A Handbook of Lettering for Stitchers reaches outrageous prices on Amazon. I have seen it priced at well over $100. To be honest it is a good book but it not worth that, particularly since it is now out of copyright and Public Collectors host a pdf copy for free.
This classic book is now free and really worth the download if you are interested in using any sort of lettering on a hand embroidery project. You can download the pdf file here
A Handbook of Lettering for Stitchers was published in 1973 and it looks like it. The black and white illustrations will not impress modern readers who are used to lush photography in full colour but this book contains 100 pages of really useful patterns and design tips for stitchers who love lettering.
People who are interested in hand embroidered samplers will also delight in the genuine retro feel of the patterns.
The book contains many illustrated pages that display a huge variety of designs that you can use in embroidery. The strength of this book is that in her examples Elsie Svennas has applied various stitches to every letter of the alphabet.
The book starts with a brief history of using decorative monogram before embarking on a detailed discussion on stitches that are suitable to use for lettering in embroidery.
One of the reasons I avidly read old embroidery books is they often illustrate different ways of using a stitch. For instance in the illustration above, look at how the detached chain stitch is opened up to create the flower. The detached chain almost but not quite becomes a fly stitch.
This type of approach to hand embroidery is still very contemporary and I delight in discovering instances like this. Here is another instance I would like to share. Readers who are enjoying the TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) stitchers challenge will be aware that recently one of the challenge stitches was Satin Stitch. Take a look at how the Satin stitch is slanted on the letter O and how back stitch and satin stitch is combined in the letter T.
This page from the book demonstrates more creative uses of basic stitches. On the curve illustrates in the top right hand corner of this page and on the letter O take a look at how the open chain stitch is tied together like sheaf stitch. On the same page see how regular chain stitch is whipped on both sides to produce a very different line on the letter b and M.
An aspect of the book that I really like is that throughout there are many options to adapt what is on the page to what you need. Here is advice on how to adapt the illustrations for thick or thin lettering to use on your project.
There are also design tips woven through the text.
As I read through the book I thought that people who do zentangles would probably enjoy inserting patterns into the letter forms.
If you like this Handbook of Lettering for Stitchers you will probably also enjoy Elsie Svennas other classic embroidery book titled Handbook of Stitches: 200 Embroidery Stitches, Old and New . The copy I have is well thumbed. It is now out of print so you see some silly pricing. Since I buy embroidery books for the information they contain and not their collectors value I would not pay more than $30 for a copy (I have seen it priced at $350.00!) . If you spot it in a second hand book shop at a reasonable price and are interested in using embroidery stitches in a creative modern manner and like retro styling you will enjoy your bargain as Elsie Svennas has an inventive mind.
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