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Embroidered Portraits
Ideas, Inspiration and Techniques
Jan Messent

Search Press
30 July 2012 (US 1 November 2012)/ ISBN-13: 9781844487417
How-To Books/Embroidery

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde

This is one of Search Press’ rare and special hardcover books, by one of their most re-printed authors. Now the author of such needlecraft classics such as Have You Any Wool? And the recently re-imagined Knit The Nativity (both reviewed on this site) turns her attention to hand embroidered portraits.

These are all portraits of historical people, none are modern. Most of them come from Britain’s history, from mediaeval up to Edwardian, although there is a Japanese lady at the end. All are dressed in their best, making them good subjects to really go to town on; this is a book aimed at the more advanced embroiderer, who wants a challenge and a good, meaty project to get stuck into. It starts with a brief look at embroidered figures through the ages, and shows many sketches of heads from the author’s sketchbooks to inspire. There are sections on how to make a head of padded fabric, hairstyles, features, hands, garments etc, all with copious examples and notes on how to achieve the various looks. Of course there are also projects to work through so you can hone your skills – to name the main ones: Bess of Hardwick, Anne of Cleves, an Edwardian lady all in white, and Once Upon A Time. This latter shows a pair of portraits that look like a book and then open to reveal Cinderella and Prince Charming. At the back is a section full of lush imagery from the author’s own collection on how to compile your own sourcebooks, and on ways of using them. All in all a visually stunning book to have on your coffee table and proclaim to your visitors that you are an embroiderer of some skill, as this is definitely not a book aimed at or anywhere near beginners. If you have a repertoire of stitches and techniques and want a challenge then look no further.

UK Reviewer: Rachel Hyde's work can be found in Sewing World, Sew Hip, Popular Crafts and other magazines. Her craft blog is Green Thoughts
Reviewed 2012