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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Embroidered Cats: Hiroko’s Style – Book Review


Amazon Books

Brace yourself for a Cuteness Overload. And some incredible embroidery!

Whether or not you’re a cat lover (or a dog lover), if you’re an embroiderer and you appreciate meticulous embroidery, I think you’re going to be twitterpated with this book

Now, this is The Thing (full disclosure here!): I’m not a cat lover. I like the idea of cats. I’d like to like cats, but, thanks to the horrid allergy that plagues me whenever I’m around the little beasties, I try to avoid them at all costs. It’s a matter of being able to breathe, you see. I get a little testy when I can’t.

That said, I love looking at them from a distance. There is something rather regal, majestic, adorable, endearing about cats. And looking at them through the artistic renderings of an embroiderer makes these particular cats that I’m going to show you even more enchanting!

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

If you’re on social media – Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram – you may very well have come across Hiroko Kubota’s cats and kittens, many of which are featured emerging from the pockets of shirts. They are, in short, adorable.

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

In order to answer the questions she received over and over again about how she manages to embroider such perfect renditions of cats, Hiroko has written a fabulous book detailing her style and how she accomplishes her pet portraits.

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko’s Style is more of a visual documentary of how she creates her cats with needle and thread, rather than a strict how-to manual. It’s a fascinating little book, packed full of cat (and some dog) embroidery, each displayed in a series of developmental photos.

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

I mean, really. What is not to love?!?

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

And if the kittens don’t get you, the puppies will!!

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

While the book does cover some preliminary information about the embroiderer’s tools and supplies, keep in mind that it is not a project book and not entirely an instructional book, either.

You won’t, for example, learn specifics on design development or stitchery in general.

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

Instead, Hiroko takes the observer step by step through specific cats (which fall into categories – no pun intended – such as simple black and white cats, multi-colored cats, and so forth). She shows you how she develops the particular cat, working from a photo, progressing from her line transfer through to the finishing details that bring the cat practically to life!

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

Each cat is broken down, step-by-step in its development, each step presented with the corresponding thread colors used for each tiny section.

She uses three brands of stranded cotton throughout the projects: Cosmo (also called Olympia), DMC, and Anchor.

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

Under the photos in the developing series, she comments on technique, difficulties, and delights…

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

…until she brings you to the final stitches that complete the portrait.

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

Throughout the book, aside from the cats and the dog that she shows in series, you’ll find collections like the one above, featuring multiple cats of certain types (like long-haired cats, multi-colored cats, and kittens). Each collection is astounding! Her embroidery captures the personality and quirkiness of each animal in incredible detail!

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

Although there is no clear direction on creating your cat design, it’s clear that she works from a photograph, most likely tracing the main lines of the animal’s features to create a pattern, and then tracing those onto the fabric.

She goes from the line drawing…

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko's Style - Book Review

…to the finish, taking you along each step of the way!

The photos in the book are somewhat small, but they’re very clear. To really get in on the super-close detail, a magnifier helps. Viewing the pictures under magnification, you can see each little stitch, the way they blend and work together.

While I wish the pictures were slightly larger, I can see why they are not. The book is loaded with photos, and it would have been a huge volume if the pictures were reproduced at a larger size!


Hiroko has put together three fantastic videos, that I’ve shared below so that you can get a good idea of the process that unfolds in her book.

For subscribers who receive this article via email, the videos won’t be visible. Feel free to view this article on Needle ‘n Thread to play them.

The first video features the cover cat:

This second video features a drop-dead-cute kitten:

And this third video, a dog:

In a Nutshell

Embroidered Cats is an inspirational and eye-opening book. Although not strictly an instructional book, there’s much to learn from it and it’s definitely worth the investment if you have a love of realistic embroidery.

That said, I wouldn’t call it a beginner’s book. However, for the aspiring beginner who loves cats and dogs – well, I think this book will go a long way to inspire you!

On the pro side, the whole process is amazing to see unfold bit by bit, the animals are adorable, and the book is well written, simple, and charming.

A little con: again, the pictures are small, but if you have trouble seeing the detail, it’s nothing a magnifier can’t solve. I only used one when I wanted to really get in close and see a particular series of stitches. For casual viewing, the pictures are just fine.

Where to Find

Embroidered Cats: Hiroko’s Style is only available online in Hiroko’s Etsy shop. The book is self-published, and it ships from Japan.

For cat and dog lovers who stitch, it’s really a no-brainer! You will definitely want this book in your library! And even if cats and dogs are not your particular favorites in the animal kingdom, the process unfolded in the book will help you tackle any kind of animal that you want to stitch.

To sum it up in one line:

What a purrrrrrfectly happy book!!

(You knew that one was coming, didn’t you?)


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(14) Comments

  1. Thank you for this post and especially for the links to the videos. I am always very interested to discover different ways to make an embroidery.
    For needle painting, all the techniques I saw were progressing from one side to another. It is the first time I see that she makes lines of stitches away from the edge of the previous stitches, and fill the gap later. And it works marvellously.
    I would be quite scared to try to do it this way. But why not to try it once?

  2. Thank you for reviewing this wonderful book as I ordered this book this PM, Made cup coffee, waiting for book on front porch, HA!. HA!.

  3. I enjoyed your review today so much I ordered the book. I just was working online and received notice that my book is on its way………fast service too. I am looking forward to taking a look. I just happen to have a cat too so don’t have to get one of those. Thanks for all the articles.

  4. Oh Mary, you are missing out on the delight of finding black fur in your whitework and white fur in your blackwork! These embroideries look marvellous.

  5. Awesome. I’ve been wanting to stitch my cat since I took up stitching (she’s 17 but I started embroidering two years ago, it sort of feels urgent!) but she’s a longhaired, very dark-base tortie, and even achieving a good colour selection is boggling. This book looks very inspirational!

  6. Just ordered a copy! So excited to learn that she has a new book about embroidered cats! I purchased her first book several years ago just for the exquisite cat embroideries on shirts.
    If anyone is hesitant about ordering books from Japan, I’ve been doing it for several years and have never had a problem with delivery to Ohio. I love the Japanese books!

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