I’m a confessed bibliophile – a lover of books, deriving huge satisfaction and titillation from the enjoyment of a good story.
But now I’m deriving the greatest amount of pleasure in discovering, devouring, and drafting book reviews on my Stitch Safari website – for works of embroidered fiction.
Why’s this such a revelation to me? Perhaps because my focus of late has been solely on non-fiction books dealing with history and technique – whereas, upon further research, there seems to have been an absolute explosion in fiction writing around the theme of embroidery in recent times.
And it makes for some very entertaining and enjoyable reading.
Most of the works I’ve chosen to read have had a sprinkling of historical fact – for which I’m forever grateful, as I think it helps make for a more enjoyable read.
But not all – indeed I’m currently reading the first in a three-part fantasy series by Chris Humphreys, The Hunt of the Unicorn involving the medieval Unicorn tapestries. Absolutely fascinating.
It’s such fun to go back and research the history of some of these books. I can now speak of the Barbary Corsairs with a smattering of confidence – all from Jane Johnson’s ‘The Tenth Gift’.
But that doesn’t mean other genres of fiction writing are glossed over – no, no, no.
There are whimsical whodunits, fantastical fantasies – even diabolical dramas, all leading to the same pleasure-filled reading sensation – the utter enjoyment in a good book using a topic you’re actually familiar with.
Many, but not all, of these works, seem to have been published within the last couple of years, surely pointing to the increased popularity of embroidery and textile art – or at least a rising awareness of how important the act of sewing is in our lives – and I find this a rather gratifying statistic as embroidery has been such a popular, if not necessary accomplishment for eons.
Of course, some great stories were published earlier. The Dressmaker, by Rosalie Ham, a work of gothic fiction published by Penguin in 2015 (originally published in 1973), or the fantasy tale, The Hunt of the Unicorn by Chris Humphreys, published by Knopf in 2011, both point to older, quality stitch-adventures – this one has me hooked.
The 2015 film adaption of The Dressmaker starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, and Hugo Weaving has to rate as one of my favourite Australian movies. Judy Davis is outstanding.
Known characters such as the Countess of Shrewsbury – none other than our old friend Bess of Hardwick, Louisa Pesel, Julia Child, and even Pablo Picasso all become colourful inclusions into these works of fiction, adding their own personality and influence to these timeless tomes of imaginative writing.
And techniques most embroiderers know intimately often pop to the surface too, such as counted thread work in the church cushions, kneelers, and alms purses in ‘A Single Thread’ by Tracy Chevalier – author of ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’, or references to what must have been a very early book indeed – an edition of embroidery design patterns in ‘The Tenth Gift’, by Jane Johnson.
As part of the novel was set in the 17th century – this is totally believable and appropriate as a book – especially with embroidery designs probably sourced from traders and botanists from that time, would have been deemed an absolute treasure.
I feel well-pleased, although my schedule has now been stretched even further to include this passion for stitch and embroidery, now also found in the pages of a good fiction novel.
And I purchase these reads on my Kindle. It’s just so much easier.
So keep your eyes peeled for my Stitch Safari book reviews – a pleasurable, sometimes exotic, always thought-provoking journey into stories involving a needle and thread and the characters immersed around them.
What a great way to begin 2022.