I'm a monogram junkie, I'll admit it. I love monograms, ciphers, crests, coats of arms that sort of thing. As I really like Whitework embroidery as well, I am continuously drawn to Monograms... I haven't stitched that many but I sure do enjoy looking at them. Even though there are quite a few books out there that are free, downloadable patterns... somehow I need to have the glossy paper, the heavy, hardcover book - it helps with the mood of far-away times.
I have a gorgeous book from Italy on embroidered ciphers, in fact its called: Il libro delle Cifre Ricamate [The Book of Embroidered Ciphers] by Liliana Babbi Cappelletti. This is a very special book. Hardcover, large format (9.75" wide x 12.25" high), printed on glossy paper, it was recently reprinted in a third edition in a small print run of only 1000 copies. Each copy is numbered and signed by the author. Though the text is in Italian, there are many, many lovely colour photos of incredible, gorgeous embroidery, some of it done by Lilli, some done by her students or women she knows, some are antique pieces from various private collections.
The photography is also beautiful. The pictures are full of antique needlework tools, flowers, ribbons, old pattern books, pottery... giving everything a romantic 19th century sort of feel.
There are designs throughout the historical chapter but also lots of pages that are solely dedicated to designs: combined letters...
I thought this was a single "M" but the text made me realize that it is in fact, two "A"s intertwined together:
...various alphabets of all styles - many with shading or drawn details which make you think of the perfect embroidery technique for them like Cutwork, Padded Satin Stitch, needle lace, etc....
...some very elaborate letters designed to stand alone or be the central focus of the embroidery, some names - this is fun as there are many strictly Italian names like Giovanna but there are lots of other names too like Hans, Marcelle, Clementine. There is a section of pattern designs for sayings: Amore, Buon Riposo...
...one for numbers, one for ornaments and embellishments, frames and ovals, love knots. Diagrams in the back illustrate various stitches like Padded Satin Stitch, Raised Padded Satin Stitch, Overcasting, Cutwork, Stem Stitch, Chain Stitch, Bullions and Rush Stitch which is similar to Roumanian Couching. There's more... how to set up your frame or hoop; how to take care of your linens... the bibliography is two columns of historical books on embroidery.
Can you see the little half moon in the centre of the crest? He has a face!
It's just a lovely book to sit in your lap with a cup of tea beside you and daydream the afternoon away thinking of forgotten eras where a woman's trousseaux was filled with these lovely items and better still, when one used these items on a regular basis. The perfect way to spend some time to yourself on Mother's Day!
Il libro delle Cifre Ricamate is available from Tombolo Disegni (send an email request to order).
Or email Elena at Italian Needlecrafts and see if she can get it.
Looking for things to read to keep that 19th century feeling? Check out Tuttoricamo - under the 'History' heading there are articles on trousseaux, the handkerchief, the laundry, the tea towel, and others to help you keep the mood.