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500 Posts Today – an Embroidered Bookbinding

April 28, 2018

This is the 500th blog I have written.   I often wonder what motivates other people to keep on writing blogs.  Each one takes at least an hour – often 2 (I’m slow.)  What keeps me writing is the historical anonymity of women artists and embroiderers. I want this century to be different.  It’s my own passion and excitement for the historical and the contemporary art of embroidery that I want to share with my students and other fellow embroiderers. Let me know if you are inspired from some of my posts.  Gail Harker

The Whole Book of Psalmes – English 17th C. – Published London 1634.  British Library shelfmark  c17a24.  White satin embroidered with pictorial, religious motifs. This tiny book measures approx. 11 cm. in length (fits into the palm of your hand) and has an amazing amount of detail in it.  The front shows Jacob wrestling with the Angel, although it looks like they might be doing a little dance step.  Magnification and seeing this item in person shows me that most of the filling stitches are worked in a type of long and short stitch with silk thread. The tree is done in stem stitch with the leaves worked with a stitch now called Knot on a Stalk. Couched threads are used around the figures. Some of the threads are metal. The silver threads have turned black. The back shows Jacob’s Ladder with angels. The tree and cloud is worked with couched threads and leaves are long and short stitch with knots or little stitches at the tips. This is my take on the stitches.  Thanks to Philippa Marks at the British Library who has assisted my research and my students for past many years.  Have a look at the magnificent embroidered book bindings online at the The British Library.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Penny Peters permalink
    April 28, 2018 4:16 am

    Congratulations on 500 blogs! What a little treasure you have found to share with us! And thanks for the link to the marvelous British Library.

  2. Mical Middaugh permalink
    April 28, 2018 4:29 am

    Thoroughly enjoy your blogs, Gail. Am particularly impressed with the number, since I’m one who doesn’t like writing!

  3. Barbara Fox permalink
    April 28, 2018 4:53 am

    Extraordinary little book. Such detail depicting biblical scenes. Right down to the shading on the trees. Definitely inspiring!

    • Barbara Fox permalink
      April 28, 2018 4:54 am

      Impressed with your 500 posts also.

  4. Ann Darling permalink
    April 29, 2018 12:05 am

    Don’t you wonder about the many, or few, hands that held that book and of course about the person who embroidered the cover – who she was and what her life was like? It’s always a treat to read your posts Gail … thanks for the necessary time and research invested. Keep going!

    • April 29, 2018 1:17 am

      Ann, such a good question. I have looked at this particular book a number of times. i think that the front was worked by one person and the back by another. Just a guess. Even the stitches for trees/plants are done with a different stitch. By the condition this book is in, I think it may have been held by only a few hands or just one person who could afford a religious book and also an exquisitely embroidered cover. It could also be held in church where others could see her beautiful possession. This type of book was also given as a gift to another. The book is palm size, very small and fits into a lady’s hand nicely. Not quite the same as driving a Maserati to church but it would have the same effect on others who saw it. There are a number of little and big embroidered books such as this that have been saved thru the centuries in Great Britain. The front, back and spine were usually embroidered first, and then a specialist bookbinder would put the book and covers all together securing the stitching of the pages ingeniously in the spine. A true work of art in itself. This book would not have likely belonged to a common working person. Some of the embroidered books I saw in the British Library have specially made embroidered book bags as well to protect the book. Talk about gilding the lily.
      Gail Harker

      • June 23, 2018 5:22 pm

        Loved the question and the exchange with Ann! What a special moment to study this book. I so appreciate your blogs with this type of information!

  5. May 2, 2018 9:52 pm

    Congrats on 500 posts. I agree that blogging is a good way to share contemporary embroidery and art and leaves a record of what you have created. The little embroidered book is a real beauty and I always enjoy your posts.

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