I am so happy to present you my stitch book! It’s like a sort of physical version of the Diary of a Northern Belle. When I first got the idea for this blog name, I knew I’d have to embroider a little something to represent it. When I started the embroidery on the front cover, I intended it to cover the box I used in the Redwork Box Project. Then I thought it would be more appropriate to turn it into a little “diary” of sorts. A place where I could store pieces of fabric with practice stitches and half-finished projects. I had been meaning to sew myself a little book to practice stitches for a while now, but none of the styles I came across suited me. So I had to make my own!
The embroidery on the front cover features one of those vintage “Southern belle” ladies. Except this particular one is northern, of course. 😉 There is also historical edging taken from an 1860s pattern, as well as some of my own design. My northern belle needed a pile of books and a warm cup of tea. And of course, adding titles and quotes always ties everything nicely together!
The vintage pattern I used can be found here.
Touches of Historical Embroidery
The little branches of red berries found on all four corners of the front cover, and on the two upper corners of the left inside cover were taken from the embroidery section of the Ladies’ Handbook of Fancy and Ornamental Work. The copy I have is a 2016 unabridged reproduction of the collection by Florence Hartley. It was originally published in 1889 and features directions and patterns from the American Civil War era.
The little berries can be found on p. 131, labeled “edging”. Edging patterns were used to add needleworked embellishment on various items such as handkerchiefs, collars, or skirt hems.
I really wanted to decorate the corners of my stitch book cover. So, I decided to embroider only one of the little motifs in each corner, and I really like the outcome! A full row would also look super cute, maybe around sleeve cuffs or a skirt hem.
I actually contemplated embroidering a row of the little cherries on the right inside pocket. However, since the background fabric of the inside cover already featured very similar little berries, I thought it would be just a little too similar. I opted for the edging pattern on the same page that’s right above. It also looks like a berry, but is different enough from the fabric print.
I decided to stitch the edging with colours that matched the background fabric of the inside cover. By making the berry white, it doesn’t so much look like a berry anymore.
I’m also quite pleased with how it turned out, aside from the dramatic angle it took because I apparently can’t follow a straight line…. But the embroidery itself turned out quite well, I think! I tried Perle Cotton thread (no. 5, white) for the first time and I must say I rather like it. I’ve since been looking for a new project where I could use it in order to justify buying more. It gives it a sort of crocheted baby-blanket look, if that makes any sense at all.
The Ladies’ Handbook is a great resource so far, including patterns and instructions for various kinds of needlework. The embroidery section features a lot of detailed handkerchief borders and beautiful flower designs. I will definitely have recourse to it again in the future!
Specific instructions or stitch suggestions as to how to work the edging patterns are not provided in the Ladies’ Handbook. I decided to keep it fairly simple for this project. With the exception of the little hedgehog on the inside left pocket, the red berries, and some elements of the border on the right pocket, everything is done in outline stitches. I mainly used the split and back stitches.
Some of the detail elements are done in satin stitch, lazy-daisy and French knots (which I plan on providing a tutorial for very soon). I’ve also used straight stitches for the grass on the front cover and the pine needles on the inside left pocket.
The little hedgehog and the pine branch emerged from little sketches I made. I kept being drawn to little woodland creatures and autumny, woodsy things while planning the project and wanted to find a way to incorporate some of them into the overall design. I worked the hedgehog in a sort of very unofficial needlepainting method with long & short stitches that didn’t always end up where I wanted them…
…but in the end it didn’t turn out too bad and I’m very happy with it!! <3
Making the Stitch Book
When I first got the idea of making a stitch book to practice my embroidery stitches, I knew that it would need “pages” of fabric to practice and experiment with stitches, but I didn’t want them to be attached to the book. I wanted to be able to add and remove them as I needed. That way, it’s much easier to mount a single piece of fabric onto the embroidery hoop rather than a piece of fabric attached to the stitch book. I also didn’t want all the pages to be predetermined and I wanted to be able to easily add new ones without having to sew them in each time.
So my solution to that was simply to thread a piece ribbon through the “spine” of the book. By tying it in a bow, I can easily add and remove fabric pages.
And it works for attaching a fabric page of any size that isn’t overly bigger than the book itself, because smaller pages can be threaded through only one end of the ribbon and still remain attached.
Plus, there are the two inside pockets too, if I need to stuff smaller bits or carry my snips and some floss.
The construction process was overall pretty simple. I did a bit of piecework on the front cover to frame the embroidery, and I used fusible interfacing to stiffen both the front and back covers, as well as the spine. The ribbon closure on the side keeps the book closed and matches the one on the inside.
Originally, I had intended to make a tutorial post on how I made this stitch book, but there ended up being a little too much improvisation here and there, as well as mad scrambling around for fabric scraps. So I decided to save that for another time when I inevitably make another one, if it’s something that would interest you. Don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments!
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this was at least a bit inspirational! 😊 I’m looking forward to filling my new little book with all sorts of fun stitches!