The Power of Red and More – Travels and Textiles by Sheila Paine

This week, even if there had been two of me, there wouldn’t have been enough time to sit and stitch. One reason is that we’ll be off to Boston today. I’m bringing a project along and look forward to spending some time with family and curling up on the couch with a good book. One of them will be “Embroidered Textiles” by Sheila Paine.

What an amazing resource this book is for anyone interested in travel, and textiles from around the world. The book starts with a comprehensive guide to identifying embroidered textiles, all illustrated with great photographs.

Unlike the west, where embroidery is used mostly for decorative purposes, it is still deeply rooted in ancient beliefs and superstitions in other regions. “The Decorative Power of Cult” and “The Magical Source of Protection” are just two of the many fascinating chapters in the book.

What interests me, are the many threads that link together past and present . The use of the color red in embroidery is one of those links, examined in the chapter: “The Power of Red”.

For example: In European Embroidery there’s extraordinary power to the color red. Have you ever wondered why antique linen is monogrammed with red thread? Well, red symbolizes blood, life and death and has two purposes in embroidery: to protect and to mark – as if with blood – possessions. I would never have known this.

Is it important to know? For me, it’s like looking at an old quilt. There’s a wealth of information in the choice of fabric, construction, colors and the people who made it. Who would have thought there is information in using red thread as well?  As you can see, I’m a bit obsessed, having written about it red thread once before here.


Sheila Paine is not only a great textile researcher, but also an adventurous traveler and award winning travel writer. A combination just to my liking. What make her travels particularly interesting is that she’s in her early 60’s and travels alone to some of the most remote and troubled areas in the world including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Before we leave I might have to quickly swing by our local library to see if they have any of her other books: “The Linen Goddess: Travels from the Red Sea to Prizren“, “The Golden Horde: From the Himalaya to the Mediterranean” and “The Afghan Amulet Travels from the Hindu Kush to Razgra”.

Has anyone read any of her books?

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8 Responses to “The Power of Red and More – Travels and Textiles by Sheila Paine”

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  1. Mary H says:

    I haven’t read anything by Sheila Paine but I’m going to check with my library today. This one looks very intriguing. I’ve tracked down some of your recommendations in the past and enjoyed everyone : Bohemian Style, Country, Frida’s Fiestas and Wild, Weird and Wonderful: The American Circus 1901-1927. The last two have become favorites. Thanks!

  2. Cafe Couture says:

    Thank you for sharing, looks like this book is an amazing source of inspiration.

  3. kathrin says:

    I have just started “The Afghan Amulet” and it’s very promising! Hope you’ll enjoy it. Thanks for all your wonderful comments! Wild, Weird and Wonderful is also one of my absolute favorites.

  4. Julia says:

    Oh wie schön, dass du wieder blogst; welch Freude! Ich bin nur zufällig auf annekata gegangen, um im alten content was zu finden! Um so besser, dass es wieder Neues gibt!
    Herzlichst,
    julia

  5. Claire says:

    Looking forward to reading this book, especially about the red thread. Thanks for sharing it here.

  6. Thea says:

    This summer I found a box in our house in sweden with handmade textiles from my mom, grandmom, greatgrandmom and her mom! Such a treasure! the linnen is reminding me ;)
    http://the-knitting-bee.blogspot.com/2011/09/handarbejdsmuseum-i-degarden.html

  7. Judi green says:

    Loved embroidered textiles by Sheila Paine. I have been collecting textiles from my travels around the world for the past 30 years.and have at least 20 or more of the exact pieces in this book.
    I would like to contact Sheila Paine to discuss them with her. Where do I reach her?

  8. Kathrin says:

    How wonderful to find and own so many interesting textiles from around the world.
    Just googled Sheila Paine and can’t find a contact either. Maybe you could contact her publisher and find out? Sorry that I can’t help you more.
    Best,
    Kathrin

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