Book Review – Colorful Stitchery by Kristin Nicholas

Colorful Stitchery by Kristin Nicholas

We’ve featured Kristin Nicholas on Mr X Stitch before, in connection with her book on Crewel Embroidery. Now she’s back with a new book Colorful Stitchery: 65 Embroidery Projects to Personalize Your Home. Kristin’s always up for an interview and so I fired some questions at her and she batted them right back!

Kristen Nicholas - Crewel Pillows on Bed

Tell us about your new book, Colorful Stitchery!

Colorful Stitchery is one of my most favorite book projects to date. (My professional background is in the knitwear and knitting yarn industry.) I learned to embroider as a kid and it is a craft/art that I have come back to year after year. Colorful Stitchery is a “learn to embroider” book but it is much more.

What was your goal with the book?
I have been working with textiles all my life, even having gone on university and grad school for textiles here in the US. When I was in school, I had the great fortune to be able study historic costume samples in the different collections each school had. In this book, I wanted to pass on some of the amazing knowledge I have been lucky enough to learn to the lay stitcher.

I included 21 different stitches in Colorful Stitchery. These are my favorites that I work with over and over again in my designs. There are very clear hand-painted illustrations of how to work each stitch. I also include info about different fibers and fabrics, about how to test the fiber content by burning an unknown fabric or thread, how to dye fabrics, how to felt fabrics and how to re-purpose thrifted fabrics.

Kristen Nicholas - Cashmere Blanket

I think of embroidery as painting with a needle and thread. Although it is more labor intensive the result is layered and beautiful and nuanced by history and time. What I wanted to present to modern embroiderers is that they have their ability to design their own embroidery – bringing into their work their own likes and dislikes, their favorites colors, fabrics, and their life. I included a beginners guide to working with colors, including many photos illustrating how colors work together. I also included a step-by-step guide to designing your first embroidery from a photo.

The book is centered around projects for the home – pillows and throws (including a gorgeous embroidered cashmere throw), the kitchen (all kinds of things like dishtowels, napkins, tablecloths, – even a coffee cozy), the bedroom (pillowcases with a modern take, curtains, a wedding blanket, even hot water bottle cozies – I think you call them hotties in the UK). In the final chapter, I stitched on alternative things like boxes, paper, and shoes. My goal was to show the possibilities in embroidery with products that can be used in life vs only hung on the wall.

Kristen Nicholas - Dishcloth Pillows

I’m enjoying the vibrant colours in your projects…

I am a fabric junkie and have been for all my life. I have collected odds and ends, remnants, all kinds of plaids, prints, checks, tweeds and velvets. As far as I am concerned every fabric is game for adding embroidery to it. As long as my needle and thread can go through it easily, I’ll stitch on it.

I actually think it is more fun to transform an alternative fabric with embroidery that might mostly be used for apparel or maybe an interior decorating fabric – even corduroy and velvet. One of my favorite projects in Colorful Stitchery is stitched on a piece of MacGregor tartan that I picked up at a flea market many years ago. I layered a floral design on top of it.

Kristen Nicholas - Plaid Embroidered Pillows

Where do you get your inspiration?

All the regular suspects most people look to – antique embroideries, folk embroideries, current interior decorating trends but not so much pop culture like many other stitchery designers. Sometimes it is just the fabric that speaks to me to be decorated. I stitched on striped dishtowels and turned them into huge pillows. It is great fun to take a patterned fabric and just go wild with decoration.

One of the nicest thing about embroidery is it is so reasonable financially to get into as a craft. You don’t need all kinds of supplies like fancy machines, computers, looms and what not. Just a needle, some thread and a base fabric and you are off.

In years past, so many people embroidered. It kind of lost its fashion for a good forty years but now it is back and better than ever. I’m so happy to be able to share my love with all of those who are just beginning to stitch or picking it up again.

I love the William Morris quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I think that is why all kinds of household objects are better and prettier when decorated with hand embroidery.

Kristen Nicholas - Hot Water Cozies

There’s a good dose of crewel in the book – are you still smitten with it?

I love it. I like working with the wool thread on linen fabric because it is so easy to make it look good. I included a bunch of crewel projects in Colorful Stitchery because I am so in love with the materials. I would say I much prefer embroidering with wool threads and yarns because of the way they can fill in a space and are much more forgiving than cotton floss.

Thanks Kristin, it’s always good chatting with you – see you for the next book!


Kristin’s book is playful and vibrant and has some great ideas for you to try in your home. If you fancy a spot of upcycling, Colorful Stitchery: 65 Embroidery Projects to Personalize Your Home is a good place to start. Why not buy your copy from our Amazon stores?