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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Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery – Book Review


Amazon Books

Good morning, and welcome to the first embroidery book review of 2021!

I have an ever-growing stack of needlework books on my book table at the moment – some fabulous bookish treasures have appeared in the past year! – but I really wanted to highlight Sharon Boggon’s Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery right away for several reasons, not least of which is that Sharon’s was the first embroidery website that I ever found and followed (way back when it was called “In a Minute Ago”), before craft blogging was big. She’s been online for a long time, and of all the contemporary embroiderers out there, she is one of the most thorough and creative when it comes to manipulating the stitch.

Sharon heads an initiative every year called TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) in which she presents a stitch every Tuesday, highlighting variations, and encourages the participants to explore the stitch thoroughly, experimenting with combinations, variations, threads, colors, embellishments – all the aspects that can bring a different look and life to the stitch.

Predominantly, Sharon is a crazy quilter. But her embroidery goes beyond crazy quilting. She creates fascinating embroidered works of texture, color, and combinations, all hinging on getting the most out of each type of stitch she uses.

Creative Stitches in a Contemporary Embroidery is the natural outcome of Sharon’s explorations in stitch. It’s a book for embroiderers who love embroidery stitches of all kinds, from simple to elaborate, and who find fascination in the creative ways they can be employed.

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery by Sharon Boggon

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery explores several basic embroidery stitches in all kinds of variations.

For the crazy quilter, this is the type of book that will give you a plethora of ideas for seam treatments and the like. Think of it as a source book for embellishment ideas.

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery by Sharon Boggon

But if you are not a crazy quilter, the book is still for you!

It’s a book that will give you confidence in exploratory embroidery. It will show you how to manipulate embroidery stitches for myriad results, in ways that can be applied in all kinds of creative pursuits. It will make you comfortable with the stitch, and show you how you can take it beyond basics, to a completely different level of interest and execution.

Keep in mind this is not a project book. Think of it more as a stitch dictionary on steroids.

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery by Sharon Boggon

The book begins with a pictorial table of contents.

I like it when I can look up a stitch by the look of the stitch. There are a few stitch dictionaries out there that do this, and I think it’s a great way to present the contents. This pictorial table of contents is in alphabetical order.

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery by Sharon Boggon

We then move into tools and materials. Unlike more “formal” types of embroidery, the tools and materials here are very simple: fabric, needles, a hoop, some transfer pens or pencils… and lots and lots and lots and lots of thread in different colors, types, and weights.

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery by Sharon Boggon

The next section focuses on giving stitches a modern twist.

In this part of the book, Sharon talks about “finding the play points” in the process of stitching – those moments when “a creative decision turns a mundane stitch into a lively and interesting surface.”

And that’s just it, isn’t it? That’s what makes exploring a stitch fun – that moment when you digress from the ordinary and turn the stitch into something to play with. It’s here that you’ll learn how to move fearlessly from the basics of the stitch into more inventive territory.

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery by Sharon Boggon

Then, the book moves into the meat of the matter – the explorations of the stitches.

If you were to break the book down into basic stitches, there are probably about thirty overall that could be considered different stitches from each other. These stitches are explored in depth, with all kinds of variations so that you have a good idea about what you can do with the stitch and where else you can take it.

Sharon presents the stitches through clear photos and explanations, making it easy to grasp the basics of the stitch and to move into interpreting the stitch in different ways. Once you get the hang of Sharon’s approach to manipulating and interpreting the stitches, you quickly realize that, really, you’re only limited by your own imagination when it comes to bringing new life to any embroidery stitch.

Interpretations are inexhaustible. Add a different thread weight, different fibers, different colors, twist the stitch in a different direction, add another element to the stitch – there’s so much you can do with one simple stitch, to achieve innumerable varied results.

You’ll quickly discover that embroidery stitches can be a fantastic source of creative entertainment!

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery by Sharon Boggon

There are 120 interpreted stitches in the book, overall – all of which can serve as a springboard for your own experiments.

It’s a good, solid book on stitch interpretation – both inspiring and instructive, when it comes to making one comfortable and confident playing with stitches.

If you are working through any yearly stitch challenge – whether it’s Sharon’s TAST, any of the Year in Stitches initiatives, or your own Stitch Fun 2021 sampler – I think this book would be a really good companion! Keep it on your work table, and if the Muses aren’t stirring by themselves, you can prod them into gear by browsing through the pages of this book!

Where to Find It

If you’re in the US, Creative Stitches is available through Amazon, and you’ll find it listed here on my Amazon Recommendations page, under Browse My Amazon Recommendations. It’s in the first spot there, easy to find!

Worldwide, you can find Creative Stitches here through Book Depository.

This article contains affiliate links to book sources, which means Needle ‘n Thread receives a small commission for purchases made through those links. Every tiny bit counts! Thanks!


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(9) Comments

  1. This one is most definitely on my wish list! Thanks for the great review Mary because this one has now moved up a few slots on my ‘really want to own’ list.

  2. I am also a long time follower of Sharon and when she announced the publication of this book, I immediately preordered. It’s everything you say-gorgeous colors and so many ideas. What I love most about the book and Sharon’s ideas is that she opens the way to so many different ways of using stitches. I am primarily a canvas work or counted thread stitcher and do very little surface embroidery but her book and her TAST makes me want to pick up a piece of fabric, some thread, and start making marks, lines, shapes with her suggestions. It awakens your imagination.

  3. Dear Mary

    Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery looks like a very interesting book and full of stitches and unusual stitches which would be great to use on a project and it looks a great book for inspiration and exploration which you could incorporate into your 2021 sampler for example. Thank you for reviewing Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery and sharing your thoughts with us and for the lovely photos, a must have book for as you you say exploring different ideas on stitches.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. I get the randomness but I can’t do it myself. There has to be some planning. This sounds like a great way to improve your stitches and learn new ones.
    I decided to learn crewel embroidery and am using “Crewel Embroidery a Practical Guide” by Shelagh Amor. Then I read your blog about organizing your thread – I went down the rabbit hole and have order two of the Bisley cabinets plus inserts. There was a right turn in the rabbit hole and am now purchasing every color of Appleton wool from Woolley Lady…will this ever end! Lol Barb

  5. I like the idea of an idle-minutes, informal band piece. Done for the sheer fun of it. I do most of my pieces ad-hoc – not choosing the next band or area fill until I am ready to start it, rather than laying out the entire piece ahead of time, or doing a full stitch-by-stich advance plan. Like you though, I do set out some structure guidelines. I’ll mark the center line with basting, along with the left and right edges. I might also on a big rectangle, mark a couple of other uniform division points for later use, like quarters or thirds, so that my starts and stops tend to align.

    For 2021 I’ve picked up an older band sampler I started and let languish for a few years. I had put it down when we did an expat stint abroad, and only recently found the threads I had been using. So in the spirit of banishing 2020 vibes with memories of a more pleasant year, I’ve resumed work on the 2012 piece. The current strip is a rather complex bit of double running, worked voided with the tightly drawn, meshy ground so often seen on museum fragments. Slow going right now, but very therapeutic. Deep green silk on linen, roughly 40 count.

    If links are allowed, a photo showing the meshy ground is here: https://kbsalazar.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/134695565_10157706386831892_7015614444621310627_o.jpg

    Happy 2021! I for one am looking forward to seeing the mischief your needle attempts this year. – kbsalazar

    1. It depends on the thread you’re using (some thread is non-divisible and not meant to be separated) and it depends on the look you want. You might be using, for example, stranded cotton that is usually separated, but you might want it to be twisted together or you might plan to use all six strands. But in general, yes, with stranded cotton (that’s the DMC “floss” that separates into 6 strands, and other similar stranded threads) you would separate the number of strands you want to use out from the main bunch, one at a time, and then put them back together. This keeps your thread behaving well and gives your stitches their best coverage – the results just look better and more consistent.

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