Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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A Starter List for Designer Embroidery Kits


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Last week, we had a great discussion here on Needle ‘n Thread about designer embroidery kits.

“Designer Kits” – sounds a bit snobby, but for lack of a better term, this is what I call embroidery kits that are created by a specific designer and usually only sold through that designer. You won’t find them, for example, in big box craft stores, and usually not even in local needlework shops (although sometimes, you might).

Designer Embroidery Kits and Where to Find Them

Designer kits are normally very fine embroidery kits, containing extensive, well-written instructions and superior materials. They often concentrate on specific techniques, and they’re a great way to learn those techniques and to improve your embroidery skills overall.

They’re also the perfect solution for folks who are isolated in the embroidery world – who might not have easy access to good embroidery supplies, for example – and for those who want to work the project without the headache of gathering their own supplies. When the kit arrives in the mail, you’re good to go and you can start without delay!

There are heaps of advantages to purchasing designer embroidery kits, many of which were discussed in last week’s article and the ensuing comments below the article.

The article generated quite a few inquiries about where to find designer embroidery kits, so today, I thought I’d offer you a list of designers who produce kits, to get you started in your quest to find the perfect project for you!

Designers of Fine Surface Embroidery Kits

This is a starter list – I’ll most likely add to it over time. With these listed below, I’ve either worked their kits, seen their kits, or followed their work for a long time and know, by their reputation, that they produce quality kits.

Keep in mind, these are hand embroidery designers, specializing in different techniques belonging to surface embroidery (as opposed to counted work). While they may cross over into counted work now and then, they’re primarily surface embroidery designs.

Trish Burr (South Africa) – Trish specializes in needle painting, especially flowers and birds (but other subjects as well). Recently, she’s also been producing a series of kits called “Shades of Whitework” that involve whitework embroidery techniques. Her kits are normally partial kits – the include fabric, needles, instructions, but not threads. She relies on easily available threads.

Tanja Berlin (Canada) – Tanja offers a range of kits in all kinds of techniques. Her instructions are among the most thorough you will see in the embroidery kit world. Her kits come with all the materials you need to finish the project – threads, fabric (pre-printed), beeswax for goldwork kits, and so forth. She doesn’t miss any details, and considering what you learn from her, her kits are an amazing value. She also offers email feedback on them while you’re working them, if you need help.

Hazel Blomkamp (South Africa) – Hazel’s kits focus on surface embroidery mixed with fun techniques, stitches, beads and bling. If you’ve been reading Needle ‘n Thread for a while now, you know I’m currently working one of her kits and really loving it. Supply-wise, they are extremely thorough and well organized kits, with quality supplies. You can order different supply levels for the project you want to work – maybe you just want the pre-printed fabric, for example. Or the threads and beads. She offers quite a few purchasing options. Her kits are based on projects in her books, so you’re required to buy the books (her books are affordably available worldwide through Amazon and other book outlets) in order to work the projects.

Canevas Folies (Switzerland, available in the US through The French Needle) – Laurence produces beautiful little (and sometimes a little bigger!) surface embroidery kits, usually featuring flowers and incorporating all kinds of stitching techniques. They’re very pretty kits, and they’re a great way to indulge in the pleasure of surface embroidery and to enjoy a finished project relatively quickly. The come nicely pre-printed on the linen. In some cases, you might have to source your own DMC thread, and while there are instructions, beginners might find a stitch dictionary beneficial while working the designs.

Alison Cole (Australia) – Alison offers a Massive Abundance of Incredible Kits! Her goldwork kits are always what draws me to her website, but she also offers stumpwork kits and combination goldwork and stumpwork kits. The kits range in complexity and you will be lost for hours, strolling through the gorgeous pictures of them on her website! She includes all the threads, fabric, and instructions. While I have not personally seen any of her kits yet (I have a long wish list!), I know by reputation that they are excellent.

Jane Nicholas (Australia) – Jane specializes in stumpwork embroidery. Her kits include everything needed to complete the project, except instructions, which are found in her books (widely available through book outlets). Her designs are gorgeous! Beginners should start with smaller designs and work up to her more complex projects. This is another case where I haven’t seen the kits personally (the wish list again!), but her reputations guarantees a good kit!

Lorna Batemen (UK) – Lorna specializes in surface embroidery, and her kits are for various types of projects, including beautiful pincushions (she works them over a lovely wooden base), scissor keeps and the like. The kits come in a pretty bag, perfect for keeping everything together, and they include threads, fabrics, instructions, and all the embellishments needed to complete the project.

Jen Goodwin (UK) – Jen produces a range of kits that focus on blackwork, goldwork, combinations of both, and other surface techniques. Her kits come beautifully boxed, with all the supplies and instructions you need to complete them.

Inspirations Magazine Kits (Australia) – Inspirations Magazine offers kits for all, or most, of the projects featured in each current issue of their magazine. You can subscribe to the magazine for the instructions, or you can purchase one-off copies. The projects are designed by the authors of the articles in the magazine, so lots of designers here, but the kits are assembled by Inspirations Magazine, and they contain everything you need to complete the project, except the instructions. Designs are not usually pre-printed on the fabric.

Threads in Bloom (USA) – Sharon Shetley offers many nice Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery Kits, with threads, fabric, needles and instructions for working the project.

Crewel Work Company (UK) – The Crewel Work Company specializes in historically accurate crewel embroidery kits. The kits come beautifully bagged, with the pre-printed heavy linen twill, all the crewel threads needed to complete the design, thorough instructions, needles, and any extras (beads for eyes and so forth). There are various levels of kits available, too, but all are equally thorough.

Jenny McWhinney (Australia) – Although I haven’t seen her kits personally, Jenny’s work is beautiful, she has a pristine reputation for instruction, and her books are wonderful, so I’m guessing her kits are just great! Her work ranges from beautiful to exotic to downright adorable.

Jan Kerton (Australia) – At Windflower Embroidery, Jan offers kits for beautiful stumpwork projects that cover a range of levels. The projects are generally small and manageable. Although I haven’t seen her kits personally, her reputation as an instructor proceeds her, and her designs are lovely.

Gary Clarke (Australia) – Gary’s work is enchanting. I always love seeing what he comes up with next! His embroidery on organza is gorgeous, and his kits look quite thorough. Another situation where I haven’t seen his kits personally, but he has a tremendous reputation as an instructor and his designs are excellent. I just love his artistry!

Kay Stanis (USA) – Kay specializes in all kinds of techniques, but they usually involve some kind of metal thread embroidery. Her work is gorgeous. She often teaches for the EGA, and she offers kits on her website, The Gilded Edge. I’ve not seen her kits in person, but she is another case of a brilliant reputation, so I’m sure they are excellent.

That should get you started in exploring the world of Designer Embroidery Kits. Down the road, I’ll highlight other sources for surface embroidery kits, too. I’ve got a few to look into, and I’ll let you know what I come up with!

Coming Up on Needle ‘n Thread

In the meantime, don’t forget that the Colour Complements thread give-away ends this Friday, if you haven’t signed up yet.

Very soon, I’m going to show you some finished stumpwork elements (whew – it’s about time).

You should see the books lurking on my bedside table, begging for reviews. Oh, oh! They’re good! Some reviews coming up.

I’m dying to show you a reader’s contribution that just oozes charm! Lots of stitching details to go along with it, too.

And some glorious (and I mean Stinkin’ Glorious!) Thread Talk coming up, with all kinds of exciting thoughts and ideas and news bubbling around it.


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(36) Comments

  1. GayAnn Rogers occupies a space between needlepoint and embroidery and her kits are exquisite. Her directions are extensive and clear and she is quite gracious about answering any questions you might have. I am currently stitching Catherine the Great’s portrait. Her kits are available through her website several times a year.

  2. Wow! What a treasure! You are so good to put that list together for us, Mary. Thank you so much — I am sure I will refer to this again and again.

  3. I just ordered the kit of the month from Tanja Berlin’s website. I’m a sucker for the owls and half price sales 😉
    Thank you for the info.

  4. I’ve worked (or am working) kits from several of the designers you mention. Jan Kerton and Jenny McWhinney have well written instructions, great materials, lovely designs and plenty of supplies so you won’t run out of threads. Take a look at the Smocking Arts Guild of America (SAGA) site (www.smocking.org), many of the instructors offer kits on their websites that have embroidery on items to be used, rather than framed. Some examples are Barbara Meger, Suzy Gay, and Laura Jenkins Thompson. I’ve taken classes and purchased kits from all of them and the materials and instructions are excellent. I agree with the comments about Anna Scott, I’ve stitched a lovely embroidered purse from one of her kits. Oh, and don’t forget Phillipa Turnbull. I’ve never stitched one of her kits but they are glorious!

  5. For those who are looking for very good, beginner-level kits, Jessica Grimm and Wendi Gratz (Shiny Happy World) have really nice ones.

  6. A wonderful list. Thank you. I have several kits from the artists you listed. I love the kits because, despite the desire, I fall quite flat when trying to design my own work. The kits give me the satisfaction of the working without getting discouraged by my own design efforts. In time I might feel creative enough to venture forth. In the Until then, between the kits available and the wonderful projects you feature I will never be without something to put my needle to.

  7. Kathy Rees (US) of Needle Delights has fantastic geometric counted canvas patterns, that come kitted or pattern only. She has done a couple of custom color setups for me and I could not be more pleased with the results.

  8. Dear Mary

    Missed this post yesterday I was so busy trying to create my latest fabric journal for my Great Niece. What a great list so many designer kits it’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing the information of specialists embroiderers who create designer kits. I can’t wait for the up and coming posts on stumpwork, thread talk and book reviews.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  9. Can you give credits for the pieces shown in you photo? I would love to order th kit with the iris, and I’m sure other would be attracted to various kits too. I’ve looked a bit, but have not found that design yet.

    1. Thanks, Mary. I love Tanja’s designs, but have been so focused on birds I missed the iris. Thanks for the information.

  10. So lovely to see all these names together Mary and thank you for the mention. We really get a strong sense from our end that more and more people are willing to dedicate the time to hand embroidery and the high quality offering from all of these designers is testament to that. As far as we can tell from our little corner of England, it is by not means a dying art. Phillipa & Laura x

  11. I recently completed a kit from The Tapis-tree. I had a great time with it and the customer service was excellent (they well send you more thread if you run out and the designer answered a lot of my questions). The only thing was that some of the colors were not to my taste but since the kit uses almost all DMC thread, it was easy to make substitutions from my stash or something new.

  12. Yesterday I only had time to scan this list, but this morning, I took my time going through it. It’s a very impressive list!
    Some were designers that I knew about, but several were unfamiliar. I purchased a small ribbon embroidery kit from Lorna Bateman for a friend’s birthday. And I added four or five items to my own wish-list.
    I really appreciate kits by designers. It’s not feasible to travel and take classes from each of them, but by working through a kit that they’ve put together, it’s the next best thing!
    Thank you, Mary!! Oh yes, add Tristan Brooks to your next list.

  13. I think you should also add the UK’s Jenny Adin-Christie (http://www.jennyadin-christieembroidery.co.uk/Home.html). She does exquisite surface and raised embroidery designs, and her kits are really something else. They come with the design already transferred onto the fabric, very, very detailed instructions, and more than enough materials. They also come packaged in a cute little calico bag.

  14. Mary- just a little addendum to your notes on the designers. .and one in particular…Trish Burr. I have done several of her wonderful designs, both from electronic pattern downloads and from one of her books. On several occasions I have had questions or run into technical difficulties. I have emailed Trish with my questions and she very graciously replied back quickly and thoroughly to assist me. Just right your readers may like to know just how Gravois trish is with help.

  15. Thank you yet again Mary for assembling a great list. I had a look at the Canevas Folies kits and almost had a conniption when I saw the price for the Compton kit. I really don’t have a problem with people who design and assemble kits charging for their time and creativity, but this one seemed quite dear – certainly out of my range anyway.

    I confess to a little frisson of pride at the number of Australians on your list. It is good that we seem to have thrown off the ‘cultural cringe’ of earlier years and are putting ourselves and our work out there. Keep it up, Australian women and man.

  16. I am glad someone else remembered to list Tristan Brooks. I have done four of Barbara’s kits. They are lovely, the instructions are excellent, and they include excellent and doable finishing instructions. I second that recommendation!

  17. This question doesn’t really pertain to this post, but I didn’t know how to contact you. I was wondering if you had any links to somewhere I could have an embroidery design printed with wash out ink. I would like to have my design printed to use in teaching classes?

  18. Another vote for Amy Mitten. I’ve been doing embroidery & needlepoint for 60 years and her kits are the best I’ve ever seen. The instructions are so complete and accompanied by so many pictures that it’s almost impossible to go wrong.

  19. Dear Mary,
    I’ve been curious about embroidery kits for a while now. I’ve tried making my own little projects but needless to say I get carried away, very disorganized, and finally discouraged. I was hoping a kit would reinvigorate my love for embroidery.
    I would like to try Japanese style embroidery, I don’t suppose you know of any kits that are more Asian oriented? Thanks a bunch.

    1. To piggyback on Jessica’s suggestion: Margaret has three different kinds of kits. There are what she calls “foundation” kits, which include everything: pattern, instructions, thread, needles, and photographs. The thread-only kits are to be used with projects from her (excellent) book, “The Art of Chinese Embroidery,” and then she has full kits for projects from the book, which include the pre-printed designs, silk threads, needles, stitch guide, and instructions. Her kits are really well done.

  20. I absolutely look forward to coming home from work and opening your email blog! Thank you for the opportunity to come home and unwind with your blog!

  21. I came upon this site by accident——how fortunate for me! I’m always looking for something stamped in more of an advanced level. Perhaps I’ll find something from one of these designers. Thank you for this list. In Stitches, Katie

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