

  1. Yippee. I have looked and looked for this book. I wish they would republish the A-Z of Whitework. Bring on August 🙂 I saw a ‘sampler’ of monograms, different styles, sizes and colours of monograms scattered over a cloth – at a Sampler Exhibition at The Royal School of Needlework last month. It was so delicate, so fine. Again I wished for that book. Yippee

    1. I just got a copy of A-Z Whitework from Threadneedle Street in Issaquah, WA. She still may have some in stock. I suggest you contact Denise. She always has a nice stock for European and Australian books on hand. I was thrilled to see she still have the Whitework book.

  2. Mary, Do you have an ISBN for this title? I’m interested in it for my personal collection, of course, and would love to see it added to the collection of my public library! Thanks.

  3. Dear Mary

    I do like the art of embroidered monograms and This looks like a must have book with good informed instructions, I’m so glad it has had a revivial and will be widely available again especially for those that are keen on the art of lettering. Thanks for letting us know that the book will be available soon and for your review on the book.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Woo hoo! I’ve always had a thing for monograms, and have a ton of books, but I want this one!!! Keep us posted on how to get it, please.

  5. On the one hand, this book sounds like the answer to my prayers. A graphic designer friend and I worked up a monogram for me to stitch on napkins for my sister’s wedding anniversary. But AUGUST! That’s terrible, I need to have the napkins done by July… I can feel myself tearing up a bit.

  6. This kind of book fascinates me, the process, the technique and the explanations. I think I tend to think on the engineering side of life and several of my sons are engineers so it must be a family thing. thanks again, Mary, You are amazing.

  7. GORGEOUS! I would love to read that book clear through, and so I throw my hat into the ring! The historical information is priceless. Being able to identify my collection pieces is an interesting prospect.

  8. I have numerous books on whitework embroidery and this is by far the best book on the market. It explains beautifully the French style of Broderie Blanche and is useful not only for monograms but also for other whitework stitches. Highly recommended!

    1. Oh Trish, I bought a second-hand copy just a couple of months ago here in Australia, barely used, and I love it.

    2. Trish,
      I enjoy the gallery of Marie to thank you for the translation into French for your proposed works on Etsy, I really enjoyed it. Full of Thanks.

  9. This IS good news, as I’ve been pricing these since you first mentioned this book. Ive been asked to do a set of pillowcases with a name and a fancy drop cap monogram (in red no less) and have been drinking in your every post on monograms, letters and classic a broder and floche threads. Thanks to you, i now know and recognize the difference between a monogram and a cipher!☺

    Is there any place i can preorder this to show support? It might help us get more quality reprints of needlework books.


  10. Marie,
    This book is beautiful, the white embroidery is magical but very very difficult because it requires a great regularity in points to perfection and it’s not even me. I would like to clarify one point in the height of the letters in France at least.
    Handkerchiefs for 12 mm or 15/32 inch, 16 to 18 mm or 5/8 to 3/4 inch for bodywear, 20 mm or 25/32 inch for linen, 40 mm to 140 mm or 1 19/32 to 5 1/2 sheets or tablecloths.
    In the French tradition, you have a difference between the Monogram and Figure.
    Monogram is the combination of the initial of your first name and your name ..
    Figure is the combination of the initial of your first name, the first name of your spouse and the initial of your last name: Betty and John Smith ….
    The S in the middle and is much larger.
    Well, I hope that this will help.
    Marie thank you for this wonder.

  11. Hello, Mary
    Thank-you for the book review. I am very interested in monograms…I have been known to embellish my t-shirts with them (hand-stitched). I also have rescued some fine whitework examples from the thrift shop, so I will look forward to the release of this new book!

  12. Hi Mary,
    THANK YOU. This article truly made my day. I have been crazy about monogramming for a long time, but it has been next to impossible to find any information including the history of this beautiful craft. Also, I never see any classes offered at seminars or EGA conferences, or kits to buy to teach myself, or teachers from whom I can learn from. Do you by chance have any info about classes or teachers who teach monogramming? Thanks for your article today. I am very happy to learn that this book will be republished for those of us who appreciate and want to learn this exquisite embroidery one way or another. A book will help. Roxanne

  13. What an interesting book, I’ll be watching for it as I love monograms. My grandmother was a beautiful embroiderer and had her table linen, pillow slips etc. monogrammed ….what I’d give to have more of her work!

  14. You are right it is a lovely book, I bought it when it first came out. It answers every question one might have when embroidering monogrames except one: How in heaven’s name do I make all those nifty swirls and such that are in all those beautifully made monogrames of old? I have searched and searched for a book that might even mention this aspect but no luck. Have you any thoughts?

  15. I will definitely purchase this book. I’ve always loved any monogram because of the tradition and the classic style it brings to any item. Hand-stitched monograms are especially dear to me both for the tradition, personalization, and ability to place on anything from clothing, to towels, pillows, even bookmarks. For me, monograms have always been in style!

  16. Monograms are a one-of. I enjoy the challenge. Just doing embroidery I’ve never tried before makes me happy. My grandmother began my education over 60 years ago and the fascination of embroidery will always be there connecting me with my grandmother. Thank you for all you do.

  17. Mary,
    I have searched and searched for this book, and still have found no copies. Search press, today. Sept 06? Any word on when or any copies available

  18. This appears to be a very user friendly book for my novice fingers. I would very much like to enter and of course, win this. With much gratitude and appreciation for your website Mary Corbet. Cordially, Marlene K.

  19. Mary,
    I sent an earlier comment-
    Hoping to enter your great give-away!
    With our new granddaughter, I have been busy
    embroidering monograms on everything.
    Of course I am quite “Scotch” and check books out of the library & of course, use your designs & tutoring!! This new world of sweet GIRLS is new-after raising 3 wonderful sons. (you are my go-to-girl for embroidering palls, etc). Best to all who enter this fun & thank you for your generosity!
    Karen R

    1. Hi Mary,

      Any info about when Search Press will publish this book?

      Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters by Susan O’Connor first came out in 2007


    2. I’ve asked them! They are looking into it, but I don’t know what the status is. I’ve also asked the folks at Inspirations Magazine, but no clear response on it yet from them, either. We will see!

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