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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Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole – Book Review


Amazon Books

Oh golly! I’ve been wanting to write this book review for Alison Cole’s new book, The Stumpwork Masterclass: Raised and Embossed Embroidery, for a long time!

If you acquire this book – and you must, if you have any interest in stumpwork, historical or contemporary – you’ll understand the delay. It is not your typical book. It is a tome, and I wanted to read it cover to cover before writing about it.

Well, I finished it, and now I’m going to tell you all about it!

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

Stumpwork Masterclass is a book that began as a masterclass Alison was requested to teach for the Embroiderers’ Guild in Victoria, in Australia.

And it’s exactly that – a course, recompiled in book format, that covers all the elements of stumpwork embroidery, from its history, design elements, composition and structure, stitches, supplies, techniques…everything you ever wanted to know about stumpwork (and things you didn’t even know you wanted to know!), you’ll find in this book!

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

The book is illustrated throughout with historical and contemporary examples of stumpwork. If you’re like me, you won’t launch right into reading it. You’ll go through the pictures – and there are a lot of them, and they’re gorgeous and fascinating.

In my mind, you can never have too many photos in a needlework book! Especially if they’re pertinent, clear, colorful.

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

The first part of the book is devoted to history and design, and makes great reading.

I love the fact that Alison included an organized timeline of the historical era most famous for its stumpwork. I have a Thing for timelines – they put things in historical perspective, succinctly.

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

After the historical background, we jump right into stumpwork, and from here, the book is divided according to techniques used to produce all the typical elements (and some not-so-typical) that we see in stumpwork.

Alison begins with discussing padding, since padding is such a dominant part of stumpwork embroidery.

Here, you’ll learn all kinds of methods for adding padded elements to your embroidery projects, from using orts, fabric, paper, making padded slips, using wired armature, soft cotton padding, felt padding and stuffed felt, working with wooden forms, and other types of padding, too.

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

Trust me, it’s thorough! Examples are shown, and techniques are discussed and illustrated.

Much of the instruction throughout the book is done through written explanations accompanied by diagrams and line drawings.

Reading through the book is much like reading through a professor’s notes for a course – which is essentially what the book is. But don’t get me wrong! It’s not a dry, boring course. After all, it’s Embroidery we’re talking about!

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

You’ll also find step by step photos of fun techniques, too.

After the section on padding, there’s a massive section on creating stumpwork people, covering everything from making up the body parts and so forth, to dressing them in intricate clothing, making trim for their clothes, creating their hair – you name it, if it has to do with people in dimensional embroidery, you’ll find it here!

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

The section on people is followed up with a thorough exploration into needle lace stitches, which are a big part of historical and contemporary stumpwork.

From here, we move into putting needle lace into play in stumpwork projects, using it with different types of materials and techniques.

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

Then, the rest of the book is divided into other elements common in stumpwork, following kind of a historical approach to stumpwork, but filled with contemporary examples, too, of using the same elements today.

So, there are separate sections on stumpwork animals, flowers and leaves, skies and signatures, grounds (grasses and whatnot), trees, birds, grottoes and fountains, buildings, bugs, and borders.

Then, there’s a section on finishing and a section on making wrapped panels.

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

In each section, you’ll find historical examples of the elements along with contemporary interpretations.

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

You’ll find all kinds of techniques that can be used to produce the elements – with lots of variety!

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

You’ll find explanations of different materials and threads that can be used, and examples of how to create the elements different ways, with different approaches.

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

One thing that I love best about the book is that, while written on a very solid historical foundation, the author incorporates contemporary examples that bring stumpwork into the 21st century. It’s not all about meticulous re-creation of specifically 17th-century designs.

This approach allows for the development of the art, rather than the static imitation of the art of earlier centuries.

Stumpwork Masterclass by Alison Cole - Book Review

And another thing I love? Well, did I mention the pictures? I could get lost in the pictures alone!

For anyone with an interest in historical embroidery, in stumpwork (contemporary or historical), in techniques that can be applied to different types of embroidery, too – this book is well worth adding to your needlework library!

It’s extremely thorough, instructive, interesting, and exciting!

Where to Find Stumpwork Masterclass

You can find Stumpwork Masterclass available here in the shop. It’s a big book, and it’s quite heavy. We normally ship it via Priority Mail with protective packaging, so it will get to you quickly and in good shape.

Outside the States, you can order it directly from Alison Cole in Australia. Be aware of the currency conversion rates and the overseas postage rates when you place your order!


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(21) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    The Stumpwork Masterclass: Raised and Embossed Embroider looks like a great book I love stumpwork and this would be just the book I need for inspiration and ideas on different stumpwork embroidery. It also looks a really easy book to follow with lots of instruction and photos to help the reader understand the techniques of stumpwork. But again it’s the price of shipping that is always in the way of purchasing such a good read. But thanks for reviewing Alison’s book for us and for your review on the book, I will put this on my wish list for future reference.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Hi Mary,
    I got my copy last Thursday! It took two weeks to get to me in upstate New York. As I have just started my stumpwork clock, it is truly the inspiration and instruction I need. This really is a wonderful book and a valued addition to my stumpwork book collection.

  3. Thanks Mary for such a wonderful review! I admit I have the book (I picked it up on my last trip to Australia), but I haven’t really read it – I’m still drooling over the photos. I think it’s time to properly read it!

  4. I love Alison’d work and the book looks great, but until she sells it through
    Amazon I will pass. The postage is just way too much given the cost of the book.
    Given your dedicated following who bring down websites on your recommendations, I am surprised she did not offer some sort of discount to your
    Readers. Oh well, I will use my A-Z stumpwork book and the one from the

    Glad to hear you are making progress physically. We appreciate all your posts while you are under such constraints .

    Best regards , Darcy

  5. It goes without saying that I/we trust your reviews. If Mary says “it’s good,” or “it isn’t good,” then that’s that.

    Y’know, when I signed up for Celeste’s stumpwork class on Craftsy, I thought, “I don’t really do much stumpwork, but I should perfect the techniques.” And then I realized how many stumpwork projects I’ve actually done over the years. They just didn’t stick in my head because they were part of something else: a handbag, a gown, a box, etc.

    So, obviously, I need this book.

    I will tell my husband, “Mary said so,” and he will just roll his eyes and go back to the very noisy Star Wars video game that he and my grandson can’t seem to stop playing. 😀

  6. Thank you for the review of this lovely book! I took a class from Alison in late 2014, but still haven’t finished the project. This will make me get it out to finish it. And once it’s done, maybe I’ll reward myself by buying the book.

  7. I love this book! It’s super informative and full of great illustrations.

    Alison is also a very, very good tutor and a lovely person. When I originally submitted my order for the book, my credit card was declined, but she took the time to call me to straighten things out. She’s also been very helpful when I had some problems with a stitch.

  8. alison puts her heart, soul and incredible know,edge into her books. Her generosity in sharing her knowledge is without bounds. She in not only an incredible tutor, but a gorgeous person. I have all her books; been very fortunate to have undertaken classes with her and have also completed some of her cyber classes. Doing a cyber class with Alison is like having her sitting beside you the whole time in class – but without the stories. Thank you for helping to share Alison’s great books. And as we Aussies would say ” do yourself a favor and get the book!”

  9. Hi Mary,
    I have the book and totally agree with all you have said. I have a passion for 17th century embroidery and many books on the subject. If you can get a copy do…you won’t be disappointed!
    Regards Vanessa Smith

  10. Thanks for the review, Mary! I got very excited about this book when I saw it reviewed in the latest Inspirations issue and your photos and comments make me want to it even more!

    However, I’m also hesitating because of the shipping as I could almost buy a second copy with that amount. It also makes the total price so high I would have to pay for VAT too.

    Would you say the book was properly and safely packed, Mary? I really wouldn’t like to invest so much and see there were problems.

    Thanks again, and keep your reviews coming! (I’m sorry I cannot support you through the affiliate links when buying books you have recommend as I buy them from an European seller. You really would have earned your cut!)

    1. Hi White Rose – are you in the UK? there is no VAT payable on books, and yes the book comes well packaged (I bought it and its wonderful).

    2. Hi Laura!

      Thanks for your reply. In my country, I’m afraid, we have to pay VAT for books. Luckily though, books are duty-free so there are some savings also.

      I’m pleased to hear the book was packed well. I think I will buy it as soon as I’m able to convince myself I have earned it. 🙂

  11. Hi Mary,

    Loved the review on Alison’s book. I love stump work and do a lot of it. After reading your review the first thing I did was see if Amazon had it available. I love stitchery books and will pay the price for them. However I cannot justify the shipping costs. Hoping she buts it on Amazon.

    Barbara in Texas

  12. Hello mary, don’t forget for the eec, europe thus, uk included, to add the import taxes that can be as high as the postage costs what makes the book almost unaffordable. I am waiting for it to be sold by amazon or book depository. I know embroidery and stumpwork most of all are goldworth but not more than gold…

  13. This is a change: usually it is me down here in Australia whingeing about the cost of shipping from the US. Nice change actually.

    I think this is one book I might need too. Like I need any more books really, there are enough of them in this house to start a good-sized library, but as Mary says, you can never have too many embroidery (or art, or architecture, or music, or furniture, or…) books.

    Thanks Mary for doing the hard yards for us, again.

  14. I received this book on 1 March and living in UK had to pay the hefty postage fee that doubled the cost. However since that is way cheaper than collecting it myself it actually works out to be a bargain. It arrived safely and in perfect condition, upon opening it and starting to read,I am more than delighted that I have bought it and do not grudge a single penny. To those people who are wanting to save on the postage and wait until it is stocked by Amazon or some other company – why would you want some big conglomerate to take the profits from this book instead of buying direct from Alison and letting her keep all the profits herself? (especially as profits on books are marginal anyway?)Don’t grudge her wanting to keep whatever profits there is to be made from all her years of research in her pocket rather than some multinational company that ‘piles it high/sells it cheap’.

  15. Aaaargh….i gave in to temptation and this…thanks to you mary. It will be a very expensive book when receiving it and after paying customs taxes and delivery costs but i could not wait… I just need this book after your comments. I love stumpwork and i feel this book will learn me alot and bring me something different from all what jane nicholas thought me through her books. The mix of techniques between the two ladies’ way of working will be fantastic, doesn’t it ?
    Have a nice day

  16. I had the pleasure to have Alison as a teacher at EAC (Embroidery Association of Canada) Seminar in St John’s, New Foundland, last May. She is a fun and passionate teacher. I should have bought that book while I was there. I wanted to buy The Embroiderer’s Little Book of Hints and Tips, but I arrived too late, she had already sold every single copy of what she had brought with her.
    I am going to Seminar in Charlottetown, Nova Scotia, next July. I hope I will be able to have her as a teacher again. And I will wrote to her before going to make sure she will bring me a copy of both her books. It will be so much cheaper than to order them.

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