RSN Essential Stitch Guides: Whitework

RSN Essential Stitch Guides: Whitework

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The Royal School of Needlework (RSN) teaches hand embroidery to the highest standard and is well respected all over the world. It not only upholds the traditions of English embroidery that go back many hundreds of years, but is constantly taking embroidery forward in new and innovative ways. This series of Essential Stitch Guides has been produced in close collaboration with the RSN with the aim of providing a set of definitive works on traditional embroidery techniques. All of the authors were chosen by the RSN and all are graduate apprentices of the Royal School. Whitework begins with the history of this wide-ranging type of embroidery, then explains the materials needed and the issues of designing and ordering your work for stitching in white on white fabric. The Stitches section covers pulled thread, core surface, decorative and drawn thread stitches, as well as eyelets and cutwork. Two beautiful whitework pieces are then analysed to show how all the stitches and techniques were used, and a traditional piece is reworked with a contemporary twist. Finally the further techniques of using layers, net darning and trailing are shown. Step by step photography, full instructions and diagrams make this a clear and user-friendly guide to whitework, and Lizzy's skills and talent make it an inspirational book.
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Product details

  • Spiral bound | 96 pages
  • 155 x 215 x 15mm | 395g
  • Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 135 Illustrations, color
  • 1844487008
  • 9781844487004
  • 39,935

Table of contents

* Compact, spiral-bound, easy-to-use lay-flat format

* Published in conjunction with the prestigious RSN, whose expertise makes it an indispensable resource for both beginners and professional embroiderers

* Inspirational finished works, traditional and contemporary, to show how the stitches can be used
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Review quote

July, 2012

The Royal School of Needlework has added to their collection of Essential Stitch Guides lately. The new title is Whitework, by Lizzy Lansberry. As soon as I heard the book was out, I ordered a copy right away - not only to review it for you, but also (and especially) because I love whitework. I figured if this book measures up to the other Stitch Guides produced by the RSN, then it's bound to be a keeper!

And it does. And it is!

Like the other books in the Essential Stitch Guide series, Whitework is a small book with hard board covers and a spiral binding. I admit, I love the size and binding of these books! The books are about 9" tall and 6" wide, and the binding is that "full Canadian" spiral binding - they're bound with wire rings, but the outside cover covers up the spiral, so you really only see it when you open the book. I know book aesthetics aren't everything, but I appreciate this detail. Instructional books are meant to be used during work, and being able to easily lay the book open on the table is a nice, thoughtful detail.

But let's move inside the book, where the meat of the matter is. The book begins with an introduction, followed by a short history of whitework. Throughout the book, gorgeous examples of whitework serve as inspiration. In the introduction, the author clarifies that "whitework is an umbrella term" for white-on-white embroidery. And the book addresses whitework in this way - general whitework techniques.

There's the essential section on materials, which covers equipment, fabric, threads, needles - all that needful information! The author itemizes different types of threads that are used in whitework, which is nice information to have written down in one place, especially if you are just starting to explore this type of embroidery.

Next up is a section on design, followed by a section on designing your own piece. This section on design is important. As the Lizzy points out, in whitework, you're not working with color, which is often a key approach to designing other types of embroidery pieces. With whitework, texture and tonal contrast are the key, and in fact, this whole book is logically arranged around this point.

How does one achieve textural and tonal contrast in whitework? It is all about what you do with the ground fabric and what you do with the stuff you put on top of the ground fabric. So the book is arranged according to the order of work in whitework. The main instructional sections in the book, in order, are: pulled thread techniques on the ground fabric, core surface stitches, decorative surface stitches, eyelets, drawn thread work, and cutwork.

In each of these instructional sections, you will find thorough step-by-step photos illustrating the techniques, as well as diagrams and photos to illustrate the completed technique.

This instructional content is where the book really shines. It is logically arranged and thorough in its explanations. And, as is often the case with many instructional needlework books, the techniques taught herein can extend beyond whitework.

Then there are the "extras" in the back of the book - there's a useful section on taking care of whitework.

There's a section on using the stitches - putting into practice the techniques learned in the book. Keep in mind, this is not a project book, so this section does not lay out projects for you to work. Instead, it demonstrates, up close, how the techniques taught in the book were put into practice in various whitework projects.

Finally, there's a section on additional techniques that are often used in whitework, such as layering fabrics and working on net.

There isn't too much about this book that isn't likable, especially if you have even a hint of interest in whitework. It is concise, clear, direct - and best of all, it is logically arranged. The book makes sense. It's not just random information about whitework all compiled together. Rather, it uses the whole order of work in whitework embroidery to logically progress through the instruction in the book. * Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread * Dec 12/Jan 13

This is another of the Essential Stitch Guides produced in collaboration with The Royal School of Needlework who teach hand embroidery to the highest standards while developing new and innovative techniques. The history of Whitework is diverse and complex because there are so many cultures and techniques involved and, in its many forms, it may be seen in historical textiles all over the world. Whitework is pulled thread work using counted stitches to pull apart the threads of the background fabric thus creating lace-like patterns. The book has clear instructions and beautiful examples of historical and contemporary pieces and Lizzy Lansberry shows from design through to stitch how to create stunning embroideries using traditional techniques. * Fabrications * Oct 12

Experience top-class tuition straight from the Royal School of Needlework with this new addition to the Essential Stitch Guides range. Lizzy Lansberry reveals the wonders of Whitework for you to learn at home. The book takes you through the fundamentals of the technique such as pulled thread stitches, surface stitches, decorative stitches, drawn thread stitches and the all-important cutwork. The spiral-bound book also features extensive information about the history of Whitework, the materials used, framing up work and transferring the design. * NEW STITCHES * Nov 12

This book shows excellent examples of the use of a traditional stitch and then how to develop it into contemporary stitching. The author uses the very traditional and delicate stitching of traditional whitework to explain methods such as darning, long and short stitch and cut work to great effect to create beautiful lacy fabrics. The examples are inspiring and look both beautiful and fragile. There are very comprehensive diagrams and photographs illustrating the actual methods so that an aspiring stitcher could follow the stitching techniques of their choice. She includes a section on the history of whitework, materials and equipment and design. After sections on stitches, she concludes with a chapter on reworking a traditional design and further techniques. A very useful handbook. * Merseyside Embroiderer's Guild ( * Dec 12

RSN Whitework and RSN Goldwork: Both these books, although covering traditional needle work techniques, cover quite different approaches, with whitework looking very pure and pared down and the goldwork appearing very sumptuous and colourful. Whitework is introduced from its historical roots, but the feeling throughout the book is that, while retaining some of this history in the stitching and processes of working, the movement is into the contemporary period. Many designs have a modern feel to them, and there is some reworking of traditional pieces into up to date designs. The work in Goldwork is much denser, with more variety in the stitches and embellishments. The work looks more traditional, but there are a few pictures towards the end, where techniques are combined and more contemporary pieces showcased. Both books contain a huge selection of stitches and techniques, with an Order of Work given in both for a successful outcome. They are both well illustrated with clear instructions, and would act as both a good introduction and way of moving forward for anyone working in either discipline. * Workshop On The Web *
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About Lizzy Lansberry

Lizzy Lansberry graduated from the Royal School of Needlework's three-year apprenticeship in 2009. During her time at the RSN it became clear that her passion was for fine, detailed embroidery and whitework in particular. She also loves to create beautifully hand-embroidered heirloom pieces such as jewellery, and to restore antique textiles. Lizzy now works from her studio in Surrey, with her little helper Pippin the Parson Russell Terrier, developing her range of kits and products, as well as taking on conservation and restoration commissions. She also teaches hand embroidery to groups and individuals all over the UK, including the Royal School of Needlework.

Perhaps most notably Lizzy has worked on embroidery designs with the Royal Opera House and was privileged to be involved in the creation of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton's wedding gown!

To see more of Lizzy's work visit
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Rating details

31 ratings
4.32 out of 5 stars
5 48% (15)
4 39% (12)
3 10% (3)
2 3% (1)
1 0% (0)
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