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Beginner’s Guide to Stumpwork
BY Kay Dennis

Search Press ClassicsSearch Press
27 March 2020/ ISBN 9781782217909
How-To Books / Needlework

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde


Search Press is celebrating fifty years in print and has reissued selected titles from their back list. Each of these is considered a classic of its kind, and this book on stumpwork for beginners from 2001 has been selected for republication.

Stumpwork is often considered one of the more advanced forms of embroidery and was the culmination of years of learning other styles and working samplers for young ladies in the 16th and 17th centuries. This padded, raised form of embroidery was mounted onto caskets and cabinets and gets its name from the carved pieces of wood used as bases for faces and other 3D features. This book shows the beginner what to buy and which stitches you need to make a start. A wide range of threads can be used, and most if not all of the other tools and materials are common to other styles of needlework. You don’t need any wood carving skills either, just toy filling to pad out shapes you want to raise.

Some books on stumpwork emulate the style associated with the original pieces but this book has updated it and taken inspiration largely from nature. There are no chapters concerned with learning stitch by stitch, but you jump right in with a sampler of several elements that teach you the basics. Make and prepare padding, learn stitches such as turkey knot and spider’s web, and then progress to needlelace. Find out how to make heads and hands, and then bring it all together in a picture of a gardener tending a garden full of fruit and flowers. The elements and pictures include toadstools, a seaside scene, fish in the seaweed, poppy heads, topiary with a polymer clay pot and a butterfly. All are ideal for mounting on boxes of your own, and it is easy to see why this book was selected for classic status: it helps to explode the myth that stumpwork is a mysterious, complex style suited only for very advanced embroiderers. The author claims that even a total beginner to all forms of embroidery could tackle these projects, although it is possible I think that the book is more aimed at those who are au fait with some other needlework styles and want to try something different.

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 2020