Monday, April 23, 2012

More on Books

Since I like to do historical embroidery, some of you have asked me about the 2 books put out by Jacqui Carey. What follows is MY personal observations. In short - if you do Elizabethan Embroidery you need these books.

In 2007, Phillipa Turnbull ( put together a dream embroidery event with Jane Lemon and Jacqui Carey. During the week of instruction we walked through all the steps to make an Elizabethan Sweetbag.  Jacqui shared some of her research with us during the week and we visited some of her haunts during a couple weeks of travel. We encouraged her to publish her photos -- the detail is amazing -- and her insights. While I don't always agree with her conclusions, the opportunity to see the items in such high resolution photos is not an opportunity to be missed.

Her first book in 2009 Sweet Bags: an Investigation into 16th and 17th Century needlework is filled with photos of the 35 bags she surveyed. Many of the bags are not in great shape which helps us understand the underlying structure, stitches, and materials of the bags. She was able to photograph insides of bags as well. The cover of the book is the sweet bag which looks modern due to the modern materials, but don't let this keep you from the content of the book. All the elements in the bag are found on various bags including one from the Burrell collection that she shows in the book.

Jacqui's second book Elizabethan Stitches A Guide to Historic English Needlework again gives us wonderful detailed photographs to study. Unfortunately not all the items she mentions as case studies are included. Much of this book is like reverse engineering - you start with what exists and then try to figure out how it was made to happen. Some of this is deduced from holes in the fabric. Some is from the detailed photos front and back which allowed her to trace the lines. Jacqui has a perfect background for doing this reverse braid engineering and we can all be thankful that she brought out this book to give us insight into stitches that were not documented in either Victorian or modern embroidery books. I look forward to playing with the stitches.

At the beginning, I mentioned that I don't always agree with her conclusions. For me, some of her diagrams are reversed or upside down to the way I tend to work some of the better known stitches. I would suggest trying the stitches her way and then experiment to determine which works best for you.