Book Covers Combine Illustration and Embroidery

Browsing a store yesterday I came across some books published by Penguin under the series title Threads. The series first came out in the fall, but the covers are so exquisite, so remarkable that I wanted to share them with you.

The story behind these book covers is almost becoming a legend . After creating a quilt called Monster Quilt, a laborious project that took a couple of years, illustrator Jillian Tamaki wrote on her blog that she would never take another embroidery commission — unless it was for Penguin books. Lo and behold, Penguin art director Paul Buckley called to commission her embroidery.

Buckley had been thinking about new cover concepts (tattoos were a recent inspiration). One day while browsing, he came across an embroidered illustration of a woman. He then had the idea to create embroidered book jackets.

The collection is called Threads. Tamaki was commissioned for three book jackets by hand: Black Beauty, Emma, and The Secret Garden.

Tamaki first drew the design and then embroidered them by hand.

The embroidery was then replicated on paper by sculpted embossing, a technique whereby the embroidered threads become three-dimensional. The result is a very tactile experience for the customer

The books were also designed with French flaps that fold under the face of the jacket. As a nifty bonus, you open the flaps to see the reverse side of Tamaki’s embroidery, knots and all.

This video features art director Buckley, artist Tamaki, and editorial director Elda Rotor in conversation about the series. (The sound in the beginning isn’t great, so turn up the volume!)


Posted on: May 2, 2012

Pamela Pfiffner

Previously editor in chief of, Pamela Pfiffner developed content and information tools for the site. A Mac user since 1984 and desktop publisher since 1985, Pfiffner has been editor in chief of several publications, including MacUser and Publish magazines. She has a BA from Northwestern University and a Masters of Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she also taught classes in print publishing and Web design. Currently, Pamela is a writer, editor, and jack-of all-publishing trades in Portland, Oregon.

1 Comment on Book Covers Combine Illustration and Embroidery

  1. Nice your hand embroidery design really awesome.

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