July 27, 2012

Book Review: New Crewel: The Motif Collection by Katherine Shaughnessy

Today's book review is the latest addition to the world of contemporary wool embroidery by the author of The New Crewel:

New Crewel: The Motif Collection by Katherine Shaughnessy

The first book, The New Crewel, was a breath of fresh air into the slightly musty wooliness that traditional crewel tends to exude. Not that Jacobean embroidery isn't beautiful (it is), nor that it hasn't been done in more contemporary looks (it has), but there's been little outside the box. In her first book, Katherine took it outside of the box by, well, putting it into ones - lots of little square samplers with a wonderful retro 60s feel to the designs and colours.

The Motif Collection goes along a similar vein, although here she's moved from boxes to circles. These patterns, inspired by nature and her kids drawings, are arranged around and displayed within circles. Like the first book, they're relatively modest in size - something appealing for beginners or stitchers who are after a quick finish. However they are also versatile and expandable, as the book goes on to show in the Projects section.

The first few motifs could have been straight from my scribble book when I was a kid as they seem created with a Spirograph. In the Projects section, these patterns have been displayed as china plates and are surprisingly convincing. The rest of the motifs range from the straightforward to the whimsical, many belonging to the family of "patterns radiating from a central point" but an equal number that could be expanded into any shape you choose.

The Projects section in any book is where, as they say on Cribs, the magic happens - where we can see exactly how these individual motifs could look when put to work. And Katherine doesn't disappoint: from a cute embellished linen skirt to the crewel cilia pillows that look like they could have come from any top designer boutique. I would have liked to see a few more finished pieces, but that's because I'm all about the eye candy.

The final section of the book has the motif patterns printed in full colour, but also includes a CD containing all the motifs as .jpgs, so you can resize, mix around and alter the patterns to be exactly what you are after.

The primary disappointment to me was that we weren't introduced to a new range of stitches. Admittedly, the basic stitches are the ones you need to have to be able to stitch anything at all, but The Motif Collection includes only three more than The New Crewel. All are well described and illustrated, but this book is more about the motifs than the techniques. But this is, of course, not really a problem after all!

All-in-all it's a fun book of small contemporary embroidery patterns, all of which are fairly quick finishes that could be stitched in wool, silk or cotton. If you're deciding between the first or second book, I'd personally lean more to the first (although that may say more about my colour tastes than anything else), but if you enjoyed the first, then this is a very reasonable addition to your pattern book collection.

Rating: 3 1/2 gold needles (make sure it's one with a long eye - wool's pretty thick!)


  1. I was lucky enough to have met the author of this book recently while showing my new line of cross stitch patterns at a trade show- Nine Stones Needlework- www.ninestonesneedlework.com- and I have to say that she is wonderful! I got one of her kits and had a ball with it! Highly recommended!

  2. What a coincidence, I just happen to have this book open on my desk. Been trying to figure out if I should do China Blue 2 or Seed Pod first!