My copy of Ann Brandon Jones’ Simple Stitch Patterns for Embroidery arrived today. I’ve only had a chance for a quick look through – Mondays are hectic at Cheese Acres – but it interests me as much as her other two books.
It turns out to be published by Batsford, a well known name in needlework book publishing, although they seem now to be part of Pavilion. Simple Stitch Patterns is little more than a pamphlet, 40 pages stapled into a thin paper binding . My copy came with a few transfer patterns and a small piece of stamped fabric tucked inside the cover, ironic as one of the stated purposes of the book is ‘to help … workers to be independent of printed transfers and designs.’ However I love finding that sort of inclusion, it is part of the history of the book and adds to my pleasure in owning it.
The transfers are all from Stitchcraft magazine, and dated between 1938 and 1942. I did wonder if the book was a wartime reprint, but the pages are heavy paper, heavier than the cover, with lots of illustrations, so perhaps that is unlikely.
Clearly Brandon Jones’ ideas developed between this book and her second, published in 1929. There is no reference to gauges: she suggests using a saucer to draw circles, ‘marked off in sections – halves, quarters, eighths, sixteenths etc.‘ but with no advice as to how to do this. No mention of a guide for straight lines either. ‘No drawing, transfer, thread, or guiding line whatever was used for any of the worked examples … nor will any be necessary to the average needlewoman who can sew a straight line of ordinary feather stitch regularly‘. Presumably between 1926 and 1929 she realised that there were far more of ‘those who have not a “straight eye” and who fail to cultivate one’ than she had at first thought!
Having had time to look through Brandon Jones’ three books, I think the thing I find most exciting about them is the way she combines familiar stitches in interesting ways. In Simple Stitch Patterns she uses several variations of chain stitch, plus fly, Cretan, Roumanian, buttonhole, and what she calls cone stitch, (which I would call fishbone). From these she develops a wide variety of border and motif patterns. I enjoy crazy quilting, but find it difficult to think up variations of seam treatments – Brandon Jones’ books have given me more ideas than any of the more recent books I own.
Her examples sometimes look heavy – she says they are worked in knitting wool on ‘coarse cream woollen crash’, which appears from the photos in the book and from Google to be a fairly thick, rough looking even(ish) weave. I would use lighter weight fabrics and a wider range of threads.
Her ideas about colour probably reflect her period: the examples in the single colour plate use navy, orange, a light blue-green, and rust, a combination which definitely does not appeal to me. But ‘definite rules cannot be laid down, though it is usually safe to use strong, pure colours such as red, blue and green together.’ Er, I think not.
But overall, an interesting set of books, I’m glad I stumbled across Brandon Jones’ work and intend to explore her ideas further. And not having ‘a straight eye‘ and having ‘failed to cultivate one’ I shall be using her gauges, just as soon as I’ve made some better ones.