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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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A Tale of Two Books…err, Three Books. No, One Book.

 

Amazon

I love stitch dictionaries, don’t you?

I think everyone should have at least two on their reference shelf. Why at least two? Because when you have two stitch dictionaries, you can learn one very important lesson…and I’ll tell you what that lesson is at the end.

What I really want to talk to you about today is a book. It is one book. But it’s causing some confusion!

I’ve had some requests to review a “new” book that’s out, called Embroidery: A Step-by-Step Guide to More Than 200 Stitches.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And really, there’s nothing better than a good step-by-step stitch dictionary that will help you learn a boatload of stitches!

But there’s a funny thing about this book…

Embroidery: Step-by-Step Guide to More Than 200 Stitches

Even though Embroidery: A Step-by-Step Guide, etc. is listed as published in June, 2015, I reviewed the exact same book back in 2010.

Embroidery: A Step-by-Step…etc. is one of those books that’s been republished often, with lots of different covers and titles.

Embroidery: Step-by-Step Guide to More Than 200 Stitches

Despite the new cover, the inside of the book is Stitch Sampler: The Ultimate Visual Dictionary of Over 200 Classic Stitches (you can read my review here).

Embroidery: Step-by-Step Guide to More Than 200 Stitches

It’s also Stitch Dictionary: A practical and inspirational guide to choosing and working with over 200 classic stitches.

And, another version of it, with the same cover as the first photo above, is called Embroidery Stitches Step-by-Step.

The publisher of all versions is DK, and the author is Lucinda Ganderton. The only difference in all of the books above? The covers and the titles. The interior is the same book.

Why the proliferation of covers and titles? This is simply the publisher updating the cover for current audiences with each publication, and depending on where they’re distributing the book. In the US, the current edition is pictured in the first photo above, and in the UK, the current edition is the same cover, but with a briefer title.

The upshot: if you already own Stitch Sampler or Stitch Dictionary by the same author and publisher, you don’t really need to buy Embroidery: A Step-by-Step Guide to More Than 200 Stitches (US) or Embroidery Stitches Step-by-Step (UK).

Two or More Stitch Dictionaries

That’s not to say you shouldn’t own two or more stitch dictionaries. They just shouldn’t be the same stitch dictionary.

If you love embroidery and you want to expand your skills as you journey down your embroidery road, then I’m a huge advocate of owning at least two good stitch dictionaries.

Why?

Because there is more than one way to skin a cat, as my grandmother used to say.

(I don’t think she really ever skinned a cat… mmmmm….I hope she never really skinned a cat!)

But the principle of the idiom applies: there’s more than one way to do things, whether it be cat-skinning or embroidery stitching.

Sometimes, one stitch dictionary will make it easier to grasp the movement of a stitch, or will show you an alternate way to create the same stitch.

Two good stitch dictionaries will also give you an excellent way to cross check stitches – for example, to confirm that you’ve got it if you’re unsure that you’ve got it.

This Particular Book

Embroidery: A Step-by-Step Guide to More Than 200 Stitches is both a prolific stitch dictionary and a pretty good instructional one, too. It’s a nice reference book to have on your shelf, no matter what cover is on the book.

Where to Find It

If you don’t already own Embroidery: A Step-by-Step Guide to More Than 200 Stitches OR Stitch Sampler OR Stitch Dictionary, then you’ll not go wrong in getting the most recently published edition. It’s handy and a great way to expand your own repertoire of embroidery stitches.

You can find Embroidery: A Step-by-Step Guide through the following book affiliates:

In the US, it’s available here through Amazon for under $14, new.

Worldwide with free shipping, it’s available here through Book Depository, where it’s called Embroidery Stitches Step-by-Step. (It’s the same book!)

What’s Your Favorite Stitch Dictionary?

Do you have a favorite stitch dictionary?

There are many stitch dictionaries out there (I’ve reviewed a bunch of them – you’ll find them in the Books section here on Needle ‘n Thread), but perhaps you have one or two that you turn to repeatedly?

What stitch dictionary would you recommend over others?

Feel free to let us all know which stitch dictionaries you like and why – you might be able to help another stitcher make a good book choice.

If you want to join in the stitch dictionary conversation, feel free to leave a comment below!

 
 

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(59) Comments

  1. Mary Thomas and Judith Baker Montano are my go to books. Mary Thomas is an ‘oldie but goodie’, and Judith Baker Montano is so creative with her stitches.

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  2. Thank you for the information. I have the book, the first one that is shown. I do like it, but I am still a bit of a beginner when it comes to the more complicated stitches. I have trouble following the direction from the illustrations. I generally use the book to find the stitch I like, then go back on-line to you to see how to do it.

    I do love all your tutorials.
    Chris

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    1. I must totally second this by Christine. I am super visual and seeing the stitch online “live” is a huge help for me.

    2. I agree with these two in that I so appreciate your videos before I can really understand the stitch. I did order this book just now from your Amazon link. Hope you get credit for that! I’m stuck in using the same stitches over and over again. Hopefully this book will encourage me to move towards more advanced stitches.

  3. I love, love, love stitch books–I don’t have 1 or 2, or even 3. I have an entire book shelf devoted to stitch dictionaries. I believe the 1st I bought was the classic by Jacqueline Enthoven. I don’t use it much anymore but I love reading it because she talks so much about each stitch. Another classic is the one by Jo Bucher and one I use occasionally. Since I mainly do canvas work, my go-to stitch book is a small, easy to carry “Stitches To Go” by Howren and Robertson. But let’s not forget Mary Thomas. And then for samplers and counted work there is A Proper Stitch–then we get into the specialty books devoted only to pulled thread, Blackwork, etc. And where do you draw the line? Are books devoted to silk ribbon embroidery or Brazillian embroidery stitch dictionaries or are they technique books? Actually, I may have at least 2 or 3shelves of stitch books. JoyceAnne

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  4. I do have a couple of great books and I totally agree with your statement that there are different ways to approach a stitch. That said, I go to your instructions and YouTube videos first. You are the BEST! Thank you for sharing your talents with us. I love reading your blog, you always make me smile.

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  5. I have a number of stitch dictionaries and I do think more is more in this case. But my all time, take it everywhere, use it all the time favorite is Yvette Stanton’s The Left Handed Embroiderer’s Companion. Because she is left handed, the instructions really work. It is such a help to not have to try to mentally visualize how to flip a complicated stitch. Using this book has markedly improved my stitching.

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  6. A to Z Embroidery Stitches I & II are my hands down, most reliable resources. I’ve found Montano’s instructions are sometimes incomplete (e.g. Rosette stitch), so I would not recommend them, although artistically her work is gorgeous and inspiring.

    I would LIKE to see Yvette Stanton’s guides, because I have found her other books to be very thorough. But right now the A to Zs meet all my needs.

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  7. Mary, I am a embroidery stitch book collector. I can’t get enough of these handbooks. When I start a project I have at least 5 stitch books by my side, even if the project has only 7 basic stitches in it! I call these books my “Peeps”. They are always at my side. However, I do get a bit grumpy when I see I had ordered the same book not noticing they changed the cover,,, I have doubles! I do have favorites, but the one I refer back to a lot is The Embroiderer’s Handbook by Margie Bauer and the A~Z series. The Essential Stitch Guide by Judith Baker Montano’s is great too. And of course your on line stitch dictionary!! Your video’s have helped me learn so many stitches! A big thank you!!

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  8. For a real book, I use _Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Needlework_ (Leisure Arts). I have two websites, one being Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials at embroidery.rocksea.org, but my favorite website (and source) is Needle ‘n Thread!

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  9. The Left Handed Embroiders Companion is a must for helping me navigate through a world dominated by right handers. Nice visuals as well.

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  10. My favorite stitch books are A-Z Embroidery and A-Z Embroidery 2. Of course I have a couple dozen others but they are the ones I go to most often. I just love all the A-Z books. Having said that, I often find myself going to your website to look for stitches too! Your website is an absolute wealth of information!

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  11. Someone recommended “The Embroidery Stitch Bible” by Betty Barnden. I like it because it’s small, and once I cut off the cardboard spine to free up the spiral binding, I can fold it open and look at it while I work the stitch.

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  12. The Stitches of creative embroidery by Jacqueline Enthoven. I have loved this book since 1967, and just gifted it to a grand who loves to embroider.

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    1. Jacqueline Enthoven’s Stitches of Creative Embroidery is also my all time favorite. Two others I use are The Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Embroidery and Diana Lampe’s Embroidered Garden Flowers. Lampe’s book is not a dictionary, but it is inspirational.

  13. I just took a look at your list, Mary. That is quite a book shelf!
    My starter was the Therese Du Mont DMC encyclopedia but ones I turn to on a regular basis are Mary Davies on Crewel embroidery, Audry Francine’s Crewel Embroidery, the Bastford books on stitches, an italian Nuova Enciclopedia dei Lavori femminilli, Ida Winkler’s book on Danish pulled work,
    and Marion Nichols, Encyclopedia of stitches. This last one is probably the one I go to most often because she takes the time to diagram both sides of the stitch so you know what it is supposed to look like on both the right and backside of the stitch and it is the one that I lose track of.

    I do like the references that come out of the RSN from England and several of the new books on needle painting and stump work.

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  14. Hmm, I went through your list and I already own at least 7 of those books, though not all are stitch dictionaries. But I also have several not in your list and the one I always go to first Is Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Needlework. Part of the reason is that it is the first one I ever bought, so I am the most familiar with it. But I also really like the way it is set up. It is divided into sections for various types of needlework and gives a history of each. If a stitch is used in more than one type, it is listed in all of them. It also gives alternate names and shows both diagrams and photographs, which is especially helpful since we all know that stitches on fabric don’t necessarily look like their diagrams and instructions. I do often consult all my books (and your videos!) before trying something new, but this is the one I look at first.

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  15. Thanks for the heads-up on these books! I’ve also seen the same thing done with the old Singer Sewing Library, and also 1 knitting book that I know of.

    My favorites – your tutorials, the A-Z series, Mary Thomas, Therese de Dillmont, Erica Wilson. *t all depends on my mood, eyesight and what I’m working on. Or not working on and just want eye candy and inspiration.

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  16. I have to agree with Monica, I like the A-Z books, but when I need a bit more detail, I go to NNT.com! I happen to be left handed, but I happen to stitch with my right hand, so that makes me a slightly ambidextrous.

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    1. Yes, I will second that too! Sometimes video is the only thing that puts all the pieces together. I never would have learned bullion stitch without your video, Mary! 😀

  17. I fully recommend Sherlee Lantz and Maggie Lane’s classic, “A Pageant of Pattern for Needlepoint Canvas. (1973). 500+ pages of excellent diagrams. Yes, many are for canvas work, but so many can be translated into embroidery stitches. A real stitch bible!

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  18. Because I’m left-handed, my stitch dictionary is: The Left-Handed Embroiderer’s Companion by Yvette Stanton. And my second is: The Proper Stitch, a Guide for Counted Thread by Darlene O’Steen. I can’t stitch/live without them.

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  19. It is Mary Thomas and most of all Mary Corbet. If I’m really stuck, your videos are the absolute best.I’m pretty much like Christine; I use the book to find the stitch, but if I’m new to it, I look to see if you have covered it. I’ve said it before, If you would compile a CD of your tutorials, I would definitely buy it.

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  20. I have books by topic, Crewel Embroidery, Blackwork, Historic Needlework, Italian Needlework, a few on samplers and X Stitch. A few days ago I was reading a Samplers Book from the Fitz Museum and Montenegrin Stitch came up. So, I looked in my books. Huh! Not there. So next step I went to your stitch tutorials (where I normally go to see how something complex is done) and it’s not there! But, you reviewed a book on Montenegrin, so off I went. So you see Mary, you are better than a book, you’re an encyclopedia!

    Now, if I could just buy a download of your tutorials, so I could carry it with me.

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    1. Actually Holly, you can carry them with you if you have an iPad or tablet. I have Mary’s website on my iPad – I can go there anytime, home or away to look up stitches and other information that she has posted. This way I can have it right by my side when I am stitching and need to review or find something new. And, I can show friends.

  21. I love, love, love The Left-Handed Embroiderer’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Stitch Dictionary. I have had mine spiral bound and keep it close at hand. Sometimes, I forget how to begin a particular stitch oe I just look for inspiration.

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  22. I have “The Encyclopedia of Stitches” by Karen Hemingway and “Royal School of Needlework (Embroidery Techniques)” by Sally Saunders.

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  23. Donna Kooler’s “Encycopedia of Needlework” is my go to book for stitches. Very clear directions. Each stitch has suggestions for possible design elements where it would be appropriate, which I find very helpful.

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  24. With all of the wonderful resources online, I would rather spend my pennies on fabric and thread. lol I am on a fixed income that is right at the poverty level and not likely to rise much. So I have to purchase wisely and books, as much as I love them, are not bought very often. I do have 2 of Judith Baker Montano’s books, “Embroidery and Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool” and one on Ribbon Embroidery. And I do have a Mary Thomas Dictionary, but all my books are bought when they are on sale or on
    Amazon. Thank you for all your wonderful information on this site. It’s really appreciated even though I’m not any where near in the class that you are.

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  25. Stitch dictionaries? When it comes to pure stitch dictionaries the original Mary Thomas’s is a very good all-rounder, usually my first port of call. The little, green-covered “100 Embroidery Stitches” from Anchor wins for portability and has a very good starting selection of stitches for beginners. (I think it’s out of print right now, but I am sure it will come back!) Grace Christie’s “Samplers and Stitches” is sensible and inspiring. These are all general purpose books, with minimal diagrams and don’t go into much detail on usage.
    I grew up on stitch diagrams, and fuzzy, black and white photos, and I have been stitching for so long that I can read-through unclear instructions and cope happily with Victorian engravings. I get a lot of fun from old books like Thérèse De Dilmont’s and S F A Caulfield’s, and I love to hunt down odd stitches in foreign-language books, especially those now online on sites like Antique Pattern Library and Internet Archive. The Internet – particularly the treasure-trove that is Needle’n’Thread – is the best stitch-dictionary ever produced – so long as you know what you are looking for. But a real book you can flip through in search of something ‘just right’ (and which will give you a brief reminder of how to do it from a small diagram) is still a mighty useful thing.
    I absolutely agree about getting more than one dictionary. Different authors have different strengths and interests, and what’s confusing in one may well be perfectly obvious in another. Then you can add instructional and specialist books as you explore different techniques and styles… And you’ll probably need a new bookshelf or two before long!

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  26. I highly recommend a website I turn to often. She gives great instructions, shows the stitch in action and general good information. Hmmm…what’s the name of that place….I know….Needle something….I give up! It’s here! This website run by you!

    No really, I started watching sewing shows on PBS, and discovered that I am a visual learner, I think is the term. Watching people actually do tasks made what I was doing make perfect sense to me.

    So when I went back to embroidery, and was kerfuffling through diagrams, I turned to you tube, and then after a few videos of I don’t know what (a video of a simple stitch should be 10 minutes of nonsense and one minute of bad stitching) I found you. YAY!!!

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  27. I have several stitch dictionaries, bibles and encyclopedias. For a general book I like the Embroidery Stitch Bible; from there I have ones that are speciality to a particular type of Needle Art – Hardanger, Needle Painting, Huck/Swedish Weaving, silk ribbon, beading, Stumpwork and of course, my speciality – Brazilian Embroidery. They all have something different to offer. BUT, my first place to look is Mary Corbet’s Needle n Thread tutorials – can’t bet the visual with excellent verbal on what she is doing. Thank you Mary for all the work you have done to share your expertise with us.

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  28. The left-handed embroider’s companion by Yvette Stanton. This book has been a lifesaver for me. I have been stitching for over 40 yrs, with a lot of frustration and unpicking. I even lost interest. Then I came across this book. Being left handed in a right world is very frustrating at times. So all you lefties you will be thrilled with this book and will be doing wonderful stitching with so much ease.

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  29. I suppose my favorite (for sentimental reasons) is the Coats and Clark pamphlet on embroidery: “Book No. 150, One Hundred Embroidery Stitches” that an aunt gave me when I was about 10 or 12 years old. Through the years I’ve gathered many more. I love needlework books, and unfortunately at the moment I have more books than shelves, which means I have all my crewel books in piles.

    I’m in love with crewel, and my favorite crewel books are A-Z Crewelwork, RSN Crewelwork, Elsa Wilson, Mildred Davis, Audrey Francini, and Marion Nichols.

    But no matter how much I love my books, the very BEST source for learning stitches is Mary’s “How To Videos.”

    Katrina

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  30. I can’t even remember how many such books I have, including this one. It does peeve me slightly that publishers change covers, names etc and I have been caught out more than once. Another trick they have and that has caught me out is to take a section of a book and publish it on its own. That said though I can’t resist a good stitch book.
    I guess my favourites would be both A-Z books (Australian, published by the Inspirations people), Jacqueline Enthoven although she isn’t the easiest to read, and Yvette Stanton. But I like them all including the online versions by Mary C and Sharon Boggon.

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  31. Mary, I have ‘a few’ stitch directories. Here in Australia Inspirations magazine have published a few so I bought a coupLe. A- Z of Embroidery Stitches was my ‘ go to’. Though to be honest, I love being able to come to your site to read and watch you work a stitch that might be new to me. Thank you for sharing your talent and enthusiasm with us.

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  32. Hi Mary
    With regard to your item on Stitch Directory books I have 2 but I find that the best information is on your site videos. I have often poured over books to get the hang of a stitch and still not got it right but your videos are easy to see and so make the explanation simple and there are often variations on a simple stitch. Thank you for them.

    Joyce

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  33. I use A to Z Embroidery Stitches I and II because the instructions and pictures are so clear. I live in France and the other members of my embroidery group are French and don’t speak or understand English. However, they can follow the images in A to Z successfully and as a result several of them have ordered their own books!

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  34. My go to stitch dictionary is “The New Cross Stitcher’s Bible” by Jane Greenoff. In addition to instructions on how to cross stitch, she includes detailed instructions with great photographs for other types of embroidery stitches. As far as I know there are 2 editions – 2000, and an updated version which was recently released.

    I look forward to seeing the dictionary you reviewed here. Thank you, Mary for your blog. I always learn something useful every time I read it.!

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  35. I have a few mini sample books, but I was also loaned a book called The Treasury of Crazy Quilt Stirches by Carole Sample which shows known stitches manipulated to created interesting designs.

    I am also a fan of Judith Baker Montano, Sue Spargo and you Mary. I have learned much.

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  36. I’m in the A-Z camp, and not just for their two embroidery dictionaries. The whole series is wonderful, although the one on embroidery on wool seems much a repeat of the regular embroidery books. The bullion book is particularly beguiling!

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  37. Mary, I’ve been stitching for 45 years and have a full bookcase of needlework books–YOUR TUTORIALS are my favorite stitch dictionary.

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  38. Im sure you’re right, Mary about owning two good books, BUT none could be as good as your fabulous stitch tutorials. Love them so much.

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  39. “skinning a cat” is actually talking about catfish. These are skinned as they have no scales. It’s a popular saying in the South…and so may have traveled to your family via this route. The band ALABAMA actually included this statement in one of their songs…they are from Ft Payne, Alabama. Hugs!
    Kathy

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  40. Ah Mary what joy there is to see and read a new book.
    I thought only a few days ago I had better sort a few rows out in the book case, due to my advancing years. Needless to say I didn’t throw a single book out. OR put them into give away box.
    I have had many years of collecting and reading textile and thread work books. Now it is ‘so many books so little time’. I thought.

    I recently came across Helen M Stevens site and found ‘One Simple Stitch’. Well I have to say that I bought it for the ‘Just One Simple Stitch’ no other.
    Spider webs. I know I have made spider webs for years but it involved a grannie’s knot or a once around catch. I really never liked it as it showed as little knots all over the so called web and spiders do not tie knots.
    Helen has made it so easy and more life like. She is also on YouTube.
    I do also like the free on line showing Ms Dillmont, they are free and you mention in your newsletter.
    I like her piece about how to posture yourself. I can truly say that it was written for the lady of the house who would be corseted up to the neck, where as those who did most of the sewing never had the money to buy corsets and such trifles. It was an interesting thought and quite relevant in fact. Gotta be comfortable.

    My other likes and too many to name individually is reading the foreign books Central Europe, Mexico, Asia etc. They also give a different spin on many stitches.
    Sincerely and not to blow in your ear, I do believe that you give the best service to all who wish to pursue the art of the needle.
    It has been one of my little pleasures reading your letter to us all.

    Kind regards
    Martha May

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  41. Actually, I have my very first stitch dictionary that was torn from my mother’s Woman’s Day Magazine in 1972, while I was still in school. I wanted to embellish the clothes I made. I have put the picture of it, along with my newest stitching book, in the link with this post. It maybe is my statement of how long I have been practising embroidery and still only practising after nearly 45 years.

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  42. I’m a beginner, and try to get help from any where, I love this web site and thank you so much for it!! My problem is still what stitch to use where? What is the secret to gain confidence?? You are wonderful!
    Shira

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    1. Practice is the secret to learn anything. No one starts off as totally competent. It takes time and patience.
      Making samplers is one of the easiest ways to start. Also colouring in pictures. You can shade the pictures then do a test run on a practice cloth, doing long and short satin stitch to give a similar look as your coloured in picture.

      Very many of us have learnt to do needle work as youngsters. But that does not mean you can’t learn. Patience and perseverance is what you need. Try, try and try again. A little every day. You will see how you are going if you keep your practice cloth in order. Keep looking at Mary’s site you will always get help there.
      Mary has for sale some lovely little kits you can get to work. I have several and gave them as Xmas presents etc.
      Good luck and do your best. Then do it again
      MM

    2. Thank you so much for your answers it’s make me happy to know that you are here
      And sharing your experience. God bless you all
      Shira

  43. Mary,
    Would you please comment with some general info about “Valdani” embroidery hand-dyed floss and “Waverly” wool thread.
    I am new in studying various threads and would appreciate your knowledge about these threads.

    Thank you, Jo
    Port Royal Island, SC

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  44. Jacquline Enthoven is my go to book. Jacquline takes each stitch so much further and her combinations of stitches for motifs and borders are fantastic. Clear illlustrations of each stitch and all their variations

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