Ribbonwork? What’s that? Isn’t it something traditional, or dare I say it, boring? To be perfectly honest, if I had simply heard of this book; rather than give it a thorough read, I may have left it on the shelf as it were. Judged without trial, classed as something that just didn’t sound like “me”. However the age-old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” certainly rings true here. So let’s dive in!
About the Author
Sophie Long has had the creme of an educational foundation. Her website states: “Sophie graduated from the Royal School of Needlework in 2008, having mastered more than 30 hand embroidery techniques including silk shading and Goldwork. Sophie’s passion and undeniable talent for embroidery is displayed through her hand embroidery classes, extensive range of kits and original works. The culmination of Sophie’s hard work and desire came in 2011, when she was invited to be part of the team to work on Kate Middleton’s much publicised wedding dress.”
From this level of experience, we can feel secure in the knowledge, that we will at least be learning from someone who knows their art well.
Who is this book aimed at?
In my opinion, this would appeal to so done who already has some knowledge of embroidery and who wishes to extend or widen their technical knowledge. Although the main subject of the book is of course related to the titled technique, throughout this volume, we are encouraged to develop our own ideas and merge stitch types. For example, lately in the book, under Advanced Projects, we discover how to juxtapose Goldwork with Ribbonwork.
Yes the book itself may appeal at first to only those who have embroidery experience, but inside we discover step by step tutorials which guide us through the varying stitches and projects. This makes the book accessible for all with an interest to learn. The imagery is engaging, helping us to “see” what should be happening. Coupled with this, her writing style is empowering and inspirational, guiding us yet letting us have freedom of interpretation when it comes to future designing with this technique.
Contemporary materials not usually associated with this method are used, such as denim and leather. This gives an edge to the book and “any age” appeal.
There are 10 project guides in total in Ribbonwork Embroidery, divided into beginners and advanced projects. As I previously noted, this makes the book seem accessible and approachable for all. As you leaf through, you may find like myself, that not all appeal. Maybe you don’t want to make a clock or a car… Or even a colour wheel; yet I wager that the quality imagery makes us at least want to try something, even if we do it in our own style, as it were.
Much is said throughout the book on how to design our own projects. This isn’t simply a “copy and paste” manual, where self-expression is not an option. This is one way where I see her teaching experience in action. She encourages her “students” (us readers) to grow and develop, not end on the last page, when there is no longer an instruction to follow.
We find helpful photos illustrating how to draw out ideas, as well as embroider them. Thus the full process is laid bare.
Another helpful feature is the visually documented explanations of many stitches. The photographs provided are broken down enough for us to link one step to the other. In the preceding chapter to the subsequent stitch guides,we are given advice on needles and what materials work best with Ribbonwork. Thus we can prepare ourselves.
Some of the information given is surprisingly helpful. For example her notes on how to store ribbons and if they are colourfast? That’s certainly something that I wouldn’t have thought of. Even hints on how not to damage the ribbon we use is annotated down. Once again we see her experience as a tutor conveyed; never too simple a detail to highlight or overlook.
This was a key part of the book. Many guides show us how to create a piece, but leave us hanging as to what to do with it once finished. Using traditional forms of mounting, instructions are again placed for us to mount and finish our creations neatly. One highlight for myself was seeing the method set in brooch and necklace form. Again, Long opens up the possibilities for us. We don’t need to create a large mounted piece at first, why not a smaller more manageable trial first?
Overall I found this an enlightening read. It’s a book you will find yourself referring back to, whether it’s to look at the design concepts or to remember a certain stitch. I’d recommend a few readings of it, every time I read it I found myself getting more from it. Look out for the hints of leather and denim in later chapters, again taking the technique away from the “expected” and into textiles now.
As a freelance artist, designer, lecturer and tutor (how do I narrow down that description?!) I have been contracted by numerous arts organizations to provide Talks, Workshops’ and Masterclasses’ in Textiles, Print Making and Fine Art subjects. These include branches of the Embroiderers’ Guild, Textile Study Groups and The Women’s Institute. Every year I teach at The Knitting and Stitching shows and exhibit with the Artist in Action stand. Currently I am building up to my exhibition at The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia, London this spring; having also written articles or had work illustrated in Stitch, Inspired, Embroidery, Selvedge, Daphne’s Diary, Prima (online), Cloth Paper Scissors and the Batsford book ‘Be Creative with Textile Art.'