Updated January 11, 2022.
A reader about several books, wanting to know which I thought were the best needlepoint background books. Here’s what I told her:
I can’t speak to Tony’s Back to Basics DVD because I haven’t seen it, although my general feeling is that the DVD format is less useful as a format than a book or ebook would be. To look at stitches you’d have to put it into your TV or computer. For me, that would be a deal-breaker,
I have all the other books and just looked at them again.
My top choice would be A Background Stitch Reference Book. It’s a great book with lots & lots of creative background ideas. None of them seem particularly difficult, so it’s great no matter your skill level. The diagrams are clear and the suggestions for threads, use and variations are good. The one downside is a lack of apparent organization in the listings. That makes it a good choice for browsing, but less useful for finding a particular stitch.
The book is no longer available as near as I can tell. However, you can sometimes find it available on eBay. In fact there is one currently (1/10/22) on eBay.
My second choice is Jane Zimmerman’s little background book (reviewed here). It has creative choices and good advice. It is also priced nicely.
Ann Strite-Kurz’s book (reviewed here) has excellent advice in it, but it concentrates on her method of building up stitches by adding new elements and layers. If you’ve seen her column in Needlepoint Now, you’ve seen this approach. It’s an approach that is, to me, somewhat limited. If you like this approach it’s probably a good choice but I wouldn’t recommend it if you haven’t seen this approach or were only buying one book.
Julia Key Snyder’s book (reviewed here) does have many ideas in it, but it is expensive for the amount of information. At least a quarter of the backgrounds are Tent Stitch patterns. Again this is a particular look. If you don’t like it, the usefulness of the book is limited.
Another problem with the book is that it is not just backgrounds and there does not seem to be any indication in the & Such section when a stitch could be used for accents only or when a stitch is good for backgrounds.
The Backgrounds CD from Ruth Schmuff (reviewed here) is entirely Tent Stitch patterns. They are very nice and usefully classified by their size. It’s great but only one technique and expensive for what it is.
If you’re interested in this technique check out my blog post on needlepoint damask. There are a few patterns there for you to try.
The books by Ann and Jane come the closest of these four to talking about issues in picking background stitches, but none of them does a really great job at this. I do think June McKnight’s new Colorful Backgrounds book does this well, I just loved this book (reviewed here).