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

ISBN
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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Book review: Willing Hands by Betsy Morgan

I’ve had my eye on this wonderful book by Betsy Morgan called ‘Willing Hands’ ever since it was published in autumn 2019, so it was bound to end up on my Christmas wishlist! Fortunately, the ‘Christmas elf’ knew that this one had to be top of the list of books that would be under the tree. So, I thought I’d do a book review here…

Betsy Morgan has been creating very imaginative sewing sets (‘etuis’) for many years – but for most of those years, her designs have only been available to the public if you attended one of her workshops, as the designs are quite intricate, and it helped to be taught by Betsy herself so that you knew exactly how to put these together. As she lives in the USA, that meant that many people couldn’t get to meet her. In 2019, she retired from teaching workshops, and then she agreed to release some of her designs in book form. This book is the result – it’s got great instructions and photos, and it’s produced by the people who publish Inspirations magazine – the amazing Australian embroidery magazine. So, a collaboration by those two is bound to be good, isn’t it?!

Betsy Morgan Willing Hands embroidery book

It’s a book of 168 pages, filled with hundreds of pictures, both of the charts for the designs (all counted embroidery), and inspirational photos of the finished pieces. There’s also a section at the back about how to assemble each of the pieces in the book. I think it’s a good idea to have the assembly separate from the embroidery instructions themselves.

Betsy Morgan Willing Hands embroidery book

Here are the eight projects that the book covers:

Betsy Morgan Willing Hands embroidery book

All wonderful projects, and very different from each other. You could make all of these, and not get bored with either the designs themselves, or the stitches used (there’s far more than just cross stitch in this book!), or the construction methods.

There are pages and pages of stitch diagrams – you just can’t go wrong if you follow these instructions. If you’re used to Inspirations magazine’s quality, then you’ll be familiar with this layout style, with its very clear photos and good explanatory text.

Betsy Morgan Willing Hands embroidery book

I was particularly interested to see how the Toy Chest Etui was explained, as I have already stitched this one, several years ago. The materials pack that I had then came with lots of handouts of stitch charts, assembly instructions, etc. – and I was unsure as to how successfully that could be explained, without Betsy being there, in book format!!

But reading through all the instructions for this project, I thought that it was covered really well.

There was one small niggle, though. Some of the charts in the book (not just for this project, but it was very noticeable with this one) were printed very small in the book. I remember when I was actually stitching this horse motif, for instance – that the chart I had in my pack had been almost A4 size. The one in the book is printed barely a quarter of a page – almost life-size, in fact (and the design is to be stitched on 32 count evenweave, so that’s SMALL!). Now, that doesn’t have to be a problem, but I think that the publishers maybe had their eye on keeping down the total number of pages in the book to a particular number, more than they had ease of use for the reader at the forefront of their minds! So, squashing up some charts to fill pages by printing them smallish, or splitting charts over several pages to keep every page looking ‘full’ is the end result, and I do think it detracts somewhat from the book, in the end. I’d love to know what Betsy thinks!

Having said that though, it’s still not a big enough ‘downer’ to stop anyone from buying this book – the projects in it are so beautiful, a small chart is not a problem really, if you’re determined to make something  🙂   You could always enlarge the design on a photocopier, if necessary.

Here’s the Toy Chest Etui that I made, with all its wonderful contents. Some of the contents were added as ‘extras’ after the main etui was designed, so the hobby horse, paint box and jack-in-the-box aren’t in the book:

Toy chest etui Betsy Morgan
This is the etui that I love most in the book – I’ve just sent off for the Gloriana silks to make this:

Betsy Morgan Willing Hands embroidery book

It opens out like a little book, and is held closed with a  strap that has a cord pull on it with a thimble purse on the end. The etui contains scissors with a fob and tassel, a thread winder, and a needle book- so cute!

If you love making etui sets, and like 3D projects in particular, this book would be a wonderful addition to your stitching library.

Author: Betsy Morgan

Title: Willing Hands: the counted thread embroidery of Betsy Morgan

Publisher: Inspirations Studios Corporation Pty Ltd

http://www.inspirationsstudios.com

ISBN: 978 0 6482873 6 0

Price: 24.50 GBP in the UK (in Spring 2020)

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What I got for Christmas this year…..

In our house, so that we get what we’d really like, we tend to make use of ‘Christmas elves’, who get a note in November with a nice list of ‘possibles’ – sometimes with details of exactly where to get the actual product from, in case the elf isn’t exactly sure!

So, this year, I was delighted, but not altogether surprised, to get some really lovely things for Christmas…

Betsy Morgan Willing Hands embroidery book

This is a book that I’ve been wanting to own since it came out in the autumn – it’s ‘Willing Hands’, by Betsy Morgan. Betsy’s book has 8 projects in, all created in her really artistic style, using cross stitch and other stitches to make lovely etuis. I’ll be doing a proper book review of this one soon.

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

This is another book that I’ve had my eye on for a few months – this pretty ‘Embroidered Country Gardens’ book by Lorna Bateman has lots of projects in her delicate surface embroidery style, to make sewing accessories. I can never have too many sewing accessories!! I’ve got the scissor case ready to make up in my stash, but these all co-ordinate with it, so it’s really tempting to get on with it and make them all. It’s obviously a very different embroidery style from Betsy Morgan’s book, but I love the differences between the styles. I’ll be doing a review of this book soon, too.

St Petersburg Fantasy set watercolour paints

This is something new for me – watercolour paints!! I’ve been using coloured pencils ever since Johanna Basford’s colouring books became popular a few years ago, but watercolours always seemed a bit scary. But I’ve decided that I’ll have a go, as these two brands seem really good, and the colours are just gorgeous – very tempting to try. The large palette is by a Russian company called St Petersburg. The brand is White Nights, and this set is their Fantasy Set, as it has lots of bright shades, and very few browns (I don’t like brown!). I’ve also got 12 extra colours added to the spaces that are usually left in the centre of the box, so that I can have more purples than are usually included (you can never have too many purples!).

Metallic paints set

This small tin is very special. These are 12 metallic mica paints from KJDesignByKaren on Etsy- these are really lovely colours, and I can’t wait to try them out. Many people use these for calligraphy, but I’m going to use them for details in my Johanna Basford colouring books.

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