Tuesday, October 22

Book review & Interview: Sew & Stitch Embroidery

I have been a long time admirer of the quirky plush animals and patterns of Penguin and Fish and now Alyssa Thomas (of Penguin and Fish) released a craft book called Sew & Stitch Embroidery full of those fabulous critters!  I'm delighted to be part of the 'Sew & Stitch Embroidery' blog tour* and even got to interview Alyssa about her book and work (see the second part of this post)!

The book starts with an intro into various embroidery supplies and techniques, with special attention for 'transferring' methods. There is also a fairly concise section with simple sewing basics, which is primarily aimed at the novice sewer. The rest of the book is divided in themed chapters. Each chapter has several sewing and embroidery projects, a good number of them with 'second stitches' which are variations of the main project.

This adorable pillow is from the 'For the Home' chapter.

I love it when I see a project in a book that makes me want to grab my floss and needle and start stitching immediately. The great horned Owl Pillow totally has that effect on me. As I often make tiny things it would be a good project to get out of my 'tiny' comfort zone and embroider something a bit bigger for once!

For the embroidery part of the (regular sized) main projects you will find a stitch and colour guide in the back of the book and many of the main patterns (but not all) are included on the 'iron on transfer sheet'.

Another favourite project in the book are these pet characters. The budgie looks just like my budgie Haddock did and the guinea pig reminds me of our Pippin. Other projects from the 'Just for Fun' chapter (which is mainly to make things that will appeal to children) include a gigantic cross stitched racing sack, dinosaur finger puppets and a Dream Catcher.

It's not just animals that star in these projects, the last chapter features this fabulously elegant feather on a tablet sleeve and a pretty clutch with a feather too. Other projects from this part of the book include a wonderful Bird-in-Ferns Patchwork Tote and cute little animal brooches which would be fun to make with (older) kids too.

Sew and Stitch embroidery is a treasure trove, full of appealing and fun projects. The photography throughout the book is beautiful and the projects are well documented. Quite a few of the projects require just basic sewing skills and this book would be perfect for non-sewing embroiderers to jump in and learn something new! There are also several relatively simple embroidery projects that kids, with a little help could make as well. Actually my 8 year old daughter Luna is stitching the Dream Catcher at the moment. :)

Q & A with Alyssa Thomas

Sew & Stitch Embroidery has simple sewing projects featuring your embroidery designs. Are you secretly hoping to 'convert' some sewers to embroidery and embroiderers to start sewing?
Hah hah, well, that would be OK with me for sure! :-) My real reason for having sewing projects and embroidery together is because I feel like lots of embroidery books just have embroidery motifs to stitch as embellishments onto something else. While embellishing something is nice, I really want the embroidery to be the STAR of the project. I include easy instructions and diagrams for both sewing and embroidery, so maybe I will convert embroiderers who want to start sewing, and sewers who want to start embroidering! But my main goal was to create sewing projects where embroidery is an integral part of the design.

What is your favourite project in the book? Why?
I really had fun with all the projects, so my favorites kind of keep switching around. Right now I have two favs. I really love the dream catcher project. There's no sewing involved which makes it super easy. I used to make dream catchers all the time when I was younger, so it brings me back to being a kid. I love the little feathers made out of fabric scraps and that the actual hoop becomes the dreamcatcher frame.My ultimate favorite project from the book is the Octopus quilt. It uses the big embroidery technique which is so fun to do. I think I love the project because it's crazy to have an embroidery that big. And it's fun that if you lay on top of the quilt it looks like the Octopus is giving you a hug, but if you lay underneath the quilt, your head becomes the head of the octopus. The quilt is "hand tied" which means that instead of sewing all the quilt layers together with a machine, the layers are all tied together by hand. Hand tying the quilt makes it a simpler quilt for a beginner to do, even if you haven't made a quilt before.

Several of your projects involve making huge embroidery stitches with yarn, how is that different from doing 'regular' embroidery? (except for the size of course!)
Surprisingly, the big embroideries actually stitch up quicker than the smaller embroideries (which makes them even more fun to do). For the big embroideries everything gets bigger because you're stitching with yarn instead of floss. There are so many beautiful yarns out there to stitch with! Since yarn is fatter than regular embroidery floss, it's helpful to use a crewel needle which has a bigger eye. It's also better to stitch onto a fabric that has a looser weave than standard quilting weight fabric. I used linen for many of the big embroidery projects because it typically has a looser weave which makes it easier to pull the needle through. I also use a large quilting hoop instead of an embroidery hoop. The hoops I use for the big embroideries are 18'' - 24''. The only reason to use a bigger hoop is that since the stitches are bigger and you're covering a larger area faster, It's helpful to have a larger working space so you don't have to keep moving the hoop. Making a big embroidery is definitely a way to give a project instant visual impact.

You have been embroidering since you were small, are there still things you want to learn in embroidery?Absolutely. My patterns use basic stitches because I think there's a ton you can do with just a few stitches, however, I do like playing with more advanced stitches. There are so many fun stitches out there and it’s neat to try out new ones. I would love to try "painting" with embroidery, where you add layers and layers of stitches to build up different colors and textures. I have a little project in mind for that. We'll see how it goes.

What is next for Alyssa and Penguin & Fish?
My new organic fabric line, Critter Patch, will be arriving in stores any day now. I am also working on the next 2 fabric collections, one which will come out in Spring, and the other next Fall. Right now I’m brainstorming fun patterns to go with the fabrics - and you can bet there is plenty of embroidery on my list!

I hope you all enjoyed this review and the interview! The Sew & Stitch Embroidery blog tour is nearly finished but you can visit these blogs for more reviews and info on the book:

Tuesday, Oct. 8 - Mr. X Stitch  http://www.mrxstitch.com/
Wednesday, Oct. 9 - Pellon  http://blog.pellonprojects.com/
Thursday, Oct. 10 - While She Naps  http://www.whileshenaps.typepad.com/
Friday, Oct. 11 - The Last Piece  http://thelastpiece.typepad.com/
Saturday, Oct. 12 - Feeling Stitchy  http://www.feelingstitchy.com/
Monday, Oct. 14 - Wild Olive  http://wildolive.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, Oct. 15 - Bad Ass Quilters Society  http://www.badassquilterssociety.com/
Wednesday, Oct. 16 - Spoonflower  http://blog.spoonflower.com/
Thursday, Oct. 17 - Sew Mama Sew  http://sewmamasew.com/
Friday, Oct. 18 - Skunkboy  http://www.skunkboyblog.com/
Saturday, Oct. 19 - Meet Me at Mikes  http://meetmeatmikes.com/
Monday, Oct. 21 - Quilt Dad  http://www.quiltdad.com/
Tuesday, Oct. 22 - Follow the White Bunny  http://blog.followthewhitebunny.com/ (here!)
Wednesday, Oct. 23 - Sarah Jane Studios  http://sarahjanestudios.com/blog/
Sew & Stitch is available online and possibly in your local bookshop as well. If you want a really special copy (and support Alyssa more directly) go here. She will add a special doodle to your book, yay! 

*the publisher sent me a copy for review. As always this posts reflects my own opinion!


  1. Oh my ~ those projects are so cute ~ especially the parakeet! Think I'm going to NEED this book!

  2. What a cute book!
    Did you really have a Budgie called Haddock?! :D

    1. Sadly Haddock is not among us living anymore but yes he was our budgie about 20 years ago! Named after captain Haddock from Tintin (or had you already guessed that?) :)

    2. RIP Haddock - he was the bearer of a most awesome name

  3. oohh.. I would love a special doodle to my book, I must get it.

  4. Thanks for the great review. It looks like a wonderful book.


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