Monday, January 4, 2010

A book I can't put down

Saturday I glanced at my library's Best Bets shelf as I passed and


stopped dead to pick up 19th Century Embroidery Techniques, by Gail Marsh.

That might not seem like much of a compelling title to the average procrastinator, but the cover shares several images of beautiful and seriously labour-intensive embroidery and quilting.

This told me two things:

a/ the book might inspire an idea for something I could use to procrastinate productively should the writing bog down this winter, and anyway I don't expect to have any quiet writing time until Tuesday so I have little pockets of time to fill in

b/ any book talking about historic embroidery techniques is going to be talking about historic lives of women. And I am a sucker for social history.

The book so did not disappoint that I stopped reading about halfway through and ordered a copy for my own library, along with the author's earlier work, 18th Century Embroidery Techniques.

All of the textiles in the book are gorgeous, and quite a lot of it is work I can imagine seeing on tiny happy, or Quite A Handful - it's that vibrant and contemporary. There is, in fact, quite a lot of incidental history, and some really touching moments.

For example, the book includes pictures of one Nancy Horsfall's wedding bedcover, made in 1833. It's a bright and cheerful with an embroidered message, part of which reads, less cheerfully,

When I am dead and in my grave,
and all my bones are gone to dust
Take up this work and think of me!
When I am quite forgot.

Done and done, Nancy, and not in a sad way either. She was an artist!

A year later Nancy made a cot cover of similar design that includes the phrase "Welcome sweet babe."

I think Nancy must have married for love and looked forward to having children to play with, don't you?


Kathleen Taylor said...

I need to find both of these books asap.

Mary Keenan said...

I thought of you when I got to the Log Cabin samples!

Forgot to mention that the book also includes detailed and illustrated instructions on how to make each stitch and assemble each quilting block...

My copies shipped today and I am so excited!

Sally Anne said...

Both those books look beautiful and a "must have" for one's own library. I love seeing the textiles and techniques used all those years ago and reading the stories of how they came about... thank you Mary!