This book is the epitome of stylish instruction in the art of embroidering monograms. It is sumptuous in all aspects – the gorgeous photos, the eight projects (from beginner to advanced), and the wealth of detail. I’ve seen many books on monograms for embroidery, but this one is the only one I’ve ever been tempted to buy, and I’m really glad I did! The book starts with a chapter on the history and traditional use of monograms, and then moves swiftly on to discussing how to use monograms in contemporary ways. Suitable fabrics, threads and needles are discussed (very important, as, if you use unsuitable threads, particularly, you can end up with a very inferior piece of embroidery, which is disheartening).
I liked the chapter on the actual stitches and techniques the best. There are so many good ideas here, and each one is illustrated with photos showing every stage. The padding under the satin top-stitch is what makes or breaks a successful monogrammed embroidery, in my opinion, and all the secrets are explained here. I used information from this chapter when I was making a large banner for a Chapel I used to attend – it took me almost a year to embroider, so I needed to know that the technique I would be using would be successful, if I was to invest that amount of time in the project!
Fortunately, the lettering came out really well. Each letter took about an hour to complete. I used the method explained on page 34 onwards – I outlined the shape of the letter first in split stitch, then used stem stitch padding to fill the shape within the split stitch outline (using all six strands of Anchor in the needle each time). After that, I used the ‘perfect satin stitch’ section on page 48 to make…perfect satin stitch!
I really enjoyed making the banner. I’d thought that maybe the crewel flowers would be interesting to stitch, but that the lettering would be the boring bit, but I actually enjoyed doing the lettering too, as it came out so successfully. ‘Monograms – the art of embroidered letters’ covers more than just letters, though. Eyelets, shadow work and applique are all covered by the book, as are various finishing techniques such as pin stitch hems, scalloped hems using blanket stitch, and so on. There’s so much in this book!
Towards the end of the book are the projects, so that you can try out your new skills. From small items such as lavender sachets to a very fine Christening shawl, the projects are all clearly explained. The book is published by Country Bumpkin (the publishers of the beautiful Australian embroidery magazine ‘Inspirations’ that comes out bi-monthly) – and, as with the magazine, this book has several pull-out sheets with all the designs on, for you to trace off using your favourite method. Full alphabets are given in several styles, including a cross-stitch one for the lavender sachet design. All Country Bumpkin publications are wonderfully produced, with an attention to detail that is often missing from other publications. The style shots are enough to make this a lovely ‘coffee table’ book, even if you have no plans to ever make anything using monograms!
The step-by-step photos in ‘Monograms – the art of embroidered letters’ are mainly done on oatmeal fabric using white thread, so it is easy to see exactly what you need to do to replicate what is being shown. If I have any niggle at all about this book (and it’s only a tiny niggle!), then I’d say that with the style shots of the finished items, as they are mainly white embroidery on white fabric, the detail is sometimes indistinct. This is a shame, as the fineness of the embroidery is lost. If you just flip through the book quickly, the pale colour of all the photos gives a kind of insipid feel to the book, which can have a negative effect on the reader, unfortunately. But try to get past that, and slow down to look at the information packed in these 134 pages. Susan O’Connor has written a wonderful book that should be available more widely. The book was only published in 2007, but I think it’s already out of print, so if you come across a copy second-hand, grab it while you can. This one is a treasure. Details: ‘Monograms – the art of embroidered letters’, by Susan O’Connor Published 2007 by Inspirations Books (Country Bumpkin Publications) ISBN 0 9775476 0 4