Educational Needlecraft

Okay, I admit it. I am a complete nerd when it comes to the intersection of embroidery, history, education and psychology. I hope you will understand my seemingly unreasonable excitement over a document that I just downloaded. Educational Needlecraft, published in 1911 by Margaret Swanson and Ann Macbeth, is a treasure, even on the computer screen. It cannot be imagined how incredibly thrilled I would be to hold the real book in my hands!

Swanson and Macbeth were very influential artists and teachers at the Glasgow School of Art. Although they  also worked in other mediums such as bookbinding and metalwork, it is their legacy to embroidery that is most remembered. Working in what would now be called "Arts and Crafts" style, their embroidery and design remains distinctively fresh, elegant and charming.

What is notable about their book is their emphasis on playful, exploratory learning and their respect and insight into a child's physical, intellectual and emotional development. Their lessons are indeed both fun and practical. I have never particularly wanted to go back in time. but I just might invest in a time machine if it could transport me into Swanson and Macbeth's classes.

I initially found information on Educational Needlecraft in Gail Marsh's Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques, a fascinating volume that I fell asleep reading last night. She also mentioned other books by Margaret Swanson, including Needlecraft and Psychology, published in 1926, which I want to read so bad my hands are shaking just thinking about it.

Yes, a nerd indeed.


  1. I had started some time ago to search for information about textile craft and psychology. And didn't succeed.

    But I didn't have the idea to go so far back into thepast... thank you, for mentionning this surely thrilling work! (Nerd? Me? Never... :o) )

  2. wow, i am interested.

  3. Me too.\
    I went to the link you gave and this book looks fascinating. Thank you for sharing this information.

  4. Count me in as well. I am an occasional stitcher, more on the machine than by hand, but your work of the birds is stuck in my head. And all the better that what you are seeking/creating has historical significance. It's a way of carrying on what is already there.
    When I find things like you've found this book, it is a soul satisfying part of the process by which I create. I recently won an ebay auction of vintage blocks with lots of indigos/blues, and I am itching to get them worked into a vest and a jacket for the cold months.
    You keep right on being that nerd...the world needs more nerds just like you! <3

  5. Bless the internet for connecting me to kindred souls! Nerds unite! I printed out my download of Educational Needlecraft at the local copy shop and it cost me just $11.00. The introduction alone provides great food for thought - stitching as a means to better the lives of girls and their families. This was the time of great social change and struggle for the emancipation of women. 100 years later, the reasoning still rings true.

  6. onesmallstitch11:33 AM

    the world needs more nerds like you - nerd on!


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