Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review: Canvas Work
Author: M.A. Gibbon
Date: 1965
Publisher: G. Bell and Sons
ISBN: none
Length: 94 pages
Illustrations: many charts and diagrams
Quote: “No elaborate equipment is necessary, the stitches are simple and easy to learn,the rules are few and quickly memorized, and the work done does not suffer from frequent interruptions.”
The majority of the pages in this pocket-sized hardcover book consist of charts and illustrations for canvas embroidery. Tips on technique are given before the charts. Tips on the design and construction of popular canvaswork projects are given toward the end.
Photos of finished projects are printed in black and white on glossy paper. Why bother with glossy paper for black-and-white photos? This strange money-saving measure was part of an historical period. In the 1960s U.S. publishers were moving toward what eventually became the rule that if you couldn’t afford a full-color picture you might as well not bother with photos, much less special paper, but U.K. publishers were thriftier and often used just a few black-and-white photos in a centerfold of glossy paper. For readers of a certain age, it’s a nostalgia trip.
It goes with the grammar, spelling, and punctuation of the period. “It must, however, be mentioned that it is one of the oldest types of embroidery known and that, because the background is completely covered by stitches, it so resembles elaborate woven tapestry that it is often referred to,wrongly, by the name ‘tapestry work’.” I had one English teacher who would have flagged those “its,” one who would have insisted on a comma between “known” and “and,” and others who would have recommended breaking the sentence into two or three shorter ones. Microsoft would flag “it is often referred to.” Currently some U.S. editors have declared war on the old rule of putting the punctuation mark that ends a sentence outside the quotation marks around a quoted phrase, if that punctuation mark is a period. I say all these features of the opening sentences are right. They belong to the time when Canvas Work was written.
Quotes from John Taylor’s poem appear under the chapter headings. Lines like “And high borne Ladies such esteeme did make, That as their Daughters Daughters up did grow, The Needles Art, they to their children show” are part of his period (seventeenth century) too.
In between all these bits of quaintness, pages 25-80 explain 72 embroidery stitch patterns. Then come the suggestions for using these patterns on samplers, kneelers, rugs, purses, etc.

Canvas Work is recommended particularly to crafters who want a book that’s easy to carry around. There are newer, showier pattern books, but this is the one that will fit into any bag or even into a coat or jacket pocket. If you’re ready to design your own embroidered piece but want a compact, lightweight guide to making the different stitches, this book is for you. 

A Google search shows no evidence that anything about M.A. Gibbon has been recorded in cyberspace. It may be hard to find this author, but if you buy Canvas Work for $5 + $5 shipping, we'll try to send him or her $1 if we find that s/he is still alive.