Book review: A Sea to Stitch by Elizabetta Sforza

If you love surface embroidery, you’re in for a special treat! This latest book by Elisabetta Sforza, called ‘A Sea to Stitch’, is a very special journey through an alphabet of shells and seaweed, starfish and seagulls!

A Sea to Stitch Elisabetta Sforza

Elisabetta is an embroiderer from Verona, Italy, who has published a couple of books already (‘A Flower Alphabet’, and ‘In a Wheat Field’) – both are beautiful books for inspiration, with gorgeous photos, but I think this one is my favourite, as it is so unusual. There are lots of books using floral themes, but not so many using marine themes. And with this book, Elisabetta has really created some wonderful designs to use with an alphabet, and in other shaped designs (such as hearts and swags).

The book is soft backed, and has 88 pages. As Elisabetta is Italian, but she wants to reach the English-speaking market with her work, the book has dual language text. There are dozens of photos, showing a full alphabet of designs in both 9cm high and 14 cm high versions.

A Sea to Stitch Elisabetta Sforza

The colour keys list six different colourways, so you can choose whichever one suits your decor best.

As I got this book so that I can stitch something for the coastal-themed bathroom that I am doing in my house at the moment, I think this is my favourite colourway, as it co-ordinates with the paintwork I’ll be using:

A Sea to Stitch Elisabetta Sforza

But they are all lovely!

Elisabetta clearly explains how to work all the stitches featured in the book, and there is a tutorial at the end on how to create words out of the individual letters shown.

At the end of the book there are pages of line drawings for you to trace off and then transfer to your fabric.

A Sea to Stitch Elisabetta Sforza

It’s a beautifully put together book, as were Elisabetta’s two previous books. Your fingers will be itching to get going! I can see these individual letters being used for drawstring bags or box lids, as well as simply being framed.

A Sea to Stitch Elisabetta Sforza

When I do book reviews, if there is anything that is a ‘downside’, I try to be honest and mention it, but with this book I really can’t fault it!

The book is available either direct from Elisabetta from her blog  (which is in both Italian and English), or from designated stockists in various countries. If you are in the UK, you can get it from the website of Jenny Adin-Christie (who also has the most amazing embroidery kits of her own designs – well worth a look!). In the UK, it’s £27.50. Jenny also stocks Elisabetta’s other two books.

Title: A Sea to Stitch

Author: Elisabetta Sforza

ISBN: 978 88 943526 27

Price: £27.50


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All Our Yesterdays cross stitch collection project: 1

Have you ever come across these little cross stitch designs? They are from a series called ‘All Our Yesterdays’, and they are designed by Faye Whittaker. She starts by creating lovely little watercolours, and then translates them into cross stitch designs. Most of them are small, and quite simple, although she does have a few in her range that are bigger and more complex.

They’ve been available for quite a few years now, and I have always loved them – there’s something very sweet about all these little children (whose faces you never see, as Faye designs them to be seem from the back only!) in their old fashioned clothes. The colour palette is restricted to blues and reds, mainly, with some beiges and soft purples for details.

I recently came across this booklet of designs, and had to have it, as it seemed such good value for money  – £15 on Ebay for the booklet plus enough thread to stitch the designs, in a huge bundle already sorted onto card thread sorters.

All Our Yesterdays cross stitch

This is the back cover, showing the rest of the 18 designs – I could quite happily make almost all of these.

All Our Yesterdays cross stitch

Then I came across this one as well, which I was really pleased about, as it’s not often found any more. Faye sells a few signed copies on her website, but they are over £90 each!!! I got my copy on Ebay for under £20, so I felt really smug. It doesn’t have threads with it, but there are dozens of charted designs to choose from.

But I didn’t really have a need to stitch many of them. I wondered if maybe I’d make a kind of ‘fabric book’ of some of them (as many are around the same size, so they would work as ‘pages’ quite easily). Then fate kind of ‘stepped in’.

I’ve been feeling quite ill for months, and it had been diagnosed as a black mould allergy, but my husband and I couldn’t work out where any mould might be that could be triggering me, and I just didn’t seem to be able to get better. In the end, we had a specialist come to our house and test it for mould….and a large patch of it was found under the floor in the upstairs bathroom. Now, I really like my bathroom – it’s decorated in William Morris style wallpaper, and looks really cosy:

William Morris style bathroom

But the mould specialist nearly had a fit when he saw that the whole bathroom (except for the tiling round the bath) is WALLPAPERED!! ‘Get that off the walls,’ he said, ‘It’ll be causing mould to form behind the paper, and making your allergy worse!’

So, my lovely bathroom has to be re-decorated with painted walls only….

But I’ve decided that if it HAS to be redecorated, then it’s going to be done in a ‘coastal themed’ style….and that means that I have a reason to stitch a few of these lovely ‘All Our Yesterdays’ pictures to put on the walls. I suppose that every cloud has silver lining, then  🙂

I’ll keep you posted as I stitch some……


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John Clayton ‘Circles Series’ cross stitch: 2 – Starting to stitch ‘Sleepy Village’

I am starting to stitch the ‘Sleepy Village’ cross stitch design produced by Heritage Crafts, from original watercolours by John Clayton. There are loads to choose from, and they’re all lovely!!

This is what I’m aiming to stitch – it’s called ‘Sleepy Village’, and is about 10 inches diameter, and full cross stitch coverage:

John Clayton Sleepy Village
I started a couple of weeks ago (from the top, rather than the centre, as that makes more sense to me – I don’t want to be putting my hands and arms on the stitching that I’ve already done) – this is how far I got after a week of evenings:

I stitch in horizontal rows, one shade at a time, using a magnetic chart marker to keep my place – which is really necessary with a design like this, as leaves and sky all look pretty much the same, so it’s easy to get confused about where you are on the chart! After two weeks the buildings were starting to give it all a bit of context:

John Clayton Sleepy Village cross stitch

Some of the shades for the tree’s leaves are tweeded (two different shades in the needle at once), which gives it a more complex look than it actually is to stitch. Some of the blue sky is stitched with two strands, and some with one, so it gives it some depth too. Nice touches!


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John Clayton ‘Circles Series’ cross stitch: 1 – choosing the design

I have loved the ‘John Clayton Circles Series cross stitch designs for years. If you’ve not come across them yet, I bet you could be easily tempted! These were first put on sale over twenty years ago, but they are still selling well – they are produced by Heritage Crafts, from original watercolours by John Clayton. John first paints the picture and then chooses the thread shades for the cross stitch design version, before Heritage package them up and market them. They’re available as either full kits (on 28 count evenweave, or aida fabric), or as chart packs.

John Clayton Circles Series cross stitch
There are loads to choose from, and they’re all lovely!!

I made one, about 25 years ago, called ‘High and Dry’, featuring boats when the tide has gone out. I loved stitching it, and always planned to do more. Life got in the way, though, and I’ve only just got round to starting my second one, even though I have several kits and chart packs from this series in my stash.

John Clayton High and Dry cross stitch

I have decided to do this one now, called ‘Sleepy Village’. This image is taken from the Heritage website:

John Clayton Sleepy Village

Isn’t it lovely? It looks so English! The design is about ten inches diameter, and it’s full coverage cross stitch with some fractional stitches and a little back stitch, so this is going to take a serious amount of time to do.

I set up my floor frame over Christmas (as you can see from the tinsel in the background of this photo!), but it has just sat there ever since, and I need to get on with it.

John Clayton Sleepy Village cross stitch

I got this design from a needlework magazine a few years ago, and the chart is already coloured symbols, which is what I like to work from. The suggested threads were given for DMC, Anchor and Madeira shades – I’m stitching mine using Anchor. The fabric is 28 count white evenweave.

Can’t wait to get going on it, now!


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