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Stitch Along Review
Disappointing! The artists featured in this book are talented and creative. Unfortunately, the selected projects and motifs - with a few exceptions - are not their most inspiring ideas. Many seem like they would be in the "freebies" section of a blog. This is, of course, my subjective opinion but the biggest problem with the book is technical and therefore not subjective.
The instructions are terrible! A beginner embroiderer would be lost trying to follow the stitch diagrams. I would challenge anyone to try to make a decent French knot or a bullion using the method described. As I will describe, some of the stitches needed for projects simply aren't included.
The book is filled with errors and missing content. The most frustrating part of the book for me was trying to make sense of the one project that I really liked, Sami Teasdale's "Blackbird Sewing Kit". The embroidery, a faux stamped envelope with a black bird on it, is a combination of Cross-stitch and Blackwork counted stitch techniques. As far as I could read, the term "Blackwork" is not even mentioned in the book, much less described. Despite directions to, "embroider... according to the stitch guide," there is no stitch guide! Instead there is small stitch grid with the pattern in color, with lines connecting from each differing element to margin notes. On other patterns these margin notes would tell the stitcher which stitch to use; in this pattern, the notes tell you which color to use (which is quite redundant as the design is in color!). They tell you that the stitches you will use are, "Holbein stitch ([aka] Threaded running stitch), Cross stitch (full, three-quarters, and variations, see page 20), [and] Straight stitch ([aka] Running stitch and Seed stitch)." Well, page 20, "Cross Stitch Basics" doesn't cover the Blackwork-type variations used in the pattern and barely explains the "Basics" of cross-stitch, despite a full page of text and poor diagrams. The design certainly appears to include Backstitching around the bird and stamp (Backstich is the most common stitch to outline Cross-stitch elements, but it is not listed for this project). Hopefully, Lark Books or Jenny Doh will publish an errata that includes the stitch guide for this pattern, but so far I can't find one.
My second favorite project is Megan Eckman's "African Wild Dog Pillow". To be more precise, I like the extra motifs for the pillow that are included in the back of the book. Unfortunately, those motifs are reproduced at a much smaller size (I would guess ¼ but the book fails to say) and in color. These are very detailed designs, so one would have to scan them, enlarge (which would degrade the resolution, print them in color or greyscale and transfer them. It would be much easier to transfer these and all of the designs in the book if there were black versions, as color and greyscale are harder to see and trace and you need black and white to do toner (laser printer) transfers. A link to PDF versions in black and white would have been nice, and you would still need the book for the color references.
This is an inexpensive book (MSRP $16.95 but only $10.93 on Amazon) and it shows. At least one of the projects looks like it was done during a last minute all-nighter. There are other errors and confusing instructions that I haven't mentioned, and I would bet there are some I missed (for instance, I didn't read many of the sewing instructions as I was most interested in the hand embroidery designs). Jenny Doh has done a lot of these compilation books, and there are some I really like, such as "Stamp It!", which was terrific.
The best thing I can say for this book is that it introduces the reader to some good designers, most or all of whom have blogs for further inspiration and designs. Then again, there are great embroidery blogs, Pinterest boards, and other sites that are free, as well as magazines that are comparably priced or cheaper, all of which will point crafters to talented artists. Descriptions of this book tell you which artists are included. Google them!
I would hate for this to be anyone's introduction to the art of embroidery. The book would confuse and frustrate any beginner and might turn him or her away from trying embroidery again. Save your money and spend it on materials, highly recommended books, or patterns direct from the artists instead.