This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of the TSA Newsletter.
The Intentional Thread: A Guide to Drawing, Gesture, and Color in Stitch
Author: Susan Brandeis
Published by: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2019. 224 pp.
Reviewed by Kelli Coles
In The Intentional Thread: A Guide to Drawing, Gesture, and Color in Stitch by Susan Brandeis (Schiffer, 2019), the artist and retired Distinguished Professor of Art and Design at North Carolina State University beautifully illustrates the myriad possibilities of creating with needle and thread. This book is a design reference guide for anyone who desires to improve his or her hand or machine needlework skills, beginner and expert alike. Seeking to write the book that she could never find, one that illustrated her philosophy of the expressive possibilities of needle and thread, Brandeis expertly attains her goal of facilitating creativity through large, colorfully engaging images and step-by-step instructional text.
The book is divided into two parts, the first concentrating on diversifying line work and the second on filling in spaces. Brandeis begins with achieving line weight variations, then moves through line direction, various marks such as dots and ticks, handwriting as drawing, and the use of materials such as human hair and metal mesh in needlework. Then Brandeis guides us into the world of spaces and shape making, introducing color, layered stitches, the wonders of French knots, and beading. Throughout, Brandeis implores the reader to have fun, explore, and relish in the quiet.
The Intentional Thread provides a wealth of information, including an appendix of definitions, instructions on stitch types, information on locating materials, and a reading list for those who would like to delve deeper into the world of needlework. While the instructions and line drawings of stitch types for left and right-handed people are informative, I did have to turn to instructional videos for a live visual example of how to execute some stitches. Ultimately, The Intentional Thread is a valuable addition to every needleworker’s library as they explore and create with needle and thread.
Kelli Coles is a PhD candidate in the History Department at the University of Delaware. Her work centers the lives of three Black schoolgirls and the embroideries they stitched while students at schools in antebellum Philadelphia, examining the history of education and the formation of Black girlhood identities.