Why, good morning! And a happy Friday to you!
Oh, golly! It’s That Dreadful Weekend. That One Dreadful Weekend of the Year that rankles me to the core of my being!
You know what weekend it is, don’t you?
Daylight Savings Time goes into effect.
Woe is me! Why do we do it?!
To get you through this abhorrent, nefarious, detestable, and downright dastardly custom of changing to Daylight Savings Time, I want to tell you about a book that makes me happy through and through. I think it might make you happy, too!
The book is called Colour Confident Stitching by Karen Barbé. It’s…. it’s good. In fact, it’s Really Good.
If you have ever struggled with choosing colors for an embroidery project, this book is for you! I’ll tell you about the book and along the way, I’ll make some brief comparisons with Colour Confidence in Embroidery by Trish Burr, which I reviewed here, for those of you who already have that book, or are deciding between the two books.
One of the questions that I tackle in my inbox on almost a daily basis is this, or a close variation thereof:
I want to embroider this design. Can you plan it out for me? Can you tell me what stitches, threads, colors, color numbers, techniques to use?
Unfortunately, I can’t usually answer these specific questions for you. To plan out an embroidery project from design to finish – stitches, colors, threads, materials, and everything that goes along with an embroidery project – is a huge job. It takes me weeks to plan a project, and then, once I start stitching it, there are always changes to makes, solutions and alternatives to find for things that don’t work the way I’d hoped. Even when I’m all afire to get the project finished, it can take a month or more before reaching a satisfactory conclusion.
Your best bet, if you want to plan out your own projects, is to arm yourself with good instructional help. A good stitch dictionary and a good book on color can get you through the planning stages.
Colour Confident Stitching is just the type of book on color that will help you plan projects. It will help you understand colors, how they work together, how to select them, and how to consider the whole project with the colors you’ve selected.
The book is primarily a book on color theory and grouping and choosing colors. That said, it’s not a complicated technical book on the scientific side of color theory. It’s a very practical book, it’s easy to understand, easy to read, and eye-opening.
Although there are some stitch instructions and some very basic projects at the end of the book, they’re not the reason to invest in this particular book. In fact, the last section of the book on stitching is rather meh. If you already embroider, you may find this part of the book somewhat underwhelming.
The book is divided into three main parts after the introduction.
In the introduction, you’ll find an overview on understanding color palettes. The author takes two approaches in the book: using color theory to build a color palette, and using color sensitivity to build a color palette.
Essentially, there’s the scientific theory of color, and then there’s our own instinctive approach to color. The author presents both approaches in the book. The latter is a little more advanced and requires a certain “training” of the eye help perceive and work with arrangements of exquisite colors.
The first part of the book deals with understanding color.
This is where the theory of color unfolds – the color wheel, the meanings we associate with colors, values and saturation, temperature. The author talks about creating color schemes and color cards. She also focuses on moods that can be created with color, color roles, and how to create a color palette using color theory.
The second section of the book is on feeling color, or color sensitivity. It focuses on how we “capture” color through our own personal experiences.
Barbé shows us how we can train our eyes (on the physical side of things) to “collect” together color combinations that are pleasing to us.
But she also approaches the notion of how the individual’s soul works with color and gathers ideas and inspiration that help form color groupings.
I know this might sound a little weird, so I’ll give you an example of what I mean, using part of the book.
Words, obviously, have meaning. And, while we can define very precisely what we mean when we say things, how we perceive and internalize a concept that’s imparted through words depends a lot on our experiences.
So, for example, in the photo above, Barbé uses a term – French Confiserie – which just means a French confectionary, or a place where you get sweets or pastries.
If you’ve experienced French pastries, hearing “French confectionary” is going to drum up certain notions of color in your mind’s eye. And you can create a color palette that imparts that notion.
Another example. Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights. The term drums up certain colors in your mind’s eye. How can you capture those colors and turn them into a color palette?
The author tells you. She gives you clear directions on how to train your eye – and your mind’s eye – to capture color, to feel your way through color selections, and to turn those color selections into palettes that work, not just for you as an individual, but that work for anyone who views your embroidery.
I’ll give you another example off the top of my head, that’s not in the book.
You can take the concept imparted by peacock and turn it into a color palette, using the author’s suggestions and instructions on working with color.
This second section of the book is a very interesting approach to color. While it’s an instinctive thing – we might do it anyway, without realizing what we’re doing – the author shows us how to turn our instinctive approach to color into concrete procedures that result in good color combinations that work together.
So while there’s a bit of theory and a bit of instinctive, perceptive work going on, she supplies us with practical methods to get to the end result – a good color palette for an embroidery project.
The final section of the book is on stitching with color. This is the project section.
I’m not particularly wowed with the projects or the instructions, although they are, in a way, cute or interesting. They’re just not the type of embroidery I’d normally undertake. If I had to draw a distinction – and this is in no way meant to sound snobby – the projects here are more “embroidery craft” than “embroidery art.”
This is one place where Trish Burr’s book, Colour Confidence with Embroidery, shines in comparison. The projects in Trish’s book are pretty amazing!
But if I were weighing the information on color and working with color between the two books, I’d say Karen Barbé’s book is much deeper and much more thorough on the whole color question.
So, if you were choosing between the two books, I think it would boil down to whether or not you’re looking primarily for a project book or primarily for an instructional book on color.
If you’re looking for a project book with amazing projects, then go with Trish Burr. If you’re looking to gain deep insight and thorough instruction on choosing color and working with color, then go with Karen Barbé’s book.
Highlighting a couple points that I really like about Colour Confident Stitching, I especially like the section on creating color palettes using color theory.
The author shows you how to build a color palette of several colors, using color theory, and she demonstrates how the palettes work out in actual thread. (She uses DMC thread colors throughout the book, since they are pretty universal.)
I like how she shows us how to abstract colors from images to create a color palette, and then how to make that color palette work on three different “degrees” of background color. This is extremely helpful, because we don’t always stitch on white!
The author also instructs on abstracting color from digital images, to create color palettes from digital photos that we find pleasing, color-wise. Good stuff!
Pros and Cons
1. Very thorough, accessible, and practical instruction on choosing and using colors in embroidery. If color theory has ever baffled you, this book will clear you up!
2. The examples of palettes and colors throughout the book are also given in DMC values, so if you see color schemes that you like, you know which thread colors to choose!
If you’re wanting actual embroidery instruction and projects, this is not the book’s strongest point.
In a Nutshell
If you struggle with color in embroidery, you will find clarity in this book! It’s excellent. I strongly recommend it if you want to get into designing your own projects.
Where to Find It
You can find Colour Confident Stitching through the following book affiliates:
In the US, Colour Confident Stitching is available for pre-order here, through Amazon. It is due to be released in the US in June.
Worldwide with free shipping, you’ll find Colour Confident Stitching available here through Book Depository now.