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The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers (Folder edition)


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Table of Contents

Foreword by Kew 6
Introduction 8
What is needle painting? 10
Tools and materials 10
Preparation 16
Stitch instructions 20
Securing your thread
Long-and-short stitch
Split stitch
Satin stitch
French knots
Bullion stitch
Practise the stitches
Outlines 30
Raised embroidery 32
Anatomy of a flower 34
Useful advice before you start 35
Simple projects 36
Japanese anemone 38
Flower sampler 44
Clematis 94
Camellia 100
Intermediate projects 106
Rhododendron 108
Waterlily 116
Iris 122
Spider chrysanthemum 128
Advanced projects 134
Rose 136
Magnolia 144
Poppy 154
Thread substitutes 163
The templates 164
Using the iron-on transfers 176

About the Author

Trish Burr is a self-taught embroiderer who hungrily consumes all aspects of this fine craft. Through research and practice she has developed this individual technique of surface embroidery. She is the author of several highly successful books. Trish lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. For more information on Trish and her work visit www.trishbembroidery.com


Trish Burr is a needlework designer in South Africa, and she has written many, many books, most notably about needlepainting, which is her specialty. With her vast experience, her ever-developing style and approach, and her exquisite sense of colour combinations for shading, it is no wonder that Trish would be the needle artist to delve into the Kew Archives (from the Royal Botanic Gardens), in order to reproduce some of their botanical illustrations in needle and thread. The resulting book, published by Search Press as part of their 50th Anniversary line-up of stellar art and craft books, is a wonderful collection of floral and garden-related cameos for the embroiderer to stitch. The book is extra-special, thanks to a few nuances and extras that we don't often find in this type of embroidery book.

So, let's take a look at it!

First, let's talk about what's different. The physical properties of the folio edition of the book are different. Most of us, if we are getting the book now, are most likely going to go for this folio edition, which is the one that's available for pre-order. The other edition - it's a straightforward hardbound edition for libraries - lacks this outer folder that holds both the soft-bound version of the book and a packet of iron-on transfers, to make your journey into the projects much easier!

The hard-board folio cover protects the book and the transfers and closes with an elastic band. It's a lot like a moleskin notebook... a very large moleskin notebook. The folio cover and the presence of iron-on transfers are probably the greatest differences you'll notice right away with this book, but there are other nuances within the book itself that are slightly different from Trish's previous books.

You might not notice it right off the bat, because many art and craft books these days have morphed into this approach, but some of the photos in here are larger than life. They are big, making it easy to see the details of the embroidery. The little berry element, for example, which is part of the Floral Sampler found under Simple Projects, is about 1.5" high from the tip of the stem to the base of the berry when transferred at the given size. In the book, the photo of the berry is around 5.5 - 6" from tip of stem to base of berry. So, it's super enlarged, and you can't miss the details! This is a good thing, I think. Seeing details is helpful when it comes to exploring a technique, especially as a beginner.

But it can give you a sense of discombobulation when you set about embroidering. You don't necessarily realize that the item you're about to embroider is significantly smaller than the image of it, until you transfer it. This is one of the problems I run into with blogging, too. Close-up photos of embroidery shown on a website tend to give the sense that the piece is much larger than it actually is, and when you sit down to stitch it, there's a period of adjustment while you get used to the difference in the real size versus the perceived size. Still, I'd rather have too much detail than too little, especially when I'm learning something new!

Ok, let's look at what's in the book!

The Kew book is both an instructional book and a project book. The projects range from simple to advanced. If you are a beginner in needlepainting, you can start at the beginning of the book to get your feet wet, and then move into deeper waters. If you are experienced, you can jump in anywhere.

At the beginning of the book, you'll find introductions to Kew, to Trish and the book's contents, and to needlepainting in general. Before getting into the projects, you'll find the background information for getting started, from fabrics, threads, tools, and basic techniques. Much of the preliminary instruction is offered via diagrams and via close-up photos that demonstrate the techniques. It's all very clear, as you would expect.

Trish goes into detail demonstrating approaches to shading, to colour combinations, stitch direction, and so forth. There are '11 inspiring projects' within the book... technically. Really, there are 28.

There are two projects in the book that really excite me the most, although they are all beautiful in their own way. The first is under 'Simple Projects', and it's called the 'Flower Sampler'. It encompasses 18 embroidered elements (20, if you count each individual embroidered element), each of which can be taken out of sampler context and used as its own little practice project. I love this sampler. I love the idea of it. I love the beauty of the finished, whole sampler. And I love the fact that each element could really stand on its own as a mini project. For each element in the sampler - some of which are not necessarily flowers - you get a materials list, the design, and step-by-step instructions on how to stitch it. You'll also get a larger-than-life photo with clear details of the embroidery, which will serve well to help you successfully stitch your version.

There's a magnificent bee, by the way... Now, this is where Trish's artistry really shines. I mean, it shines everywhere, but I'm especially besotted with the bee. Check out the bee wing. It's solidly embroidered. There's no translucent anything there - the threads are solid colours. But it is a wonder to behold. It looks translucent, thanks to her subtle shading, drawing in the colours behind the wing and bringing them to the forefront while stitching it. It's fabulous! There are many simple projects in the book, then, if you consider the sampler as individual projects, too.

Then, there are intermediate projects that build on the knowledge and skills you've gleaned from the first section of the book. There are four intermediate projects, including studies of the rhododendron, the waterlily, the iris, and the spider chrysanthemum which graces the cover of the book. For those of you who have followed Trish for years, you'll probably notice some slight adjustments in her style and approach here and there throughout the book. The rhododendron, for example, has a definite contemporary and somewhat trendy look to it. So, you can expect to see some variation in Trish's interpretations - they are not necessarily all sketchy-botanical looking. Some pieces are very boldly contemporary.

There are three advanced projects: a rose, a magnolia, and a poppy sampler. The poppy sampler is my second favourite in the book! It's just lovely. And it would be a wonderful study in long and short shading. I think I have A Thing for things called samplers. The poppy sampler can also be broken down into at least two - if not more - projects.

In the more advanced projects, you'll see that Au Ver a Soie silks enter the materials lists. Yay! I'm a huge fan of needlepainting with silk. I know there is a school of thought out there that favours stranded cotton for needlepainting (also called "silk shading") but I've always thought that there's nothing quite as beautiful as silk shading worked with silk! In the back of the book, Trish offers a list of thread substitutions for those who wish to work some of the projects in silk. This is handy! Thread substitutions are never absolutely exact, but it's a nice springboard for those who like to adjust their own colour palettes and thread types.

Finally, of course, there's the pattern section. If you have the folio edition of the book, though, thankfully, you won't have to go through a meticulous transfer process! Wow! Heaven!

I'm not going to pro and con this book. If you love needlepainting, if you want to explore needlepainting fully, if you love botanicals, you're going to love this book. You're going to want the special folio edition. And you'll find it a treasure.

-- Mary Corbet * Needle 'n' Thread *

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