At Mr X Stitch we love to review textile art and embroidery books for you. There are so many great books to discover, packed with needlework inspiration and textile techniques, so we dive into each book to find out what’s good, what’s bad and let you know why you should pick it up.
Paint With Thread by Emilie Ferris is a richly illustrated step-by-step guide with five main projects for readers to follow, all inspired by the changing of the seasons and its impact on nature. With detailed tutorials, a separate stitch guide and all the information required to begin and finish each embroidery project. There are around sixty photos for each project in this hardback book, sitting at just over a hundred pages long. This book is a celebration of nature and how it can inspire the art of needlepainting.
What Is Needlepainting?
Before you begin reading this book, you may question what painting with thread is. It often comes under a few different names, which you may find confusing. Names such as needlepainting, thread painting, silk shading, tonal stitch, filling stitch…..we could go on. Really though it is understanding what it is rather than getting tied down with a name which is important. It is a technique used for giving a painterly look to embroidery, a realistic look. Often it is based on an image the artist is working from. It can be very detailed with fine stitches. Within this book you will explore how to achieve this skill, including what stitches are commonly used to paint your own scenes. You can create gorgeous colour gradients, magical details and flowing stitch directions that are perfect if you want to embroider flora and fauna, making this skill an exciting one to learn.
Who is the book aimed at?
Ferris actually answers this question in her ‘Welcome’ chapter. She invites all skill levels, from ‘absolute beginners….to seasoned stitchers’. On first glance, I found this enthusiasm for this subject a little hard to believe, as it looks a tricky technique to learn and I did not imagine an easy one for the absolute beginner. However on reading this book and experiencing the guidance provided by Ferris, I can now see how this skill could be learned by all. So as a reviewer and fellow artist, I would now recommend this book to a universal audience.
A little bit about the author
Taking one look at her, I first thought….hippie earth child, do-gooder….maybe too worthy? Maybe I shouldn’t have judged. After reading the whole thing, number one, I love her glasses! And two, her comments on this page are actually very relevant. I totally have to hand it to her, she must be driven as she is actually only twenty five, has taught herself and is now a well known name in the embroidery world; not bad eh?
I totally get after reading this book, how painting with thread can give you freedom, as its your choice how to colour it in, even though we can of course use the projects as read, following her guidance and tuition.
The book contains five projects, as well as chapters on Tools and Materials, Transferring Patterns and the patterns to transfer, as well as others. I will highlight a few key features of this book as well as giving some insight into the projects and if they are of use.
The five projects are all season inspired, how she chose one to represent each season I do not know. However what I particularly liked about her choice was that they are not the ones first to come to mind. I get bored as a reviewer of observing a load of roses and the usual fashionable flowers. Yet let’s take spring for example, where Ferris has chosen to shortlist and use Dandelions to represent this season. I would have bet on Daffodils or Tulips, so this surprised me. Yet I loved it, it made the project more tempting to do as it felt like I was making something a little different, while in reality still using someone else’s design. Maybe it will make you feel the same way.
Painting in a stitched form looks lovely once completed but can be tricky to achieve. So Ferris leads us through the steps via these sort of step-by-step images. On looking at them, at first it feels they do not look that different from each other. That is actually a positive thing, as it means we don’t get lost along the way. Small steps, yet all in the right direction.
Here is another example of the tuition via Ferris. This time, she uses diagrams rather than photographs to lead us through the stages to embroider this bee. This conveys her level of experience, as she is able to adapt her teaching skills to the project.
What is good about this book?
Not only are the embroideries sublime, but the book itself is a thing of beauty, with incredible attention to detail – from the exquisite photography to the lavish hardback binding, making it a real treasure for the book lover. Plus, high quality iron-on transfers at the back of the book allow you to transfer the designs directly onto fabric to get started straight away.
I really liked how she had laid out the ‘Tools & Materials’ section. Normally in embroidery books we get a list of all the pieces we will require, which is fine. Yes we get that in this book too, however she has given it a bit of a twist, adding a ‘Nice to have’ two page spread. The equipment she mentions isn’t vital, so the pressure is off us having to make expensive purchases if we are not able to. However it portrays care on behalf of the author; she has really given even this introductory section thought. This girl knows her stuff.
As I mentioned previously, the photography is sublime. I chose the example of the Bee below, which is the final project in the book as I liked how the photo spread over the two pages, making for a larger image. This design is the most intricate in the book; the wide array of colours and tiny details will take a long time to embroider, it won’t be a quick result. However I imagine it would be the most satisfying of the projects to do, as Bees are always in the news and the need to care for them. Patience and yes, time is definitely required.
We are not left after finishing the embroideries with no idea what to do with them. Ferris teaches how to finish them off, using the odd diagram for reference. So hopefully if you manage to finish even one of her designs, you will also be able to display it nicely!
Is There Anything Wrong With This Book?
In this book Emillie generously shares her tried and tested tips and techniques, including advice on materials, transferring designs onto fabric, and fully illustrated explanations of the stitches and skills needed. The five in-depth projects draw on Emillie’s love of nature, including motifs that she is best known for such as flowers, foliage, bees and fungi. It is a pleasure to read through this book and we feel it will be a pleasure to try out the projects too.
Painting with thread is a complex skill to learn, however via Ferris’ teaching and guidance, we feel it will be achievable and rewarding to achieve.
So, what are you waiting for? Purchase your copy today using this link.