Book review: “Elizabethan Needlework Accessories”, by Sheila Marshall

Elizabethan Needlework Accessories by Sheila Marshall

This wonderful little paperback was first published in 1998 in New Zealand by Georgeson Publishing Ltd. It has been out of print for a while, which I felt was a great shame, but it has come back into print in the past couple of years (it’s available from Viking Loom of York, if you feel the need to get your own copy!).

The book gives detailed instructions for how to make seven very creative projects. They include a needlecase, a button box, a thimble holder in the form of a free-standing kingfisher, and my favourite – a petal hussif (the design featured on the cover).

I have made two items from this book so far, and if time was more abundant, I’d probably make everything in this book – that’s quite an unusual thing for me. I’m usually quite picky about what I’ll give my time to. But this book has such lovely projects in it!

The book starts with the practicalities of what kind of frame to use, and how to transfer the designs on to the fabric. Then, the various stitches are explained. Some of these are quite unusual ones, such as extended picot stitch and single brussels stitch. The diagrams are very clear, though, as is the text.

Stitch diagrams

The projects list clearly at the beginning what you will need to buy to complete each one. Thread numbers are given so that you could work each design in DMC rayon or stranded cotton, Anchor stranded cotton, Au Ver a Soie D’Alger or Au Ver a Soie Perlee, depending what you like to stitch with. I like Anchor best, so the items I’ve made from this book have been stitched with that, and they have come out very successfully. Sometimes, Kreinik braid or other finishing highlight threads are suggested, but they are never crucial to the design – in fact, Sheila Marshall says several times throughout the book that you can substitute whatever you have to hand, if you prefer.

The designs are printed at actual size,  so are easy to trace off. I found the assembly instructions particularly well thought through – especially for the petal hussif, which has a complicated construction.

The centre pages of the book show all the projects close up, in colour. I know this is a limitation of book publishing sometimes, but I’d have preferred the colour images to be alongside each project, as I needed to keep flipping through the book from the instructions to the photo as I was making each item, but that’s a small criticism really. Black and white illustrations are given elsewhere in the book, and these, along with the stitch diagrams, are very well drawn and helpful.

Instructions for the Petal Hussif (on the right you can see part of the design to be traced off)

This is a book that I return to a lot – the stitches are useful for other projects when you want an interesting textured stitch, and the photos are very inspiring. The petal hussif from this book is one of the best things I have spent time making – although, be warned, it took me over two months of evenings to complete! It made  a change to make something that was so much BIGGER than the doll’s house scale items that I stitch when I’m designing new kits to sell from my website (the bag might not seem big to you, but I’m used to stitching on 32 count silk gauze, for items that are maybe an inch or two high when finished!)

The Petal Hussif that I made, alongside the book
The Petal Hussif when open, showing the inner pockets and drawstring inner bag

This book is the second title in the Elizabethan Needlework Series published by Georgeson Publishing Ltd (by various authors, not all by Sheila Marshall), and they’re all worth buying.

Title: Elizabethan Needlework Accessories

Author: Shelia Marshall

Publisher: Georgeson Publishing Ltd

ISBN: 0 473 14977 5

Price: around £12.95


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One thought on “Book review: “Elizabethan Needlework Accessories”, by Sheila Marshall”

  1. Hello Janet- I recently bought this wonderful little book of Elizabethan Needlework accessoires, and I’m totally addicted to this! First learning a couple of new stitches and practising them in small things such as needlebooks and
    pincushions.I’m determined to do the wonderful hussif- (like you did already!). And when I’m a little more trained I want to embroider a jacket in Elizabethan style to complete a historical costume….Thank you for posting the book review and the picture of your very well done work!
    best regards

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