14th August 2020
As we contemplated the props required for a recent photo shoot, a copy of Weldons Encyclopedia of Needlework came to mind. Originally published in 1935, it is a comprehensive 876-page guide to all things needle and thread.
It opens with the book’s only coloured photograph of ‘Phlox’, promising that, ‘This embroidered Flower-Piece is an inspiring example of the beauty that can be wrought by those who study this Encyclopedia.’
The copy of the book that accompanied us to the photo shoot, whilst in remarkable condition considering its age, has pages that have yellowed over time and a spine that is struggling to hold its pages as tightly as they’d once been held. And that got us thinking about whose hands had held the book previously to ours and what they’d achieved with needle and thread after pouring over its pages.
Were the pages poured over in a home, school or workplace perhaps by a student, teacher or someone engaged in the practical work of embroidery, or were they simply appreciated by someone who admired fine handwork and all things needle and thread?
Whilst your guess is as good as ours, it speaks to the heritage that those who have gone before us have handed down in terms of tradition. From the tools that were listed as equipment necessary to the pursuit of all things needle and thread, the Stitch Compendium – complete with a drawing of each stitch in progress that look remarkably similar to those that are included in the pages of Inspirations’ publications – right through to the Embroidery Section that devotes itself to 36 specific embroidery techniques still used today, it’s a book that’s almost as relevant now as the day it was published.
Given the popularity of working with needle and thread and the wonder it still brings to those consumed by its passion, it would seem the publishers hopes have indeed come to pass – ‘that this Encyclopedia will be a joy to all who use it and will do much to sustain and further the gracious Needle Arts’ – and that’s a heritage we can all be proud of.