If you are looking for a wealth of stitch ideas, you can’t go wrong with Ruth Schmuff’s four Stitches books.
The books concentrate on stitches; there is no text. The large black and white diagrams are clear and have one stitch per page. The stitches are hollow and outlined in black, below, and often are numbered.
If a stitch has more than one step it will be shown with additional diagrams. In these cases the previous steps will be greyed out. Sometimes, but not often, the diagram shows how stitch units fit together. Most of the time though, this is not needed because the other diagrams show this clearly.
Each book is organized by stitch families. You’ll find the usual families of diagonal, straight, and cross. In addition, depending on the book, you’ll find additional techniques and specialty stitches such as darning patterns, laid stitches, and Blackwork. Within each category the stitches are arranged in alphabetical order. For the printed books a complete alphabetical index is in the back.
With over 300 stitches in each volume, there are lots of stitches here. Unlike some other stitch dictionaries each stitch is named. While I don’t always like Schmuff’s choice of names, they are better than just numbers.
If a stitch fits into more than one category it will appear in both.
The real strength of these books is that they come in so many formats. Depending on your needs and the volume you can get them in two print formats, iOS apps, and CD’s. All four volumes are available in print and iOS. I often use the app on my iPhone SE (one of the smaller screens) and I have no trouble seeing it.
The print books are spiral-bound with laminated covers. The larger size, with 8.5 x 11″ pages, makes for a large and heavy book. On the plus size the diagrams are huge, the biggest I’ve seen, and the numbers are easy to read. The smaller size, with 5.5 by 8.5 inch pages, takes the larger pages and shrinks them. While the diagrams are clear, the numbers are small and faint. Even the type in the index is pretty small. The smaller size is more convenient to carry around, but if you want numbering, go with the larger size.
Another potential problem with the printed books is that they don’t always hold up to heavy use. Pages can get torn on the hole side and fall out. Be careful of this.
The CDs were only made for volumes 1 and 2. This was the original format of the books. They cost less than the books and can be transferred onto your computer. That gives you a nice reference, but the CDs are not categorized nor do they have indexes. This makes them a great reference if you know the stitch you want, but it makes them difficult to browse.
I often find myself looking through these books when I need a new stitch for a project. I have rarely left a session with them not finding a stitch. When you consider the dozens of stitch books I have — that’s high praise indeed.
These books are available at needlework stores. The apps are available through the App Store. All of the products are also available through Ruth’s store, Bedecked and Beadazzled.