A Fine Tradition: The Embroidery of Margaret Light hit the market a little earlier than expected, and once I saw it was out, I was so anxious to get my paws on it!
It was the exuberance of the cover of the book that caught me, of course.
Yes, yes! I know! Never judge a book…. But! You’ve got to admit, if you’re an embroidery enthusiast, if you like historical embroidery but with a contemporary flair, if you are fascinated by stitches and the way they work together, if you like crewel work, if you like interpretive possibilities… the cover on this books speaks volumes.
So, yep. When I first saw it announced, and being familiar with Margaret Light’s projects that I’ve seen off and on over the years in Inspirations Magazine, I was pretty eager to get the book! And I knew, deep down in my little heart, that it would be a fine book, indeed.
Let’s take a look at it!
A Fine Tradition is a combination of project and instruction book. It is what I’d call primarily a project book, though. The instructions are thorough and very clear – and abundant – but it’s not a technique book as much as it is a book for creating beautiful embroidery projects.
Besides the stitchery itself, another thing you are sure to learn though this book is how to finish embroidery into something. There are very few framed pieces in the book, and even those projects that are wall decor are not displayed in the usual sense. So this is the type of book that will help you learn how to make things that are beautifully embroidered.
There are fourteen projects in the book, and they offer a wonderful array of design styles as far as the embroidery goes. From early 16th century to late 19th century, the projects play on different eras of embroidery and design, and yet they still feature a twist of the contemporary.
I like this approach of styles through the ages! It’s varied, but through it all, you still get a sense of the author’s unique style and approach.
The book is divided into the projects, followed by general instructions and methodology, a stitch index of all the stitches used in the various projects with step-by-step photos, a stitch glossary of quick diagrams, and a pull-out pattern section.
Because it’s an Inspirations book, you can count on there being an abundance of gorgeous photos throughout – and being able to see, up close, the stitching and all the other details you want to see in the projects!
Each project opens with a photo of the completed project and some background information about it, followed by an abundance of detail photos, a complete materials list, methods to get started, and all the information you need on how to stitch and finish the project.
Throughout the instructions, you’ll find tips, a clear order of work…
…diagrams to clarify techniques…
…lots of detail photos of elements within the project, so you know what to aim for while you’re stitching your version…
…as well as any kind of layout information, diagrams, and so forth, for finish work.
Most of the projects are useful, beautiful things, like needle books, tool rolls, cushions, and the like. But they could also be used in other ways – like wall decor, if you like framing your work.
I like the fact that they show this project two ways – a very serviceable and attractive tool case, or a framed piece of art.
The majority of the projects in the book involve a variety of threads. Wool is frequently used. You’ll find projects that feature stranded cottons, pearl cottons, wool and silk blends, and so forth.
Because of the versatile nature of this type of surface embroidery, you can always substitute your own favorite threads, too!
These three tile pieces – each representing a completely different era and design style – make a beautiful set. They’re the type of projects I really like, because they’re somewhat compact. And, with many of the threads being wool, they stitch up more quickly than the same sized projects in cotton or silk.
Don’t you love the way they’re displayed here?
I think the Magnum Opus in this book is definitely this Tree of Life design.
It combines that rich Jacobean tradition of Tree of Life designs, but it’s made more vivid and lively through the combined influence of Chinese and Indian fabric flavors. There’s a lot going on in it, but it all goes together so well, and it’s so nicely balanced, resulting in an exuberant piece that isn’t weighed down. There’s a vivid life to it, and a richness to it, but overall, it comes across as light and airy.
The exciting thing about Tree of Life designs like this – that incorporate so much in stitches, design elements, color and so forth – is that you can never really get bored stitching them. Each element presents something new. Some elements are more challenging than others. Some are light and quick. How fun!
It’s a fabulous piece! And, well… we all need a contemplative monkey in our lives, don’t we?
After the projects, we have the General Instructions.
Here, you’ll find general instructions on embroidery – from setting up, transferring designs, and so forth – to the specifics of techniques.
The stitches and techniques are presented with step-by-step photos, making it easy to tackle the projects with confidence.
You’ll also find a stitch glossary, that gives you quick diagrams for basic stitches.
Finally, there’s a pull-out pattern section in the back of the book, with all the patterns presented in the correct size, ready for use.
Overall, it’s a splendid project book!
I’m glad it met my expectations – not a drop of disappointment. I love anticipating a book, and finding out that it was everything I hoped it would be!
One point to be aware of: In some of the projects, Margaret makes use of Gumnut Yarns hand-dyed wools and wool blends. These are gorgeous wool threads from Australia. Fortunately, they’re also available in the US through Thistle Needleworks. Gumnut has a really nice range of hand-dyed threads, and they are super nice to stitch with.
Where to Find It
If you’re in the US, I brought in a limited number, and they’re here in my shop as we speak. It’s a larger format book, but I’m still shipping it Priority mail, the same day if purchased before noon central time. Otherwise, the next business day. So, relatively speaking, you’ll get it pretty quickly, if all goes well on the USPS end.
If you’re in Australia, of course you can find it at Inspirations Studios! They ship worldwide.