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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La Broderie – Look for It!


Amazon Books

La Broderie – it’s the title of a book about (you guessed it) embroidery.

I can’t tell you, “Go get this book! Add it to your needlework library!” It’s out of print. The copies that are out there are a little expensive (though you might find a bargain one here and there).

The book is written in French. If you can read French and you can get your paws on this book, you’re in for a double treat. If you can’t read French, well…you’re still in for a treat!

La Broderie: Histoire & Technique de la broderie libre, (Embroidery: the history & technique of free embroidery), written with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller with the participation of DMC and the Brocard Collection, is one of those book that you might come across one serendipitous day at a used book shop or library sale – and if you do, you’ll know to snatch it up!

And besides, since it’s Monday morning, I figured we might as well start the week with something to salivate over.

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

I happened upon La Broderie entirely by chance. I wasn’t looking for it. I didn’t even know about it. But there it was, in front of me, at a used book sale.

It was one of those used book sales devoid of all interest. I was bored. I was leaving a lot sooner than I thought I would. The bags that I carried with me to fill with bookish treasures hung limp and empty on my arm.

Suddenly, a brilliant light shone upon a distant table. I heard the heavens singing a glorious song. I looked, and lo! The Book!

I said to myself, Self, this is Meant to Be. You have been destined from all eternity to arrive in this spot at this moment, to see this book.

I bought it forthwith. For practically nothing. A couple dollars, maybe. Really, it was completely fortuitous.

Don’t you just love it when that happens?!

(There was no light, by the way. No angel choirs. In fact, my sister saw the book first and yelled across the room something like, “Hey, you want this?” just as I was ducking out the door. It was hardly angelic song. But it was fortuitous.)

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

And by the way, the end papers on the inside of the book are worth the book – sumptuous silver threads encrusting a piece of tulle – and close up enough that you can see all the details.

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

And in fact, that’s The Thing about this book: the photos are great!

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

Many of the photos are delightfully macro – so close-up that you can see the details of stitches and threads on historical pieces that otherwise, you’d never be able to see this close.

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

The text in the first part of the book concentrates on the history of embroidery and on various museum pieces that illustrate that history.

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

About half-way through the book, we reach the instructional part, which covers stitches, design transfer, and the like. The stitch instructions are very clear, with drawn diagrams and photos.

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

There’s information on setting up frames and a very nice spread of the various needles and tools used for hand embroidery, along with photos of historical needlework tools as well.

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

Did I mention the fantastic photos? This dimensional piece of embroidery – it’s more of an embroidery sculpture – is amazing! Just look at the hands! This piece is part of the Brocard Collection in Paris, Les enfants d’Édouard.

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

After many pages of other museum pieces, we come to the project in the book, which is a recreation of one of these bees. These are Napoleon’s bees, on the throne at Fontainebleau.

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

The goldwork project unfolds step by step over several pages…

La Broderie with Pascal Payen-Appenzeller

…finally arriving at the finished piece, which is cut from the fabric and applied to a new background.

There’s not a lot of explanation with the project. Each progressive photo has a short line of accompanying text and that’s it. But it’s enough! You can easily follow the project without the text.

And that’s the book!

Of course, I couldn’t highlight even half the delights within, when it comes to the pieces that are photographed, but you get the idea!

The book itself is a hard-cover book, about 10″ x 11″, with 127 pages. It’s not a huge tome, but it’s a nice overview of the history of embroidery (remember, it’s in French), highlighting some incredible works, with some good bits of instruction and a really nice little goldwork project. To help you find it, it’s published by Armand Colin Éditeur, Paris, 1994. The ISBN is 2-200-21448-0.

If you come across it some day and can pick it up for a song, don’t hesitate! It’s quite the little gem!


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(16) Comments

  1. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for the review of this book. I agree, the end pages are enough to get the book. I am always so excited to see those close up, macro photos of museum pieces. Every rare once in a while, they will even have a photo of the inside of the work. Many years ago I used to play in an historical re-creation group, and I was generally the one in my circle of friends that made everyone else’s clothing. Seeing how it was done “back in the day” was always interesting to me, and made me feel better that my stitches weren’t perfect! I hope I find this book you found myself, someday

  2. Dear Mary

    It certainly looks a little gem, the photographs of the goldwork Bees are beautiful, in fact all the photos are lovely it’s a shame it’s out of print. I can’t read French but It would be great just to buy it for the photographs and if there isn’t a lot of text on the instructions than it wouldn’t be difficult to follow them. La Broderie looks an interesting read thanks for sharing the book with us and for your review of the book perhaps one day I might be as lucky as you Mary and find it in a book sale who knows…….

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. Mary, you truly are SO lucky!!! Lacis has a copy for sale at $125.00! You got a great bargain. Your sharing nature has brought you good fortune!! It is really a gorgeous book. As always, thank you for your work and have a great day!

  4. Did you hear my screams of envy at this find? on Amazon, it’s minimum $83, and up to well into the three figures….you lucky thing! enjoy, and do quote us more from it as you can.

  5. A beautiful book. Yes it was waiting there for you, and since you almost left, your Guardian Angel tapped your sister on the shoulder for you!
    This happened to me 3 times in bookshops! A few months ago I found the companion pattern box to go with my Book of American Needlework and I didn’t even know the patterns existed!
    Another time, years ago I stopped at a used bookshop due to severe rainstorm. It was nighttime and I was the only customer. And I found the “Great American Novel” called “And Ladies of the Club” which took the author 50 years to write, completed when she was nearly 100 years old! And I said to myself ” this is meant to be”
    Finally the most touching incident happened while I was choosing among craft books and having a one-sided conversation with a crochet book huntress! A young man approached me and asked me to finish the exquisite Needlepoint on hand-painted canvas left behind when his mother passed away. And I did it over a year, and we became friends.

  6. Je suis l’heureuse propriétaire de LA BRODERIE de Pascal Payen-Appenzeller.
    Ce livre est magnifique.
    Enfin un livre français qui ne traite pas uniquement du point de croix. Les photos sont inspirantes et le texte, noble.
    “La broderie est l’art d’imagination par excellente”.
    Embroidery is the best art of imagination.
    Thanks Mary for your visit every day in my home.
    Louise from Québec.

  7. Mary, can I please borrow your sister next time I’m trawling 2nd-hand bookshops and yard sales? The book looks gorgeous, and it could not have found a better home.

  8. Dear Mary, what a beautiful book. You succeeded, it left me salivating. In the “sumptuous silver threads encrusting a piece of tulle” image that you so kindly showed (a piece of work to die for – and oh! That bed with the figures and their perfect hands!) ummm…anyway, the silver piece. Could you please tell me which stitch is used for the ‘eye’ of the peacock feathers? Thanks so much for ALL the articles and teaching you share! OH! Also, do you have a recommendation of where to purchase quality tulle?

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