Category Archives: Book reviews

Book review: Le Monde de Beatrix Potter – a cross stitch book in French

I really like the work of Beatrix Potter – the original books especially, but also the many styles of embroidery kits of her work that have appeared over the years. I have collected several of them, when I come across them on Ebay, for example.

Recently, I managed to get hold of a copy of this little gem of a book:

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It’s in French (the title, ‘Le Monde de Beatrix Potter’ is a bit of a giveaway there!) – it means ‘The World of Beatrix Potter’. The book is small in size  – 6 x 8.5 inches – and only has 80 pages, but it’s gorgeous, nonetheless.

It is by the French cross stitch designer Veronique Enginger. If you haven’t come across her before, try looking at the page dedicated to her on her publisher’s website. She does beautiful cross stitch kits and books – always in a very distinctive French style. Many are available on Amazon.co.uk.

This book is rather different for her, though, as she sticks very carefully to Beatrix Potter’s signature style, as in the watercolour illustrations from the books.

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The book is mainly composed of double page spreads of little collections of motifs on a theme, such as Peter Rabbit, or Pigling Bland. There are one or two larger designs per two-page spread, and then lots of smaller motifs scattered around, on the same theme and colourway.

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So, really, this book is more a collection of motifs for you to choose from when composing your own projects, than a book of ‘complete designs’. All the colour keys give thread colours for DMC stranded cotton. There are several pages of styleshot photos, showing how the cross stitch designs can be used in items such as cushions, tote bags, and so on.

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At the back of the book is a section on how to do cross stitch, materials needed, how to work out how big any particular motif will be when worked on different counts of fabric, etc. Beware, though, that these are, obviously, written in French, as it’s a French book! So, if French isn’t your best subject, just stick to using the book for the designs themselves.

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I’m considering taking motifs from this book and making a kind of ‘soft book’ with about six pages in (so that’s twelve page sides to stitch), to be able to use my favourite images from Veronique’s book. I could fill in the space around the edges of the pages with the smaller motifs, and design my own cover. If I get the time, that is. If not, it’s just a pretty book to look at!

As I said before, I ‘managed to get hold’ of this book – it is out of print now, and has been for a while. It occasionally pops up on Ebay, or Amazon (also, try the French Amazon site, as that’s where I got my copy from). But be warned….it’s not cheap now. My copy cost me over £40. But I think it’s worth it, for such a pretty book, with so many well-designed classic images in it.

Le Monde de Beatrix Potter, by Veronique Enginger (out of print)

Originally 10 euro when in print.

Mango Pratique Series, published by http://www.fleuruseditions.com

80 pages. Paperback.

ISBN 9 782842 706326

Book review: Stumpwork embroidery designs and projects by Jane Nicholas

I have owned this book, ‘Stumpwork Embroidery: designs and projects’ by Jane Nicholas, ever since it first came out in 1998, and it is one of my all-time favourite embroidery books. It is the book that got me started on doing stumpwork embroidery.  So, although it’s definitely not a new book, it most certainly is a classic, so I thought I’d do a review of it.

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Jane Nicholas is a stickler for detail. Her stitching is so neat, it’s unbelievable. I should think the back of her stitching is as neat as the front, but she’d never let you see, I bet!

This book covers instructions for 26 different projects – from single pansy flowers, to drawstrings bags, needlebooks and more complex pictures. The photography is very clear and detailed, and there are hundreds of diagrams to show you exactly how to achieve the results that Jane describes so eloquently in her text.

The book is a large (8 1/2 x 11 inch) hardback book, with 192 pages. Each project is carefully explained, with lists of materials required, the order of work, and the patterns needed, all together (rather than having to turn to the back of the book for the pattern templates, for instance, which is common in other books). There is a stitch glossary and index at the back, and also thread conversion information. This is a useful section, as Jane realises that although she loves to use the more unusual/expensive threads such as Soie d’Alger, many people do not have access to these, so the thread conversion page gives alternatives for Soie d’Alger, Madeira Silk, Cifonda and Minnamurra thread to DMC equivalents. Very helpful! There is also a good bibliography too.

Jane’s take on Elizabethan stumpwork, updated for today, is just wonderful. Take this, for example:

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Or these roundels, stitched on black and white silk:

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My favourite project in the book is this drawstring bag etui set, with woodland animals and plants embroidered on the pieces:

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I made the hedgehog pipkin from it a few years back.

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And I have used the squirrel needlebook assembly process (but not the squirrel motif) to make a needlebook (although the design on the front is still by Jane Nicholas – but this one appeared in Inspirations magazine, as a motif for a sweet bag!).

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It is not always available in the UK, but Amazon.co.uk has it at the moment.  Maybe it’s on it’s way to being out of print, so if you’re interested, I’d track down a copy sooner rather than later. Embroidery books as good as this one are few and far between!

Stumpwork Embroidery: designs and projects by Jane Nicholas.

Milner Craft Series

192 pages

ISBN 186351 208 X (Hardback)

£19.99 / US$24.95

What I got for Christmas this year…..

Santa always brings me something for my hobby each Christmas. That’s because I always help Santa out by leaving little hints around the place about what I’d like  🙂

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This year, I got this wonderful table lamp. Well, this is the box it came in, obviously! But I thought it might help to show the box, as there are several lamps on the market that look similar.

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I wanted a lamp with an attached magnifier, and this was about the only affordable one I could find. The magnifier can be removed if required.

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The part with the fluorescent tube in unfolds from the upright housing (and that’s what makes the light come on – there is no on/off switch), and can be tilted to shine the daylight bulb in exactly the direction that you need.

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There’s an attachment for keeping scissors, pens, etc., that hooks onto the back of the lamp – or rather it should, only on the one that I have, the lugs are too big, so it doesn’t quite fit properly yet, and so the lugs will need a bit of filing down!

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The lamp costs between £32 and £40, depending where you buy it from. My one came from Siesta’s own website.

It’s really lovely to use, and the light is a good bright ‘cool’ / daylight one, so I can now easily stitch in the evening, when I don’t want to use my tapestry frame with attached light by Stitchmaster.

My other present on an embroidery theme is this beautiful book by Jane Nicholas, called ‘Stumpwork butterflies and moths’. It’s the third in the series (the previous ones were on beetles and dragonflies). I’m usually not that keen on insects, but butterflies are so pretty, I can *almost* forget that they’re insects!

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The book covers the background of butterflies in art and science, including explaining how people used to collect them for displaying in glass cases. Most of the book is given over to how to make an embroidered version of  such a case. There are 18 different butterflies to make, using many different techniques.

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The beginning of the book features images taken from old books, jewellery, etc.

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As well as the butterfly display case project, there are four smaller projects using butterflies taken from the earlier part of the book, and used in other ways, such as this pretty ceramic jar lid.

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As usual. Jane’s instructions are really good, and very detailed, with dozens and dozens of line drawings and photos.

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I was so taken with the book, that I spent a good part of Christmas Day afternoon online, sourcing the fine wires (33 gauge, usually used in sugarcraft) and chenille thread that I’ll need in order to make these. This particular butterfly is my favourite, and I want to make this first:

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I’m quite tempted to make all 18 butterflies eventually, but I think I’ll start with just the one, and work out what to do with it once it’s made!

This book is well worth buying – it’s so beautiful to look at, even if you never make anything from it. If you have a little embroidery experience you would have no trouble making the projects in the book. It’s available from Amazon, etc., and costs around £19 hardback. Published by Sally Milner Publishing. ISBN 978-1863514521

Book review: Mon Journal au point de croix by Veronique Enginger

At the moment, I am having a bit of a ‘French phase’ in the embroidery projects that I choose to stitch. This book is the latest addition to my library of books, and it’s a beautiful one.

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It is in French, by Sophie Bester-Baque (who wrote the text) and Veronique Enginger (who created the cross stitch designs). It has the typically classy, soft and gentle look that all French cross stitch seems to have – I just love the look!

The book is unusual, in that it isn’t just a ‘how to’ – it takes the form of a kind of journal, as if written by a little French girl, so it’s like reading a simple story. The cross stitch designs throughout the book illustrate that story. So, when the little girl goes to visit her grandmother and reads in the garden, there is a design of the little girl reading a book….you see what I mean? The designs are a collection of images, some small and some more detailed, but all on this theme of the girl and her journal entries.

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The watercolours that Veronique created first, before turning them into cross stitch designs, are strewn throughout the book, along with pretty styleshots of the finished projects.

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The cross stitch colour block charts themselves are all grouped together towards the end of the book. The colour keys list DMC stranded threads.

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These are my favourites from the book – thread winders with little vignettes of a girl stitching, worked in several colourways.

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There are also a couple of ‘floral accent’ designs in the book, as Veronique is really good at creating designs of flowers, particularly roses (she has written several other books in her own right, featuring natural elements).

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I bought this book via the French Amazon website, as the shipping was cheaper that way than by buying it via the UK one, for some reason. The book cost me £17 (the cover price is listed as 18 euro). The book measures 10 inches square, and has 80 pages. With around 30 different designs in, this is a really good value book to add to your cross stitch library, with designs both small and large to use on all kinds of projects. The fact that the text is in French isn’t really a problem if you don’t speak the language, as the book can be enjoyed just for the illustrations alone….and cross stitch charts can be used by anyone, anywhere, fortunately!

Book: Mon Journal au point de croix by Sophie Bester-Baque and Veronique Enginger

ISBN: 978 2 299 00165 4

18 euro

Published 2012 by Le Temps Apprivoise

It is available from the UK Amazon,  or from the US Amazon.