Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Review: Albion stitch (books 1 & 2)

It's summer and harvest season and I've been too busy/tired/uninspired to blog much, but now it's high time to post the english version of my review of Heather Kingsley-Heaths books on her albion stitch. Hope you enjoy it and that it'll give you something interesting to read until I get back blogging! And, yes, I hope to have something made in this stitch to show later this summer.

Title: Albion Stitch & Albion Stitch: Book Two
Author: Heather Kingsley-Heath
Publisher and year: The Useful Booklet Company, 2009 & 2010
Number of pages: 64
Summary: An introduction to and exploration of a new bead-weaving stitch created by the author. The books teaches you the basics and many variations of the stitch in 19+21 projects.
Pros: Fun to learn a new, less common technique and seeing how versatile it is. Didactic and inspiring structure with chapters and moodboard pages. Diverse style of the projects and handy spiral spine.
Cons: None.
Recommended for: Seedbeaders who want to learn a new stitch. Both beginners and more experienced beaders can find fun and inspiring projects here.

Off-loom bead weaving is perhaps one of the most interesting beading techniques, or rather group of techniques as the term includes a host of stitches. Some of the stitches are very well known and spread while others are more obscure. Many basic stitches are very old and have independently developed in different parts of the world, but there are also stitches that's been created and developed by single individual in modern times. One example of the latter is albion stitch, which was created by british beader Heather Kingsley-Heath. She has presented her stitch to the beading community through two books: Albion Stitch -- An introduction to the new beadwork stitch and Albion Stitch Book Two -- Developing the new beadwork stitch. As the second books is a direct sequel to the first, I'll review them together.

The books might look little, but don't let size or page numbers deceive you -- these books are packed with technique variations and projects, but also pure inspiration as every chapter begins with a moodboard focusing on colour (book 1) and shapes (book 2). In the first book, the albion stitch is introduced to the beader. First the basics and albion stitch glossary are covered in clear illustrations. After that, you'll find eight chapters, each introducing a new variation of the basic stitch through all in all 19 projects. You'll learn how to make simple changes to the basic technique, vary the length of the stitches, stitch circular and tubular variations, make beaded beads and created curves. If you then want to take the stitch a step further, you continue with the second book, which focus on more dimensional beadwork, including beaded bezels, waves (see book cover above), cubes and containers (bowls, boxes), flowers and leaves and, finally, birds and insects.

Above you can see a (somewhat poorly scanned) picture of the first two pages of chapter six in the first book with the citrus inspired moodboard on the left and introduction to the next step, tubular albion stitch, on the right. Each chapter has its own theme, which set the mood for the projects in it. Both the moodboards and projects are very varied in style and colour combinations, which contributes to making the book such a great read. Unlike some books it's not just variations on a theme when it comes to colour and/or style -- here, you can find everything from brilliant clear colours like about and minimalist projects to neutral palettes and romantic filigree-inspired patterns. Here's pretty much something for every taste.

(In the scanned image, you can also see the clear advantage of spiral-bound books: when you open a page and put it on the table, It'll remain open. No need to hold the pages down to prevent them from slamming shut. Very handy, but not very common in how-to books.)

Now, I often say I prefer technique books to project books, but in this case, the structure of the book, where projects are used to develop the stitch step by step, is so good that I wouldn't want it any other way. On top of that, the above mentioned varied patterns and inspirational pages makes the book not just teach you something new, it also boost your creativity.

I have of cause not tested all the patterns, but so far I've found the instructions easy to follow. In most cases, the text is completed with clear illustrations (in some of the more advanced patterns, partial illustrations are used in a few cases, but on the other hand the text is clear) and the basics are explained in a very clear and educational manner. Because of the structure of the stitch, it needs a partially new terminology -- foundation row, stalk, tip, spacer row, anchor row -- on top of the general bead-weaving glossary. As with all terminology, it can feel like a lot to learn in one go, but if you follow the steps and look a the illustrations you'll soon learn/get used to it. Both books have a glossary in the beginning so you don't need to go back to the first book when reading and making projects from the second one.

So should you buy and read both the books at the same time, you might ask by now. Personally, I really liked having book 2 there when turning the last page of book 1 as the second book focused on the kind of dimensional beadwork I enjoy the most. If you're a beginner at bead weaving, book 1 can be enough, but if you're a more experienced seedbeader you'll probably like to have both books as the second book will provide you with more challenging and exciting shapes. Could an experienced seedbeader perhaps even skip directly to book 2? I don't know as I started with the first books, but as the terminology is covered in both books it'd probably not be impossible.

Regardless if you choose to read only the first book or both, though, I think you'll find it a rewarding read. There are many beadwork stitches and albion stitch was a fun technique to add to the ones I already know. It already has found its place among my other favourites, which I hope it'll now complete well. I thoroughly enjoyed the books and the techniques as an intermediate seedbeaders and I think I'd enjoy it just as much as a beginner. I was itching to pick up my needle and thread after just a few pages!


Footnote: You can buy the Albion Stitch books in some bookstores and bead shops, but the easiest way to obtain the books are probably through the authors website, Heatherworks. There you'll also find patterns and kits, some of which are fully or partially made up of albion stitch.

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