Friday, 7 September 2012

Review: A-Z of Bead Embroidery

Title: A-Z of Bead Embroidery
Author: Sue Gardner (ed.)
Publisher and year: Country Bumpkin, 2006
Pages: 128
Summary: Introduction to bead embroidery on cloth and canvas with many beautiful projects.
Pros: Many techniques, including tambour beading, padded beading and counted thread. Varied projects.
Cons: Very few, just miss beaded stem stitch
Recommended to: Beginners who want to learn the basics of bead embroidery on cloth and bead embroiderers looking for floral patterns to be inspired by. 

A few weeks ago, I contacted the australian publisher Country Bumpkin. The result of our mail conversation was my getting two copies of their book A-Z of Bead Embroidery: a review copy for myself -- and one copy to give away to a lucky blog reader!

To see how you can be the winner of this book, please go to the giveaway post here.


A-Z of Bead Embroidery is the 13th book in Country Bumpkin's popular A-Z series of embroidery books. The format is the same as in the rest of the series with an introduction to the materials and tools used, followed by a section of basic techniques with step-by-step photos and then finishing with projects showing how the techniques can be used. Here and there in the book, you can find inspiration photos of bead embroideries from the publisher's world-renowned embroidery magazine Inspirations. The book also includes little boxes with everything from practical hints to information about the history of beads, birthstones, beadworks, colour symbolism etc.

All books in the series are spiralbound, which is very handy as it makes it easy to lay the book open on a table or sofa while embroidering.

 The focus of the book is on bead and sequin embroidery on fabric, tulle and canvas/aida. The kind of bead embroidery where the background fabric is part of the design unlike bead embroidered jewellery, where the embroidery is often done on a special backing that is fully covered with beads. The embroidery designs in this book are intended as wall hangings, embellishment etc. The basic bead embroidery techniques are the same no matter what you want to make, but I want to point out that this is no jewellery-making book.

The techniques covered in the book includes, as already mention, both the most basic -- often a couple of different ways to stitch single seed and bugle beads, beads on a row and sequins -- and less common techniques that aren't very often covered in other bead embroidery books. This includes counted embroidery such as beadpoint and embroidery on aida, tambour beading with a tambour hook and padded beading. As these techniques aren't found in many other (beginner level) books, it would have been interesting to see a few more variations, but then again, the book is mainly meant to be an introduction. The only basic embroidery stitch I really missed was stem stitch -- it's such a simple stitch, but so striking when done with beads, making it perfect for beginners.

Over half the book is devoted to the 31 embroidery projects, which are divided on two chapters with the first one focusing on different patterns/designs and the second on bead fringes and edgings. Almost all the designs in the first chapter are floral. As the designs are created by eight different embroiderers, the styles and techniques are very varied. The projects include beadpoint, flower beads on aida, tulle embroidery, sequined motifs, embellished silk prints and -- my personal favourite -- beading on lace motifs. Some of the projects include step-by-step photos while others are in text only. Seed beads are the main material used, but larger beads such as fire-polished, bicones, leaf and flower beads, hearts, rhinestones, lucite flowers and sequins are also used, mostly as accents.

Six of the project in the designs chapter include other embroidery stitches such as ribbon, chain, padded satin, split and back stitch. Stitches that it's assumed you already know. If you aren't familar with them, you can find instructions online (for free) or in books like The Essential Guide to Embroidery.

The last chapter, Fringes and edgings, focus on designs -- the majority by Jane Davis -- rather than basic patterns, which makes the chapter a bit different from many books introducing the reader to beaded fringe. All the twelve fringes/edgings combine seeds and larger beads such as druks, fire-polished, bicones, daggers, leaf beads and gemstone chips. The are probably designed mainly for bags, wall hangings and such, but some could probably be adapted for jewellery too.

To sum up, A-Z of Bead Embroidery is a both informative and inspiring book for those interested in beading (and stitching sequins) on cloth and canvas. The many projects fit both beginners and those already familiar with bead embroidery, perhaps looking for new projects or just inspiration. When I blogged about being interested in this book, on comment was that it probably would suit me, considering my penchant for flowers and the romantic. Others could also appreciate the book -- the techniques chapters are universal -- but if you like flowers, you will probably enjoy this book more and get more out of it.

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