Book review = 4* for ‘365 days of stitches’ by Steph Arnold

For transparency: I was given a copy of this book on exchange for a review. The review, however, is 100% genuine with my own thoughts and feelings.

The review:

Textiles have historically acted as vehicles for recording lives through stitch. It seems that over recent years, there’s been an increase in people using stitch to create, more specifically, embroidered journals as a record of their lives. This is the first book that I’ve come across that is specifically aimed at supporting and inspiring people to keep an embroidered journal of their own.

365 Days of Stitches is written by Steph Arnold, owner and creator of Oh Sew Bootiful, and published by Search Press.

This book will absolutely guide you through the process of keeping your own embroidered journal!

The idea of starting a year-long project can be quite daunting so this book is really good as a resource book and an inspiration to get you started.

You can see from the contents page alone, just how much this book covers and yet it doesn’t feel overwhelming as it is so clearly presented in an easy-to-follow format.

The book starts by introducing Steph, the book’s author and Oh Sew Bootiful owner, as well as information about how to use the book (motifs, months starting) and some artist examples of stitched journals.

Chapter 1 covers core techniques and stitches.

I love how even the headings pages are so beautiful! There are photos of small stitched motifs as well as the heading and information about what the chapter covers.

In chapter 1, we learn about tools and materials, colours, how to use the templates to section your fabric into the 12 months of the year, how to use the motifs, and 15 core stitches that are referred back to throughout the book.

There are instructions and visual guides for how to embroider each of the 15 stitches as well as tips on starting and ending your thread.

Chapter 2 is the ‘Motif Directory’ which houses 1,000 motifs that you can use in your own embroidered journal.

These motifs are broken down into 12 subsections such as ‘nature’, ‘animals’, ‘home’, ‘celebrations’, and more.

Within each subsection, there are small motifs that you can either copy or use as inspiration to freehand your own versions. There is information underneath each motif that says recommended colours and recommended stitches (which are part of the 15 core stitches covered at the start of the book) but also that you can choose to use your own stitches/colours.

There is a colour chart down the left side of each page that says the recommended DMC threads for the suggested colours as well as a photo on the right showing the real life versions of each motif. I love the variety of motifs presented, how easy they are to find thanks to the really helpful headings, and the suggestions for recommended DMC threads. I would have liked more information about how to stitch such teeny tiny motifs. I’ve been an embroiderer for many, many years and I felt a bit daunted seeing how tiny the details are on some of the motifs especially if I were to freehand draw it (tracing is hard even with a lightbox once the fabric is in an embroidery hoop).

Following the motifs, there is also a double page spread with motifs for alphabets, numbers and diacritics.

What I also love about the book is the index!

Given that there are 1,000 motifs, this index is a game changer as it means you can easily look up the motif that you want to stitch rather than trying to guess which subheading it might come under. This makes it so much easier to use which means you have more stitching time!

Lastly, there is an envelope inside the book (on the back page) which includes different templates for creating the monthly sections on your embroidered journal. They are iron on templates so you can follow the instructions (at the start of the book) and just get stitching!

This is a really beautiful book which is jam-packed with ideas, motifs and creativity. It has beautiful photography throughout with a really clear and easy-to-follow format. I’d highly recommend it for anyone interested in embroidery, stitching, journalling, creativity or textiles!

Book review = 4* for ‘Debbie Shore’s Sewing Journal’

For transparency: I was given a copy of this book on exchange for a review. The review, however, is 100% genuine with my own thoughts and feelings.

The review:

Debbie Shore has written over 30 books (published by Search Press) so I was really excited to get my hands on a copy of Debbie’s latest publication: ‘Debbie Shore’s Sewing Journal‘.

Even the front cover is inspiring and I love all of the different sewing motifs that are scattered across it from thimbles to cotton reels and buttons to needles.

This is a journal aimed at anyone who stitches so that you can keep track of your sewing throughout the year from goals and intentions through to achievements and progressions.

The contents page is clearly laid out with each section having a heading, subheadings, and then a corresponding colour for each section so that you can find it quickly by flicking through.

I absolutely adore that, very early on in the journal, Debbie creates space for you to record the things that make you happy as well as space for you to stick photos or swatches in of these things.

What I really love about this is that life can so often be stressful and overwhelming with what can feel like multiple demands on our time and energy. By having these pages at the front of the journal, it really encourages us to be reflective whilst sewing. It also allows us to easily flick back to the start to remind ourselves as often as possible of the little things in life that can make us happy (whether buying a new fabric, a new thread, or family and friends).

This all comes under the first section which is titled ‘Starting Out’. This section covers setting intentions (goals) for the year, body measurements (this is obviously aimed at dressmakers, so if you are a patchworker then don’t feel you need to complete this section!), and then space for any further notes you’d like to include.

The second section is ‘Sewing Essentials’.

This section is all about the fabrics! Debbie talks about a whole range of different types of fabrics, interfacings, linings, and fabric care symbols. There is then space for you to think about, and record, the fabrics you have and what makes them special to you.

I love the recording element of this journal as it really brings in so much of the journalling and scrapbooking world with the sewing world.

There are then further pages to stick fabric swatches along with corresponding information such as name, brand, fabric type, amount owned, and where to purchase more (space for corresponding thread colour would definitely have been useful here).

Debbie then talks about threads, zips, needles, cutting tools, and sewing machines.

I know that I really don’t remember to clean my machine out as often as I should (oops!) so I love that this journal has space to record when I do it so that it can also act as a reminder for when to do it next.

This section then goes on to talk about different stitches on the sewing machine (with space to record your own stitch settings and preferences), thread tension and choosing colours (with space to record your favourite colours, colour combos, and space to reflect about colour and emotions for you such as colours that make you happy or calm).

The third section is project planning which has lots of space for you to record everything to do with your projects including a space for a list of ‘projects to finish’ and a list of ‘projects to make’. There are then pages dedicated to a more in-depth record of your projects. Each project can be spread across 2 X double page spreads with sections to record the project name, date started, date finished, who the project is for, any sketches/doodles, materials used, notions used, machine settings, needles, threads, overall costs, what you would change next time, and any further notes.

Given the focus on mindfulness and intentions, it would have been really lovely to see a section in there for ‘what I’m proud of’ as well as the already existing ‘what would I change’. I think it is so important to build in the positives too.

There is then a section on monthly planning so you can write down important dates or things to do on a month-to-month basis.

The penultimate section is called ‘Sewing Reference’.

This section covers sewing terms, techniques (such as how to stitch split seams), common fabric and quilt sizes, dressmaking tips (how to take measurements etc), and a glossary and abbreviations page.

Finally, the book ends with a section on ‘Final Thoughts’. This section is a space for you to record any notes to your future self, your accomplishments throughout the year (it can be so easy to overlook these and to forget them especially as the year goes on), and any further notes you’d like to add.

This is a really beautiful book and it bridges a gap between sewing and journalling so it is a very welcome addition!

Book review = 5* for ‘The Embroidery Stitch Companion’ by Coline Bavois

For transparency: I was given a copy of this book on exchange for a review. The review, however, is 100% genuine with my own thoughts and feelings.

The review:

The Embroidery Stitch Companion‘ is a new embroidery book written by Coline Bavois and published by SearchPress.

I’m going to be brutally honest in saying that I have read a lot of embroidery books and I am super hard to impress in this area because there are a lot on the market. This book, however, massively exceeded my expectations and I was utterly impressed from start to finish!

It is a smaller size book which makes it the perfect accompaniment to take with you whether that be on holiday, the work commute, the sofa, by the bed, or anywhere else you’d like to stitch! Whilst it is small in stature, it definitely is not lacking!

You can see from the (beautifully set out) contents page, just how much this book covers!

In part 1, the embroidery essentials are covered including fabrics (and how different fabrics will react to stitches differently), threads (stranded, tapestry, wool, metallic, silk), needles, scissors, embroidery hoops, marking tools, transfer papers and more. It has top tips, illustrations, written text, and easily accessible information.

Part 2 then guides you through basic techniques such as preparing the fabric, transferring your designs, securing your fabric in the hoop, best practice for using your thread, threading your needle, securing your thread (with different options including knots, waste knots, filling methods), and finishing off your embroidery. Each subsection is clearly presented with a heading, subheading, written text and images (where needed).

You can see, from this example, how each subsection is presented. I love how accessible it is and easy to follow. It makes the whole book so enjoyable and informative to use.

Once the embroidery essentials and basic techniques are covered, you are then at the stage of stitching! Within the stitch guide, Coline presents 18 embroidery stitches that are useful to know. Each stitch is presented with a heading, a diagram for how to stitch it along with written steps, information about how it can be used, and a sensational photograph showing a multitude of ways that that single stitch can be used.

You can see, in this laced running stitch example, just how inspiring the image is in showing how a single embroidery stitch can look so different depending on how you use it! It is truly wondrous reading through the book and seeing stitches that you think you know so well being used in such beautiful and creative ways.

The final section of the book is ‘further ideas’ which covers using appliqué, embroidering stretchy fabrics, embroidering with beads and sequins, as well as further points for creative inspiration.

At an RRP of £9.99, this book truly is sensational and packs a lot of information, creativity, inspiration and stitch knowledge in!

Book review = 5* for “Hand-Stitched Quilts” by Carolyn Forster

For transparency: I was given a copy of this book on exchange for a review. The review, however, is 100% genuine with my own thoughts and feelings.

The review:

Hand-Stitched Quilts” is the latest book publication by the ever-talented Carolyn Forster and it absolutely lives up to Carolyn’s fabulous reputation!

In this book, Carolyn expertly guides you through the process of hand-stitching a quilt from start to finish.

I especially loved the dedication at the start of the book. Carolyn takes a lot of inspiration from antique and historical quilts, and she is truly interested in, and fascinated by, all aspects of quilt-making both in knowledge and in practise. This dedication is so beautiful and really feels in keeping with all of Carolyn’s work.

The contents page is clearly laid out and accessible. I love how they have also used exquisite imagery so that it doesn’t feel text-heavy. The headings are clear along with the subheadings and information about what is within each section. This makes it much easier to navigate as the reader!

After the introduction, Carolyn talks through the different quilt and piecing materials that she uses. The information is broken down with subheadings so that you can focus in on the section that you need/want. Again, I love the use of imagery on the side of the text as it just unites it all and creates a really beautiful book that is informative and stunning in one.

With the same layout (of text, subheadings and images), Carolyn also goes through the materials for cutting and sewing fabric, template materials, using templates, seam allowances, grain lines, hand piecing materials, and top tips. Then comes the stitching! Whether you’re new to hand-piecing, dabbled in hand-piecing or are a experienced in hand-piecing – this section will still be useful!

Every step of hand-piecing is broken down with clear instructions, close up photos, written text and top tips. It makes it incredibly accessible, easy to follow and beautiful to read and follow.

Carolyn covers thread length, starting and finishing your stitches, number of stitches, threading a needle, pressing seams, as well as guidance (photos and instructional text) for piecing seams (single seams, seams with a junction, matching junctions, converging junctions, y-seams, round pieces and curved seams and more). As I type the different elements of piecing seams, I realise that could sound quite scary but it truly isn’t. Carolyn really does break each act down into smaller steps that are accessible and easy to understand due to her expert teaching, experience in writing, and beautifully close-up instructional photos.

Next up: the blocks! This book contains 27 different blocks so that you can put into use each of these hand-stitched skills!

Each block has a number, a bit of information about it (and variations where applicable), sizing information, what fabrics to use, which templates to use and the instructions for how to hand-stitch it.

I especially love that each block has a photo of the finished piece from the front as well as a photo of the back so that you know how to press it This is really, really useful for when it comes to joining your blocks.

After all 27 blocks, there is a section on adding sashing or post squares to your blocks as well as a section on making the quilt your own. I love that you can really adapt this book to make it work for you.

You don’t have to make the sampler quilt and I really like how Carolyn encourages the reader to adapt the book and the blocks accordingly so that it works for each individual reader.

If you do choose to make the sampler quilt, there are 2 sampler variations and they each have an image with a key so that you can see which blocks have been used, how they’ve been used and where they have been placed. Carolyn also talks through how to sew the quilt together in more detail on the following pages.

Next up, Carolyn talks about tacking/basting, tools, backing fabrics, wadding, quilting patterns, marking patterns, hand quilting, binding and labelling.

The book finishes with all of the templates for the 27 blocks which are provided at 100% scale. There is also a website provided so that you can download the templates too.

I decided to have a go at hand-stitching one of the blocks in the book called ‘Album’. I love how you can frame a special print at the centre of the block.

It took me a couple of tries to get the sewing seams with matching junctions but I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Having images showing how to press the block from the back really, really helped too.

I added some hand-quilting so that I can turn this block into a needlecase but I adore it and I’ll absolutely be making more!

I adored everything about this book and it is another stunning and inspirational book for stitchers!

The book is published by, and available to buy from, Search Press.

You can see more of Carolyn’s work through her website and her Instagram.

Book review = 5* for “big stitch quilting” by Carolyn Forster

For transparency: I was given a copy of this book on exchange for a review. The review, however, is 100% genuine with my own thoughts and feelings.

The review:

Big stitch quilting‘ is the 2021 book by the amazing Carolyn Forster. Carolyn is an internationally renowned writer, designer, maker and teacher with a multitude of publications – all of which are superb! This book is another incredible addition to the Carolyn bookshelf!

‘Big stitch quilting’ is absolutely packed with beautiful photography, detailed instructions, a multitude of inspiration and more alongside 20 projects for you to explore big stitch quilting with.

At the start of the book there is a contents page that clearly sets out the format for the book along with the page number.

This is perfectly bookended with a clear and accessible index at the back of the book so that you, as the reader, will be able to easily find the project and page that you’re searching for.

Carolyn starts the book by exploring big stitch quilting in historical makes as well as in different cultures. The level of details in the photos is astounding and I love learning the wider context of big stitch quilting and how it has been used.

Carolyn then moves on to talk about the tools and materials that she uses for big stitch quilting.

Again, I really liked the level of detail and how the tools and materials are broken down into subsections. This really helps the reader to make informed choices about materials, their uses, and considerations to take into account.

Each section has a clear heading so you know what it is about. In this section, Carolyn discusses the actual act of stitching the patchwork pieces and covers stitch length, pressing, chain piecing, and techniques.

Nothing is taken for granted and I really like that. Carolyn does not presuppose our knowledge as the reader and so all bases are covered with instructions that are all clear, understandable, easy to follow and have high-quality instructional images.

There are instructions and clear images for tacking, basting, quilt designs, quilting stitches, binding, and more.

Then come the projects and they are all amazing!! Sometimes, a book has a handful of projects that may inspire you. This book, however, is inspiring from start to finish. All 20 of the projects are amazing and ones that I absolutely want to try! There are 11 home items projects (bags, coasters, wrapping cloths etc) and 9 quilt projects.

Each project is titled and has clear information about the sort of project it is, the measurements, the requirements (fabric and notions), how to cut the fabric, and a digital image of the design as well as styled photography.

The photography truly is sublime! Following the above information, there is then a step-by-step for how to make the project with digital images to guide you alongside written guidance.

The book also contains the templates that are needed for the projects too so you can start stitching straight away!

I truly, truly love this book. It really is jam-packed with sumptuous images as well as clear and easy-to-follow instructions for a whole range of methods, stitches and quilting approaches as well as the 20 projects. It is absolutely a book that I’d highly, highly recommend!

You can see more of Carolyn’s work on her website and on her Instagram.

The book is published by, and available to buy from, Search Press.