Today I want to tell you about a beautiful new embroidery book by Nancy Nicholson: Modern Folk Embroidery. You’ve probably seen Nancy’s designs, kits, and patterns around the internets before, and if you like her work you will love this new book. I received a digital copy of the book for the blog hop, and I was blown away by the beautiful photography, the lovely, easy-to-follow projects dripping with inspiration, and the conversational tone of the writing.
Nancy’s bird designs are particularly well known (I mean, how adorable is this owl sampler?), and her book also has a number of sweet and beautiful projects for around your home. And the book is so inviting. The projects are made for variations, and just looking at the clean, modern and exuberant photography is enough to get your creative juices flowing.
As you know, I tend to prefer embroidery on textiles and objects that are used like clothes, or as in this book, jewelry or household textiles, pincushions, and tote bags. I like the idea of touching something that was made by hand, handled with care and creating a tactile memory for its maker that leaves lingering traces of its making in its quirks and uniqueness. This connection between maker, object, and users is at the core of folk embroidery, and one of the things I’ve always loved most about it.
The folklore influence in the book is very present, not just in the wildly rich colors of the projects but in the idea that you can embellish everyday objects with tools as simple and inexpensive as needle and thread. What’s interesting to me is that while I always find myself wanting to bring traditional forms of expression into contemporary life, Nancy takes this traditional idea and gives it a contemporary form.
One of my favorite designs in the book is the table runner, because I love the idea of using up smaller, leftover pieces of fabric to make it (although the book tells you exactly how to recreate the runner shown with the dimensions for each color of fabric used). For this and other projects, the embroidery designs used evoke the festive exuberance of folklore embroidery but the stitches are more varied and playful than what you would typically see in a traditional piece. I think this design would also make a really pretty shawl, using lighter-weight fabric. How beautiful is this embroidery? And yet it’s neither fussy nor overly slow to make.
The embroidery patterns in general are more suggestions for what stitches to try rather than strict instructions, which opens the door to tons more variations. It is a refreshing way to revisit the folklore embroidery, mixing up the traditional ways of doing it with new influences and playfulness.
But the project I was immediately enthralled by was the thread-catcher box. Because: what a pretty BOX!
You don’t know this but I love small decorative boxes, and have a largish collection I’ve been carrying around with me since I was ten. I even have an embroidered one though I never made one myself before.
Here’s my version (not as well lit, sadly):
This was a very satisfying project to make. It comes together neatly and quickly. I did the embroidery free-hand, without marking the fabric first. What’s especially fun about this project is that you can try out new stitches you might not normally use, and Nancy suggests several alternatives to play around with. I already have orders to make more: the box was endlessly popular with my girls while I was working on it (they are also small-box-obsessed).
I haven’t sewn on the button or button loop because I couldn’t decide if the box needed it. I may do it later though.
I suspect I will be making more of these… And then some of those cute little pincushions too!
The instructions to make up the projects are clear and easy to follow. The book also has with an illustrated stitch library of all embroidery stitches used in the book. This is right at the beginning, so you can start to imagine what you would use or how you would change up the suggested embroidery for each project.
Modern Folk Embroidery is officially coming out on November 16th (preorder on Amazon). You can also get a sneak peek at a few more pages right here, and the full list of stops on the #ModernFolkEmbroidery Blog Hop is as follows: