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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RSN Book of Embroidery: Huge, in More Ways than One


Amazon Books

There’s nothing quite as convenient as an all-inclusive reference book for embroidery, that you can pull out when you need inspiration, instruction, answers to questions, or solutions to stitching problems.

Beyond a simple stitch dictionary, a technique book can walk you through the basics (and beyond) of a particular embroidery technique. Individual technique books for different types of hand embroidery are fairly common, but imagine having a technique book that covers many of the major genres of hand embroidery all in one spot!

Well, Search Press (in collaboration with the Royal School of Needlework) has recently released just such a book.

It’s called The RSN Book of Embroidery: A Guide to Essential Stitches, Techniques, and Projects, and it covers eight major categories of needlework.

Today, I’ll tell you what this tome is all about, and share inside details, pros and cons, and where you can find it!

RSN Book of Embroidery

Right off the bat, there are a couple notable points you need to know about the RSN Book of Embroidery:

1. It is huge. It’s a large, hard-cover book. But it’s huge in scope, as well. It covers a lot!

2. It is essentially a compilation of eight books previously published by Search Press as the RSN Essential Stitch Guides series. I’ve reviewed most of those books individually here on Needle ‘n Thread, and I’ll link to those reviews below, so that you can see in detail what content is included in this one book.

If you already own the series of RSN Essential Stitch Guides, then you may find the content of this book redundant, unless you want all the content in one major reference book.

RSN Book of Embroidery

The book is definitely large! It’s a thick, heavy book, and quite impressive in scope.

The different sections for each technique are color coded, so it’s very easy to find your way through the book and keep track of where you are.

RSN Book of Embroidery

The extensive table of contents should give you a clear idea of the scope of the book!

RSN Book of Embroidery

The table of contents covers two massive spreads (that’s 4 pages…!)

RSN Book of Embroidery

In the first part of the Book of Embroidery, you’ll find all the necessary information for getting started with embroidery, from overviews of materials, tools, threads, and so forth to instruction on preparing fabrics, using embroidery hoops and frames, transferring designs, and all the background necessities to get you started.

RSN Book of Embroidery

In the original series of Essential Stitch Guides, this information is included in each stitch guide, taking up a good bit of space at the start of each guide.

With this compilation, all the start-up information for needlework is included at the beginning, leaving the rest of the book to concentrate on techniques.

RSN Book of Embroidery

After the basic background content is covered, the book launches into the techniques.

Here’s a list of the eight major techniques covered. I’ve also linked to the Essential Stitch Guide reviews I’ve already written, so that you can see, in detail, what’s covered under each technique:

Silk Shading
Bead Embroidery
Canvas Work

RSN Book of Embroidery

In the Book of Embroidery, you’ll find all the basics for each technique, along with large, clear photos and written instructions for the stitches and methods involved in the techniques.

In fact, here’s where this compilation really shines when compared to the individual stitch guides. The photos are large and clear, the layout is much more open and seems decidedly less crowded. It’s very easy on the eyes and it’s very user-friendly when it comes to navigating through the instructional content.

RSN Book of Embroidery

Pros & Cons

On the pros side, there’s a lot going for this book:

1. It’s really a great way to own all the stitch guides, rolled into one large book!

2. It makes an excellent reference book.

3. It’s easy to navigate through, from technique to technique.

4. Overall, it doesn’t seem as crowded as each individual stitch guide. Photos are larger and easier to see and the layout is very nice and user-friendly.

5. It covers all the basics for getting into what I’d call some “serious” embroidery. If you’ve been dabbling with hand embroidery but you want to pursue it a little more seriously and learn various techniques, this book offers a great way to do that.

On the cons side, there are a few points to consider, too:

1. The book is large and pretty heavy. It is a regularly bound hard cover book that, if you want to use as an instructional guide, will need a table to rest on. It’s not a book you would comfortably tote from spot to spot. It opens easily enough to the various sections, but it’s not quite as handy as each individual stitch guide (they are much lighter, spiral bound, and smaller, so easier to tuck into a project bag).

2. The subtitle can seem a little misleading. A Guide to Essential Stitches, Techniques and Projects seems to imply that it’s at least partially a project book. Most of the techniques do not include any kind of project to stitch. The section on Silk Shading includes some decent exercises with small line drawings that can be used for practice. But in the other technique sections, “projects” really are just an overview of projects worked by the author to show you the techniques in application, rather than projects for you to stitch.

In a Nutshell

The RSN Book of Embroidery is an extensive, multi-technique-encompassing reference book that would make a good addition to any needleworker’s bookshelf.

If you’ve wanted the content of the Essential Stitch Guides but were hesitant to collect each individual book, now you can have them all in one more affordable package – and that’s pretty neat! Plus, it leaves more room on your bookshelf for other great needlework books!

However, if you’re looking for a book that you can easily tote around to help you out as you explore various techniques, I’d probably stick with the individual stitch guides, as this thing is hefty, hefty, hefty!

Where to Find It

You can find the RSN Book of Embroidery available through the following:

In the US, you can find it available through Amazon, listed right here at the top of my Amazon page.

Here’s a direct link to the RSN Book of Embroidery on Amazon, if you want to see the full listing.

Worldwide with free shipping, you’ll find the book available here through Book Depository.

Needle ‘n Thread uses affiliate links for book sources, which means that Needle ‘n Thread receives a small commission when you purchase through those links, without any extra cost to you. Every little bit helps, so thanks for using my links when you purchase books online!


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(15) Comments

  1. Mary,
    A quick question about your affiliate links. Do you get a kickback only on the products listed on your page, or do you get a kickback on anything we buy as long as we click through your link to get to amazon? Thought I’d ask as I have no problem giving you a kickback on other things I buy through Amazon. sarah

    1. Hi, Sarah – thanks for asking! Yes, that’s correct. So if you access Amazon through my link and shop for other things on that visit, I do get a small kickback. Thanks again!

  2. A very informative review, Mary, thank you! One little problem, the Book Depository link doesn’t seem to work for me, it just keeps throwing me back to this page after a flicker 🙁

    1. Hi, Ilke – Not sure why that’s happening. I double checked the link – it works from here, and the html is all correct. Perhaps it’s your browser settings. I’m guessing your browser is not allowing a new page to open from the link. If you right click on the link and scroll down to “open in new tab” or new window, perhaps that will work. All my links open in new pages, so if you have a different setting in your browser preferences, that could be the difficulty?

  3. Oh, this is exciting! I’ve wanted the stitch guides for a while, but this is a much more economical option.

  4. Thank you for your review of this book. I have wanted a RSN book for a long while and don’t have any of them. I’ve been looking for something to spend my mother’s day gift (Amazon gift card) on and so I got this through your link. I also bought a bit more that took me past my gift card, but worth it!

    While my hands hurt to much to do the embroidering that I would like to do, I sure do love knowing how thos stitches are made and to see them in projects (I never make the projects in books anyhow – LOL) but I do like big, complete and colorful craft books.

    Thanks for your posts!

  5. Hi Mary,

    This book was released in the U.K. on Thursday, so I have my copy already.


    I am now so pleased that I did not buy all the original books separately, although they are of course more portable.

    It is worth every penny (or cent).


  6. I’ve had the blackwork, whitework, goldwork and stumpwork books in my Amazon Wish List for a while now. Getting all of them in one package (plus more) pushed me over the edge. Thanks for the review!

  7. Thank you for sharing all the details on setting up your frame. I went back and read the Mark Harris frame details as well. I have never progressed beyond hoops and they have served my needs well, but I am plotting some larger and longer term projects that will need framing. I have been fairly paralyzed between deciding among these two slate types, the Millenium (which in truth really tantalizes me) and the Evertites, as I can manage one good investment, but not the full array. I remain undecided, but these detailed posts you provide are slowly moving me to my frame destination. Feel free to declare a one shot winner though if you are so inclined!!!
    Great post, Mary!

    1. It depends on what type of stitching you do. I like the ease of using Evertites, and use them for most smaller short-term projects. But for goldwork and other projects that will be set up for a long time, I like slate frames. I don’t know that the Millenium frame is worth waiting for. For a lot of people in the US who have ordered them, they often end up waiting more than a year for delivery. I’d go for the Mythic Craft slate frame before the Millenium. But for standard slate frames, you can order them right here in the US from Needle in a Haystack. They take a little longer to set up, because you have to sew onto the tape on the top and bottom rollers.

    2. Thanks for your advice Mary. I have no idea how I put my response on this page instead of today’s post about frames! But anyway, after pondering your response I think I will start with an Evertite or two and save for a slate frame down the line if it really seems I need one. Sounds like the best plan in order to channel most of my spending towards linens and threads, which are my real joys! Oh…and books…and maybe the odd kit…now if you would just accompany me when I go into lockdown over an interesting menu at a restaurant!. I do want to say that you have taught me so much even though I have embroidered for many many years. To put it in the form of the old give a fish/teach to fish adage, your gracious blog has taught me to problem solve and experiment in all kinds of fresh ways beyond the literal content of your posts. Thanks and thanks again for your generosity!

  8. Tried to leave another comment and got an error code. I bought this book and had it in my hands yesterday. I love it. I didn’t have any of the smaller books so this was nice to get them all at once. I love this book for not only showing the techniques, but showing finished projects. My favorite was the monkey teasing the lion. Also the fact that their was a total lack of today’s ‘folk’ type of embroidery.

    Thanks for letting us know the book was coming out!

  9. I’m just learning crewel work and embroidery too and didn’t have any of the RSN book, so this was perfect. It is large but I found a place for it, where it can live permanently and be opened and used almost like a dictionary on a stand.

    The first thing I learned from it, as silly as this may sound, is how to do the stem stitch in my first crewel project with a hoop. The instructions I’d used before–perhaps I was miss-reading the images, but I had to take the hoop off. With the photos in the RSN I immediately saw what I was doing wrong.

    The history sections are beautiful and make me really appreciate the new skill I am learning.

    I also want to thank you for your wonderful blog, which got me started!

  10. Do you have any designs on Colbert embroidery? We must do a project with Colbert embroidery and I cant find designs. I would like to hear from you if you got any ideas or tips on this matter



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