Friday, November 25, 2011

Embroider Everything Workshop - book review

For the first time, I've been asked to review a book that might be of interest to doll makers. I'm so happy to be able to report that the book is beautiful!

Sewist Diana Rupp, creator of the Sew Everything Workshops, including her prior book of that name, has written "Embroider Everything Workshop", a comprehensive guide for beginner or aspiring embroiderers.

My late mother made counted cross stitch, producing about eight sweet embroidered bibs for my newborn and two crib blankets that were so pretty that I hung them. My daughter is now 12, and considers these to be her family heirlooms.  In a world where machine embroidered articles are available at many stores for very little money, I understand that the true value of embroidering monograms on dishtowels, or making small patches for your kid's jackets, is the love imbued in the process. Diana describes embroidery in part as meditative, and I have to agree that I feel that too when I embroider on my dolls and their costumes.

The work is a comprehensive introduction assuming no prior experience, and includes needlepoint, smocking and counted thread cross stitch as well as freehand linear and chain stitch based embroidery. Personally I would consider myself more than an absolute novice, but certainly not a proficient. So although I had some familiarity with some of the basic stitches, there is a lot more in the book that was new to me, especially the tips and tricks interspersed throughout.

I appreciated the clear diagrams of stitches in the first one third of the book, and the detailed information about different kinds of needles, threads and canvases. I learnt a lot of new stitch names, and enjoyed the historical info about embroidery and textiles that is featured along the way. Diana Rupp's passion for her vocation comes through in personal snippets about her journey and preferences.

The rest of the book is how-to projects designed for beginners to practice their new skills. Most of these are short and accessible for gifts, useful home wares, and a bit of fashion using different embroidery techniques. My favorite project in the book is the embroidered pet portrait, making an absolutely custom piece of textile art based on a photo of your pet, and demonstrating the skills to make custom embroidery designs from any photo. This is the kind of work that no mass-producing factory situation can duplicate.

Finally there is a series of brief Appendices detailing finishing, blocking and display techniques, some fonts for monograms,  and a useful index. The book is bound in one of my favorite crafting formats, the way I want my book to be bound when it is published, with a lay flat hard cover over spiral bound pages.

The special extras are an envelope of 48 pretty iron-on transfers as patterns and a pull out stitch practice card into which you are invited to poke holes. I'm not certain of the utility of this last item, since it is considerably stiffer than fabric and would not really facilitate some of sewing stitches. However it could be used as a template for practice stitches on fabrics, or a portable stitch guide.

So all in all, a useful, informative and pretty addition to a textile artisan's library.

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