Category Archives: Book reviews

Book review: “Sew Small: 19 little bags” by Jennifer Heynen

I’ve recently come across this book, called “Sew Small: 19 little bags” by Jennifer Heynen, so I thought I’d review it for you. Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know that I love making bags of various kinds (usually bags for keeping sewing tools in), so when I saw this book, I thought I’d give it a go to see if it might have some different kinds of projects for me to make, and I wasn’t disappointed!

The book is more of a sewing projects book than an embroidery one, as the title suggests, but if you haven’t ever done much sewing, that’s OK, as the projects are clearly explained, with lots of diagrams for each one. It’s got a modern look to the projects, too – not always my thing (I’m an old-fashioned kind of person!), but I did like the innovative projects in this book enough to want to make some of them for friends who really love the contemporary style. And I can see myself adapting some of them, too – just by changing the fabric, a project could easily have a more retro feel to it.

The nineteen projects for the little bags cover all kinds of things – small wallets, a coin purse, a bag to keep your ear buds in, and several bags that are just….well….bags!

I like the way that the contents page lists the projects in a visual format, as well as the more normal text version – it makes it so much easier to find what you’re looking for:

The book starts by covering the basics – fabrics to use, threads and trims such as ric-rac braid that can be applied, beads and buttons, and basic embroidery stitches. These are VERY basic stitches – Jennifer suggests people find online tutorials if they want to use stitches other than these really basic ones of running stitch, backstitch and French knots. But that’s great if you’re a beginner, or want a project finished quickly. She also covers how to assemble the projects both using a sewing machine or by hand stitching.

Then on to the projects themselves – each one has a materials list, a cutting list, and instructions with colour diagrams. There aren’t any photos of the projects themselves during assembly – just the finished item – but the ‘process diagrams’ make it very clear what you need to do. I should think each one could be completed in a day – even the more complicated projects, if you gather all your materials together first.

There’s a lift-out sheet at the back of the book with all the pattern pieces shown at full size, which I think is a real bonus for a project book. It annoys me when patterns are shown in other books with a tiny note that says ‘enlarge by 150%’ or something. How frustrating, when you just want to get started and make something! So, this is one of the biggest pluses of the book, for me. There’s also a note inside the front cover which gives permission to photocopy the lift-out sheet (but not the text of the main part of the book).

There are a couple of projects which really caught my eye:

This one is a jewellery roll in the shape of a log. I love jewellery rolls, and actually have several, which I do use when I’m travelling. I need my jewellery to be protected, and this one would do that.

It’s got several little pockets for ear rings and necklaces, and the whole thing rolls up and is secured by the cords with little leaves on the ends. Isn’t it cute?

This second project REALLY got me! I love little houses! This is a little drawstring bag, only five inches high. Simple shapes are appliqued to the walls for the doors, windows and plants. A cord goes around the top, pulling the roof sides together. I think this is the one I’ll make first. It would be good to put more embroidery on it, I think, in the Carolyn Pearce style, but that’s just me  🙂

If there’s maybe one thing I think could have improved the book, it would be to grade the projects into Beginner/Intermediate/Expert categories. Some of these projects look much more complicated than others, to me, but to someone just starting out, if they picked one that was too difficult for a beginner, they’d get put off, which would be a shame. But that’s a slight niggle.

So, all in all I really liked this book, and I’m looking forward to making several of the little bags from it.

What do you think? Do you own this book already? Interested in buying it now you’ve read the review? Like the projects? Talk to me!

Here’s the details, if you’re thinking of getting a copy for yourself:

“Sew Small: 19 little bags” by Jennifer Heynen

Stash Books, Published 2017

ISBN 978161745332 (paperback)

£19.99 /US$ 26.95 in May 2017

It is available from Search Press in the UK, here.

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Dollhouse needlepoint kits

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:

Potter 1

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  🙂

Xmas 1

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.

Xmas 2

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.

Xmas 3

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.

Xmas 4

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!

Xmas 5

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.

Xmas 7

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

Xmas 8

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.

Xmas 9

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