Book review: “Sensational Quilts for Scrap Lovers” by Judy Gauthier = 4*

Any book that can offer me ideas for using up my (never-ending pile of) scraps is going to hook me in for sure! Add beautiful colours and designs to the equation and I’m in!

The first thing to say is that this book classes scraps as anything from 3.5″ to less than fat quarter size…none of the designs use pieces that are less than 3.5″. If that’s the size of your scraps then this book is sublime but if your scraps are much smaller (say from English Paper Piecing) then this book may not be as applicable and/or you’d have to edit the fabric requirements/pattern sizes to work with your stash. It isn’t a problem, it is just something to be aware of from the start. Now, let’s look at the beauty of this book!

Even the contents page is sumptuous and worthy of framing in itself!

Judy starts with the crucial part of her scrap-loving quilts: colours, tints, tones, shades and combining them! This is a really key aspect and it is beautifully put together, explained and visually presented.

Judy also looks at curves. Curves can be quite daunting and, before getting to the quilt designs, Judy guides you through the process of measuring, cutting, marking and sewing your circles with visuals and written instructions.

Now the foundations are in place…it is time for some scrap-loving quilts!

I can’t think of a good enough adjective to describe the deliciousness of these designs, their richness, their beauty and their style! There are 11 quilts in the book and each, and every single, one of them is a stunner!

Each quilt starts with the stunning photo along with the materials you’ll need, the cutting information and information about the design and top tips for making it. Following this, there are easy to follow step-by-step instructions for making your own version of this quilt from your scraps.

Each step has written instructions and clear visual images to guide you along the way.

This is a really beautiful book full of incredible images and designs for using colours creatively with the fabric offcuts in your stash! The photography is stunning and plentiful. The only thing that I felt was missing was a ‘sewing level guide’. I’d have loved a ‘sewing level’ alongside each project as some of the instructions look quite complex so it would help to know which patterns are an easy way into beginning to stitch scraps so that you can then progress to the more complex designs (or just jump straight in with the complex designs!)

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Book review: “The Building Blocks of Free-Motion Quilting” by Kathleen Riggins = 3.75*

If you’ve got free-motion quilting basics sorted but you want to know how to combine them, then this is the book for you!

The book is split into 5 sections: an introduction/setting it up section, a basic designs section, a building combinations section, a making shapes section and a finishing up section!

How super stylish is the layout of the contents too?! This stylish layout runs throughout the book and it is sublime!

In the intro/setting up sections, Kathleen talks you through needles, sewing space, basting, marking, and securing your thread at the beginning and end. Once the setting up is covered, you can start learning the 8 free-motion quilting designs that are the foundation of this book: straight lines, grids, feathers, bubbles, swirls, clamshells, wave fills and ribbon candy.

I love how there are tips for areas that the quilting design works particularly well in!

The instructions for the quilting design are a combination of visuals (digital diagrams and real-life photos) and writing.

In the following section, Kathleen then begins to guide you through the process of combining these different designs! Scary, yes, but also very exciting and that excitement is because the photos are so beautiful!

Again, the instructions for combining the designs are a combination of written text, digital diagrams and real-life photos which help to make the process more accessible. I also love how Kathleen includes, again, the areas on a quilt that the combination would work well in!

The penultimate section looks at using quilting to draw attention to, or away from, particular shapes on your quilt.

I found this section harder to visualise but that’s probably because it is like any skill in that it takes time to put into use as you are learning to see something new and different. The visuals are, once again, incredibly clear and also incredibly inspiring!

The final section of the book covers troubleshooting, removing marks and…these FABULOUS building block cards! These are cards you can cut out to keep alongside your machine to act as visual representations of the different quilting (and also to see what the combination of quilting designs would look like!)

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Book review: “Walk, Jog, Run: A Free-Motion Quilting Workout” by Dara Tomasson = 5*

In this fabulous new book by Dara Tomasson, the fear of free-motion quilting is sent flying as Dara talks you through a range of exercises, projects and tips for building skills, techniques and quilting workouts!

The book is split into two sections.

Section 1 has four chapters and chapters 1-3 look specifically at the foundations of free motion quilting including sewing machine, needles, tension, maintenance, threads, battings, keeping a quilter’s log, and the physical space for quilting (taking particular note of lighting, body posture and fatigue).

I really like how much detail Dara goes into here because it feels informative, but not overwhelming, and provides a really solid foundation and understanding before practically starting with free-motion quilting.

Chapter 4 then begins to get us ready for the real-life use of free-motion quilting by guiding us through the process of making a quilt sandwich and basting the quilt.

Dara is clear from the start that imperfections are part of the learning process with free-motion quilting and I really like that Dara emphasises this before we even start free-motion quilting…it takes some of the pressure off!

So…we’ve got our space set up and ready to go, we’ve made the quilt sandwich and the quilt is basted…what next? Well, section 2 is next!

Section 2 is split into 10 chapters with each chapter exploring a different free-motion quilting (straight lines, e’s and i’s, loops, daisies, paisleys, stippling, circuit boards, wishbones and fancy l’s, ribbon candy curves, and clamshells). To say these sections are phenomenal is an understatement! The level of detail, inspiration, instruction and activities is incredible.

Each chapter tells you what you need for practising that quilting technique, the skills you’ll learn, the key elements of that quilting design, examples of variations of that quilting design, a record/time sheet with practice ‘workouts’ (mini activities) for practising that quilting technique and an individual, stand-alone project to practise the quilting technique (with full instructions on making the project from start to finish).

There is also an on-going pattern throughout the book to make a Sawtooth Star Quilt and, when Dara covers each quilting technique, she also demonstrates how to use that quilting technique within one of your Sawtooth Star blocks.

I LOVE this as it enables you to not only learn new techniques and to practice what you’ve been reading, but it also enables you to have a full quilt at the end as a tangible sample of the different quilting techniques. What better way to remember them?

This is a really fabulous, inspiring, creative and, most importantly, accessible book which turns something that is typically quite daunting (free-motion quilting) into something which is fun and exciting! I really loved it and I cannot wait to start free-motion quilting!

Dara Tomasson’s website:

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Book review: “Stitch, Fabric & Thread: An inspirational guide for creative stitchers” by Elizabeth Healey = 5*

I so wish there was a higher star rating that I could give as this book is PHENOMENAL!

Elizabeth Healey has absolutely jam-packed this book with ideas, exercises, prompts and knowledge for stitching in a range of contexts and inspirations.

You can see from the contents page at how detailed this book is but it isn’t ever overwhelming! The book’s layout and the structure have been expertly thought through and crafted so that you, as the reader and maker, are taken on a textile journey. Even the subtle page decorations are inspirational as you go through the book…

Before starting the stitches, Elizabeth talks about the importance of preparation in terms of tools, sketchbooks and recording, threads, fabrics, colour, image inspiration and more.

What I really love is how Elizabeth really brings it back to basics in exploring these factors.

For example, Elizabeth talks about the different fabrics in such detail (their weave, their formation, their weight) and, even if you thought you know lots about fabric, it is so informative and inspiring.

I adore how Elizabeth also encourages you to think ethically about your fabrics too with a specific section on ethical textiles and textile recycling:

Once the preparation is covered, Elizabeth then begins to explore the stitches with the first section being based on straight stitches:

Now, don’t be fooled! Straight stitches are so incredibly versatile and Elizabeth demonstrates this beautifully with a phenomenal 26 visual prompts for using straight stitch including (but not limited to) chicken scratch, seed stitch, kantha, boro, sashiko and much, much more:

I love how each of the 26 prompts is presented visually at the start of that section so that you can see exactly what the stitch idea is:

Then the in-action prompts begin and the layout for each activity/prompt is absolutely exquisite! The technique/stitch is explained alongside the materials, the instructions and stunning photography:

What is also incredibly clever is that a lot of the prompts also contain an ‘elsewhere’ section which is almost like an extension of that prompt and encourages you to look further into that specific technique/inspiration.

Continuing this inspirational and flawless layout, the second section explores ‘chain and blanket stitches’ (shisha, felt, mail art, stitching on knit and more), the third section explores ‘raised stitches’ (embellishing prints, scattered french knots, couching) alongside pattern repeats, natural dyes, ink and bleach experimentation with the fourth and final section exploring ‘more than stitches’ (shibori techniques, texture, rag books, applique, drawn thread and more).

If you’re new to stitching, or just want a refresher on stitching techniques, then there is also a detailed and easy-to-follow section on the range of stitches used towards the end of the book:

I genuinely don’t know how to rave about this book any higher. If there is only one book that you buy this year then I would really, really recommend that you choose this one as it is phenomenal from start to finish! Stunning photography, flawless and accessibly structure/layout, inspiration in abundance and so much more….!

At an RRP of £14.99, this book is just incredible!

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Book review: “A Field Guide: Serger 101” by Katrina Walker = 3*

I don’t think I am saying anything controversial or new to say that a Serger (an overlocker) can be scary – I fully put my hands up and say I am daunted! Katrina’s book, however, is just the accompaniment to help!

This book aims to help people become more comfortable, and also more confident, with their serger. To begin with, Katrina expertly guides you through learning the basics (how it works, the needles, the parts), how to thread it and choosing your stitches.

Now, the detail in this section is phenomenal. Quite often the very act of threading a serger puts many off because of how detailed and complex it feels in comparison to a sewing machine. This book, however, is incredibly at providing a comprehensive guide to threading your serger with detailed instructions, photos and digital images to help you along the way. This ‘serger basics’ section is lengthy (pages 7-49) but this just demonstrates exactly how detailed the book’s instructions/guides are so that you, as the reader, do not feel overwhelmed or intimidated. It breaks it all down for you in an accessible and easy-to-follow format.

The book then presents a handful of projects so that you can begin to get comfortable using the serger in real-life.

At the start of this section (chapter 4) Katrina talks about accurate seams, using the differential feed and serging corners before then proffering projects to put these techniques into use: a coaster set and drawstring bags.

This layout continues throughout the book with Katrina presenting the serger techniques/stitch, setting up the stitch on your machine, troubleshooting, top tips and a project to put-into-action what you’ve learnt for each chapter.

Chapter 5 discusses flatlocking (with a table runner project to try the technique), chapter 6 explores ‘rolled hems’ (with a scarf project), chapter 7 covers ‘safety stitch and coverstitching’ (with a tote project), chapter 8 covers ‘knit construction techniques’ (with a knit t-shirt project and leggings project), chapter 9 discusses ‘woven construction techniques’ (with a kimono style project) and chapter 10 presents ‘serging sheers and delicates’ (with a shrug project). Chapter 11 covers any additional and speciality tools that you can get with your serger (lace foot, beading foot etc).

The detail in this book is incredible. Personally, I found the projects incredibly dated and not very inspiring. I did, however, love the depth of detail that Katrina went into for using your serger so if you’re looking for something informative to further your knowledge of your serger, and how to use it, then this is the book for you!

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Book review: “Crazy Quilting: Dazzling Diamonds” by Kathy Seaman Shaw = 4*

Kathy has done it again and created another fabulous book! Think you know all there is to know about embroidery and crazy patchwork? Then think again as this book offers a new and novel twist: crazy diamond patchwork!

This comprehensive book expertly guides you through Kathy’s process of how to create dazzling diamond crazy patchwork!

The section on creating the quilt blocks (supplies, construction and embellishment) is clear, accessible and easy to follow which step-by-step instructions alongside photos so that you feel supported and inspired to make along too!

Following the block constructions, Kathy then guides you through a whole host of fiber embroidery stitches, silk stitches, combining these stitches and adding beads.

Again, I adore how each of those sections not only has the written instructions but digital images to show how to create the stitch as well as a photo of the completed stitch. This combination really helps to build a comprehensive guide for creating the stitches.

Kathy then shows you how to combine what you’ve learnt (block construction, fiber embroidery, silk embroidery and embellishments) to create her blocks. I love how these are laid out! The block is broken down into the materials/stitches used (with clear digital diagrams) as well as a photo of the finished block – utterly genius and absolutely inspirational!

This is a truly sumptuous and inspirational book and I’d highly recommend it for anyone with an interested in stitching, embroidery, and patchwork!

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Book review: “Cross Stitch Christmas: 20 Beautiful Designs for the Festive Season” = 3.5*

I always aim to be honest in my reviews and that means I will rave about a book when it is incredible, but I will also say where I found a book lacking. To give a “star rating” for this book was really hard because the cross stitch designs themselves are an absolute 5* but the book’s layout and presentation wasn’t cohesive. This meant that I gave ‘Cross Stitch Christmas’ an overall review of 3.5*.

As you can see from the contents page, there is a wide range of cross stitch designs from festive foliage to Christmas animals, and from advent to alphabets. Each design is so beautiful, classy and fabulously photographed.

Alongside each cross stitch design there is a page of writing and this is where I felt the book was not cohesive. The introduction doesn’t explain what these writing pieces are about and they seem to be tips and ideas for festive activities but as there is no information, it isn’t easy to follow or to understand.

The charts for each cross stitch are not located alongside the project. Instead, you have all the photos of the designs with the festive tips/ideas/activities alongside them and once that’s presented then you have 20 pages of cross stitch charts.

This then makes it difficult to navigate the book as you have to flick back and forth between the charts and the photo of the finished design (so for the ‘Those Little Extras’ project you are then flicking back and forth between page 64 for the chart and page 15 for the project). Having reviewed lots of Search Press books, they typically present the instructions alongside the photos of the project so it feels at odds with their usual, reader-friendly, layout.

Following the photos of the projects, and then the charts, there is a “techniques and making up” section. Again, the layout means that I didn’t find this book reader-friendly as it feels counterintuitive to include instructions at the end of the book on preparing your fabric, tips for whilst you are stitching and ‘how-to cross stitch’.

So, all in all, this book has some really and truly stunning cross stitch designs but, as it felt that it lacked cohesion, I averaged it out to a 3.5* review.

Book review: “Quick and Easy Christmas: 100 gifts & decorations to make for the festive season” by Search Press Studio = 5*

Quick and Easy Christmas, a new Search Press Studio book, is absolutely incredible! It is an amalgamation of projects, taken from the Search Press ’20 to Make’ series, which is a sure-fire winner of a Christmas book for multi-crafters!

There are 7 crafting themes within the book (stitching, papercraft, knitting, jewellery, crochet, sugarcraft and polymer clay) and each theme is colour-coded so you can easily identify the craft groupings by sight.

I also absolutely LOVE their contents page as they give you the photo of the project as well as the project title and corresponding page number.

To me, this is an absolute genius move by Search Press as it makes it much more reader-friendly! It is easier to navigate, be inspired by, and browse the projects all by sight and in one place!

I also love how each craft grouping starts with the corresponding ‘know-how’ pages to introduce you to the techniques you’ll use during the following projects. Again, this really helps in making the book accessible, effortless to navigate and easy to find the basics for the craft alongside the projects associated with it.

I had a go at knitting the ‘Snowflakes Mug Hug’ project as it looked so fantastically festive!

The instructions are clear, easy to follow and result in a fabulous make! I can’t wait to sew lots of Christmas buttons onto the mug hug!

With 100 projects and an RRP. of £9.99 (which means that it works out at less than 10p per project), this is an absolutely fabulous Christmas craft book which will inspire you for years to come!

Book review: “The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers” by Trish Burr = 5*

The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers is a beautiful book exploring botanical textile art through needle painting (a form of surface embroidery).

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have a special place in my heart (after I got engaged there) so I had high expectations of this book to do justice to such a beautiful setting with a vast collection of botanicals and botanical illustrations. The botanical illustrations within Kew’s Library, Art and Archives collection have offered inspiration for many makers, crafters and artists since it was established in the mid 19th century.

Trish Burr offers a new and inspiring insight into Kew’s botanical illustrations through her 11 embroidery projects.

The book starts off with a beautifully detailed section explaining terminologies, materials, tools and preparation activities.

Trish then begins to explain the different stitches. I found these pages not only visually stunning, but really clear and really accessible. Each stitch is explained with clear tips, methods, diagrams and photos both of the how-to for the stitch and also for the finished flower using that stitch.

Once all of these areas have been covered, Trish then starts to guide you through the projects!

These projects are grouped according to their difficulty and range from “simple projects” through to “advanced projects”.

Each project is so sumptuously presented with beautiful stitching, a clear information list (about materials, project size), information about the illustration that inspired Trish’s textile interpretation and a step-by-step guide for stitching the botanical for yourself.

I love how each project also has an accompanying, reusable transfer sheet (with information about how to use the transfer sheet) so that you don’t have to worry about getting the botanical shape correct…you can just start stitching!

This really is a breathtaking book and whilst it is definitely an expensive book (with an RRP. of £25) it is absolutely worth it because the photography, the information, the projects and the overall feel of the book is absolutely flawless! A true 5* book which is going to be a beautiful book for anyone interested in art, making, botanicals, Kew, sewing and creating!

Book review: “Creative Calligraphy: Prompts, Tutorials and Practice Pages” by Mary Noble and Janet Mehigan = 4*

Creative Calligraphy is a new Search Press book which is your go-to handbook for calligraphy!

At an RRP of £12.99, this book is an absolute bargain as it has a whopping 224 pages! It is HUGE!

You can see how vast this book is which gives an indication of just how much it includes! I also really love how the different sections are colour coded so at a quick glance you’re able to flick to the section you want!

The book starts with a really comprehensive guide to the book’s layout, tools and materials, marks, pressure, pen angles and problem solving. This helps to give you a solid foundation before moving on to the projects!

The book has seven “alphabets” and each alphabet starts with information about its origins, structures, pen angles, spacing, uppercase and lowercase guides.

Once those areas have been covered, there are then practise pages for you, as the reader, to use so that you can explore, experiment and practise what’s been taught.

These pages have multiple lines on to guide the shape height (uppercase and lowercase) which is really helpful. There is space for you to practise each letter of the alphabet individually and the authors have included accompanying individual examples of each letter on the page which is a really big help (so that you don’t have to flick back and forth between the main instructions and your practise page).

Following the practise pages, there are then colour pages with designs already made for you to continue to practise your calligraphy on (minus the line guides so it is another step up). These pages are absolutely phenomenal! The designs are so beautiful, so vibrant and so stylish – they’re just waiting for the calligraphy to make them personal to you!

If you’re interested in calligraphy, this is a really fabulous, colourful and hugely detailed book which is a real bargain for £12.99! I gave it 4* because it is so comprehensive, so beautiful and so vast! What I would have loved is some accompanying videos to match the book and to show the alphabets and the pen angles happening in real, moving time because I found it quite hard to follow in the book. I know Search Press have done this with some of their books so it is possible! If there were those videos, it would have been a 5* review for sure! All in all, this really is a beautiful and inspiring book and is available from Search Press here.