I was so delighted to be asked to review The Hand-Stitched Home by Caroline Zoob (ISBN: 9781906417932, Jacqui Small), because embroidery and applique takes up a lot of my creative thinking time at the moment (probably because of the recent Art Trading Card swap) – and the projects in this book give these skills centre stage.
Caroline Zoob (who is a self-taught stitcher – there’s hope for us all – you can find more of her work on her website and find her on Facebook just here) argues that you can find space for embroidery in modern day homes, whatever your decorating style, and this book really shows how this can be done, with suggestions for tiny touches of embellishment, to larger statement-sized projects.
As you can see, the style is simple and delicate, with a focus on natural fabrics, especially linen and subtle colours with country themes – flowers, animals, fruit etc., and there’s a very French country feel. Zoob encourages us to sew with vintage fabrics and threads – I do so love people who encourage the collecting of bits and bobs to use in sewing. Are you reading Mr Very Berry – really, it’s fine to have a house full of bits of thrifted fabric, buttons and thread, ok??
This picture of her lovely threads all organised in a vintage drawer is so mouthwatering!
What’s great is that Zoob speaks with knowledgeable experience of the sorts of things that are worth collecting – advice that I definitely need and will be digesting. She says:
The more you surround yourself with beautiful colours, textures and natural finds, the easier you will find it to dream up things to embroider. Most important though is to keep your eyes open to spot the things that lend themselves to being captured in stitches: the dots on the petals of a hellebore, the bare branches of trees outlined against a wintry sky or rolled bales of hay in a field.
This is an arrangement of flowers ready for sketching – a lesson in taking time and trouble to find your inspiration – beautifully photographed by Caroline Arber.
There’s a good variety of projects here – pictures, embroidered bags, embellished edgings for tea towels, shelf edgings and pelmets, mirror frames, chair covers, place mats, cushions, window dressings and more. I really enjoy the little boxes, scattered throughout the text, which explain where Zoob got her inspiration for a particular project.
The project instructions are clear, although I think there could sometimes be a little more detail in projects which require a bit of constructing, e.g. it’s assumed you would know how to sew a zip in a cushion. But of course this is not what the book is about, so we should probably expect to go somewhere else for the basics of home accessory making.
The author is not prescriptive about fabrics, threads and colours to use. Personally, I really like this, because the book is quite definite in wanting you to gain confidence in your own choices and ideas, but I know that some folks might prefer a little more guidance, so thought it was worth mentioning. On the other hand, there are templates, explanations of the stitches that Zoob uses, and descriptions of particular techniques, such as using fusible web and painting on fabric, so there’s no shortage of help when it comes to the main focus of the book.
The book is fully of lovely little details and ideas and design tips that you could take and use elsewhere in your work. I love the beautiful colour and texture of these trees:
and the combination of applique and very simple stitches to create these lovely harebells:
The Hand-Stitched Home is definitely a rich resource and a good addition to any stitcher’s library.
The great news is that I have a copy of this lovely book to give away. The giveaway is open to anyone, anywhere, and will run until midnight on this Friday 21 June. As always, you are welcome just to say ‘pick me!’, but I thought it would be in keeping with the theme of this book if you told me about where you find your own sewing inspiration – good luck!