Thread painting and silk shading: techniques and projects

Dier, Margaret
Ramsbury, Crowood Press, 2018 ISBN: 978 1 78500 477 3 176 pages 

 ‘I am an acupictor.’ That’s the opening sentence of this book. What’s an acupictor?   Margaret Dier defines and reveals her love of thread painting in the introduction. That love and enthusiasm pervades every page. Chapter One is a practical, wide ranging discourse on where to find inspiration and how to adapt ideas into workable designs. Then comes colour theory and how to best use it to make those designs really work. The obligatory ‘materials and equipment’ chapter follows along with the ways it is used for thread painting. Throughout the book, there are beautifully clear photographs and diagrams to illustrate Margaret’s teaching points.  From Chapter Five the real work begins…there are practice exercises, which include basics (how to thread needles) and how to execute the stitches used in thread painting. If thread painting is a technique you are already familiar with, I suggest you have a look at this chapter. There are tips and techniques there I’ve never seen in other books on the subject. I have also never before heard of tapestry shading. It is really striking. As well as stranded cotton and silk threads, crewel wool is used in some projects. The next chapter is about natural shading. Margaret explains how to change stitch direction so the end result looks smooth and natural. She covers how to shade birds and animals too. One of the practise projects in this section is an exquisite little finch, followed by a cherry tomato. The embroidery of the latter is utterly realistic. It is obviously essential to get stitch direction exactly right for it to succeed. Then there is a crocus, ostensibly white – but is it?  

A chapter on historical and cultural styles of thread painting gives insights into how Chinese and Japanese work is done, as well as English embroidery from different historical periods, including the legacy of the arts and crafts movement. A few contemporary techniques are described next and then comes a comprehensive chapter on how to finish and display your embroideries. There is a double page spread of templates used, an appendix of ‘frequently asked questions’ and an index.
This is a lovely book, well written by a teacher passionate to pass on her artistic and embroidery skills. It is beautifully illustrated and there are a number of carefully considered projects available for you to try. Margaret has been one of Elizabeth Adam’s tutors at the RSN – a tutor who Elizabeth regards highly. SO, what is an acupitor? It is Latin for an embroiderer – literally ‘painter with a needle’, an apt descriptor for Margaret Dier. Check out Etsy if you would like to see some of Margaret’s beautifully executed work.
I borrowed a copy from Auckland Libraries. At the time I wrote this review it was available from Book Depository for $33.30. It would be a valuable addition to your library if thread painting is a technique you are interested in.
Erica Marsden