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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.