Book review: A Flower Alphabet by Elisabetta Sforza

I’ve been collecting embroidery books for over 40 years. Once in a while, a really good one comes along, but not very often, these days. But this week I’m going to do a book review of a really fantastic book called ‘A Flower Alphabet’, by Elisabetta Sforza. This is one embroidery book that you’ve really just got to have!!

A Flower Alphabet by Elizabetta Sforza book review

If you have ever seen the book ‘Embroidery for all Seasons’ by Diana Lampe (published by Milner Craft in 2006), you might recognise Elisabetta’s style – she has taken Diana’s little floral motifs (with Diana’s permission), and really made them into something very different. This book is the result of many many hours of stitching, where Elisabetta has created all the letters of the alphabet in this gorgeous floral look, in so many pretty colourways that you just don’t know which one to stitch first.

(If the floral letters seem familiar, that might be because Elisabetta had an article published in Inspirations magazine in 2016, in issue 89, so if you’ve got that issue, dig it out and see what I mean about how lovely her embroidery is!)

I first heard about her book when Mary Corbet reviewed it on her Needle ‘n Thread website. Elisabetta is Italian, so Mary recommended that people in Europe contacted Elisabetta direct to purchase the book. But when I did, she said that she didn’t actually sell the book herself outside of Italy, but that it was available from Tombolo Disegni – if you’ve never visited this website (and I hadn’t), it is an amazing site, full of the most wonderful needlework threads, tools, and books.

So, I was able to order this book through them, and indulge myself a bit with some of the other things that they sold, at the same time.

You need to be aware if you’re buying from the UK, though, that shipping from italy to the UK is VERY EXPENSIVE!! It cost me 24 euros for the book, and 19 euros for the shipping. But it was worth it…..

The book is A4 sized, softback, and has 68 pages. The text is in Italian and English throughout, which is very helpful for people like me who know absolutely no Italian! The photos are gorgeous. There’s several pages explaining the stitches that Elisabetta uses to create the floral letters, general instructions, information about the threads used (mainly DMC using two strands), how to stitch particular types of flowers, and details of the two sizes of alphabet that the designs come in.

A Flower Alphabet by Elizabetta Sforza book review

Throughout the book, each double page spread has a different overall colourway, with various letters shown in close up.

A Flower Alphabet by Elizabetta Sforza book review

I love this blue and green colourway!

A Flower Alphabet by Elizabetta Sforza book review

The book is very inspirational, with many images of the letters used on various household items. There are close-up photos showing how different fabrics affect the way the finished embroideries would look, too.

A Flower Alphabet by Elizabetta Sforza book review

As well as being suitable for embroidery stitches, the floral alphabet letters can be stitched in beads, whitework, and even ribbon embroidery. Isn’t this one lovely?

A Flower Alphabet by Elizabetta Sforza book review

The last few pages of the book have line drawings of all the letters of the alphabet for you to trace off and use, in two sizes (11cm high, and 7cm high), although I reckon a tiny version about 3cm high would look good, if you stitched it in one strand of thread – but that’s just me, miniaturising everything! There are also a few shapes such as hearts done in the floral style, for more options.

This book is so unusual, that even if you never get round to stitching anything from it, it would just be good to look at. But I am already planning what I can make from it, in several colourways, types of thread, and different sizes. It’s that kind of book  🙂

Title: A Flower Alphabet by Elisabetta Sforza.

Published: October 2017.

24 euros from Tombolo Disegni in Italy.

Elisabetta’s blog is at:  elisabettaricami.blogspot.com and is well worth a visit.

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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

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Book review: ‘The art of bead embroidery: Japanese style’ by Margaret Lee

I love beading, so when I found out that this book, ‘The Art of Bead Embroidery – Japanese style’ by Margaret Lee had been released, I just had to get it! It’s published by Stitchology, who publish the Australian embroidery magazine ‘Inspirations’, so I just knew it was going to be good…..Art of bead embroidery

Margaret Lee really knows her subject. In the book, she goes into detail about the equipment you’ll need to do Japanese style bead embroidery, design ideas, various techniques such as how to stitch neat lines of beads, plus filling stitches too…..

Art of bead embroidery

There’s a detailed section on the tools you’ll need. I’ve been doing embroidery for over 50 years now, but some of these tools were news to me!

Art of bead embroidery

The techniques are explained with photos as well as neat diagrams in the typical ‘Inspirations magazine’ style.

Art of bead embroidery

About a third of the 116 page book is for the projects – nine in total. These are really lovely. They range from a small handbag mirror, through evening bags and glasses cases, to ones such as this lovely beaded box lid.

Art of bead embroidery

I loved the photography in the book – very atmospheric, and really gets you wanting to grab some beads and get beading!

I think this glasses case is my favourite project in the whole book – I like stitching with yellow shades, as it lifts my spirit. The design is a gorgeous flowing paisley pattern. There’s a matching small handbag that can be made from the same pattern – dimensions and instructions are given for both, and you just double the quantities of beads listed when making the bag.

Art of bead embroidery

At the end of the book there is a section for ‘case studies’, which is a kind of in-depth analysis of a couple of designs, without giving detailed instructions for how to make them, but explaining the design and execution challenges – interesting to see how Margaret Lee thinks these through.

As with the Inspirations magazines themselves, this book comes with pullout sheets of pattern outlines at the back of the book. If you love these designs, but feel that you’d prefer to just do them in embroidery (that’s what I kept thinking, anyway!), then these pattern outlines would be very useful.

 

Pros:

A beautifully presented book, with lots of projects explained in detail with good photography. The projects list which techniques are used, along with fabric and bead quantities required, and build up from simple to complex throughout the book. I really loved the fact that Margaret lists the bead quantities per project in the format of a fraction of a 2″ x 1/2 ” tube – such as half a tube, or a third of a tube. Such an easy way for you to work out if you’ve got enough beads of the right colour in your stash!! This book covers an unusual topic, so if you already have ‘too many’ embroidery books, then this one could be justified simply by being that little bit different!

Cons:

Not many, really. The contents page has the projects listed with names like ‘Hanami’, but not what the project is FOR – such as ‘glasses case’. So, if you’re looking for something in particular, it’s quicker to just flick through the book. Perhaps it seems a little pricey at £28 for a paperback, but this is an exceptional book.

Conclusion

I feel that Margaret Lee is the Jane Nicholas of the bead embroidery world. She has got an eye for detail and a neatness that really shines through. Her eye for colour is amazing. This book is full of her personality. Even if you never actually make anything from this book (despite your good intentions….) then this book is worth getting. I love it!

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The Art of Bead Embroidery – Japanese style by Margaret Lee

Publisher: Inspirations

ISBN 978 0 9923144 7 7

Price: £28.99

Available from the publisher, Inspirations (i.e. Stitchology), the UK Distributor Search Press or from Amazon.

 

PS: This month’s Inspirations magazine, Issue 95, has an article and a project (which is not one repeated from the book!) in it. It’s to make the beading tools case which is shown open in the book, but we never got to see what the beaded side looks like! So, if you would like to ‘try out’ one of Margaret’s beaded projects for yourself before investing in the book, buying Issue 95 might be the way to go first  🙂

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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: ‘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