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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Geeking Out on History: Embroidery & Lace


Amazon Books

If you’re looking for a relaxing dive into needlework history this weekend, here’s something for you!

Do you ever delve into exploring something, knowing that you’re going a bit too far in – getting kind of geeky about it?

Well, I do that with old embroidery books (as you have probably figured out by now). I doubt I can count the number of downloaded PDFs of historical embroidery books I have on my computer. I try not to download them and just forget them. I usually transfer one at a time to Dropbox, so I can access it from anywhere while on my phone or tablet. This way, when I have the opportunity, I can explore the book in depth.

Lately, I’ve been perusing a book on the history of embroidery and lace.

Embroidery and lace: their manufacture and history

This latest book goes under the fantastic title Embroidery and lace; their manufacture and history from the remotest antiquity to the present day. A handbook for amateurs, collectors, and general readers, by Ernest Lef├ębure. The present day at the time of publication was 1888, so the content gets into the industrial age, too.

There are some good snippets of needlework history in the book so far, and I’m enjoying reading it. Occasionally, I pick out lines I particularly like. And sometimes, I come across bits that strike me as somewhat limited due to the book’s historical context (which is not unusual).

I like this:

In the hands of an able worker, [the needle] is one of the most precious implements that may be used in the service of art.

I also like this particular image from right inside the book:

Embroidery and lace: their manufacture and history

Whenever I see images like the one above, I think “I have got to get me some slate frames that size…”

And then I think, “…and a room just like that for them to fit in.”

If you are interested in embroidery history, you may indeed enjoy geeking out with this book, too!

If you’d like to find it online, you’ll find it at Internet Archive:

Embroidery and lace; their manufacture and history from the remotest antiquity to the present day. A handbook for amateurs, collectors, and general readers, by Ernest Lef├ębure

Under “download options” look for PDF. You can download the PDF to your computer or mobile device for leisurely browsing.

I hope you enjoy a fabulous weekend! I’m in catch-up mode, so I’ll be hanging out at the studio most of the time, getting some work done. And since we’ll be sweltering in 100+ degree weather, it ain’t a bad place to be! See you next week…


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(8) Comments

  1. I do so enjoy your deep dives into textile history. I watched the very entertaining video on the Bayeux Tapestry. Very quickly I realized the man being interviewed wrote the book on Bayeux Tapestry that I got for Christmas. Now that teaching is over for another semester, I will be able to spend some times reading what I want to read.
    Thank you again for your marvelous daily emails.

    1. Looks like he’s pushing on the bar in order to tighten the frame. I usually do this with my foot and the palm of my hand, from the vertical position.

  2. Dear Mary

    As you say I’m in a catch up mood so will be commenting on your articles, which I have neglected of late. The pictures above of the book The Art of Embroidery are lovely. I can’t believe the size of the slate frame on the engraving above and how long it must have taken to complete the project I’m exhausted just looking at it. Thank you for sharing with us the internet archive on embroidery and lace and for the link to the PDF download. It looks interesting.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. Thank you for the link. That is a nice quote about a needle in the hands of an able worker.
    I’ll be trying to get a bit of outside work done while we have a day or two break from heat today. But when the heat comes back Monday/Tuesday, I’ll be hiding inside and read it then. IMHO, it’s WAY too early for mid-upper 90s in Iowa! I hope it’s just early, not building up to even worse in July-August when we usually get those temperatures.

  4. OMG!! They reference one of my favorite “discoveries” a tiny badly lit room under the tomb of Pope Alexander VII (the statue is by Bernini & it is what drew me to the area to begin with) with needlework “gifts” to the Vatican in it. It was dismissed in the guidebook as not worth looking into. I guess they weren’t into old embroidery!

  5. Love your shop! When you choose your windows really shop around. We bought a house 4 years ago and replaced the windows. We live about 3/4 of a mile from a major rail line. Before the new windows, it sounded like a freight was running through the middle off our house. After replacement we couldn’t hear it unless the engineer really sat on the horn and even then very light. We live in Texas so we purchased the double paned thermal windows. Even in 114 degree heat no heat was on the windows. So there is hope for you. You won’t hear the road noise unless it is a big heavy truck and then you will probably only feel it. LOL Wishing you the best in your business.

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