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Whitework Embroidery
By Ayako Otsuka

Search Press
12 August 2019/ ISBN 9781782216896
How-To Books / Needlework / Embroidery

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde


Understated, classic and beautiful – that is whitework, a traditional and often neglected style of embroidery. This book brings it up to date and shows how it can be used to adorn all kinds of useful and elegant items for the home and beyond.

I confess that although I have tried many types of embroidery I have never done any whitework. Fortunately it says on the back cover that this book is ideal for anybody new to it or who needs a refresher. Like all the books I have seen that originated in Japan, this one follows a particular layout. At the front are photographs of all the projects, followed by the instructions and patterns. Also at the front is a short introduction to whitework, mentioning five different styles and where they originated from. You then get to try them all out in two samplers first, which is a great idea as you then get a flavor of what they are like and how they are worked. There are thirty projects to make including cushions, sewing kit items such as a needlecase and pincushion, heirloom pieces for christenings and weddings, table settings, sachets and more. Following the gallery is a section on what tools and materials you will need (not many) and all the stitches. These are grouped under the five styles, so you get to know which stitches are associated with each. There are many pages of staged photographs and diagrams, some of which might have been even better larger (ditto the print), but you will need sharp vision and a good light anyway for whitework. Many of the stitches are quite complex so it is good that so many stages are shown, together with tips for foolproof results. Last are the projects, each with a list of materials, finished size and written instructions, plus diagrams and at the back, a pullout pattern sheet. To any real beginners all this might seem daunting; I would recommend anybody who has never done any type of embroidery to have a go at some freestyle first, as whitework is not one of the easiest types. Some of the more complex pieces such as the christening gown come with instructions and diagrams rather like those on a paper pattern. The simpler sections are given to mark out with measurements, the more complex parts appear on the pattern sheet. To make the most of these projects you will need the usual sewing know-how plus a sewing machine. At the very back is an index of stitches plus diagrams for some freestyle stitches, which are also featured in some projects. I have never done any whitework before as it seemed like such a bewilderingly huge topic with so many styles, but this book helps simplify it and I feel that I will at last take the plunge. Highly recommended for making the complex seem very doable.

If you cannot find a good range of embroidery and needlecraft materials locally try for a list of suppliers.

UK Reviewer: Rachel Hyde's work can be found in The Bead Magazine, Making Jewellery and
Reviewed 2019