Whitework Embroidery by Ayako Otsuka, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782216896, price 14.99, available from www.searchpress.com
What a beautiful book this is. 30 gorgeous whitework embroidery designs for you to make. These interesting and varied designs use traditional stitches. The detailed techniques section is accompanied by step-by-step illustrations. The instructions show different types of whitework including drawn, counted and pulled. Two sampler patterns allow you to practice your skills. This book is suitable for beginner upwards. Handmade projects make perfect gifts and keepsakes and include table linens and items such as a teacosy, cushions, accessories, gifts for babies including a heirloom christening gown, and gifts for a wedding such as a ringbearer pillow. Embroiderers will find this book a pleasure to look at and practical with good projects and clear instructions. The projects are elegant. I have one niggle, all the photos are at the front followed by tools, materials, techniques and then the instructions and the back with only line drawings. I prefer clear photos with the project instructions.
Painting Portraits in Acrylics by Hashim Akib, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782215813, price 14.99 available from www.searchpress.com
Like most painters, I find painting portraits challenging. I found this book very interesting because for me it has a new approach. Treating the face like blocks. Akib tells us to beware of realism. This book enables you to master the essentials and capture the atmosphere, the character. It’s worth looking at no matter what your skill, for the treatment is quite different. Plenty of examples, male, female, young, old. Follow the 6 varied step-by-step projects. Faces, features and even full length portraits are covered. I particularly like the unusual expressions pages and the way they were presented. One thing of note, I found I liked the older style and not his new way of using very thick paint, but that is just personal preference and it is good to experiment and try different styles and ways of using paint. Also close-ups are not how the paintings will appear when viewed on a wall. I cannot believe it is 7 years since his last book, what a lot he has achieved.
Machine Quilting For Beginners by Carolyn S. Vagts, softback published by Annie’s Quilting. ISBN9781590128602, price 12.99 available in the UK from www.searchpress.com
A step by step guide to free motion quilting. Going from very basic to feathers and more challenging designs. Most quilters I meet want to learn or to improve their free motion quilting. There is one thing to learn – practice. This book helps you do just that. With clear photos and directional diagrams, it will take you through simple lines, hoops, leaves, swirls and doodles to beautiful feathers and curlicue designs. It includes basics, exercises and using guides. The basics section contains all you need to know about fabric, thread and setting up your machine. The free-motion exercises increase in difficulty, taking you from easy to expert in 20 steps. So feasibly you could go from beginner to expert in less than 3 weeks. Chances are you might need to practice a little more. The final section is about using rulers to mark your work. The work shown is not perfect and I believe that we have to let go of perfect when we free-motion. A handy guide to learning free-motion quilting.
A Field Guide Quilts With An Angle Sheila Christensen, softback published by C&T. ISBN 9781617456411. Price 24.99. Available in the UK from www.searchpress.com
Get started with tools, fabrics and basics. This book teaches angles – triangles, trapezoid, diamond, parallelogram and jewel, plus strip-pieced quilts and a primer ‘design your own blocks’. Each 60° shape section has great quilt patterns. The 60° shape is throughly explored through techniques and possibilities. Sheila has the same design philosophy as myself: one thing leads to another. Standard sizes make strips easy to rotary cut and piece. The colour section is basic with one glaring error, blue does not face yellow on the colour wheel. Basic quilting techniques include cutting, seam sewing, chain piecing. This book comes into its own when we get to the lessons. Great grids, instructions and quick reference charts, super blocks and fantastic quilts. Marks out of 10 – A plus for the quilt designs; as a designer myself I would still love to sit down and make most of these. Highly recommended as a thorough grounding in 60° shape, ease of use, inspiration for all levels and 15 wonderful quilt designs.
Jean Haines Paint Yourself Positive, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782216537, price 15.99 available from www.searchpress.com
With its glorious mix of pink and yellow watercolour paint dispersing in water, the cover is most enticing. However, there are so many similar pages in the book of just a splash of paint, that I felt a little disappointed. Jean is a wonderful painter but she has perhaps taken ‘loose’ a little too far in this book. The paintings that are there, like Starfish, or A Special Bridge, Roar and All That Glitters are truly wonderful. The simple building technique is very good. So why so many splashes instead of paintings? Yes, painting brings positivity into our lives. Yes, believing in yourself is good. Yes splodges of paint look good and you can call them by wonderful names such as ‘Positive Energy’ but does this make a good painting book? I would prefer to have seen more paintings than the author’s thoughts on positivity. More painting content would have been better.
Organic Applique by Kathy Doughty, softback published by Stash Books. ISBN 978-1617458231, price 21.99 available in the UK from www.searchpress.com
The intro chapters are more Doughty’s philosophy on life than quilting per se. I am very attracted to the colourful quilts and applique shapes in this book. I am particularly drawn to the organic flowers and plants. There are useful exercises for choosing fabrics. Instructions include basting, needle turn applique, EPP and hand quilting. You’ll also find a chapter on inspiration, although the photos in this are not very inspiring and poor quality. Design tips for those who prefer to use the book purely for inspiration and projects for those who need something more concrete to follow. If you are a Doughty fan and a lover of interesting fabrics and applique, you’ll most likely love this book. Something of a pot boiler perhaps.
Painting Expressive Landscapes by Carole Robson, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782215530, price 14.99 available from www.searchpress.com
A hallmark of this work is semi-abstract landscapes in watercolour and mixed media. The latter is water-soluble media and collage. The book is well illustrated with wonderful paintings, which should offer much inspiration. Flowing media are used to capture the essence of the natural landscape. You’ll find information on paint consistency; the usual watercolour techniques such as wet-in-wet and washes; pigments and their properties; colour and tools. There is also a section on ‘expressive techniques’. The author states these are not new and began with Turner, but mention should also be made of Ann Blockley, who has made many of these techniques her own. I love Carole’s paintings of her local landscape, although her work is very reminiscent of Ann’s to a point. Yet there is much here that is Carole, and for that I am glad. She is an experimenter and is pushing the boundaries. I like the abstracts and the use of digital art too. There are three step-by-step projects: Woodland with Silver Birch; Wayside Verge and Beach At Sunset, which explore the techniques. Fabulous images and easy to use.
200 Crochet Stitches by Sarah Hazell, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781844489633, price 12.99 available from www.searchpress.com
Discover new stitches and ways to work with crochet. For all levels, this book includes a fabulous directory of stitches and techniques. It is so easy to use. Clear step-by-step photos guide you all the way. A wonderful array of stitches to add a little oomph to your crochet projects. At a glance stitches at the front of the book are divided into stitch type. Getting Started takes you through everything you need to know from materials and tools to basic techniques. For each stitch, you will see a clear photograph, at least two step-by-step photos and a chart. There are too many stitches to single out, but I always love the waves and picots, the cross-over stitches and more. Lots to try out and beautifully presented.
Modern Art Quilts by Sue Bleiweiss, softback published by Stash Books (C&T Publishing). ISBN 978-1617456817, price 22.99 available in the UK from www.searchpress.com
This book includes Art & Design, Inspiration, Tools & Materials, Techniques, Putting It All Together, Projects, What’s Next? and an appendix for dyeing fabric. There are 7 projects to make and templates are included. The book concentrates on fusing and quilt as you go. This is a book for absolute beginners. It gives a basic introduction to the elements of design with very basic exercises. The inspiration section is also very limited. There is a good example of an artist statement. However, with everything that is already available on every subject broached in this book, there is a wealth of better information and examples to be found. I was disappointed.
Free Motion Quilting From Ordinary to Extraordinary by Jenny K Lyon, softback published by C&T Publishing. ISBN 978-1617456374, price 23.99, available in the UK from www.searchpress.com
Subtitled ‘3 Steps To Joyful Machine Stitching in 21 Days’, this sounds like a challenge I need to take. The book is separated into chapters: Inspiration – a look at what inspires you; Before You Take A Stitch – the basics of needles, batting (wadding), sewing feet and great tips for setting up your workspace; 21 Days Of Practice to build confidence in twenty minutes a day; Five To Learn On involves more practice on set projects such as postcards, a panel quilt, quilting from the back; quilt as you go and a panel for a Denim jacket. Your Personal Quilting World – all about finding yourself and enjoying your work plus a stunning gallery of work, motifs and more. This book is for the not so confident free-motion quilter. Jenny has us thinking about density, scale and repeats. It is not a how to do stippling or other set patterns, it is more about finding and creating your own motifs. By week three, you’ll be making small projects to show off your skills such as placemats, a small quilt, hot pads and a larger quilt.