Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: Stitches a' la Carte

Stitches a' La Carte Is Tote Bag-Sized
Lynda Richardson's new book sold out at the Destination Dallas market and there's a good reason for that--it's a charmer!  The book is called Stitches a' la Carte.  It's a ninety-three page spiral bound book.  As you can see from the photograph above, it's not a big book.  But it is packed with diagrams of background stitches, designed to be stitched in mostly tent stitches using light coverage, i.e., a thinner thread than usual so that the background shows through the stitches. There are a few diagrams that are straight stitches over one thread done in a horizontal or vertical direction and 1-2 that are long stitches.

Two Random Pages From the Book

None of the diagrams are numbered which is a deal-breaker for some folks, but Lynda says this was a deliberate decision so that folks would experiment with the stitches and adapt them to their own style.     I found the diagrams easy to read.  Most are black and white although at least one has gray stitches to point out where a repeat starts.  In other words, if you are color blind, you won't have a problem reading the diagrams.

Some of the stitches are quite complex patterns as you can see from the glimpse inside the book I posted above. If you have trouble counting out complicated patterns you may not like this book, but I can't count to five reliably and I love it!  It would be worth the pain to work out the repeats to have such lovely stitches in my backgrounds for me.  I should point out I picked some of the most complicated stitches I could find, just to show you the worst you'll have to cope with should this book end up in your stitching library.  Erin posted another stitch on her Needlepoint Land blog, by the way.  You can see it here.  Lynda is stitching a fabulous parrot canvas from Georg James (distributed by Alice Peterson), by the way.

I bet the stitches above are stunning stitched.  Very few of the stitches are ones I have seen before, so if you collect unusual stitches or always need background stitch ideas, this is a Must Buy book.  Some of the denser stitches will probably work in smaller areas, but I think most of the patterns will need space to show off, so they are really more suitable for large areas.

But diagrams are not all that is inside this little book.  There are vignettes of Lynda's stitching life, things she learned from friends and family or discovered at one of the many trade shows she's attended over the years.  Lynda is the owner of Dream House Ventures, you see, the distributor of painted canvases from folks like Cricket Collection or Fiori Designs, and the creator of many fine threads like the skein of Baroque Silk in the photo above to help give you an idea of scale.  They also have the wonderful Soy Luster, perfect for variegated hair or fur, and the gorgeous Empress Elite cashmere/silk blend.

After I wrote this but before it published, Vicky DeAngelis also did a short review of Lynda's book, which I've linked to here to help you make up your mind if this is a book for you.

Lynda often stitches models for the designs she distributes so I suppose it was inevitable she would want to share some of the lovely stitches she has created.  But that isn't all that is inside the book.  Every few pages there is a little vignette from Lynda's life.  You will get glimpses of things she learned from trade shows, her family or her friends, shared generously along with all those beautiful background stitches. Lynda will come alive as you read.  The book has places for you to list the gifts you've received from your needlepoint as well, making this a book that could become very personal indeed.

For a long time I've been sorry the stitch dictionaries we have available today are so sterile.  Most never give you a glimpse of the author, unlike the great books by Sylvia Sidney or Mary Martin I so loved when I first taught myself needlepoint. I use the stitch dictionaries all the time, mind, but I long to have a bit more besides lots of diagrams.  Yes, I am a romantic--I want to see the stitcher who went to so much trouble to diagram those stitches for me.

Stitches a' la Carte is a book with heart as well as some fabulous background stitches.  I plan to treasure my copy and use it often.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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© Copyright September 17, 2014 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.

ANG Seminar Exhibit 2014: Arlene's Rhododendrons

Because one of this year's ANG Exhibit winners is a friend of mine, I persuaded her to write a bit about the silk gauze piece she submitted which won not only a first place ribbon but the Small Masterpieces Award!  Arlene Cohen generously wrote about her award winner at ANG, and also let me know she won Piecework's contest this year for the needlework category.  Plus she has been to Winterthur with an exhibit she thinks some of Blog's readers might enjoy.  Thanks, Arlene!  We can't wait to see what you stitch and exhibit next year.

Let me turn Blog over to Arlene....

Rhododendrons, By Arlene Cohen


"Some pictures are attached for my piece that I submitted to the ANG exhibit this year. I've also sent the statement I wrote; I know these are not required for non-original pieces, but I loved the opportunity to simply write out the background and inspiration for doing this piece. Two years ago, when Seminar was in Philadelphia, I was able to drive down for a few hours to see the Exhibit (and bookstore and such). I LOVED that artist statements were sitting out by the pieces and for any piece, I could pick up the paper and read through the background. I don't know if this is a regular practice at Seminar Exhibits (I hope it is!), but I so wish more of those words could be/would be published as part of the December issue of NeedlePointers. Frankly, what I REALLY wish is that everything, pictures of pieces and artist statements were available online, at the same time that folks are able to see them in person, during Seminar week, but I know that will never happen. Anyway, feel free to use these pictures and words in anyway you wish.

Artist Statement:   Rhododendrons

Perhaps it was the very long winter. Perhaps it was the endless snow shoveling to dig out my car again and again. Perhaps it was the frustration of plans constantly changing, constantly relying on their “snow date” options. But, more so than ever, I was anxious for spring and for the bloom of flowers and the signs of renewal.
During the late winter/early spring months, as snow was finally melting, but the landscape was barren, my eyes lit on an issue of a cross stitch magazine in a store. On the front cover was a picture of a delightful design called “Rhododendrons.” These blue-violet flowers were in just the palette of colors that most attracts my eye. And the image of flowers, of spring, were exactly right for the moment. Putting aside plans for what was to be my next project, I decided this design was exactly what was needed.
Designed by Lesley Teare in the UK, this pattern was published in Cross Stitch Gold issue #41 (US version; UK versions of the magazine are numbered differently as I have learned). It was designed for 14 or 18 count cross stitch on fabric. But, my desire was to do it a little differently, to preserve the delicate feelings as we marched closer and closer to spring and flowers in bloom, by working this design on a small scale. I chose 40 count silk gauze as my ground material and used tent stitches instead of cross stitches. Since the palette of colors is what first drew me to the design, I did not change any of the called for DMC floss colors.
I will be glad to have these bouquet of flowers in view when next winter comes around.

Next, I wanted to share another little win in my world. Piecework Magazine runs a contest, seemingly every other year. The theme this year was Words in Needlework (I think inspired by a pair of old knitted gloves with Bible verse in them, featured in an issue in the past year or so). I won first place for the Needlework category with a piece I created featuring the poem by John Taylor from 1637 titled "In Praise of the Needle." The five first place winners are featured in the Sept/Oct 2014 issue, likely available right about now in stores (I know I can pick it up in my local Barnes and Noble) and can be seen here:

Last, perhaps to share with readers sometime soon: yesterday, I traveled down to the Winterthur in Deleware. The big publicity from them in the past months has been the exhibit of costumes from Downton Abby (perhaps you mentioned this on your blog? don't remember, saw it in so many places). But, opening just last week was an exhibit on needlework, titled 'The Diligent Needle: Instrument of Profit, Pleasure, and Ornament.'   Lovely pieces, interesting background, and the ability to purchase a booklet of the entire exhibit (pictures of pieces and all signage) for $8 - not bad! I liked the organization of the exhibit into four areas: Diligence, Profit, Pleasure, and Ornament.

The introduction sets up the whole exhibit: 'For centuries, instruction in needlework was an important part of the a young woman's education. Both plain sewing and fancy embroidery required considerable time and effort to learn. As a result, women took great pride in their work. Needlework skills might be used to earn a living, to embellish clothing and household furnishings, or to simply create objects of beauty.'

There is a needlework symposium in October, part of what appears to be a three year cycle of both exhibits and symposiums focused on needlework. I was lucky enough to attend in 2008, but dates in this year simply don't work for my real life."

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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© Copyright September 14, 2014 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.

Needlepoint Events UPDATED

There's a new website in town--Needlepoint Events!  Vicky DeAngelis mentioned it on her blog tonight.

The website is going to be a database of upcoming events and classes and will be searchable by location, shop, or teacher.  There is even a place for class reviews, trunk shows, and monthly clubs!

I don't know anything about the site except that it is based in Atlanta and is probably paid for via advertising. The site has been created by Mark Young of Labors of Love.  Thank you, Mark!

Hopefully Needlepoint Events will take off.  Let me tell you, I cannot wait to be able to stop updating the Classes and Events tab or the Monthly Clubs tab!  All this is a lot of work and blogs are not a suitable format for databases of classes and events.  The limitations of listing them on Blog is painfully obvious to me and probably obvious to you, too.  And then there's the issue of listing trunk shows, which I am opposed to as I believe that it simply trains stitchers to ship for the lowest price instead of supporting shops that are too small to afford deep discounts and frequent sales but which give stitchers endless help when they need it.

Stay tuned....

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
Blogging at
and at
© Copyright September 19, 2014 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.