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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Early Modern Embroidery & Lace Pattern Books


Amazon Books

Good morning and happy Monday! It’s a bleak and rimy day here in Kansas, with a bit of a winter storm going on. In short, it’s a perfect indoor day!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been digging about online for old embroidery inspiration, concentrating mostly on early 19th century and before. It’s really unbelievable how much information about early textiles is available online, right at our fingertips, through vast collections of old print material, made digital.

It’s a blessing… and a curse. It’s a blessing, because – wow! We can learn so much and see so much that we otherwise would never see!

It’s a curse, because… well, I call them rabbit holes. Once you head down them, it’s easy to go farther and farther and farther, and it’s hard to crawl back out.

But these online collections are such a good source of inspiration for embroidery and other forms of needlework. So I’d say they’re much more of a blessing than a curse, don’t you think?

online collection of embroidery and lace pattern books

One particular collection that is ever worth exploring is this Early Modern Embroidery and Lace Pattern Books collection on Internet Archive.

It is vast. There are many publications there, and the majority of them have patterns for either embroidery or lace (needle lace, mostly).

The term “early modern” can be a little confusing if you’re not used to the eras of art. It’s really not very “modern,” in fact! In art, the early modern period began roughly around the time of the Renaissance and stretched into the 19th century.

So, in this collection, you’ll be looking at publications from (roughly) the 1500’s into the 1800’s. Funny to think there were embroidery publications and pattern collections printed all the way back into the 1500’s – when printing was just barely begun!

And even stranger to think that those publications are at my fingertips, right here in rural Kansas, in 2021! What a wonder!

In any case, just a short little note today to give you something to explore this week, especially if you love historical embroidery and like to find inspiration in the designs of the past!

Have a wonderful day! I’m planning on watching the snow fall, the birds feed, and get a lot of embroidery done. New tutorial coming up soon – keep an eye out for it!


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(14) Comments

  1. Just when I was getting a bit restless for something to pursue Mary Come through with a new rabbit Warren to explore! Thank you!

  2. Dear Mary

    It’s snowing here in North London and cold but the sun has come out this afternoon. Great web site the Internet Archive some beautiful embroidery. I was browsing further and they have a great selection of old Black and White films which I love and they have some classics on there, will be browsing some more. Thank you for sharing the Internet Archive with us and for the link to it love it.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. I will enjoy your snowfall vicariously. I allow myself a cup of cocoa with an abundance of marshmallows only on snowy days, so satisfying, but here in Charlottesville Virginia it seems not to snow very often anymore. We used to get three good ones each winter, but no longer. Methinks I shall have to switch to miserable rainy days of which we have many. (Too many calories though!)

    I know about those rabbit holes. I enjoy them thoroughly. These books you have listed are perfect. Now, if only I knew French or German!

    Have a great day! Thank you for your Website.


  4. Good Morning, Ms. Corbet, stay warm and cozy. I am wondering if you’ve looked at this book, Jane Austen Embroidery: Regency Patterns Reimagined for Modern Stitchers.

    Also, I’ve just purchased this Needlework Patterns in the Era of Jane Austen: Ackermann’s Repository of Arts book. I’m so excited to get it in two days.

  5. Good Morning Mary!
    Well thank you very much for that “rabbit hole”! I found a beautiful reindeer in one of the books and did not make a note. Now I cannot find it! Happy searching though!
    I wondered if you might be able to assist me in an ecclesiastical project I am working on. I am making a Fair Linen and embroidering the IHS on the front fall. I would like your comment and advise as to how to best finish the background. Can I send a photograph to you? I am trying to complete before the next Communion – Feb 7, 2021.
    Thank you!
    I love your writings and reviews of books, which always seem to be sold out by the time I read your blog and want to order!
    Happy Stitching,
    Susan W

  6. Hello Mary, I read your blog posts on a daily basis and appreciate pretty much every post that you write. I say pretty much because being honest, of course on occasion their is something that you write about that does not interest me in some way, and honestly it does not happen very often! Recently, I have been trying my hand at cross stitch design and failing big time. LOL. I keep getting off by one or two stitches in one of the….oh sorry, one of my habits. I just wanted to say Thank You for your Link Today! I ran across several great cross stitch books that have wonderful beautiful designs already in them. Therefore, I can stop pulling out my hair when I see my X’s are not together once again!! LOL. Have a spectacular day!!

  7. The list is maintained by Helen Hough of Charted Embroidery Patterns of the Renaissance. She’s done an incredible job and continues to create new content like her coloring books and charts of the books, making them that much more accessible and adding scans and links all the time. All for free. She’s a librarian and sees it as her purpose. One of my favorite people (since I too adore and want to share all the old pattern books.)
    You can find Helen’s Facebook page here: httpss://www.facebook.com/ModelbuchCEPR/

  8. That is one deep rabbit-hole! As usual my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I’ve downloaded more patterns than I can possibly stitch in this lifetime or the next, but is there such a thing as too much inspiration? Thank you, Mary!

  9. Thanks for this. Weirdly, I’ve been delving into some of these (internet archive) and Project Gutenberg trying to figure out filet netting and needlepoint lace.

    One thing I really wish existed is a glossary of threads. The books write as if the threads available will be familiar and available forever but, of course, they often aren’t. Really wish there was a history of threads somewhere at least with descriptions, even if it would be too much to expect suggest substitutions.

    Incidentally, ‘modern’ in my discipline starts definitely by the seventeenth century, os 1500s, sure, especially the latter part. (Descartes is definitely modern.) Interesting to learn this is true in other disciplines, too.

  10. Thank you for reminding us of the old books available on line. I’ve been away from most computer activities for months but still enjoy reading your letters. The Modelbuch Nehwens, Stickens, vnd Wirckens
    by Egenolff, Christian patterns are wonderful…..I especially enjoyed the ones that included fauna such as the rabbits on page 50 and the lively sparring roosters (I think) on page 18. Such a treat.

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