Quite a while ago, Kathy Shaw asked me if I would be interested in seeing her new book, Stunning Stitches for Crazy Quilts, when it was published. And of course, I said yes!
For those of you who have been hanging out with me on Needle ‘n Thread for a while, you already know I’m a bit of a book fanatic. I love books, and I really love needlework books.
When it comes to the pleasure of just browsing a book, I really enjoy books that are visually exciting. I’ve noticed that most books on crazy quilting have that element of visual excitement.
Stunning Stitches is one of those visually exciting books, but it is much, much more. It’s a practical guide to traditional crazy quilting, presented in a very organized, accessible way for beginners and beyond. Let’s look at it…
Stunning Stitches for Crazy Quilts does exactly what the cover promises – it presents the stitcher with 480 (!) variations of embroidered crazy quilt seams, along with 36 templates to help you with the perfect placement of the stitches along the seams.
This is not a “how to crazy quilt” book – rather, it is a practical guide to creating a whole slew of different seams embellishments.
The book is comprised of four parts: an introduction that covers some basic stitching information and supplies used for seam embellishing, a section on templates and how to create and use them, a stitch dictionary covering all the simple stitches used to build seam embellishments, and a vast gallery of embellished seams with diagram layouts for building each of those seams.
The book is organized and direct. It’s easy to grasp the guiding concept behind Kathy’s method of building embellished seams for crazy quilting. It provides practically an infinite resource for seam embellishing, by combining and mixing and matching the different layouts, elements, and stitches offered in the book.
If you’re a crazy quilter who’s always looking for seam ideas, or if you’re an aspiring crazy quilter who isn’t sure where to start with building decorative seams, the book will provide you with all kinds of ideas and inspiration, based on some very simple concepts.
Right at the beginning of the book, we are introduced to the idea of building an embellished seam by starting with a base structure and adding layers of decorative elements.
The author presents some embroidery basics, so that the newcomer to crazy quilting can start with foundational knowledge and move forward pretty quickly into the really fun part of embellishing seams.
There’s a nice section on supplies, covering threads, ribbons, beads, charms, other embellishments, along with the practical tools of stitching, too.
Then we jump into the section about making and using templates to help the stitcher with spacing and placement on the seam foundations.
This is a terrific concept! Many beginning stitchers really struggle with consistent spacing when they start embroidering. Spacing stitches with consistency is a skill which can be hard to master and quite daunting if you’re going into crazy quilting for the first time. The templates wipe all fear concerning stitch spacing away.
I got to looking at the template designs in the book, and I realized that they aren’t necessarily just for crazy quilting, either.
If you like the idea of making up stitch samplers featuring lines and layers of surface embroidery stitches, for example – or maybe you like the idea of embroidering on paper, because they’d work for that, too – you could use these templates for those pursuits and others. They’re versatile!
I had all kinds of ideas rumbling around in my head when I saw them!
Following the section on templates, we move into the embroidery stitches. Here, through very clear diagrams, we learn the simple stitches used to build the more complex seams.
While there are only six stitch families used for the foundation seams, Kathy shows us how to use those six stitches in all kinds of ways to vary their look.
We also learn several isolated stitches for working the embellishments on the foundation seams.
All in all, the stitches are very simple and accessible for any level of embroiderer. There’s enough variety here to keep the embroidery exciting, without being overwhelming. I think the idea is good: you don’t have to know a vast repertoire of complicated stitches to build beautiful crazy quilt seams.
Then, we move into the Gallery. Oh, the gallery!
Here’s where you’ll find page upon page of colorful examples of embellished seams.
The seams are all arranged by stitch family, so that you can see how one foundational seam type can blossom into innumerable layered and decorated bands of embroidery.
Then, we move to the diagrams of those 480 decorative seams…
This section of diagrams gives the embroiderer the layout for each seam, so that we can easily and clearly see the layers used to build each embellished band.
Again, these are logically arranged by stitch family, based on the foundation stitches used on the seam.
And while 480 sounds like a huge number, it’s only the beginning. Once you start practicing this kind of layering of stitches, you can mix things up and keep going ad infinitum! You’re only limited by your imagination – and of course, by your good taste and sense of order!
I really appreciate the logical arrangement of this book, from the overall layout of the book to the orderly layout within each section.
The logical layout makes the concepts presented in the book easy to grasp and really accessible.
Is the book just for crazy quilters?
It’s certainly aimed at the crazy quilter, but I can see all kinds of uses for the concepts and design ideas in the book.
Sure, seam embellishment is a Crazy-Quilting Thing, but for anyone interested in general surface embroidery, it’s a wonderful thing to have a nice repertoire of decorative band stitching, and this book provides just that!
And of course, if you love stitch combinations, color, texture, and just fun explorations with your needle and thread, then the book is for you, too!
Where to Find It
In the US, you can find Stunning Stitches for Crazy Quilts available now through Amazon. You’ll find it listed here on my Amazon Recommendations page. I’ve rearranged that page into two idea lists – one features embroidery tools & accessories and the other, my book recommendations. You’ll find this book right at the top of my book recommendations list.
Worldwide, you can find Stunning Stitches available here on Book Depository.
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