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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Book review: A Passion for Needlework 3

If you have managed to buy the previous two volumes in this series, you’ll know that the book ‘A Passion for Needlework 3’ is going to be good even before you’ve opened it! I put this book on my wishlist for Christmas as soon as I found out it was being published, late last autumn. I haven’t been disappointed!

Passion for Needlework 3 - Blakiston Creamery

Like the other two volumes in the series, this one is beautifully produced, and contains a dozen projects that will make your fingers itch to start stitching. The book itself is large, and heavy. It’s printed on good quality paper, and could almost be described as a ‘coffee table book’, as the images alone make it worth having.

Passion for Needlework 3 - Blakiston Creamery

But the projects are what you’ll want to get this book for. I think, personally, that this book is the best one so far in the series. It has projects using several different embroidery techniques, and not just for things that could be ‘pictures’ – there are some lovely 3D projects in this book, which I particularly like to do. This etui set is designed by Carolyn Pearce, one of my favourite designers:

Passion for Needlework 3 - Blakiston Creamery

The styleshots in the book are dramatic, but there are many detail images too, so you can really see the stitching up close. The projects are featured at the beginning of the book, and then the instructions and stitch diagrams are all at the back.

Passion for Needlework 3 - Blakiston CreameryThis book, being published by the same people who publish Inspirations magazine in Australia, have their signature ‘pullout sheets’ with the patterns for the projects on, so that you can transfer the design lines to your chosen fabric. There are also materials packs available from the publishers (but I find these really expensive, and that’s before I’ve paid for shipping from Australia to the UK!)My stash of threads and fabric is huge, so I can stitch some of these lovely designs by using up what I already have in my stash, hopefully.

Passion for Needlework 3 - Blakiston Creamery

My favourite project in the whole book is this amazing photo frame border, designed by Susan O’Connor. I love anything she designs!! This is just so wonderful, and I think I’m going to have to put several current projects on hold while I make this. Isn’t it lovely?! It’s stitched using about 40 Au Ver a Soie colours, so it’s not going to be cheap, if I use the called-for threads, but I just love it.

Passion for Needlework 3 - Blakiston Creamery
Passion for Needlework 3 - Blakiston Creamery
Passion for Needlework 3 - Blakiston Creamery

This book would make a great addition to any stitcher’s library. It’s just gorgeous. If there is anything that could be said to be a negative with it, it would be that some of the style shots are a bit ‘sparse’, with the embroidery being quite small in the whole photo’s space, but that’s just me – I like pictures to be busy, with the embroidery itself taking centre stage. But the projects themselves are simply wonderful, so if you like interesting surface embroidery projects, go and get this book!

Title: A Passion for Needlework 3: Blakiston Creamery

Editor: Susan O’Connor

Publisher: Inspirations Studios Corporation Pty Ltd

ISBN: 978 0 6482873 9 1

Price: £23.99


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Book review: Stumpwork and goldwork embroidery by Jane Nicholas

This book by Jane Nicholas, “Stumpwork and Goldwork Embroidery” is not new (it was published in 2010 in Australia), but it’s a fantastic book, and one of my favourites, so I thought I’d review it.

My copy is a high quality hardback, with 272 page, A4 size. If you’re familiar with the embroidery of Jane Nicholas, you’ll already know that any book of hers is produced to a really high standard, and the embroidery featured will be gorgeous! This book is no exception.

Jane has taken her inspiration from Turkish, Syrian and Persian tiles, and created some wonderful embroidery projects using both goldwork and stumpwork embroidery together – it’s a combination that I particularly like.

S & G 1

The book has 16 different projects in it, from simple little roundels and box lids, to more complex designs for experienced stitchers. As usual with Jane’s books, the instructions are very detailed, and the photos are to die for – really close-up images that show you exactly what you can make for yourself, when you follow Jane’s instructions.

Each project lists the materials needed, fabric needed, a pattern to trace off, shapes for any stumpwork elements, and then the instructions.

Finishing instructions are given in a separate section at the back of the book.

S & G 2

The final chapter of the book covers techniques used, the equipment you’ll need, and a stitch glossary. Although you’d probably need a bit of stitching experience already to get the most out of this book, the instructions are so good that if you are a confident beginner and are prepared to read through everything first, I think you’d be OK doing most of the projects in here. You’ll certainly be tempted!!

Although there are lists of materials needed for each project described, there are details at the back of the book of how to purchase kits for the projects as well, as Jane sells these from her own website. You’ll still need the book to work from, for the detailed instructions.

S & G 3

This project below is one that I’ve had my eye on ever since I bought this book when it first came out (OK, I know that was several years ago now, but a girl has to have a list of projects waiting to be done!). I’d probably make it as a box lid rather than a box insert, as it seems a waste to me to have all that embroidery INSIDE a box! But isn’t it lovely?

S & G 4

Jane has a very distinctive embroidery design style – it’s incredibly neat, and I’ve read that she is constantly unpicking stitches to make them perfect (wish I had that attitude!). These projects will appeal to you if you enjoy neatness. These are not the kind of ‘creative embroidery’ where you do your own thing very much. But if you want to make something that looks just like Jane’s version, you can’t go wrong with this book, as the instructions are so clear and detailed.

Usually, when I review books, there are one or two things that I mention as being ‘less good’ than the rest, but to be honest, with this book, there isn’t anything! Possibly the price is a little high, but then it’s a good quality book, and second hand copies are usually available on Amazon for around half the price of new copies if cost is an issue for you.

Jane has published about ten embroidery books so far, and they are all brilliant. Search online for her other books if this style of embroidery appeals to you 🙂

Title: Stumpwork and goldwork embroidery inspired by Turkish, Syrian and Persian tiles

Author: Jane Nicholas

Publisher: Sally Milner Publishing

978 1  86351 409 5

Price: 22.00 GBP


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Book review: Embroidered Country Gardens by Lorna Bateman

Lorna Bateman has been selling surface embroidery kits for years now, but this is her first book, called ‘Embroidered Country Gardens’, and it is really lovely.

If you love surface embroidery, then this book is going to make your fingers itch to get stitching! I saw this last autumn, when it was first published, and immediately put it on my wishlist for Christmas!

The sub-title is  ‘Create beautiful hand-stitched floral designs inspired by nature’, and that’s a really good description of what this book covers.

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

Lorna has taken one kind of motif – that of an English country garden – and designed a whole set of embroidered bags, pockets, and holders for embroidery tools of various kinds. The designs make a coherent collection, but are different enough to not be boring if you choose to stitch them all – there’s a lot of variety here, both in types of designs, and difficulty level.

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

Here’s the contents page:

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

There are twelve different projects to make, plus lots of explanations about how to stitch each type of plant featured, so if you wanted to make your own designs using this book, it would be very useful for that too. In fact, one of the sections covered is ‘how to make your own’. Lorna is obviously a very good gardener, and that comes across in her writing.

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

This is my favourite project in the whole book – it’s a tote bag with a  crinoline lady design on one side, and lettering spelling out ‘In my country garden’ on the other side.

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

One cop-out, though, which isn’t unique to this book (I’ve seen other designers, both in books and magazines, do this lately) is that Lorna doesn’t give the actual design for this lettering. She just says ‘you could look up a nice font, and do your own’. Hmm, don’t think so, actually. Most people, if they like a design they’ve seen enough to want to make it, want EXACTLY what they’ve seen – so they expect to have THAT font and THAT exact wording presented in the book as a design to follow. It seems bizarre to me to have such a lovely book of designs for almost everything, and then skimp on this bit.

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

Anyway, another idea in this book that I absolutely love is these randomly embroidered buttons. Aren’t they pretty? And the bigger the better! You could practice doing little flowers all over a small piece of fabric, and then use a metal cover button to make one of these, and use it as a brooch, or a fridge magnet, or make several for use on clothing.

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

The book has 160 pages, and a pocket at the back with a pull-out sheet of templates for the various projects. Little line drawings are given for each project, so you get an indication of what to stitch where, but a lot of the choices are up to you. The photography is gorgeous, and the explanations are clear. At times, I did feel that Lorna struggled a bit to write enough text, as it got a bit repetitive, but I suspect that might have been due to the publishers saying ‘you need to write xx thousands of words!!’ when really, a book like this just needs lovely photos, which this book has in bucketloads.

Lorna is a really good designer – if you want to try some surface embroidery for a change, then get a copy of this book and give it a go. You can’t hope for a better teacher of this style of embroidery.

Title: Embroidered Country Gardens

Author: Lorna Bateman

Publisher: Search Press

Price: £17.99 in 2020

ISBN: 978 1 78221 578 3




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