Sunday, February 14, 2021

Weekend Review: Fashion Embroidery


Fashion Embroidery / Jessica Jane Pile
London: Batsford, c2018
144 p.

Now for some super fancy fashion embroidery to continue the Embroidery Month theme! I picked this one up on sale - it has a bit of spine damage, which meant that I could afford it. It's quite a pricey title, especially for what you get. 

It's very interesting -- the author is the Production Director at Hand & Lock Embroidery, an English firm that is at the top of the embroidery game. They certainly know their designers. The book is filled with clear images of catwalk outfits that are heavily embroidered and/or beaded. But it's not really just a lookbook. Each section deals with some aspect of embroidery, and is illustrated with these couture images. 

If you are hoping to get into the field of fashion embroidery I can see how this would be a compelling read. Pile talks about the different ways embroidery is used in the couture world - from hand embroidery to machine (hand-guided) embroidery to tambour beading and more. The book starts with the comparison of these different ways of getting embroidery done for the high fashion clients requesting it. 

And then the chapters go through the how-tos. How to set up an embroidery frame, how to do a handful of basic hand stitches, how to do silk shading, goldwork, and tambour beading, and examples of using other materials and techniques in a short final chapter. All the chapters are fairly short, with large images and lots of white space. And that means that I'm not really sure who the audience for this book is. 

If you're already familiar enough with embroidery to want to work in the couture field, you'll know most of this already. If you don't know anything about embroidery at all and are simply interested, I don't think there is really enough information for a beginner to confidently start stitching. Maybe it's for the advanced beginner who is interested enough to want to start working on their own clothes, or who is simply interested in seeing how embroidery is used in fashion. 

I guess it's a sampling of techniques and if a reader really clicks with one, they can investigate further. The book is short, only 144 pages, and so there's not really room to go into any one topic in depth. And that's why I find it a little expensive in comparison to some other embroidery books that are technique heavy and good reference titles. The pictures in this one are stunning, though. 

I found the comparisons of embroidery methods at the beginning one of the most interesting bits -- how machine embroidery is incorporated into couture hand sewing, the use of specific single-purpose machines like the Irish and Cornely embroidery machines and so on. And the final bit of the book, talking about unusual materials like 3D flowers and different beading methods was neat, too. 

I think as sewists there may be a fair bit of inspiration here on ways to personalize and embellish your own clothing, if you're into embroidery. It's worth investigating this book, if you can get your hands on a library copy, to see if it's something you'd want for yourself. 


  1. If nothing else, I guess this is a good companion to "The Gown" which you reviewed previously. I remember reading that the author of that book took a class at Hand & Lock to provide the background for some of the descriptions she included. It is nice that you found a sale copy!

    1. Yes, definitely a good companion to that. It's not a bad book, and the illustrations are lovely and inspiring. Just thought it might have a little more heft to it (and fewer typos too)


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