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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Mary Thomas's books

Oh gosh, I wish this would last! Another dry, sunny day, 16C !!!
It lifts the spirits and creativity. So many things I want to do!
But I am, again, at that situation, where there is no point in even contemplating another project, while my room resembles a child's play room, "toys" everywhere! I started to tidy last night, but it did not take long before I got distracted.
One of the first objects I picked up, was a book many of you are very familiar with, "Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches".
My stitching "bible" is never too far away, which is the reason I am always tripping over it. This is a 1998 edition. Of course, there will always be that one stitch, which you will not find there. Does anyone know, how many embroidery stitches are there? I don't think so...
These days you can just Google it, simple. But I can imagine it was quite something, when Mary Thomas first wrote this book.

Some years ago I was lucky enough to buy these two books at a village fete book sale.

Mary Thomas's Embroidery Book, 1936 edition


                                               Preface, the beginning - quote:

"Embroidery, like every other art - or sport, for that matter - needs to be understood to be enjoyed. Once the rules of the game are known, there not only comes the urge to create with needle and thread, but a knowledge which enables the better appreciation of old masterpieces, as well as of those produced in our own day."

In another part: " A clever worker does not seek constant change of colours as a means of variety. She changes her stitch, or the direction of her stitch, as this will produce the illusion of colour change by play of light on the thread."

And she ends the Preface: "Further, I would urge the habit of signing and dating embroidery, and thus avoid that great tragedy of the past when works of genius were created, and showered upon the world, leaving, alas! so few names to record and venerate."

                   Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches, 1938 edition

OK, it is not in colour and not as glossy as the stitching books we now used to, but just as good and easy to follow, with a little touch of humour.

It is a shame that they did not reproduced those little illustrations in modern editions.


  1. When I was a child my Mum had a Mary Thomas book which we both loved. Somewhere along the way it got lost and Mum mourned its loss so I got another one off E-Bay.

  2. I have the same edition of Mary Thomas' Stitches as you do, and I have found it just wonderful over the years. Clear pictures and instructions.

    I also love old embroidery books, and would just die of joy if I were to find something as precious as those two old editions of Mary Thomas' works.

  3. It´s a book precious.Really a treasure.

  4. Hello Radka, how wonderful to see you blogging about something so dear to my heart. I have the new/colour version, and like you, use if frequently. I also was fortunate to buy an old Mary Thomas Embroidery Book [showing exactly the same pages/preface], from eBay [with the assistance of a friend]. It has one page sticky tapped up, but apart from that it is in good condition. I love it too. Sadly, I don't have the 'old' stitch dictionary, and can see what a lovely book it is too. I am a sucker for stitch dictionaries I think, as I have several other by assorted authors.
    Thank you so much for writing about these.

  5. Thanks for another interesting post Radka. I have several books I refer to when trying to master a new stitch: these ones are popular with many needlewomen.

  6. I like to visit your blog! Many interesting works! I offer a virtual prize, on my blog!
    Have a nice day!

  7. Prize send it to seven blogs that you like!

  8. I also have the modern version but what a treat it would be to have one of the original publications. I love old books and treasure them.


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