Fashion embroidery; embroidery techniques and information for haute-couture clothing

Pile, Jessica Jane

 London, Batsford, 2018 ISBN: 978 1 84994 474 8 144 pages 

Jessica Pile trained in Theatrical Costume Design at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London before joining Hand & Lock and is the youngest Production Director ever appointed.  Hand & Lock are an embroidery atelier specializing in goldwork, tambour beading, silk shading, monogramming and bridal  embellishments, with over 250 years experience of embellishing, embroidering and monogramming garments for the Royal family, the military and fashion houses including Dior, Hermes and Louis Vuitton. 

The embroidered gown on the cover of this book is stunning – just stunning! It is diaphanous with beautiful, original and unusual motifs tambour beaded onto the base fabric. It must shimmer under the lights on the cat walk. In the introduction, the author shares her passion for embroidery on high end fashion, her enthusiasm for seeking it out – it isn’t always easy to spot – and her desire to teach and pass on the techniques used. 

This book looks like – and could be – a coffee table book, but it has so much more to offer. It certainly has much eye candy for fashionistas, including many photos of young women and men, all incredibly skinny and sulky looking, wearing breathtakingly beautiful garments. Some of our guild members may come into the fashionista category. I certainly don’t but really appreciate Heather Stonestreet drawing the book to my attention as I otherwise would have missed it. 

The author separates the fashion industry into three categories – haute couture, ready-to-wear and high street. She points out that in each category, embroidery is used differently with haute couture always using hand embroidery; ready-to- wear a mix of hand and machine embroidery and high street, machine embroidery only, the latter being way more cost effective. There is a brief and interesting chapter on the history of fashion embroidery, followed by a section on machine embroidery, including Cornely and Irish machines as well as modern digitally programmed, industrial machines.  

However, the main part of this book teaches the various methods of hand embroidery used in the top end of fashion. This seems comprehensive. It covers pricking and pouncing, setting up a slate frame as well as framing up a garment. Instruction is given, with clear, close-up photos, of basic surface stitches which most of us will be familiar with. This is followed with precise, detailed instructions for various embroidery types – silk shading, goldwork, tambour beading and 3 D work. From what I can tell, the instructions are clear and accurate. Each page includes a ‘tip’ for achieving beautiful work. Each ‘tip’ is within a framed box on the relevant page.  

 There are many appropriately placed photographs throughout the book of the various ways each technique has been used. Quite a few fashions are of Hand & Lock’s work, which makes me wonder if the author has a professional association with the company. No matter, this is an exquisite book, and well worth perusing for its very clear instructions as well as the beautiful haute couture on display. It really is a visual feast and comes in at just under $40.00 on Book Depository. 

 Erica Marsden