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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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Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches – Quick Review

 

Amazon

Recently, a friend dropped me an email to find out if I had ever gotten ahold of Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches, which reminded me to mention the book to you sooner, rather than later!

It’s been on my reading list for a while, and I go back and forth to it, reading it in small increments when I can, but I haven’t finished reading the whole book yet.

I generally like to read the complete book before I review it, but some books take much longer than others! This book requires a quick mention, because it’s one of those “get it before it’s gone” publications.

Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches

Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches by Linda Eaton and Anne Hilker is published by Winterthur, and it corresponds with the Erica Wilson exhibit of the same name at Winterthur.

Because it is a museum-published book corresponding to an exhibit, usually once the book is sold out, it’s gone.

The book chronicles the life of Erica Wilson and scope of her work in light of the development of 20th century embroidery in America.

Even if you don’t know who Erica Wilson is (she passed away in 2011), but you have any interest in the history and development of needlework – and especially contemporary needlework – you will find the book most interesting. It’s very thorough!

Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches

Erica herself was an inspiring woman with an amazing work ethic and spirit, which really comes across in this book. Needlework was a central part of her life, and it propelled her to great success.

Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches

She influenced the entire needlework market in this country through her books, her kits, and her PBS show, Erica

I wrote about the show here in an article that connects you with many episodes of the show.

I also wrote about the show in this article, which links you to the WGBH open vault collection of some of the show’s episodes.

Definitely worth watching!

Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches

The book details Erica’s personal life and her business life, following her path from her studies in the UK at the Royal School of Needlework to her settling in the US, where she lived with her husband Vladi, who was an integral part of her business success.

You’ll find many pictures from her personal life and many, many photos of her work.

The section on Erica’s Designs: Traditional to Contemporary is, to me, the most interesting part of the book so far. It demonstrates how her foundational skills were built upon a thorough technical knowledge of traditional techniques, and then how she developed a style contemporary to her age, to keep needlework a viable and relevant craft. She was flexible, fearlessly adapting to the times with enthusiasm.

Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches

There is a wonderful tribute in the back of the book to Erica, where those who knew her or who followed closely in her footsteps, recall her and her influence on the needlework world.

It’s a good book, and I find it particularly inspiring. I’m enjoying reading it, and I don’t want to rush through it. But I wanted to get it out here for you, so that you can pick up a copy if you are equally interested in Erica, her influence, the history of needlework in America, and the continuing development of needlework in the late 20th century.

Note!

Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches is not an embroidery book. It’s a biography and catalog of work. You’ll be able to see a wide selection of the body of her work, but there are no patterns, instructions, and so forth in the book.

Where to Find It

The Erica Wilson shop in Nantucket still survives, though it features very little needlework (some needlepoint canvases), devoted more to boutique clothing befitting the New England coastal lifestyle.

They carry the book here right now, so that’s where I’d get it if you want it at a reasonable price.

The Winterthur shop is not available online right now, but the museum might carry the book. You might use the contact information on the Winterthur website to see if you can order from them.

Frankly, I wouldn’t bother with Amazon. The few copies on there are priced over $100.

 
 

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(15) Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post, Mary! I had tried to order the book earlier from the museum shop, but they were sold out. So glad to be alerted to another source.

    I first hear of Erica when I was 12. My great-aunt Barbara Ashenden gave me a copy of her book after I expressed an interest in embroidery, and I spent many years poring over its illustrations and text. And when I heard that there was actually a Royal School of Embroidery I was just dying to go. That did not work out, but I am currently in the process of enrolling in their certificate and diploma course – it is a long held dream come true. Thank you for all you do.

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  2. Thank you for the book review! Other than my grandmother introducing me to stamped cross stitch, I am primarily self-taught. Our local library had a wonderful collection of needlework books, and there were quite a few by Erica Wilson. I would check a few out at a time. By the time I got home, I wondered why I was crazy enough to lug those heavy books home, being 11 or 12 years old and walking 10 blocks home. It was well worth it when I opened the books and soaked up the beautiful work she did.

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  3. Erica was one of my earliest influences in stitching – I even got to go to her shop in NYC (about 50 years ago!) and I still have several of her books. Another book I’d recommend is Mary Martin’s Needlepoint – also not a book with patterns – she wrote about doing needlepoint through the years waiting between shots while filming – her work was amazing – full set of dining table chairs, rugs, pillows, etc. – the book is charming and lovely…great for fans of needlepoint and Mary Martin.

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  4. The EricaWilson.com lists a website for the online exhibit. That URL is incorrect.

    The correct URL is

    EricaWilson.winterthur.org

    Remove the leading www for it to work.

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  5. Looks cool! Has anyone tried any of the fibers for sale at the Erica Wilson shop, such as the Pepper Pot silks, or have any recommendations about them?

    Their silk/merino “silk & ivory” line seems to be all sold out, but props to it anyway for the quirky color family names, including “Miscellaneous Grey-to-Black Things”, “Unusual Pinks”, and “Yellows from the Pantry”. 🙂

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  6. Thank you so much for your post on ERICA Wilson’s book! I have ordered a copy. I am most grateful as I may not have heard about this until the book was no longer available. I’m a big fan of Erica and Vladimir, such a cool couple!

    Your blog is great and I have enjoyed your musings for quite some time now. Thank you for visiting my inbox.

    Erica Howat

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  7. Thanks for alerting me to this! I just bought it because I got into crewel needlepoint from Erica’s big red book and because I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t order the embroidery covered little boxes book some museum had!

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  8. Hello Mary,
    It can be hard to order from Canada. The websites do not like something such as your Province or your Visa Number. I phoned the Erica Wilson Store in Nantucket and ordered Erica’s book from them with no problem. Erica was at RSN when I was though she was further along in her studies. I remember her and her projects well.
    Thanks Ann

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    1. Yes, I think you’re quoted at the end of the book, in the section on Remembering Erica! It’s a nice book to have, that’s for sure. I’m glad you were able to get it from the shop in Nantucket.

  9. Dear Mary

    I’ve watched her embroidery on you tube and an amazing women very unusual and interesting. I love the way she demonstrates her embroidery projects and the presentation of it, very interesting. Thank for reviewing for us her book Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches for the article on her life and work.

    Regards Anita Simmance

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  10. Thank you featuring the book, it looks wonderful! I was able to snag a copy off of the Erica Wilson website. Their note says that due to overwhelming demand they are reprinting and copies should be available about mid-September. What a treat this book will be!

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  11. Years ago I was lucky enough to do a day long seminar in Trapunto with Erica at the Pier II restaurant (now long gone) in Portsmouth, NH. She was so lovely and such an amazing teacher. I loved the whole experience and the pillow that resulted.

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