Category Archives: Book reviews

Book review: ‘Raised Embroidery: techniques, projects and pure inspiration’, by Kelley Aldridge

I love stumpwork , as regular readers of this blog will know, so I was really looking forward to getting a copy of this book, ‘Raised embroidery: techniques, projects and pure inspiration’, by Kelley Aldridge.

Raised embroidery Kelley Aldridge

There aren’t that many good stumpwork books on the market, but if you’re even remotely interest in this type of embroidery, you just have to get this – it’s wonderful!

Raised embroidery Kelley Aldridge

It’s a 140-page book, about A4 size, that’s full to bursting with wonderful colour photos, some in incredible close-up, that covers everything you need to know to do this embroidery technique. As the title suggests, it doesn’t only cover projects – this book has quite a few pages of ‘pure inspiration’ – there’s a gallery section at the back of over a dozen pages with the most gorgeous examples of stumpwork by various embroiderers, not just by Kelley herself, plus interspersed examples of stumpwork, all in a modern style.

Raised embroidery Kelley Aldridge

The book starts with a very comprehensive section explaining all about the history of stumpwork, and then moving on to materials to use, plus various techniques such as padding shapes and using wire. The stitches you need are covered in detail, including needlelace stitches. That all takes up nearly half of the book – there’s a lot of information in here, apart from the pretty pictures!

Raised embroidery Kelley Aldridge

The section on how to set up a floor frame to stitch stumpwork on is really detailed, with loads of pictures to show exactly how to do it.

Raised embroidery Kelley Aldridge

The projects section then follows – here there are three main projects explained in detail – a brooch, a phone sleeve, and a biscornu. Each has a modern look, although elements from the past are used too. At the end of each project, there are several pages of related items shown in gallery format – for instance, after the brooch project there are examples of other wearable stumpwork, such as a fascinator and a beaded cuff.

Raised embroidery Kelley Aldridge

Although this one isn’t a project, it’s my favourite item in the whole book – it’s a half scale dress with trim around the bustline made to look like old-fashioned sweets!

Raised embroidery Kelley Aldridge

Pros: I really liked this book. It’s colourful, the photography is amazing, and the projects are different from many stumpwork projects I’ve seen before. If you’ve done a bit of stumpwork already, this book will really spark your imagination. It’s certainly given me some ideas of things to make. The early sections on materials, frames, transferring designs, etc., are very well done – Kelley was trained at the Royal School of Needlework, and that really shows in her skill at explaining the best techniques to use for stumpwork. I love the fact that there are so many 3D examples of stumpwork in this book. I’m not really one for pictures, and I particularly like bags and boxes, but having seen this book, I might start making embroidered jewellery, now!

Cons: One thing I wasn’t sure of was the balance between ‘projects’ and ‘inspiration’. I felt that the book was maybe a bit too  ‘padded out’ with pictures just for inspiration, however lovely, that someone with not much experience of doing stumpwork would feel frustrated by. Very nice to look at, but how would you go about making your own version? If you picked this up in a bookshop and flicked through it quickly, you might be forgiven for thinking that you’d be able to make more than just three items from all those showcased in this book – sometimes the ‘inspirational images’ are a bit too blended in for my liking. I know ‘inspiration’ is in the title, but I feel the balance is just a bit too much in the direction of ‘coffee-table book just to look at’ rather than ‘book to make things from’ for me.

Also, there is no list of suppliers, bibliography, or list of websites at the end of the book, which I feel lets it down. I know that sometimes publishers don’t like to include things that make a book obviously ‘English’ when they want it to sell internationally, so maybe that’s why, but I think it’s a pity. I’m sure Kelley knows some good stockists, books and websites!!

Verdict: If you like embroidery and books, get this one  🙂  It’s a no-brainer!

Title: ‘Raised Embroidery: Techniques, projects and pure inspiration’ by Kelley Aldridge

Publisher: Search Press

Price: £17.99

ISBN: 978 1 78221 189 1

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Are you interested in doll’s houses and stitching? Then why not visit my website, where you can buy doll’s house needlepoint kits to make all kinds of soft furnishings for one-twelfth scale dollhouses. There are over 280 kits to choose from, plus chart packs, fabric project packs, tutorials, and lots of eye candy to inspire you! Kits are available on 18 and 22 count canvas, 28 and 32 count evenweave, and 32 and 40 count silk gauze, so there’s something for everyone – from beginners to experts.

As a special offer for new customers on my website, use the code FIRST TIME 10 at the checkout to receive 10% off your first order!

Dollhouse needlepoint kits

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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Are you interested in doll’s houses and stitching? Then why not visit my website, where you can buy doll’s house needlepoint kits to make all kinds of soft furnishings for one-twelfth scale dollhouses. There are over 280 kits to choose from, plus chart packs, fabric project packs, tutorials, and lots of eye candy to inspire you! Kits are available on 18 and 22 count canvas, 28 and 32 count evenweave, and 32 and 40 count silk gauze, so there’s something for everyone – from beginners to experts.

As a special offer for new customers on my website, use the code FIRST TIME 10 at the checkout to receive 10% off your first order!

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.

Potter 2

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.

Potter 3

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.

Potter 4

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.

Potter 5

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