Reported by Erika Martin
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I learned to embroider as a young girl, and remember watching my grandmother do beautiful work on pillow cases. I remember getting my first embroidery hoop and being excited to start doing my own free-hand embroidery work on pieces of cotton fabric. I still enjoy embroidery, and started teaching my daughter to do hand needlework a couple of years ago. What seemed to be a lost art is quickly seeing a new revival these days.
Having the opportunity to review Judith Baker Montano’s Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool was something I was really looking forward to. I’m always looking to expand my library of hand-stitching books and tools, and I’m constantly looking for new ways to embroider. I was especially interested in learning how to use ribbon in embroidery, which is something this tool shows how to do.
The Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool boasts over 180 stitches and combinations, tips for needles, thread, ribbon and fabric and illustrations for left and right-handed stitching. The book also has a nifty easel feature so that the book stands up for easy use.
As soon as you flip open the book, a Stitch Guide is included to know which fabrics work best with certain threads/yarns and their respective needles. Flip a couple pages in and you’ll find a Stitch Index completely alphabetized with illustrations for easy identification. Next, you’ll find a handful of pages with tips and tricks for stitching, fabrics, frames/hoops and more.
If you were doing these stitches for the first time or just needed a brush-up on how to do it, you simply go to the alphabetized stitch index at the front of the book and find the stitch you’re looking for and then turn to the page number shown under the stitch.
On each page, you’ll not only find the instructions, but there’s an up-close shot of the stitch in a thumbnail-sized photo from an actual stitched project.
I’m right-handed, but knowing some lefties (my son also happens to be a lefty), I know how hard it is for them to find instructional books that show left-handed diagrams. It’s a huge plus that this book included both left- and right-handed instructions and diagrams.
From there on out, you’ll find all of the stitches until you get to the end of the book and find the combination stitches diagrams.
I like to stitch on unusual fabrics. I chose to use the bottom of a pair of jeans that I had taken in for a friend of mine. It was perfect to make a little purse out of. I started out by doing one of the stitch combinations from the back of the book using stitches I already knew how to do.
This stitch combination uses the chain stitch and french knot.
I used a white marking pencil to draw a wavy line across the piece of denim so that I would have something to follow as I stitched.
I then stitched an olive green chain stitch along the white line. (I like to use three strands of embroidery floss for most of my stitching.)
I added chain stitches for the blossoms an light purple french knots for the little flower buds.
As you can see, my stitching very closely resembles the stitch combination shown in the book.
Next, I started going through the stitch index to pick out some stitches I either hadn’t done in a while or that I had never done before. I chose to go with the Lazy Daisy Double stitch. While I’ve done lazy daisies before, I never thought to do a double.
I stitched my row of light purple lazy daisies to create flowers along the top of the soon-to-be purse.
Then, I stitched a dark purple lazy daisy around each to finish off the double stitch look.
Because I do a lot of my stitching free-hand (without drawing out guide lines to stitch along), I realized that my flowers were open in the middle. I filled in with some bright yellow french knots to create some really cool textured flower centers.
My next step was to create some leaves and vines so I used a back stitch for the vines. Then, I looked at the book’s stitch index and picked out a leaf stitch for the vine. I chose the Fishbone stitch (one that I haven’t done in ages). I used my white marking pencil to draw out the leaf outlines.
The outline made stitching well-balanced leaves a breeze.
Along the bottom of the purse, I did another of the stitch combinations, but tweaked it up a bit to include a Colonial Knot, and used back stitching instead of the curved buttonhole stitch that it called for.
I had a bit of trouble getting the Colonial Knot down (I’d never done this stitch before) and this is where I found that my visual learning skills needed just a bit more than a diagram. With most stitches, I can usually figure them out with a little bit of time along with the diagram. The colonial knot, though, took me a good 15 minutes and about 10 tries along with cutting the floss and starting over and over again. Once I got it down, though, I found it very easy. This is where I could have used just a couple more steps in the diagram to make it easier for my learning style.
I stitched the bottom of the pant cuff up and added a couple of light yellow grosgrain ribbon handles to finish the purse off.
It was then on to the ribbon embroidery. I’ve always loved what I’ve seen done with embroidery and ribbon and have wanted to try it. Using the Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool was a great way to start.
I bought some yarn darning needles for the ribbon embroidery. Yarn darning needles have bigger eyes which make it easier for fitting ribbon through (chenille and tapestry needles are also good for ribbon embroidery). I chose some silk-type ribbon to use for my project and some thin satin ribbon, as well.
I chose a piece of cotton patterned fabric and put it into an embroidery hoop which is something I don’t use a lot, since I tend to do better with holding my fabric in my hand as I go along. Since I was working with ribbon and the stitches were a little more unforgiving, I went with the embroidery hoop.
Using the book as my guide, I created some beautiful ribbon flowers and leaves (Couched Rose, Jan’s Antique Rose, Five-Petal Gathered Flower, Freeform Flower and Japanese Ribbon Stitch). I really like that some of the stitches use other stitches as their foundations, so once you have one down, you’re already half-way there on learning another stitch.
Two of the ribbon flowers that I liked creating the most were the Freeform Flowers and the Five-Petal Gathered Flowers. The diagrams were very clear and I loved the way they came out. I can see myself making more of these for other projects and not just on fabric projects. I will definitely be making more using a lot of the different width ribbons that I have and putting them on scrapbook pages, shadow box art and mixed-media creations.
I added some small faux pearls that I found in my grandmother’s old button tin for the centers of my small flowers.
After I added a bunch of Japanese Ribbon Stitch leaves, I used a ball point pen to very lightly write out the words I wanted to stitch on my project. I used a back stitch to embroider the words.
I readjusted my fabric, tighted the screw on top of the hoop and trimmed away the extra fabric from the back and I’m totally impressed with myself and the way my project turned out.
For my first try with ribbon embroidery, I’m very pleased, and have found myself hooked on ribbon flowers.
- Convenient size to carry on-the-go
- Wire bound for easy flipping and flat-laying of pages
- Easel feature so that the book stands up for easy use
- Very exhaustive collection of 180+ stitches and combinations – great for new stitchers and veterans alike
- Alphabetical stitch index
- Right- and left-hand instructions and diagrams (in full color)
- Full color thumbnail photo of actual stitch
- Tips, chart and “getting started” section for needles, thread/yarn, ribbon and fabric
- Variation of stitches also included on many of the stitch diagrams
- If you’re a very visual learner, some of the more complicated stitches might take you a little longer to master despite the illustrated diagrams.
- The price could be off-putting for some, but when you price it out, it’s only 13 cents per stitch tutorial!
It was really hard to find cons for this product; I found it very well put-together, comprehensive and exhaustive. It’s a book that I’ll get a lot of use out of and it’s something that I can share with my daughter as I continue to teach her the beautiful art of embroidery.
Have you used C&T Publishing’s Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stick Tool? Where do you find your stitching inspiration? Leave us a comment and let us know!
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