Embroidery Masterworks; Virginia Churchill Bath

My daughter took me to the most wonderful used bookshop in Eureka when I was in Northern California visiting her. I’m a pushover for old embroidery books and I spent an hour in the shop looking through all the books on various kinds of stitching. Right at the end I found a treasure! Embroidery Masterworks: classic  patterns and techniques for contemporary application by Virginia Churchill Bath.

It was published in 1972 by Henry Regnery Company in Chicago, Illinois. “Virginia Churchill Bath served on the staff of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1952 – 1971 as a lecturer for museum education, conservator of the Textile Department, and assistant curator of that department.” [Embroidery Masterworks : classic patterns and techniques for contemporary application, Virginia Churchill Bath. 1972.] The author knows her stuff!! And what she offers her readers is an amazing book, unlike any other embroidery book I’ve seen.

She chose 20 masterworks of embroidery, each of which has been curated as part of a museum collection. She begins by giving her readers a history of each piece, including its age, origin and its original use. More general history which connects embroidery to the time period, fashion, religion, and trade is included and makes for rich reading.

Ms. Bath then goes on to describe each piece as if you were standing next to her, looking at them. She includes information on the fabric, the thread, each stitch and construction of the piece. Lastly, she gives us ideas for contemporary application –  how we can reproduce it today using current fabrics and threads, or how we can interpret the design for a more modern look.

There are large black and white photos of each of the pieces in the book and color plates of 14 of the masterworks. The BEST bit of the book is that she has included black and white drawings of the patterns of every single embroidery. Some of the examples are complete and some she has extracted the most interesting part for us to reproduce. So many great projects!

There is a section titled Materials and Techniques where she explains fabrics, threads, frames, enlarging/shrinking and transferring designs and tools used for embroidery. She added a short stitch dictionary as well.

History, descriptions, patterns and photos – it’s all here! The most difficult part will be deciding what to do first…

Have you picked up any great old embroidery books? I’d love to hear about them!

4 thoughts on “Embroidery Masterworks; Virginia Churchill Bath

  1. I love this book! Your review is inspiring me to move it further up my wishlist. (I got it on interlibrary loan once)

  2. What a great find. Congratulations!
    I love to brouse in old bookstores. Years ago I found a wonderful book on embroidery, which I consider my bible, since I am self taught in needlepoint. I’ve learned so much from it.
    Thank you for sharing all your wonderful ides and finds.

  3. I can also recommend Bath’s other books: Needlework in America: An Illustrated History, and Lace. The latter book shows some of her contemporary free-form lace creations — she was quite an artist.

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