Needlepoint (17)

My reviews are listed below, but you can also click on this link to buy & find reviews of even more Needlepoint Books

(Titles are listed A-Z by author. Check side bar for links to book reviews covering different stitch techniques.)

CREATIVE EMBROIDERY TECHNIQUES USING COLOUR THROUGH GOLD by DAPHNE J. ASHBY & JACKIE WOOLSEY

Although title says ‘Creative Embroidery Techniques’, the specific technique used throughout is canvaswork (needlepoint).  I would like to say that the different techniques implied refer to the use of gold within the designs, but actually, they just use different stitches (not really a technique, per se).

The principle that the book is based on uses gold threads to enhance your needlepoint.  However, the book is predominantly project-based, and it would be very easy (if, for example, gold isn’t really ‘your thing’) to either leave the gold out of the designs, or switch the colours to suit yourself.  It is a great project book, if you specifically like geometric patterns.  There are relatively few different stitches used, but the results are often quite striking.

Given the title, I did expect a little more variety in terms of technique, but for basic needlepoint it is a good starting point.  The stitch diagrams in the glossary when the book begins are very clearly charted and explained, as well as being shown alongside examples of the stitches used within finished pieces, which is very useful.  The section titled ‘Inspiration and Variation’ is minimal (3 pages), but may give a couple of ideas.

But the bulk of the book is given over to the projects.  As I have said, these are striking.  The instructions are thorough (including finishing), but I have to say I am not keen on the charting in this section, most of whch is shown as coloured blocks (annotated in key) but not laid out as a traditional needlepoint chart on a grid.  All the designs are block-based so in a way it makes sense; but I’m sure there are instances when the blocks intersect each other when, actually, it would be far easier (at a glance – because who wants to sit & work it all out?) to follow a stitch placement diagram.  But perhaps I am just too used to counting…  There is an interesting section briefly covered towards the end with regard to combining free embroidery with canvaswork.

In summary: the title is misleading, as the only embroidery technique really covered is needlepoint; and the only creativity involved is in the stitcher interpreting the ‘original’ method of charting.  However, this is a nice book of geometric needlepoint patterns, to which I personally believe the inclusion of gold is incidental.

NEW CANVASWORK: CREATIVE TECHNIQUES IN NEEDLEPOINT by JILL CARTER

This beautifully presented book is full of wonderful ideas, starting-off points, and suggestions for using different techniques. I just can’t pinpoint what it is about it that doesn’t QUITE hit the mark. I’m not saying it isn’t a very good book: it is. I have bought it, I will be reading it from cover to cover (unlike many craft books, there is actually quite a lot of text to read, though not densely written), and I have no doubt that it will spark lots of ideas. The canvas-colouring section, for example, has really caught my interest.

I think what stops it being an outstanding book, though, is simply that it skims over lots of interesting areas without going into them in any depth. It is not a project book (good), but nor is it, in my opinion, a techniques book, despite being subtitled ‘creative techniques in needlepoint’. It explains lots of different ideas and possibilities but not (in all cases) exactly how-to-do. However, there aren’t many books currently available on this subject (especially this side of the Atlantic), so buy this book for inspiration, because it WILL inspire you; use it to gather ideas and then experiment. Although I would prefer greater depth and detail, it is still a very welcome addition to my needlecraft library.

THE LIBERATED CANVAS: A Creative Approach to Canvas Embroidery by PEGGY CORNELL

At first glance, this is a luscious book, with glossy pages crammed with photo illustrations in striking colours.  Having just read the Field & Linsley Canvas Embroidery book (review below), however, my initial feeling was that the first half of Cornell’s book was really just an abridged version of theirs, albeit more lavishly presented. I felt the same slight disappointment as with Jill Carter’s New Canvaswork book (review above), as though some areas were skimmed over a little too lightly, making it seem more like an overview than a practical guide.

However, the book redeems itself.  What raises this title above others of its genre is the gallery of ‘experimental samples’ and finished needle artworks in the latter half.  Of course, the pieces are inspiring in and of themselves: very richly coloured, and representative of different textures and combined techniques. In addition, however, each piece is accompanied by a commentary on the design and sitching processes involved, and this, in many ways, is a lot more interesting, illuminating and useful than any practical guide I have encountered.

Although slightly disappointing at first, this book grew on me dramatically, and the contents did live up to the beautiful presentation.  I know I will refer back to it time and again.

BARGELLO: A Fresh Approach to Florentine Embroidery by BRENDA DAY

CREATING CONTEMPORARY BARGELLO: A DESIGNER’S GUIDE by IONA DETTELBACH

CANVAS EMBROIDERY by PEGGY FIELD & JUNE LINSLEY

Sadly now out of print, if you have any interest in needlepoint design (or embroidery in general) this is an absolute essential, and I highly recommend tracking down a second hand copy.  It begins with basic techniques, stitches and their uses etc, but it never talks down to he reader, and is not really intended for the beginner.  From the outset, inspirational stitched examples are shown, to demonstrate how striking results can be borne of the simplest ideas.  The wonderful thing about this book is that it shows how creative canvas embroidery can be, and that it is not necessary to be limited in terms of design.

There is a great section on using marbling to create bargello patterns (wow!), as well as instructions on how to marble paper and canvas directly, and space-dyeing your own threads.  There is a general section on design methods, absolutely full of original ideas that can’t help but kick-start ideas of your own.    If you ever find stitching on canvas a little restrictive, you will learn how to liberate it!  Working three dimensionally, combining different techniques, painting materials – whole new worlds can open up to explore!

I guess this is really what I was hoping for from Jill Carter’s more recent (and currently available) book.  Carter’s book gives beginnings of ideas to work from, but Field & Linsley really push the ideas further, and (to my mind) give a lot more to think about.  Good luck locating a copy – it might not be easy, but it’s worth it!

BARGELLO MAGIC: HOW TO DESIGN YOUR OWN by PAULINE FISCHER & ANABEL LASKER

THE NEEDLEPOINT BOOK by JO IPPOLITO CHRISTENSEN

This is generally accepted as the bible for needlepointers.  It gives probably more information than you need to know in the basic information section (possibly a little daunting to a beginner) – useful if you are considering experimenting with different thread types etc, to know their qualities beforehand, though.  It tells you everything you need to know about stitching needlepoint, and more.

Different stitch techniques are given a basic overview, but you need to look elsewhere for thorough information.  The design section is interesting, and can be treated as a brief workbook.  It is a very interesting introducton to design concepts within needlepoint, but by no means comprehensive.  The color section gives a sound introduction to colour theory, but would benefit greatly from some colour illustrations!  Again, I do think more in-depth information here would not go amiss, considering it is technically a textbook.  An evaluation section is, however, more thorough, and pushes the reader to consider their designs more carefully.  Blocking and finishing is covered in detail.

The bulk of the book is given over to a comprehensive (350) stitch dictionary, with clear stitch diagrams, instructions, and b&w photos (which obviously do not show off the stitches to best effect).  A 16 page colour supplement in the centre of the book showcases a variety of very impressive needlepoint projects, demonstrating different styles, effects, colours etc.   A section at the back of the book gives a small, approximate line drawing for each piece, with a key to the stitches used in each area.  No further instructions are given, so if you wanted to work the projects, a lot of initiative would be necessary (but I guess you will have learned the relevant principles from the book).

Overall, while this is a very comprehensive needlepoint guide in some ways, I found it very dry and lacking in personality.  It tells you everything you might possibly want to know about required materials, fibers, canvases etc, and how to prepare and finish your work.  On those levels it can’t be faulted.  Perhaps if you are interested in a very conventionalform of design, the information provided here is sufficient; however, there are other books that give a more in-depth and creative grounding in design for needlepoint (admittedly not necessarily readily available), if that is your area of interest.  The stitch reference guide – as, in fact, most sections of the book – would have benefited greatly from colour illustrations.

I feel as though it is expected that I should like this book more than I do, but it really doesn’t float my boat.

BARGELLO ANTICS by DOROTHY KAESTNER

FOUR WAY BARGELLO by DOROTHY KAESTNER

CURVE STITCHING by JON MILLINGTON

Back in the 60s and 70s there was a craze for a craft technique sometimes known as pin art, sometimes pin & thread, and probably various other things.  This involved nailing a board at measured intervals and creating curving geometric patterns by stringing the nails together.  More recently, the same principles have been applied to ’embroidery on paper’, by punching holes into cardstock and interlacing the patterns.

This book refers to the latter technique, but when I look at these patterns, all I see is needlepoint stitches.  If you are familiar with the designs of Jean Hilton, Susan Portra, Orna Willis (etc), you will know what I mean.  This is a fantastic book!  It gives diagrams for entire families of stitches and shows you how to create your own based on a set of essential principles.  The mathematical context of the stitches is also fully explained (with equations etc!), but you can skip this bit and just refer to the patterns, if you don’t want or need to know the background.

Perhaps some needlepointers would reject this book due to the fact the patterns are not charted in a traditional needlepoint way, but the conversion really doesn’t take a huge imaginative leap.   For me, this is one of the most practical design books I have come across, and it doesn’t even realise it is completely missing what would be its perfect target audience.  On the other hand, if it was marketed as a needlepoint book, it would cost at least 2, possibly 3 times as much (although it would still be worth every penny).  At £7.95 it as an absolute bargain!

NEEDLEPOINT DECOR BAGS: Canvas, Colour, Stitch and Thread! by DIANA PARKES

This book evolved from classes run by the author, and as such, is refreshingly different in style and content from most project books.  There is a good stitch dictionary with clear diagrams (hand-drawn, which is a nice touch), and the most interesting part for me, a good how-to guide for colouring canvas by four different techniques, including pros and cons for each method.   There are also blank-lined spaces throughout the book, so that you can make notes on your own samples and experiments as you progress.

For me, the book is a little too project-based, including charts and very comprehensive instructions for making and finishing 9 different bags.  However, as project books go, the colours are striking, the designs original and innovative (and easily adaptable, just in case you don’t really want to make 9 bags!), and you will feel the arc of the learning curve as you work.

A gallery is included of work produced by students, and right at the end, some guidelines for using the book to produce your own needlepoint decor bag, either by adapting the patterns and ideas provided or branching off on your own.  I would have preferred slightly more emphasis on this section, but I can also see how the preceding sections of the book can be read as building up to it, if you choose to do so.

All in all, this is a very well produced and presented project book, ideal if you are looking for some slightly challenging pieces of needlepoint, or the feel of a workshop-learning environment within the comfort of your own home.  Buy the book, take the ideas and run with them!

BEAUTIFUL BARGELLO by JOYCE PETSCHEK

READER’S DIGEST NEEDLECRAFT GUIDE: CANVAS WORK

As a needlepoint stitch guide, this is okay.  The stitch diagrams and instructions are clear and easy to follow, and accompanied by a stitched-example photo.  I know it’s just a reference guide, but the samples are quite dull, all stitched entirely in one shade, and all of the stitches in either red or green.  A bit more colour variety, or stitches shown within context of a project would have demonstrated the stitches to better effect (for example, as in the Anchor Book of Canvaswork Embroidery Stitches).  A small section does look at creating different patterns by combining 2 colours, and patterns used to fill background areas.

There is a 12 page section on designing canvas work, including considering canvas gauge in relation to the amount of detail you want to include, using different threads and stites to create different effects, painting or outlining a design directly onto canvas, how to read charts (I think most of us are already familiar with that!), and a section on creating repeat patterns.  Some of the techniques described such as tracing paper and graph paper are probably now nearly obsolete in these days of computer-charting.  All of these things are really just skimmed over, anyway.

The most interesting section of this book is titled ‘Designing and working Florentine embroidery’.  This looks at (obviously) bargello patterns, briefly looks at colour relationships within design, and eplores different ways of extending and modifying stitch patterns to create new deigns.  Again, with computer-charting available to us, we probably don’t need to actually get a mirror out, nonetheless it is still a very practical section on  regular and 4-way design.

A couple of unexciting projects are also included.  As a how-to and needlepoint stitch reference guide, this is a functional offering, but by no means the best available.  I would only really recommend it if you are interested in bargello design but even then, one of Dorothy Kaestner‘s books would probably be better.

THE BARGELLO BOOK by FRANCES SALTER

FREEFORM BARGELLO by GIGS STEVENS

GOLDEN HANDS BARGELLO: A PATTERN BOOK by MARTYN THOMAS

Here are links to some more blackwork books that I don’t own, but you may find useful/interesting. Although I don’t currently own them, I have acually owned most of them at some point in the past. I don’t think this qualifies me to review them fully, as above, but I will add one or two notes that may or may not be useful to you, depending on what I remember of them:

ANCHOR BOOK OF CANVASWORK EMBROIDERY STITCHES – I have sadly discovered that I have misplaced my copy of this book, so can’t give a very detailed review.  As I recall, though, it is laid out like a stitch dictionary, with one stitch per page given full instructions and stitch diagrams, and a full page colour photo on the adjoining page showing the stitch as used in a completed piece of stitching.  I belive instructions for some (but possibly not all) of these projects were included at the back of the book.  I always thought this was one of the best stitch reference guides around, as it demonstrated so successfully how needlepoint stitches can be used creatively, whilst at the same time giving a very solid basic grounding in individual stitches.   The Anchor Book of Counted Thread Embroidery Stitches is very good, too (better than its cover photo suggests).

PAINTING WITH STITCHES by SUE DOVE I haven’t even seen this book, yet, but the author is a tapestry weaver, and I think it could be very interesting to see how and where the two crafts meet.  As I understand, a lot of the designs within the book are stitched on canvas rather than an embroidery fabric as you might possibly expect from the title.

DESIGN YOUR OWN NEEDLEPOINT by GITTINS & PETERSEN– I don’t know this book.  My suspicion is that it relates specifically to design for tent stitch, but I may be wrong; and even so, I assume it should give a good grounding in design theory for needlepoint as a general concept.

NEEDLEPOINT: A Foundation Course by SANDRA HARDY– It’s years since I saw this book, but from what I recall, it is definitely less a beginner’s guide and more (as the title implies, to be fair) a progressive course.  It covers the basics, but also covers elements of design, speciality threads (overdyed, for example) and other things I can’t remember – I really need to look at this book again to review it fairy, as I do remember  it being good! I think what put me off buying it at the time was that the variety of projects included is quite wide, and only a couple of them appealed to me.

INSPIRING DESIGNS FOR NEEDLEPOINT by CLARE MUZZATTI

IDEAS FOR CANVAS WORK by MARY RHODESI don’t think I have seen this book, but I have seen and own other books by the author, who is very innovative in terms of style, and provides very thorough information and ideas with regard to technique and design.

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