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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The New Face of the A-Z Series of Embroidery Books


Amazon Books

A little news first, after hearing from some readers: I updated information on yesterday’s article regarding Alba Maxima linen for hand embroidery, adding some more resources and a good substitute if you can’t find the bright white Alba Maxima. You can always try “Old White” linen, which is the same linen, only not as bright white. It’s just as nice!

And now, let’s talk about some new old embroidery books!

The A-Z Series of Needlework Books

When Country Bumpkin first began publishing the A-Z Series of needlework books, I was in Hog Heaven!

The A-Z Series is a fantastic series of instructional books for different needlework techniques, featuring step-by-step photo instructions in beautiful books that are perfect for reference.

Last year, the rights to publish the A-Z Series were acquired by Search Press.

This is Extremely Good News for needleworkers all around the world, for a number of reasons.

Search Press is well-known for their excellent instructional books in all kinds arts and crafts – from embroidery to painting and drawing, paper crafts, knitting, cake decorating – you name it! They’re a strong, quality publishing company, and their acquisition of the rights bodes well for the future availability of the series, as well as for the continuation of it.

Some minor things have changed with the new reprints of the books. So let’s look at the alterations, talk about what’s coming up, and compare two series of instructional needlework books.

A-Z Needlework Series

If you already own any of the previously published A-Z needlework books, one thing you’ll want to be aware of is that the covers on the new books are slightly different. They do retain, in general, the look of the previous publications, but each cover is divided into little image blocks featuring the content within.

Despite the change in covers, the content inside is still the same. So you won’t be getting a new book of instruction if you already have the previously published books.

If you’re not familiar with the A-Z books, I’ve reviewed some of them here on Needle ‘n Thread:

A-Z of Embroidery Stitches 2 – I never reviewed the first A-Z of Embroidery Stitches, but the set-up and the whole concept of both books is identical. They’re just different stitches in each book!

A-Z of Goldwork – this one is not yet released, but it’s coming soon. You can see the difference in the covers if you look at the photo on my review page and the photo on the Search Press website.

A-Z of Stumpwork – again, a new cover, but the same content!

A-Z of Whitework – this is more of an overview of whitework than a review of the book, but there’s a little bit about the book in there, too.

A-Z Needlework Series

The thing about the A-Z books is this: they’re all very much alike, as far as quality instruction goes. Each book features step-by-step photos instructions for the stitches and techniques involved in that particular type of needlework.

A-Z Needlework Series

Besides the look of the covers, the type of binding on the books is different. The earlier A-Z books featured a spiral binding, covered on the outside with the spine of the book. The books are no longer spiral bound.

This point has its pros and cons. I know there are folks who don’t like spiral-bound books at all, but on instructional books, I always like the closed-in spiral binding that allows the book to lie open flat, but still has a cover over the spine, so you can easily see the name of the book when it’s on the shelf.

Still, the new books are well-bound – they’re flexible and sturdy.

A-Z Needlework Series

While the names for most of the books are the same, the old “Bullions” book (A-Z of Bullion Embroidery) has a new name – it’s called A-Z of Embroidered Motifs. I’ll write a new review for this particular book a little later, to show you what you can expect from it.

If you have the old A-Z of Bullion Embroidery, just be aware of the different name. It’s the same book.

Saving the Best for Last – Price and Availability

In the past, the A-Z books were available at a limited few needlework shops in the US and other countries, but primarily through Country Bumpkin in Australia. If you bought them through Country Bumpkin and you lived outside Australia, the shipping was a bit phenomenal. And if you found them in a needlework shop, they averaged around $30 – $33 each, unless they were on sale.

The good news – you can now purchase the books through needlework shops that carry them, and also through book stores and online booksellers like Amazon, where they range from $14 – $17, new. The new price point and the wider availability makes them much more accessible all around.

Two How-To Series for Embroiderers – Lined Up

If you’ve been looking for a how-to reference series for embroidery to add to your needlework library, there are two excellent series worth considering, and both are published by Search Press.

The A-Z books cover the basics and beyond, in each stitching technique. The books are thorough and clear when it comes to instruction, and – to boot! – they’re really beautiful books! Just like any of the publications from Country Bumpkin, they were created not just to instruct, but also to inspire.

RSN Essential Stitch Guide - Silk Shading

The RSN Essential Stitch Guides series are also an excellent option. These books cover the basics in each of the techniques they’re about.

There are several RSN Essential Stitch Guides published on a variety of techniques (whitework, blackwork, crewel, stumpwork, goldwork, silk shading, bead embroidery, and canvas work – I’ve reviewed all of them).

I like both series, for different reasons. Overall, I’d probably go for the A-Z series first – I think the books are a little more thorough and they have more content to them. There are three exceptions.

The first two are pretty obvious: there is no A-Z of Blackwork and there is no A-Z of Bead Embroidery, so the RSN Stitch Guides win hands down. Update: there IS an A-Z of Bead Embroidery (by Sue Gardner), so that makes that point moot!

The third – and this is just my personal preference – is the RSN Stitch Guide for whitework. While it doesn’t have as much content in it as the A-Z of Whitework, it has a much more coherent approach. It focuses pretty much just on general surface whitework, but in a way that is much more coherent than the A-Z book. Again, just my personal preference.

Both series – the A-Z series and the RSN series – are really good references to have on hand, and it’s definitely worth collecting one or the other (or, if you can, both!) in your needlework library. I collected my copies in both series one at a time, until I had them all, and I’ve never regretted it. I use them all the time!

Where to Find the A-Z Books

You can find the A-Z books through the following book affiliates:

Here in the US, you can find the A-Z Books available through local needlework shops (if you have one that includes embroidery-related books in its inventory), or you can find them online through Amazon, where they are stocked as soon as the titles are released. The following titles are either already out, or are being released this year:

A-Z of Embroidery Stitches
A-Z of Embroidery Stitches 2
A-Z of Embroidered Motifs
A-Z of Crewel Embroidery
A-Z of Stumpwork
A-Z of Whitework
A-Z of Thread Painting
A-Z of Goldwork
A-Z of Needlepoint

Worldwide, you can find the A-Z needlework books available through Book Depository, with free shipping, as they are released. The books published in the UK are often available through Book Depository before they are available through Amazon US.


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(17) Comments

  1. I was so excited to see that these books were being republished, they have been on my watch list ever since I read your reviews of them, but they had since become hard to find. I already have the Whitework and Goldwork on pre-order with Amazon and have Embroidery Stitches and Stumpwork on loan from my local library – I’m sure they’ll be added to my own collection soon. They are a fantastic series of books and I am very grateful for your insightful and thorough book reviews which led me to them in the first place.

  2. Dear Mary

    I also really like the A-Z books and the RSN. I have the A-Z of Goldwork and A-Z of Whitework both excellent books and I also have the RSN of Bead Embroidery and both the A-Z and the RSN are great reference books which I use all the time when I need guidance on the particular techniques. As a Personal preference I do prefer the spinal binding because the book lay flat and I prefer that when I am using them for reference. It’s great news that they are generally available. Thanks for the information on these great books and for letting us know where they are available. Have a great weekend.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. This has to be one of the most expensive website I read. Yes, it’s free, but I’m developing a serious embroidery book ‘habit.’

    By the way, I think it is possible to take most books to Kinkos, have the existing binding cut off and have them spiral bound. I haven’t done it myself, but some people swear by it.

    Also, you can get a book page holder at your local music store or from Amazon-I’m not sure how I’d link this here, but you can copy and paste: http://www.amazon.com/Solution-SOL-1-Music-Page-Holder/dp/B00724Z8PY/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425053207&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=book+page+holder+alto+music

    1. You know, that book holder is a great idea, Linda! I use something similar for cookbooks. And I used something similar all the way through school, for music books. Why didn’t I ever think of it, for embroidery books?!?!?! I do have a book weight, but more often than not, I drop it on the floor, and more often than not, it lands on a toe!

    2. Hahaha, I agree, Linda, Mary is very bad for my already bad habit of book ownership!!! LOL. But at least we know what we’re getting. 🙂
      Thanks Mary, I LOVE your reviews!

  4. You know I hate posts like this one because by the time I’ve finished reading the post, my amazon shopping cart is packed full of new books and I’m 200 bucks poorer. The UPS guy hates it too.

  5. I completely agree with you about spiral-bound books! I’m in negotiations to write a quilting book, and one thing the publisher and I agreed upon early on is that the book will be spiral-bound. It is essential that the book lie flat when in use! I have several technical/how-to books that are very, very good, but frustrating to actually use during the process of making because they.do.not.lie.flat!

    I haven’t seen the A-Z on whitework, but I do have the RSN, and while it isn’t a comprehensive work, it is an excellent introduction to the craft. Content and tutorial-wise, I think it provides excellent instruction and doesn’t have a “gloss over something in the assumption that the reader already knows this” approach.

  6. Fabulous books, but so glad the spiral binding is gone! 🙂 I understand that people like it, but it is so flimsy and turning pages with spiral binding is horrible. It shortens the life of the book considerably because it is so unstable.

    Great that these wonderful books are still available.

  7. I like the old ring-bound format for convenience and had no real problems getting hold of the older style books, either in bookshops or via Amazon. Good that the availability will improve for most folk though and, of course, that the price is coming down.

    I have enough books for now and have even been selling a number of them recently, so I won’t be buying any more for the time being. I’m trying to reduce my personal possessions by up to 50% by the time we move later this year and I think I may just manage it. =) Needlework supplies won’t even drop by 5% though….

  8. You know, I seem to remember that there *was* an A-Z of Bead Embroidery. I have never seen it in real life, but a google search turns up some references to it. Is there a comprehensive list anywhere of all of the original A-Z books?

    1. Ugh – I think you’re right. I can almost picture it. In fact……… hold on…………

      Ok, just went through my book list, and I own it. Gee whiz.

      I really MUST organize my bookshelf!

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