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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Little House Needleworks ABC Samplers – 2 – how to finish a pincushion with pom pom trim

This little cross stitch pincushion ‘small’ from Little House Needleworks is so cute!

I decided to do the finishing for the pincushion with mini pom pom trim that I bought from xJudesign on Etsy. It comes in several colours, so I’ve bought a metre of half a dozen shades, to give me some choice as I make all nine in this series. The shade I’ve chosen for this one is ‘Dark Cocoa’. Each pincushion needs a bit less than half a metre to complete the pincushion as a 4 1/2 inch square.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

I first trimmed  the evenweave fabric to 5 1/2 inches square (from 6 inches square originally). I made an interlining template that was 4 1/2 inches square, so that when I positioned it on the front of the stitching, I could just about see through it to check if I’d centred it on the stitching. Then I pinned it in place and tacked around the edge, to mark the stitching line, then removed the interlining template.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

This shows the tacked line, once I’d removed the interlining template.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

I pinned the braided side of the pom pom trim exactly along the stitching line, leaving about 1/8th of an inch of braid within the tacked line, so that the pom poms wouldn’t get caught in the seam when I stitched along it.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

I also made curves at the corners with the trim rather than tight 90 degree angles. I overlapped the trim by one pom pom, and then trimmed one of the overlapped ones off at the end, after I’d stitched the pincushion seam completely. It helps to make sure that the overlap of the trim will not be in the gap where you will be turning the pincushion through, or at a corner, so I made my overlap about an inch away from one corner.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

Then, right sides facing, I tacked the front and back pieces of the pincushion fabrics together, leaving a two inch gap along the bottom edge for turning.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

I trimmed the seam allowances so that they were off-set a bit, to cut down on bulk, and cut diagonally across the corners too.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

Then I backstitched round the edge along my tacked line. I did it all by hand because I don’t really like machine stitching, and I felt I could have easily ‘run over a bobble’ with a machine!!

Then I turned the pincushion right side out, and stuffed it with polyester wadding. I stuffed it quite hard, poking the stuffing into the corners with a pencil so that the corners didn’t crinkle up later.

When stitching the opening shut, I did it in two passes, stitching each fabric piece to the braid of the pom pom trim one at a time with a slip stitch, rather than trying to stitch the two fabrics together with a stab stitch through the pom pom braid.

I only removed tacking where it showed, which was only in one or two places, as it helps strengthen the seam.

This is the completed pincushion – I’m really thrilled with this!!

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

This is the back – the fabric looks great with this dark brown trim.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

Now that I’ve completed the first one, I’ve just got the other eight to do  🙂  They are great projects to work on in between bigger ones, as I get something finished in just a few days.

Cute, isn’t it? And I don’t even use pincushions……

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Little House Needleworks ABC Samplers – a new set of nine smalls to stitch – 1

I’m starting to make the Little House Needleworks ABC Samplers – a set of nine smalls to stitch, which will look great as a collection when they’re done.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

The fabric I chose to use for these is a 32 count evenweave from 123stitch.com called Country French Mocha linen by Wichelt (part of my big stash haul from January 2019). It’s a lovely soft fabric in a warm beige – the called-for fabric for these designs. I also used the called-for threads – mainly Classic Colorworks overdyed threads, with a few DMC shades too. I bought the charts and threads from Peakside Needleworks in the UK.

These charts were the first ‘caving in’ of my New Year Resolution not to buy any more embroidery things in 2019 (it didn’t last long at all!!). I just couldn’t resist these, as I just love smalls anyway, and anything with little buildings on in particular. So, they’ve been sitting in my stash since then.

They have only a 4 x 4 inches stitched area, so they don’t take long to do – that’s my justification, anyway.

I decided to do this one first – the one featuring the letters LMN – so I sorted the threads and fabric, and then changed my mind! The tidy part of me just couldn’t start half way through the alphabet!

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

So, I began with the ABC one instead, and I’m now going to do them in the PROPER order!

I like to colour in black and white symbol charts with coloured pencils before I start stitching, as my brain can make more sense of colours than symbols.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

I haven’t used Classic Colorworks threads before. They are nice to stitch with, but I found the gradations of shade changes a bit long and predictable (about half a metre each time), so I cut several pieces of varying lengths, and mixed them up when choosing each thread to use next, so that the gradations didn’t look so regular on my stitched piece.

I got this much stitched in about four hours:

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

But then I hit a snag. I really dislike stitching with white. It bores me to tears. So, having spent a while getting this far, I got really bored with it, and put it aside, avoiding continuing with it, even though by then I’d done all the white stitching. How stupid is that? Anyway, I eventually got over my stitching block, and finished it off in one long Sunday afternoon.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

I decided not to stitch the outer row of crosses as a border that are shown on the chart, as I think that’s more necessary if you’re going to stitch these as one large design, in three rows of three, so that you can work out how to tile the individual houses. As I’m making mine into individual pincushions, I want them to look more like the image on the chart pack, without a border line round the edge.

Now I’ve just got to do the finishing. I’ve chosen a lovely cotton fabric for the backing, from my quilting stash, and a tiny pom pom trim for the edge.

ABC sampler pincushions by Little House Needleworks

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Gingerbread Christmas tree by Victoria Sampler 5: the finished Gingerbread tree

It’s finished! The little Gingerbread Christmas tree by Thea Dueck of Victoria Sampler has come out really well, and can now join the other Gingerbread buildings in my village. If you’d like to stitch this too, the chart pack is available from  here.

Gingerbread Christmas Tree assembly of cross stitch model

I’m so pleased with this – it’s a great addition to my slowly-growing Gingerbread Village from Victoria Sampler. This is how my little Gingerbread Village looks now.

Gingerbread Christmas Village cross stitch by Victoria Sampler

Thanks for reading my blog during the past year! I hope you’ve enjoyed what I have written about. Have a great Christmas  🙂

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