Hello hello! My, but it’s been ages since I published a new blog post! I’m ever so sorry and hadn’t meant to neglect my poor blog for so long. Unfortunately, publishing posts just hadn’t been at the top of my to-do list these last few months, but today I really want to share one of my favourite embroidery books with you. Books are my favourite way to learn new craft skills, and especially embroidery. For some reason I seem to remember tips & tricks I read in books much better than anywhere else. I’ve already written a list of embroidery books I recommend, but in this book review we’ll be looking at the wonderful Embroideries From an English Garden by Carol Andrews.
I’ll start by saying that this book features some of the most gorgeous embroidery I’ve ever seen, but it’s not for beginners. Previous knowledge and experience with embroidery is absolutely recommended, but you don’t need to be an expert either before approaching the projects in this book.
What’s in the book?
Realistic, textured, and dimensional, this book features a truly beautiful collection of botanical embroideries inspired by the changing seasons in a typical English garden. Actually, it’s not just any English garden, it’s a garden at what used to be Edith Holden’s home! If you’re not familiar with Edith Holden, she’s the author and illustrator of the posthumously famous Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (which I’m sure you’ve seen here and there on Instagram, since the pages make for really beautiful backdrops!). Isn’t that amazing?!
The projects really showcase the beauty of the English flora in all their glory. By using different combinations of stitches, techniques, and thread types, this book really has a lot to teach you and is perfect if you’re interested in realistic floral embroidery. The projects sometimes combine the usual cotton floss with wool, silk, or another type of thread to achieve realistic and stunning effects. The techniques used also vary from long & short stitch needle-painting to stumpwork using padding and/or beads.
Structure of the book
The first part of the book includes the main projects and is further divided by seasons – a beautiful wreath (or half-wreath) is offered for each season, as well as a few other single subjects for each season. Some of these are bigger and more intricate, while others are smaller and seemingly less time-consuming. Each project includes a threads and materials list, detailed instructions, and lots of helpful diagrams to guide you along. Specific techniques are referenced but shown in the second part of the book.
Here’s a project I tried!
One of the projects is none other than this magnificent lilac branch, which I attempted back in 2020 and showed you in this post where I also discussed Jane Eyre. I hadn’t done a lot of needle-painting at that point, and only used threads and materials I had on hand. If I were to do it again, I would definitely like to try stitching the leaves with Appleton crewel wool as suggested, instead of the random greens I had. I also would not choose this project again without knowing how to properly work bullion knots! Even though my incompetence resulted in this handy-dandy hack 😉
Nevertheless I was very proud of the final result and absolutely loved adding beads at the end to really make the piece pop! I loved the beads so much that I was determined to use them in embroidery again. This eventually led to my Beaded Blackberry Branch pattern, inspired by the lovely blackberries also featured in the book.
I didn’t follow the same technique as what’s outlined in the book, but I had so much fun making that piece. I even turned it into a full pattern for you to stitch as well!
Stitches & Techniques
As I mentioned earlier, the book is divided into parts, and the second part explains all the stitches and techniques. It starts with a beautiful sampler featuring wheat, daisies, and poppy-seed heads, and then goes on to give you lots of important information on how to prep your work, transfer your pattern, and start your stitches.
One tip that really stood out this time around was the tissue-paper inside the hoop. To avoid finger marks or hoop stains, the author suggests cutting out a ring of tissue paper that you place between your fabric and outer hoop. Mine was a bit too thin (width-wise), and since I was working a design that went close around the sides of the hoop, there wasn’t enough room for it to really make a difference. It ended up slowly ripping apart, and it also discouraged me from removing the fabric from the hoop between each stitching session. Other than that I’d be willing to try it again with a different design!
Stitches and techniques are very well-explained and easy to follow, and include yet more designs to embroider! This book really is a treasure trove of gorgeous botanical designs. The third and last part of the book includes all the pattern outlines to trace and transfer. The easiest way to do that is to copy them with tracing paper, since there are already to size. As I said before, some are quite big, while others are very small. They can easily be resized though, especially if you have access to a scanner.
Where to get this book?
And there you have it, my book review for the wonderfully lovely Embroideries From an English Garden: Projects & Techniques in Surface Embroidery by Carol Andrews! Unfortunately, I do believe the book is now out of print, so if you happen across a copy in a thrift store, or on eBay, don’t pass it up! I was able to get mine via Amazon, but I believe there’s only one copy left and it’s quite pricey.
It’s a real shame because it’s truly an amazing book. May it be in print once again!
I hope you enjoyed this book review! Don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s another embroidery book you’d like me to review! Do you like this kind of blog post? Drop a comment below!!
Hope you’re enjoying the last few golden days of August,