31 January 2013

Review: Stitch Step by Step by Maggi Gordon and Ellie Vance

I love needlepoint. Seriously, of all the crafts I've tried, needlepoint is my favourite. I'm not sure why. I don't think I'm particularly great at it (you know how your work is supposed to look just as good on the back as on the front? Yeah...not so much). The results don't generally have a practical use, like say, a sweater you knit or a necklace you beaded. It's kind of expensive and time consuming. And can cause some serious eyestrain. But there's something so completely relaxing about it. And there's a satisfaction in making something purely for the sake of creating (as opposed to for the purposes of wearing it or eating it) that resonates in a way more practical endeavours don't.

That said, when DK Canada sent me Stitch Step by Step to review as part of 2013's Start Something New theme, I was excited. This is a book made for me. Besides needlepoint and embroidery, it covers smocking, openwork, beadwork and more. It is a book of sheer inspiration, but it also gives you the knowledge needed to turn that inspiration into completed projects. As with any intricate craft, clear instructional photos are key and you get them here. In fact, this is one of the best sources I've found for showing stitches. There's also useful information on topics such as how to use an embroidery hoop and transferring designs.

As with my review of Knit Step by Step I tested the instructions by trying out some of the techniques in the book that were new to me. And the verdict?

Fern Stitch: First let me say the light grey instructions placed over a dirty white background is nobody's friend, and it recurs throughout the book. That is definitely a design fail. Luckily the photo instructions are much easier to decipher and the fern stitch was a breeze.

Spider's Web: A cool filling stitch that's also fun to do (okay maybe I have an odd idea of fun). The instructions were clear and easy to follow.

Byzantine Stitch: I love this stitch. It's another filling stitch that has a lovely staggered, geometrical appearance. It's a slightly tricky design to get right (and I think the instructions could have been more detailed) but it's not a difficult stitch to learn.

Leaf Stitch: One more filling stitch, composed of interlocking leaves, and another easy one to do once you get the hang of it. It creates a lovely effect.

One thing I learned from Stitch Step by Step is that there's really no such thing as a difficult embroidery stitch. All you need to do is break it down into smaller steps. Which I suppose is the way to do any task, really. But this book has boosted my confidence and made me even more excited about delving deeper into the craft of embroidery. If you have any interest in needlework (or think you could with the right encouragement) I highly recommend this book. It'll help you get through any project, whether following a pattern or working your own designs. So far I'm loving trying new things in 2013. Hope you are, as well. If you're still looking for your new thing to try keep an eye out for my future reviews on sewing and preserving.

Stitch Step by Step by Maggi Gordon and Ellie Vance. Published by DK.

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