40 Year-Old Needlepoint Books That Will Rock Your World Today

09 Jul 2014


So, I think about needlepoint a lot, because I think about plastic canvas a lot. Sadly, there don't seem to be very many current needlepoint books on the market that work with my design sensibilities, so I maintain a stash of carefully-guarded old books.

Today, I thought I'd share some of my very favorites. (Excepting my all-time fave, Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men, which I reviewed a while back.) There are still used copies of all these titles out there, and I've included some links, but don't forget to also search eBay and Etsy. Keep your eyes open at your local thrift store, and you just might score copies for next to nothing.


The Complete Guide to Creative Needlepoint,
Jo Bucher 1973

This is just an excellent go-to reference I find myself turning to time and again. When I want to learn a new stitch, I pick this one up first, and usually it's the only one I need.


There isn't a lot to show you of the interior – it's black and white inside with a few inset color pages (as craft books often were in the 70's). You'll find very detailed diagrams of 200 different needlepoint stitches, and a lot of information on working with traditional needlepoint canvases.


In the back, a series of projects using needlepointed canvas. My favorites being these neckties, collar, and cuffs, which… wouldn't they have weighed a lot? Still, you can use the project instructions to turn needlepoint into things like coasters, small item cases, pillows, lamp bases, and more.



Better Homes & Gardens Needlepoint, 1978

This book is part of a craft series - slim volumes of projects in various techniques. I mostly keep it around because 70s-era BHG is a wondrous fount of craft-crazy, and I get endless inspiration looking at the pictures.




In Needlepoint, there are 35 projects and a few pages about handling traditional canvas. The photography is pure BHG, and as always, many of the project ideas are really surprising (in a slightly not-sane way). They were true modernists, those 70's BHG designers.


Also, there's a plastic canvas project. So, you know, 50 extra points.



The New World of Needlepoint,
Lisbeth Perrone 1972

What I love about this book is that it's more about repeating pattern designs than individual stitches. They're beautifully presented in groups, stitched in saturated colors. And then each design is presented in diagram form



Being someone who approaches needlepoint with a hacker's mindset, I do find these stitch diagrams a little challenging to follow, especially for complex patterns. But I've always been able to figure them out by simply noodling them out on some scrap canvas.


This is a great book to have on hand for when you've come up with a great plastic canvas form and need some pretty stitchery to fill up the panels. Also, that font!! Another 50 extra points for that.



Needleplay, Erica Wilson 1975

This last one isn't technically a needlepoint book – it's a companion volume to iconic designer Erica Wilson's TV series, Erica. It's a meandering combination of crewel, needlepoint, and embroidery.



The real joy of this book is the visual inspiration it offers. Erica Wilson's projects are modern and exuberant, and many of them look as fresh as if they were designed yesterday. She takes inspiration from all over the world, and she covers all kinds of things in stitchery.


Also, there are projects for plastic canvas, which she refers to as "Space Age Canvas." So… let's say 1,000 extra points for that.


(Incidentally, did you know that you can watch some clips from Erica over on YouTube?)



Oh my goodness! That lion on the cover of the BHG book is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! Must. Get. This. Book.

What a great collection of books! I'm re-discovering needlepoint and trying new things like locker hooking (I think you saw my bracelet on Instagram). I volunteer at the local Friends of the Library used book store where older craft books show up on a regular bases. Also, every year the Textile Museum on Toronto has a "garage sale", I picked up lots of cool books there. . . So many books, so little time...

OMG, I would be at that Textile Museum sale every single year!!

You are right, these are great books, with fun, inspiring projects. (With a few font and color changes, they would be as modern as anything today, although I do love that font (1972!) that reminds me of being a kid.)
Half.com is another great place to find used books & you can get emails when a book on your wish list reaches the price you're willing to pay for it.

Ooh, great tip - thanks, Tammy!

Great topic! Love to see those! I have a stack of '60's and '70's needleworks books, from my mother in law and mother and I agree they are great inspiration. I think I need to go look these up and watch those Erica Wilson clips!

Nothing better than a solid set of reference books. From Needleplay I'm loving the tennis racket cover (that must weigh a ton), the cool pincushion (where did they find that base that looks like a dollhouse pool table?), and the space-age canvas village. Very fun stuff!

Right?! That base is crazy awesome!

That Perrone book is one my absolute favorites! I still have some plastic canvas pieces that I stitched out her designs on many years ago, just to see what they looked like. It's an awesome resource.

Oh my goodness!! I have all of those books and they are wonderful! I get most of my vintage craft books at the Book Bonanza sale given by our local library. Most books are $1 - $2 and I've amassed quite a collection (it's outta control, actually). If you would like to own the ultimate bible of needlepoint stitches, look for A Pageant of Pattern for Needlepoint Canvas by Sherlee Lantz. I've been a member of EGA for 25 years and this is considered by many to be the best.book.of.stitches.evah. At one time, it was so sought after by needleworkers that used copies sold for $300 on up. Now, you can find copies for less than $10. Okay...now...who wants to join me in a needlepoint sofa stitch-a-long? Anybody? Hello?

Heh! As in, needlepoint a whole sofa? The insanity of that project does have some appeal... :-)

I Googled A Pageant of Pattern, and it looks amazing! It's on the wish list now - thank you for the recommendation! That's really interesting, the pricing journey it's been through. Has needlepoint fallen that out of vogue?

Ok! My world is rocked - to the foundations! Erica? I didn't even know she was into Needlepoint. Wow! Wow! Wow! And OMG That lion. Oh that lion! Brilliant! When can i come for a look! Do we have a family lending library plan?

Heh! We most certainly do! :-)