Kits for hand embroidery are one of the best ways to learn a technique or a combination of techniques. With a kit, you have everything you need available, you don’t have to make any decisions about threads and fabrics – decisions that might stump the beginner and slow down the process of getting into embroidery. Everything’s there, ready for you to start stitching.
But for embroiderers interested in the various techniques of surface embroidery, it’s often difficult to find good embroidery kits that are instructive, challenging, and satisfying.
Rarely can hand embroidery kits be found even in local needlework shops, where counted cross stitch supplies and needlepoint offerings generally reign.
So if you want to work embroidery projects that focus on various surface embroidery techniques, you have two choices, really: design your own, or seek out one of the many designers who sell their kits directly through their own businesses. I’ve mentioned a heap of these designers on Needle ‘n Thread over the years: Phillipa Turnbull, Tanja Berlin, Trish Burr, Alison Cole, Jane Nicholas, Yvette Stanton, Jenny McWhinney – and there are many, many more embroidery designers out there who teach and who sell their own kits through their own businesses.
The kit that I have by Jen is from her golden medallion collection, and it’s called “Ginkgo”. It’s a decorative medallion combining blackwork and goldwork.
What I really like about Jen’s kits is that they are different. Some of them combine all kinds of techniques – she offers some that combine blackwork, pulled thread work, and goldwork. She offers several that feature a good combination of surface embroidery stitches for the beginner, there are some “light” goldwork designs that cover basic techniques.
In short, she covers a good range of levels and techniques with interesting, different designs that are somewhat abstract, and great for learning.
The Gingko kit arrived in a little box that contained everything needed to work the embroidery project, except scissors and a frame. Threads, a pattern sheet, an instructional booklet, felt padding, fabric, needles, beeswax – it’s all there, ready to go.
The threads, you might notice, are not all black. I really like the way Jen combines subtle color with her blackwork designs, to give them depth and interest.
And I love the little beeswax flower included in the kit!
The instruction booklet for “Gingko” take the stitcher from the set-up through the finish of the project.
This particular kit is an intermediate level kit (on her website, Jen points out the various kit levels available), so it assumes some knowledge of the techniques already.
Though the instructional booklet includes close up photos and instructions on thread combinations and so forth for each area of the design, along with photos of the progress of the work, there is no specific instruction on the actual “stitching” of blackwork in this level kit. The blackwork patterns are also not supplied separately or charted at all – you use the close up photos as a guide to working the patterns.
For a beginner, this is probably not the place to start. And for stitchers used to working blackwork from a chart, it may throw you for a minute.
But once you study the booklet, you’ll see that the photos are enough to go on – you can see the patterns clearly, and the intermediate stitcher should have no problem working the design.
The stitcher is also taken step by step through the preparation of the ground for the goldwork, and through all the techniques involved, including chip work, couching passing threads, and stretching and couching pearl purl.
So if you’re looking for fun and challenging embroidery kits that are a bit different, take some time to check out Jen Goodwin’s website and selection of kits!
If you’re keen to try her designs, but don’t want to purchase a full materials kit, you can find her designs and instructions available for purchase as electronic downloads in Jen’s Etsy shop.
US readers, remember to do the currency conversion! Jen’s located in the UK, so prices are listed in British pounds.
Incidentally, Jen will be teaching in the US next May, at the Royal School of Needlework’s “satellite” classes in San Francisco. She’ll be teaching a three-week intensive certification course in blackwork. If you’d like more information on that, sign up for the RSN newsletter. It comes out about once a month, with all pertinent announcements in it.