Review: “The Art of Embroidered Flowers”, by Gilda Baron

As promised, here is my quick review of the first of two books I picked up last night.

Because a person's motives for picking up a book can have as much to do with their assessment of it as anything, I'll let you in on my incentive; I am not overly-partial to spending huge amounts of time doing hand embroidery. I like the look of it in certain situations, I can do quite a few stitches quite adeptly, but I simply don't really enjoy it. I have come to the realisation that this phenomenon may be partially due to my lack of patience and partially due to my inability to make embroidery look like it belongs in the piece. Sometimes embroidered work can look more like embroidery than like a part of the picture as a whole and that's not my style.

So I picked up this book because it starts with the premise that embroidery can be integrated into the work as a whole and not look like it was simply dropping on as an afterthought.

The Art of Embroidered Flowers has good photos, clear instructions and is well-written. It mercifully assumes that you have a working knowledge of your sewing machine, how to prepare fabric, how to mix dyes and how to use fabric paints. I say "mercifully", because so many books run over the same old basics and waste pages of space on something that should be gleaned from another book altogether. But I digress.

The basic premise of this book is that a background should be painted and overpainted before adding embroidery. Stitching can be either by hand or machine (it talks about both and their individual effects on a piece) and is laid over a background of dye, paint and inks. These last set the background tones for the piece and relieve the possibility of there being blank spaces behind stitching or a sharp contrast between the stitching and the background fabric. In essence, Baron demonstrates how to make a transition between stitching and horizon; creating the blended backdrop for the relief that stitching provides.

She also discusses in some detail the concept of dying embroidery flosses with the dyes used in creating the background canvas so as to achieve a unison between foreground and background.

The pieces she uses as examples are small and mounted on paper for framing. While there are a few projects or exercises in the book, it primarily concentrates on helping the student to create their own landscape.

The focus of the embroidery is flowers, grasses and a few vague birds. Everything is done with four stitches; the running, seed and fly stitches and the French knot. This limited palette of stitches could be a hindrance to some, but for those who cringe at the thought of embroidery, it might actually be liberating. She limits the book to developing the potential for these stitches in landscape work, but mentions a whole array of further possibilities at the end, including other stitches, beading, lace, stump-work and whatever else tickles the fancy of the individual.

What I like about this tome is how it integrates paint, dye and floss fairly seamlessly. I'd recommend it to anyone who loved making landscape quilts but had avoided hand embroidery or who had difficulty in integrating hand-painting, machine stitching and hand-embroidering into the same piece.

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