East Dakota Quilter


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Book Review: The Stitch Bible by Kate Haxell

Since the new projects I’m working on aren’t quite ready to be revealed, I thought it might be fun to do a book review this week.

Background: I decided to do my first embroidery project in September 2012. I found a pattern I liked and completed it as the first square of my sampler quilt. I did stem stitch for the entire thing since instructions came with the pattern, and I used all 6 strands of my embroidery floss. Since then, I’ve been poking around on Pinterest and finding many new projects that would require enhanced skills. (Check out my Embroidery board on Pinterest!) I’ve read about different techniques and how most embroidery experts use fewer strands of floss. When I found The Stitch Bible by Kate Haxell, I was really excited. I admired it online for months before deciding to buy myself a copy. A major reason for the hesitation was that, due to copyrights, the only photos I could find were of the cover; I wasn’t sure what to expect inside. I didn’t see it at my local stores, although I have to admit I didn’t look especially hard.

Stitch Bible

Pros: There were some things this book did really well. First, it had really detailed stitching tips. The stitches themselves appeared in the usual A-B-C format graphically, but there was plenty of supporting commentary. Not only did the book cover each stitch extensively, but it also included a wide range of stitches. Finally, the book did a good job of laying out the more basic aspects of embroidery, such as selecting the correct fabric, which needles to use, how the different threads/yarns compare, history of each type of embroidery, etc. Some of the tips were things I’d already read, but many were new.

Neutral: I thought this book would cover many filling stitches for traditional embroidery. Instead, the book split its time among freestyle, hardanger, blackwork, crewelwork, goldwork, pulled thread, canvaswork, and drawn thread–in addition to the basic overviews I’ve already described. I personally would have preferred less of the canvaswork, for example, and more of the blackwork section (featured on the cover). But I do understand this is a matter of personal preference.

Cons: The book covered a limited number of projects: one for each topic. Each project might incorporate a few of the different stitches in that genre, but the photos were so pretty and the stitches so well-described that I found myself wishing for more project ideas. (Internal dialogue: Now that I know how to do the stitching, where would I use this technique?) The other disappointment for me was the lack of photos. Most of the book was comprised of stitch diagrams with just a few photos to show the technique. The photo on the front is a good example. It shows various filling stitches and a fade-out effect and represents almost the entire blackwork section. The photos were so pretty, and I really would have loved to see a photo of each stitch next to the diagram. (Once I have followed the directions, I want to know: Did I do it right?!)

Conclusion: This is the only sewing, craft, or embroidery-related book I have purchased, and I don’t regret my purchase. I find that, combined with the internet, it will be very useful. The book names the stitches and diagrams how to create them. I can supplement with the internet to see what the finished products might look like and how the stitches have been used in other projects.


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New Medium – Coche Crochet

Early in my newfound sewing inspiration, I spent a lot of time on the Purl Bee website. I fell in love with their receiving blankets project, bought some flannel and wool, and put the materials in my projects box to gather dust. Since I’ve spent the last few weekends traveling for work, I have really missed my creative outlet. I decided to resurrect the project because it is mobile, unlike my million ton 1970s sewing machine. This was also a good project because I have decided I have to finish most of my current projects before doing anything new… and I have lots of new ideas!

But this project didn’t quite go as planned.

First, the flannel was a pain to sew. You have to fold the edges under so they don’t ravel, and since it’s a baby blanket, I figured it was too small to bother with changing out my needle, etc. The result was that my thread broke at each of the four corners, sometimes more than once. Ugh.

Next, I thought winding my beautiful wool yarn into a ball would take about 10 minutes, so I started it as a relaxing exercise 10 minutes before I wanted to go to bed. The final ball, sans the last several yards that got tangled and were cut from the rest after some cursing, took an hour and a half.

Yarn

That was just the preparation to make my project mobile.

While I love the creativity of Purl Bee, I found these instructions a little confusing for someone who has only ever crocheted a few lines, and those several decades ago. I’m not saying Purl Bee did a bad job; I was just had trouble following instructions that took a few minor details for granted. I would have liked some comments of affirmation and a little further instruction, such as:

When starting the project, don’t worry about that tail of yarn. It’s supposed to be there. You’ll take care of it later. It won’t cause the rest of the crocheting to unravel, I promise.

and

Yes, you’re going to put your needle through the same hole. But don’t make the loop around your crochet hook bigger to reach from the edge of the blanket to the hole. Instead, you’ll be pulling thread from the back up to reach the loop. If you make the loop bigger, you’re going to have a mess that will cause you to re-read and re-do steps 1-50.

You know, those sorts of helpful hints. Also, I didn’t like working with such thin yarn, as it was tricky to get one loop through another with such a mischievous, tiny needle. It was easier to catch strings of the flannel than it was the yarn!

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I am finally finding my groove. It’s fun being able to work from my car over lunch breaks – makes me really look forward to them. And I learned some valuable tips about crocheting. (For example, my cup holder is the perfect size for a ball of yarn.) I expect my next project should go better as a result.

crocheted edge blanket by dakota patchwork

UPDATE: It’s finished!crocheted edge blanket by dakota patchwork

P.S. Translation: Coche means “car” in Spanish.