Back in October, we chatted about a series of needlework books called Beginners Guides, that are super-valuable to have in your embroidery library. The books are excellent, especially for stitchers who want to explore specific needlework techniques that they might not have tackled before.
Today, we’ll look at another great series of embroidery books that are for beginners and experts alike – the A-Z Series of needlework books. The A-Z series is an instructional reference series that has been around for a while and has been a best seller in the industry. Understandably, the books have a huge fan base, because they’re just that good!
If you’re just getting into embroidery and you’re looking for instructional books that will take you step-by-step in a logical, methodical way through learning stitches and techniques, these books are perfect for that.
One of the best things about the A-Z series of needlework books – originally published by Country Bumpkin and recently re-published by Search Press – is that there is such a wide range of techniques covered in the series.
So whether you’re a beginner looking for a good stitch dictionary, or an intermediate stitcher ready to try new techniques, or an advanced stitcher looking for some good reference, technique and inspirational books, this series has you covered!
The Topics Covered in the A-Z Series
The A-Z Series covers a pretty wide range of needlework topics. To my knowledge, there are 20 of them currently in print, two of which are scheduled to be released in January.
There are A-Z books available on the following topics:
- Bead Embroidery
- Crewel Embroidery
- Embroidered Flowers
- Embroidered Motifs (with bullion stitches)
- Embroidery Stitches
- Embroidery Stitches 2
- Goldwork with Silk Embroidery
- Heirloom Sewing
- Ribbon Embroidery
- Sewing for Smockers
- Thread Painting
- Wool Embroidery
What’s in Them
The A-Z Series is primarily an instructional series of needlework books, although several of the technique books (like A-Z of Crewel Embroidery and A-Z of Thread Painting, for example) also include projects so that you can practice the techniques.
Inside the books, you’ll find some of the best step-by-step photo instructions available in needlework books today.
I think this is what has made the books so popular ever since they were first published. It’s so much easier to learn a technique when you can see it worked out, in each step, in photographs, with real people working the stitch. It’s the next best thing to video, which is the next best thing to sitting right next to someone!
In addition to the instructional content in the books, they’re full of beautiful needlework, too. Practically every page of each books is visually pleasing in some way. They’re pretty!
If you want to see up close what’s in some of the books – and they all follow pretty much the same format – I’ve written reviews on several of them. The links below will take you to those:
How They Differ from Beginner’s Guides
The A-Z series and the Beginner’s Guides might seem as if they’re a lot alike, but there are some differences between the two series.
The Beginner’s Guides introduce you to the basics of particular kinds of embroidery, and they do this pretty much by taking you through projects and setting you up to explore the type of embroidery further on your own. They include all the basic instruction for getting the hang of the type of embroidery and then they help you through the project or projects in the book. Sometimes, the instruction unfolds within the projects.
The A-Z series if first and foremost a technical series. The emphasis in the books is on specific, systematic, step-by-step instruction on the technical aspects of stitches and techniques. While some books have projects, some don’t. It just depends on the book. Some of the technique-oriented books (crewel work, thread painting, etc.) have some kind of project(s) in them, but the focus is not really on the projects. It’s on the technical stuff.
The A-Z series features a very recognizable layout of step-by-step instruction, with pages full of photo grids. The Beginner’s Guides are a little more organic in the presentation of the instruction.
My Favorite A-Zs
The whole series of A-Z books are on my “easy access” bookshelf, but these are the ones that I reference most frequently:
A-Z of Embroidery Stitches (both volumes), A-Z of Goldwork with Silk Embroidery, A-Z of Crewel Embroidery, A-Z of Bead Embroidery, A-Z of Thread Painting and A-Z of Stumpwork.
Sometimes, I take these books off the shelf to flip through them for inspiration and ideas for stitching projects, for a technical refresher, or to learn something that I don’t know yet, but that I know is in there.
And sometimes, I take them off the shelf just to flip through them for no reason at all!
The Newest A-Z: Embroidered Flowers
The newest A-Z to be reprinted by Search Press is A-Z of Embroidered Flowers, which just came out. If you’re already collecting the series, this is a nice one to add to the list!
It’ll give you a heap of variety to pull from, for your embroidery projects that involve flowers.
The book includes instructions on how to embroider some 100 flowers in all kinds of different techniques, including surface embroidery, stumpwork, ribbon embroidery…
Where to Find Them
All the A-Z books are available online through the following book affiliates:
In the US, you’ll find them reasonably priced through Amazon.
Worldwide, with free shipping, they’re available here through Book Depository.
And, in some cases, if you’re lucky, they might also be available at your local library. If not, you can request that they get the ones you’re interested in, or that they find them for interlibrary loan.