The Embroiderer's Story

An Anonymous Woman

July 16th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Tonight I have another reading suggestion.

Epstein, Kathleen. An Anonymous Woman Her Work Wrought in the 17th Century. Curious Works Press, Austin: 1992.

This is one of my very favorite embroidery books. It’s a gem, packed with historical background and excellent how-to instructions. Sadly, it is also out of print.

The whole little book (52 pages) is an analysis of a 17th-century band sampler in the author’s collection. The patterns are stitched in Spanish stitch (also known as double-running or Holbein stitch) and variations on cross stitch, with some detached buttonhole fillings. There are a few color plates, but mostly the illustrations are line drawings and black-and-white photos. The notes on materials, both the originals and modern substitutions, are valuable.

The stitch diagrams and instructions are probably the best part; if you’re interested in Spanish stitch patterns, you’ll want to dig up a copy. Even if you’re not, it is well worth seeking out. Maybe if there’s enough demand it will even be brought back into print.

By the way, Kathleen Epstein is the same person as Kathleen Staples, frequent contributor to several embroidery journals, and one of my favorite writers on the subject of historical embroidery; I reviewed another volume of hers here.

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