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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Flowers for Elizabeth embroidered sweet bag: 11 – making the cords and tassels, and it’s finished!!

This is the final post about the ‘Flowers for Elizabeth’ sweet bag project from Inspirations magazine Issue 51. I’ve just got the cords and tassels to make, to complete this lovely project!

To make loops for the tassels, I stitched a row of Corded Coral Stitch along the bottom edge of the bag (as on the top edge – but, again, I wasn’t very happy with this stitch, as it came out rather messy). Part-way along the bottom edge, I made two Buttonhole Bar loops, to hold the tassels.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

The cording for this bag is quite ingenious – you have to make cords that use four colours at once! The instructions on the pullout sheet are clear, though, which helps. I started by making one cord with two of the colours, using lengths 44 inches long of each colour. Then I looped two new colours through one end of the newly made cord, and twisted a second cord (this did mean that with every twist, the already-made cord flips over and over, which seems a bit weird, but just get a helpful person to keep untangling it as you twist, and you’ll be fine!). Then you twist the cords into one and knot the ends. You need to make several of these, in different colour combinations.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Two lengths of a  pastel-toned cord are then threaded from either side through the orange Buttonhole Bars on the front and back of the bag to form the drawstrings. Another cord is stitched to the sides of the bag, with the knots at the base cleverly hidden by tassels being made over the knots, to hide them. More tassels are made to loop through the Buttonhole Bar loops along the base of the bag. A darker-toned cord forms the long handle.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

So, here it is! Finally finished!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

This has been a very interesting project to make, and, as usual, a good design from Susan O’Connor.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

It’s not too difficult to make (even the assembly isn’t too bad!).

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I still think that not including actual designs for each of the letters of the alphabet was a bit of a cop-out, but the back could have been left plain instead, if I hadn’t wanted to design my own.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

It’s a very pretty little bag, and a good replacement for the similar one that I had stolen years ago.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

There’s enough happening to keep your interest all through the stitching.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

And it’s got strawberries!!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

And lots of sparkly bits!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bagSo, are you tempted to have a go at stitching this one? Inspirations magazine sell a digital download of the instructions for this sweet bag, so although the actual magazine is no longer in stock on their website, you can still buy the pattern. So, you’ve got no excuse now, have you?!

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Flowers for Elizabeth embroidered sweet bag: 10 – assembling the bag, and shaping the top scalloped edge

Now that I’ve finished stitching the front and back panels for the ‘Flowers for Elizabeth’ sweet bag from Inspirations magazine Issue 51, I needed to do the assembling of the bag. Never my favourite bit, with any project!

The first thing to do was to stitch buttonhole bars on the front and back panels, to thread a drawstring through. These were made in a similar way to needlewoven picots, but with both ends attached to the fabric, so really I just needed to make three thread lines on the fabric, 1/8th inch apart and half an inch long, and then weave the thread in and out along the bar until it was filled.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I like pictures like this one – it’s the last time it’s possible to take one picture with both sides showing at once!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Having trimmed the fabric to the correct size, allowing half an inch for the seam allowances, I then made a lining from olive green silk, to the same size, and pinned around three sides on each one, leaving a two inch gap along the bottom edge of the lining for turning through later. There is a mistake on the assembly instruction sheet here, because it says to start and end your stitching ‘at the marked points’….but there aren’t any! You just need to start and end at the places where the scalloped top edge straightens out at the sides.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Once I’d worked out the stitch line of the embroidered pieces, I trimmed back the calico lining, to reduce bulk.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Then I stitched the seam (by hand – I couldn’t be bothered to get my machine out!), and turned it right side out.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I also stitched the lining seam, then put the embroidered bag inside the lining bag, right sides together.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I used this template from the instructions to mark the stitchline for the scalloped top on the lining pieces, having tacked lining and bag together temporarily across the top edges. If the lining and embroidered pieces don’t quite match up at this point, go by the front fabric edge when straightening things up, not the lining.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Then I Back Stitched around the scallops with very small stitches, and trimmed and snipped into the curves up to the stitch line.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

The instructions said to work Corded Coral Stitch along the top edge, which I did, but I really didn’t like the look of it. With hindsight, I think it would have looked better with a beaded edge.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

The finished top edge of the bag.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Now I’ve just got the tassels and cords to make, and it will be finished!

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Flowers for Elizabeth embroidered sweet bag: 9 – stitching the border, and the initial on the back

This is how far I’ve got with the ‘Flowers for Elizabeth’ sweet bag that I am stitching from the design in Issue 51 of Inspirations magazine. I’ve been stitching the border recently, and the initial for the reverse side of the bag.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

The border is composed of two rows of Interlaced Chain Stitch. It’s a simple stitch to do – you stitch the Chain Stitch line first, and then take a new thread (in a different colour, in this instance), and interlace the new thread down each side of the chains, without going through the fabric, so that the chain stitch ends up looking bi-coloured. It really helps to use a tapestry needle, and not a sharp needle, when doing the interlacing!

It is important to get the direction of the lines of Chain Stitch correct, as when you interlace the sides, it highlights the direction somewhat. I started in the top left and bottom right for each colour of border line, working outwards from those two points around the bag’s edges. That is, I didn’t start in one corner and go all the way round. Does that make sense? Hope so!

Once I’d done the inner border line, I couldn’t resist adding the little sequins, rather than waiting till last. These are tiny ones – only 3mm diameter. I had to buy what seemed like millions to get hold of these at all (from Etsy.co.uk), but they are very pretty. Larger ones wouldn’t have looked as dainty. The instructions called for 2mm sequins, but I couldn’t find those anywhere.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

The outer green border was then stitched like the inner border, so now it’s complete.

I’ve just noticed, as I’m writing this, that I missed describing the little ladybird on the small leaf in the lower left hand corner at the time that I stitched it. That was stitched after the Satin Stitch for the leaf had been done, mainly by eye as I couldn’t mark the shape on the fabric due to the Satin Stitch of the leaf itself. It’s worked in Padded Satin Stitch for the body, with the dots, legs and head in Straight Stitch.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

In the magazine’s instructions, I felt that the next part was a bit of a cop-out. It just says to ’embroider the leaves, strawberries, flowers buds and tendrils in the same manner as the front’. What it doesn’t tell you is that you have to design it yourself! They give you a basic alphabet outline to start with, which needs enlarging, but all the flowers, buds, leaves and strawberries have to be added by you…..

It’s not so difficult for me to design something like that, as I do embroidery designing for a living, but I really think they should have bothered to design the letters, or at least design something generic as well for people who couldn’t design their own.

Anyway, here’s the letter J that I designed for mine:

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

This is only three inches high, so the embroidery has to be quite fine. The strawberries are about 3/8 inch diameter, but I still padded them with two layers of Satin Stitch padding in the same way that I had for the larger ones on the front of the bag.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

The other elements were stitched as on the front, too.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I’m really pleased with how this turned out – it’s very pretty, but still readable:

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Seen from this sideways angle, you can see how the padding really makes a difference to this piece.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

That’s all the embroidery done. Next up is the assembly…never my favourite part, but I want to see this finished now!

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