When it comes to embroidery books, there’s nothing better than a systematic, logically-presented instructional book on a niche subject.
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of a particular type or style of embroidery, or a particular subject for embroidery, you’re really lucky when you can find a book on specifically what you want to stitch.
Pet Portrait Embroidery by Michelle Staub is just such a book. It’s a niche subject matter – not embroidery in general, but specifically the embroidery of dogs and cats. It is a meticulous instructional book laid out in a logical and systematic way. It’s a fabulous book for those who have ever wanted to capture their pets in needle and thread – or anyone who wants to learn to stitch realistic animals.
I thought I’d show to book to you up close. It’s hard not to love it, if you love animals!
Pet Portrait Embroidery falls into the category of instructional book, coupled with projects.
I really admire the thoroughness of this book, and I’ll show you what I mean as we peruse it.
The book focuses on two types of pet portraits: the realistic needlepainted (thread painted) portrait like the one you see above, as well as simpler outline portraits.
The book is divided into those two approaches, but more content is spent on thread painting, because it is more labor intensive and takes a bit more instruction.
Both approaches – line portraits and full-out detailed thread painted portraits – have their merits and both are really well done in this book.
So if you feel you’re not quite ready for a fully detailed, thread painted portrait of your pet, never fear! There’s the option for outlined portraits as well.
For the cat lovers out there, I need to apologize ahead of time. For some reason, as I was going through the book, I caught way more dog portraits than cat portraits with my camera. There’s an equal balance of both in the book.
The book is divided into the preliminary content, which covers how to use the book, supplies, and foundation information for these types of projects.
The author offers advice on what makes a good reference photo, how to take a good reference photo, and what to look for when selecting a good reference photo.
She presents instruction on stitches that are used in embroidering pet portraits, as well as instructions on transferring designs and so forth.
She discusses what to pick out in the photo to turn into a design, and shows the reader how to do that.
In the section on outlined portraits, these projects are not presented step by step, because they are the result of applying the basics she covers in the first part of the book.
With the outline portraits, you’ll see completed line portraits (with detail photos) of different types of pets, some of which are categorized by type: so, the short haired cat, the long haired cat, the tabby cat. You’ll also see some examples of breeds: lab, Yorkie, poodle, and more.
Along the way, Michelle offers tips on stitching these types of line portraits, including tips on noticing differences between animals, their expressions, their fur characteristics, and so forth.
Then, she moves into the detailed portraits, starting with exercises in thread painting.
This is such a fantastic area of instruction in the book! There’s a lot of detail here to learn from.
You’ll find out how to create a pattern for this type of detailed thread painting.
You’ll learn about stitching direction and following the natural growth of the fur.
And then, you’ll find extensive instruction on capturing the different facial elements and physical characteristics of the animals.
This part of the book is broken down into exercises that you can work individually, so that you can really learn the nuances of the parts that make up the whole portrait.
You’ll learn how to stitch noses – and different types and angles of noses.
You’ll learn how to stitch eyes, and different shapes of eyes.
She covers the portrait parts of both cats and dogs here, in wonderful detail. And she even provides patterns in the back of the book of just these elements, separated from the portraits, so that you can practice eyes and noses and ears and mouths and tongues and teeth!
I love the logical approach to learning here. Small parts make the whole.
This way, if you work through these practice elements, when you finally embrace the challenge of stitching your own pet portrait, you’re ready.
The whole book, by the way, features wonderful photography of Michelle’s work, too – you can really see the details. I always appreciate that in an instructional book!
Then, in what is the bulk of the book, Michelle takes us step-by-step through the detailed portraits of a dozen pets. Some are distinguished by breed and some simply by general type. All have names, as most pets do.
So we get to see Balto the black lab come to life…
…as well as River, the dalmatian…
…and Cookie, the Siamese.
Each portrait is accompanied by step-by-step photos of the stitching process, with tips along the way. There’s also a DMC color key for each portrait.
In addition to the animals above, you’ll find a white cat, a pug, a British shorthair cat, an orange cat, a golden retriever, a corgi, a tabby cat, a Maltese mix, and a poodle mix.
There are patterns at the back of the book for all of the portraits, too, so you might even be able to skip the photo conversion process and just tweak the designs there, if you have the same type of breed or look to your own pet. These are perfect for practicing on.
In a Nutshell
This is the most thorough pet embroidery book out there, and it’s really good! Whether you want to embroider your own pet’s portrait or you’re interested in learning how to embroider animals in general, it’s a great place to start. From here, the animal world is at your stitching doorstep.
I love it! I don’t see any cons. Sure, it would be nice to see more breeds, but there’s always limitations when publishing a book.
In fact, I was really hoping to see Mishka in there. But, given the fact that he’s an English mastiff and not prone to picture posing… (eye roll). But oh…that forehead!
If you’ve not met Mishka, he’s my sister’s family’s dog, but trust me – he’s enough dog for the entire extended family, too.
He’s a lovable lug, and I often feature him in my feed on Facebook.
Come on! What’s not to love about that forehead?!
Anyway… I digress.
Where to Find It
If you’re in the States, you can find Pet Portrait Embroidery available here on my Amazon Recommendations List, under books.
Worldwide with free shipping to most places, you can find it at Book Depository, here.
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