January 18, 2012

Mary Thomas, chapter 1

Mary Thomas Chapter 1
stitched by KittyStitch

I was on the hunt for all things couching for my next January stitchalong post when I found this amazing gem, stitched by KittyStitch. It seems she rendered all the stitches in chapter 1 of Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. I am in awe of her color choices and the lovely precision with which she carried this out. Challenge: can you spot the couching? :)

I was really curious about the book, which I'd never heard of - it seems the original title was published in 1934, and looked like this (I love that sturdy 1930's typography):

Mary Thomas's Dictionary Of Embroidery Stitches
photo courtesy of Savage Pink

A bit of googling led me to this helpful review of the book by savage pink and a nice review on Needle n'Thread. It seems the book is back in print and available on Amazon, and the updated photography in the preview looks amazing.

Does anyone own the updated or original versions of this book? I'd love to hear what you think of them! :)

Hi, I'm floresita, editor of Feeling Stitchy. I'm an avid stitcher, knitter, and crafter. You can see more of my stitching on Instagram and my blog. My vintage transfer collection is on Vintage Transfer Finds.

Feel free to email me with any ideas for the blog!


  1. I have the updated one. I went looking for a good stitch dictionary when I taught myself to embroider, and I recognize Mary Thomas from her knitting books. I like the book quite a bit. It doesn't have step-by-step pictures, though, so it's not for everyone. It requires (in my opinion) some familiarity with basic stitching. But I refer to it quite a bit. It's FULL of stitches.

    The couching is the second from the right, yes?

  2. I got this book for Christmas this year!!! It is the 1989 version, and is really good! I love that all of the tutorials are color coded to the photographs on the same page - so easy to follow. There is a huge section that I don't know that I will ever use, it is on canvas stitches, but that is because I don't do that type of handwork. I'm a beginner and most of what I do is on cotton/muslin.

  3. I have heard that this is the end-all-be-all book of embroidery stitches. I just reserved it through inter-library loan so that I can check it out in person!

  4. Got her Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches when I was in middle school, in the '60s, and her Embroidery Book in high school, in the early '70s. They are and have always been my first go-to stitch reference. (Ditto her two knitting books). However they are dated.

    The stitch technique drawings are very clear, but the photos are hard to make out, especially in the later repro editions. And the marginalia - the little cartoons - are from a time when sensibilities were different than they are today. Many of them are culturally insensitive, at best.

    There have been many more recent books that cover the same ground, and that do in a more photographic manner, and lots of books that deep-dive into greater detail on subsets of techniques and styles. But as a survey course, Mary Thomas is still among the most comprehensive. She remains one of my needlework inspirations and still has a central spot on my shelf. -k.

  5. I referred to the 1989 revised edition by Jan Eaton of this book when completing this - as Caren has already said the tutorials are all in colour and very easy to follow. I got this book after it was recommended to me a few years back by my Embroidery Tutor (I was doing a City and Guilds Adult Education course). However, I was glad to get a hold of a reasonable priced second hand copy in a UK charity shop (just checked my local Amazon site and cannot believe the range of prices!).

  6. I have the 1946 version and also her 2010 colour version too.

    They are both used frequently, I have made a cover for my old one, as the cover was showing signs of where.


  7. This is lovely! I have one of (assuming there's more than one?) Mary Thomas' knitting books and have wanted the embroidery books ever since I found that one in a charity shop. I love vintage / antique needlecraft books - I both collect them and use them extensively. This lovely project shows me I'm right to want this one!

  8. I have a 1936 version of Mary's book!

  9. i have the '36 edition and love it, it's what i often look at first when i forget what i'm doing. it's pretty easy book to find if you check half dot com.