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Book Review Blended Embroidery by Brian Haggard

Blended Embroidery by Brian Haggard, softback published by C&T Publishing. ISBN 9781617458095, price 23.99 gbp. Available in the UK from www.searchpress.com

Always great to see a new book from this author. I love his style. This book covers how to blend the old and new, something Brian does to perfection. It covers inspiration, fabrics, stitch and projects. The introduction gives the story of Etta Mae and her trousseau. Seek and Find is all about finding things you can use in your work – it’s like treasure hunting. The projects are very satisfying. The Lacemaker is a very special piece; a small quilt with a beautiful lace edge and embellishments. There is a scissor holder and matching pincushion; a fabulous table runner; photo pincushions and sachets; a sewing butler including another pincushion, scissor holder and bag. There is also a gallery of work. Such a wonderful textile and quilting artist with a unique look. I recommend this book for its style and embellishments that could be applied to your own work.

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Book Review Sarah Payne’s Quilt School

Sarah Payne’s Quilt School, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782217305, price 12.99 available from www.searchpress.com

Simple projects, simple steps using pre-cuts for the novice quilter. For the novice one would expect greater detail about sewing machines, tools and materials, yet this section is brief. The book gets straight into the ‘lessons’. Each lesson teaches a simple skill with a simple project. The projects are useful and practical, the instructions clear and well photographed. There are 15 projects in all. However not one of the projects is made with care – the quilting is not lying flat or not in straight lines or not quite matching in most of the photos and it is very obvious. It just does not look like professional work. This poorly executed work is throughout the book and spoils the aim of the book, which is supposed to be to teach you to quilt with accuracy.

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Book Review The Art of Annemieke Mein

The Art of Annemieke Mein, hardback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782217657, price 25 gbp available from www.searchpress.com

Marvel at the textile skills of Annemieke Mein in this wondrous book of her work. Find skilful and amazing use of fabric, stitch, paint and embroidery to create imaginative flora and fauna that is sheer delight. Her subjects come to life, Mr. Frog is so textured you can almost feel his skin. Annemieke uses textiles as a sculptural medium to portray insects and other wildlife in natural settings. There are no less than 60 works of art shown in this book. Step into the world of a wildlife artist, outstanding in her field. See the detailed drawings and notes she makes. Discover how she selects fabrics and stitch to convey her subjects. She reveals the progression in her work, from early flat works through relief work (I am certain that Eastern Water Dragon’s eye just blinked) to the more sculptural work. Backgrounds blend, as they do in real life, as camouflage; the colours being very natural. Stitch just flows along leaves or quietly in the background. Even intense stitching just seems to blend at one with the fabrics and subjects; like a symbiotic relationship. In the high-relief wall sculpture, ‘Cup Moths’ the background shapes and colours are repeated in the leaf work, the cocoons blending beautifully; the moths themselves in relief but beautifully camouflaged. Other subjects include birds, beetles, wasps, gulls, branches, sea urchins, barnacles, mussels and kelp, seed pods, gum blossoms and grasshoppers. Each piece is accompanied by a description and often by drawings. Note the size of the panels, they are reasonably large wall pieces. Annemieke has also worked on costumes. She captures Australian wildlife like no other textile artist, detailed work to marvel at and admire. There is so much the textile artist can learn from this book – how to approach work, how to instil a feeling of reality, how to use colour and stitch to give form. This book was previously published in Australia in 1992. Highly recommended.

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Book Review The Embroidered Art of Chloe Giordano

The Embroidered Art of Chloe Giordano, hardback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782215837, price 25.00 available from www.searchpress.com

An exquisite book of gentle embroidery. Follow Chloe into her woodland wonderland of flora and fauna. Encounter rabbits, foxes, hares, a wolf cub, a fawn or dormouse all lovingly embroidered. See how the author works and how her embroidery has progressed into delicate backgrounds that complement the subject. She uses sketching and painting to create the designs, blending thread colours for each piece. Good details are given on the working methods. However, there are no guides to threads used or what to buy. This is the artist talking you through her work. Each embroidery is produced in a hoop. There are many samples of work and detailed step by step photographs to guide you. An inspiring look at the artist’s work for any lover of animals and embroidered art.

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Book Review Stitched Textiles: Seascapes by Amanda Hislop

Stitched Textiles: Seascapes by Amanda Hislop, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782215646, price 15.99 from www.searchpress.com

An exciting addition to this wonderful series that explores textile techniques and design. Step inside the wonderful world of seascapes with artist Amanda Hislop. Find original projects, step-by-step demonstrations, clear photographs and instructions and inspiration through design exercises. Discover how to capture the magic of the seaside, the shore and sea in stitch. Many wonderful samples of finished work and of how the artist works. Looks at inspiration, sketchbooks, drawing and mark making as well as methods. A delight for anyone who loves the sea and stitch.

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Book review – Whitework Embroidery by Ayako Otsuka

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.

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Book Review Painting Portraits in Acrylics by Hashim Akib

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.

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Book Review Machine Quilting For Beginners by C.S. Vagts

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.

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Book Review Quilts With An Angle Sheila Christensen

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.

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Book review Jean Haines Paint Yourself Positive

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.