Book Review - RSN Essential Stitch Guide to Crewelwork

The RSN Essential Stitch Guide to Crewelwork by Jacqui McDonald is my favorite instructional book for everyday embroidery. I am a bit biased because I was taught how to embroider not only by RSN but also the author. So I naturally love the layout, design content, and stitch instructions.

Read on to find out exactly what this book holds…. 

Introduction: The book starts off with several introductions. It gives a history of the school, a history of Crewelwork, and an introduction from the author. Which, if you are interested in history and traditional embroidery is interesting. 

Supplies: The book then transitions into information about the materials and equipment used in traditional crewelwork. It covers frames, threads, needles, fabric, and what should be included in your basic embroidery kit. It also discusses designing your own traditional and modern crewelwork designs. It then takes you through framing up a traditional slate frame and the traditional way of transferring a design…"prick and pounce." Now, the thing about this first section is that, if you are not interested in traditional crewelwork it's not super relevant. However, if you are a history buff, serious stitcher, or fiber artist then this may be interesting and informative. I personally like having a step by step of the set up techniques I learned at RSN. However, I only use it when starting large projects or portfolio pieces. 

Stitches: The next section is dedicated to the stitches. All the stitches are stitched in crewel wool. However, these are the stitches I use every day, and I typically use cotton floss. It breaks the stitches down into four categories, essential stitches, filling stitches, outline stitches and surface stitches. Essential stitches include how to do a holding stitch and split stitch. There are in depth and clear instructions and pictures showing how to embroider 39 stitches in all. There are tips and notes throughout to ensure your stitching comes out as lovely and uniform as possible. Also, there is a small paragraph about each stitch, describing it's uses and history. 

Design: Next up is one of the great sections of this book, "Building Your Design." Have you ever wondered where to start stitching within your design? Well these two pages take you through the process! 

Inspiration: The last section is dedicated to a few inspiring examples of the author's work. 

This book covers all the topics I teach in my Intro to Embroidery Class. If you are looking for a more sophisticated understanding of the process of embroidery or just a fantastic guide to stitching basic to advanced embroidery stitches then I highly recommend this book!