Have you noticed that there aren’t a whole lot of surface embroidery kits for general embroidery available on the market?
Individual designers produce their own kits in specific techniques, but when it comes to general surface embroidery (as opposed to goldwork kits, whitework kits, stumpwork kits, etc.), you have to do some real looking to find any available on the market.
The French Needle carries a variety of surface embroidery kits imported from Switzerland. Among them, I particular like the Canevas Folies embroidery semi-kits. I like their little floral kits best, because they incorporate a large variety of stitches into a relatively small, pretty surface embroidery project.
Canevas Folies has recently produced a line of decorative floral initials in semi-kit form, and I think they’re really pretty!
I love the floral combination in these decorative initials. You’ll find all kinds of flowers here, from wisteria to roses to irises to water lilies, and more.
The initials themselves are quite large, at 5″ high, with the design printed on a very nice natural colored linen.
Although the designs are large, the details are quite small. Much of the stitching is done with one strand of cotton floss (although ribbons and a couple other thread sizes figure in the designs). You can see in the photo above one part of the initial I’m working on, with a regular #9 crewel needle in the background. So the little bits on the design are definitely little bits.
I think the variety of elements involved in each letter, along with the delicate execution of each element, lends to the overall fun in stitching something like this. There’s enough variety to keep you moving along with the design, eager to work the next element.
You can see here the whole initial – it’s an I. The printed part of the design is quite dark, very easy to see and clearly printed.
I love the wisteria! But then, I’m a sucker for French knots and for dripping flowers.
While I love the design, the variety of stitches and elements in the design and the whole idea and scope of them, the semi-kits for the letters fall short in the instructional area. I wouldn’t advise them for absolute beginners, and intermediate embroiderers might want a good stitch dictionary on hand while stitching these.
The kits come only with the printed linen and a partial instructional sheet, one side of which has an image (and not a very clear one, unfortunately) of an embroidered initial in the alphabet. The instructions are really just a map of what stitches are used for each element on the design. There are no actual stitch instructions included.
Even within the descriptions of what stitches are used with which elements, there can be some confusion. It takes a little investigating to work out exactly what is supposed to be done on what element. Simple elements that involve daisy stitches, buttonhole stitch, and French knots are clear enough, but when an element calls for a combination that isn’t necessarily well know (like “buttonhole bullion”), a beginner might have a hard time envisioning what stitch is being recommended for that particular element.
I found it disappointing that the instructions weren’t more thorough. I know it takes a lot of effort to put together instructions, and I know that there are some designers who assume that the embroiderer should have the wherewithal to figure things out, but when creating a product for the market – especially kits, which are usually a springboard for learning – I think the designer should strive to make the product as clear and thorough as possible. The instructions here are not exactly user-friendly.
On the other hand, if you have some experience with various embroidery stitches and you have a good stitch dictionary on hand, you’ll be able to figure out the stitches and combinations on your own. It’ll just take a little more work. And in a sense, this would make the kit a better learning experience. You’d have the freedom to make substitutions, too. (You have that freedom on any embroidery kit, but it’s easier to move away from the designer’s intentions when they aren’t clear in the first place!)
The kits do not come with threads. But the folks at The French Needle have put together a palette of threads for the designs, using threads from House of Embroidery, out of South Africa. House of Embroidery uses European cotton threads and Japanese silk ribbons as a base, and then hand dye them in a variety of color ways.
The thread palette includes mostly stranded cottons, with two types of silk ribbon and three types of perle cottons. It’s a muted thread palette, very heavy in greens, and it works well for this alphabet.
There’s enough thread on the thread card to embroider several of the initials – I’d say at least five, and if you’re careful with the ribbon, maybe even more.
Pros of the Mille Fiori Alphabet Kits
1. For those whole like floral designs and decorative initials, they’re really nice designs.
2. They involve a variety of stitches that keep the embroidery interesting and fun.
3. The design is pre-printed, so there’s no transfer involved.
4. I like the linen ground fabric a lot!
5. The thread palette assembled by French Needle – not included in the kit but sold separately – is nice. The colors and threads work well with the alphabet.
Cons of the Mille Fiori Alphabet Kits
1. Thorough instructions are lacking.
2. A clear, sharp photo that shows the details of the stitches is lacking.
3. Considering the lack of thorough instruction, the semi-kits are somewhat expensive. Granted, it’s really good linen, but for the price, I’d expect a little more instruction.
Still, if you’re fond of flowers and decorative initials, they’re great designs on good linen! And pre-printed designs on good linen are hard to come by!
You can find the Mille Fiori alphabet kits available in the US at The French Needle. In Europe, you can check the list of distributors on the Canevas Folies website or visit their online retail shop. There’s quite a list!
Enjoy the weekend!!