Textile Folk Art

Textile Art Book Reviews

At Mr X Stitch we love to review textile art and embroidery books for you. There are so many great books to discover, packed with needlework inspiration and textile techniques, so we dive into each book to find out what’s good, what’s bad and let you know why you should pick it up.


Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly explores traditional folk art collections from all over the world, explaining their association with Textile art and craft. In this book Kelly reveals how contemporary Textile artists have used inspiration from samplers, quilts, icons and traditional motifs to produce new and exciting work today. This guide contains many easy to follow step-by-step projects, so readers can practice and apply what they learn.

Across world history, no matter where we go, we see examples of folk art. We can learn a lot about a country by its traditions and this often includes samplers and traditional crafts. This book has been designed to convey to us how we ourselves can create our own ‘heirlooms’, yet will it inspire us to apply our own narratives to make craft pieces?

About The Author

Anne Kelly has traveled the world exploring Textile art traditions and gaining experience via her training in both Canada and the UK. She regulary lectures to guilds and art groups and has had many exhibitions. She has written other books, all published by Batsford including Textile Nature and Textile Travels. She creates wall hangings and objects in mixed-media. She is a part of many organisations, including the Society of Embroidered Work and the Embroiderers’ Guild. She has a website and Instagram account to follow. I interviewed her recently, check it out to discover more about her artistry. Kelly has written a few pieces for us too. Read her views on Park Walks here.

Who Is This Book Aimed At?

Artists who love history and wish to incorporate inspiration from their findings, as well as those who love to travel will be truly fascinated by this book. Mixed-media and 3D items are revealed as well as flat Textile art pieces, so there is an art style for everyone to identify with. Lesser experienced readers will enjoy the step-by-step projects and helpful instructions included, as well as the clear and copious amount of imagery.


The inside cover promises to ‘show how practitioners of all kinds can draw from folk art for making and inspiration’. Far from being a ‘how-to’ visual guide, this publication seems to strongly convey its messages through imagery. If you are looking for a step-by-step guide alone, this is not for you. The weight has been put on capturing what may be inspirational.

Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly - introduction page pictured with text.
The introduction of Textile Folk Art reveals the books intent and subject matter.

Kelly has divided the book into five main sections, as well as the usual introduction and conclusion.

I personally enjoyed the connections made between traditional folk art and contemporary interpretations; often to be observed across the page from each other or next to each other on the same page.

Most of us will have some family memorabilia hanging around. I know I have many an old piece of lace and a few precious hand embroidered samplers relating to my own family tree. I have never thought about their connection to my own art, yet Kelly reveals how their can be the building blocks to creating contemporary Textile art pieces.

Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly, image of a sampler from history.
Traditional samplers are illustrated, maybe you have your own to look at too.

Kelly’s own art has been illustrated near by more historical artefacts, to demonstrate to readers how it has personally inspired her. By observing the links between the two, I can imagine now how my own ancestoral artefacts could be woven into my own Textile art outcomes.

Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly contains many images of her work, including this example.
One of Anne Kelly’s art pieces, using mixed-media.

What Makes This Book Special?

I loved how the back page area attributes all the other artists involved, as many are mentioned throughout the book. This seemed a nice way to include them as a strong part of this books story and creation:

Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly recognises all the artists who have been a part of this book, as it contains a variety of artists work who have explored Folk Art in Textiles.
Artist appreciation

There are many quirky items illustrated throughout, which really opens up our imagination and makes us reflect on what items we can make ourselves. I loved this bed, with its newspaper frame and lace cover. I wonder if the newsprint used has a meaning? The art pictured stays with me long after I flick over onto the next page. I find myself adding paper bookmarks so I can locate pages I want to look back on later.

Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly shows both flat and 3D Textile art items.  This is a small bed, made from mixed-media including lace and newspaper.
Folk art doesn’t have to be flat, it can be whatever we choose…even in a bed form.

Young designers and those who have not long since graduated can find it difficult to get seen in the art world. It was nice to see a few chosen to be included. It makes us slightly jealous though, we all want a place in an Anne Kelly book!

Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly pictures the work of lesser known artists and students too.
Ellie Macdonald and Laura Marriot have been given a page each.


The imagery is the strongest aspect of this book. Rich and textured, it begs us to create our own.

Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly generously illustrates many a piece of Anne Kelly's own artwork.
More sculptural folk art, we didn’t think we would see it in the form of arks, but yes here it is.

Oh…spoilers….look out for the quirky shed (detailed near the back of this publication!).

What Is Wrong With The Book?

This is no step by step crafters companion. If you buy it thinking it is, you may be disappointed. This book proves to be a picture book of inspiration for the artist. It is a tool to feed our creativity, not a coaxing, controlling manual. This is a guide for our brains to indulge in and be inspired by.

There are projects scattered through the book too, so we don’t lose out in any way. They do not take over and make this book too much of a learning companion, I feel that they add a nice balance to the book.

Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly screen printing project page.
Dotted projects drip feed us…


Our review has only touched on a few aspects of this book, there is much more to explore and discover.

In the literal conclusion to this book, Kelly confides ‘my goal in writing this book is to highlight some of the everyday, simple and folk influences that can inspire textile artists’. In this digitally literate world, we can often get so wrapped up in ‘filtering’ our imagery that the image, or item we are showcasing gets lost. Kelly reminds us that our stitching time is a gift to be ‘treasured’ – a sobering lesson in this airbrushed age; yet maybe reading this book will help us discover the joy in the slow side of creating again. What is our heritage? What is our culture? Will Kelly’s representation drive us to discover our own? We certainly hope so.

To own your own copy today of Textile Folk Art by Anne Kelly, simply click this link.

Have you enjoyed this review? Check out our thoughts on Anne Kelly’s Textile Travels .

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