It is a pleasure to review this fabulous new book, Colour Confident Stitching: How to Create Beautiful Colour Palettes by textile artist Karen Barbé. If you are at all curious about expanding your use of color and texture in your embroidery, this is the book for you!
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When I received this book from the publisher I was in the middle of planning some of my own projects, and I found reading this book and taking in the way Karen approaches color to be very inspiring. I had already started making little color cards of my own to keep track of my embroidery threads from project to project - Karen's approach of lining up colors as inspiration before you begin stitching is marvelous, too!
I find Karen's stitching within the book very inspiring - I am reminded of the loveliness of designers like Yumiko Higuchi, Irona Happa, and one of my favorite embroidery books ever, Handbook of Lettering for Stitchers by Elsie Svennas (read a wonderful overview of it on Pintangle).
Color Theory - The majority of the book is about color theory - and I love the way Karen writes about color. Her analysis of different color palettes, and how to develop them, is very inspiring. In particular, I love that she talks about how having a different color background can change the entire mood of the piece.
Color Palettes - I really enjoyed this section - there are 9 example color palettes drawn from a variety of different sources - fabric, collections, images, home, and places, just to name a few. They are all quite beautiful and could be a wonderful springboard for anyone who is intimidated by choosing a palette of colors for a new project.
Patterns - there are 5 projects in this book, so it is light on patterns. But I will say the patterns are versatile and they inspire you to think deeply about color.
Here are the patterns included and the stitch you will learn / practice with it:
- Sleeping Mask: Laid stitch, couched cross stitch, sewing, embroidery floss
- Embellished Knitted Sleeves: Duplicate stitch, crewel or tapestry wool
- Tea Towel with Woven Patches: Weave stitch, pearl cotton
- Framed Embroidery: Chain stitch, satin stitch, embroidery floss
- Cross Stitch Tea Party: Cross stitch on cardboard, embroidery floss
My favorite project was the framed embroidery, because it included 2 types of stitching I've been wanting to practice: densely packed chain stitches as outlines and geometric satin stitches.
Following along with the pattern was tricky for me since the pattern is quite small and thus requires for absolute precision in drawing and stitching.
Beginners, take note that you will feel less frustration if you enlarge the pattern on a copier and practice the intricate chain stitch. Tiny details are key in this project.
I broke up the large design into two parts, first a few chain-stitched motifs:
I would have loved to have a larger image of the stitching so I could decide how to tackle the project.
Second, I tried the satin-stitched circle, and practiced making woven patches:
My satin stitching is very far from perfect - but this small project was a great way to practice it! I used 4 strands of floss for the woven patches. You can see more of my process photos on my Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/nyfloresita/)
One of my takeaways after reading through this book and trying out the projects is just how detailed, meditative, and slow Karen's creative process is - it makes sense that she is a textile artist, because you can see how she is willing to take a time-consuming task and make it into an art piece.
Crafters who would love to add new stitches to their repertoire, learn to think about color in a new way, and appreciate detailed patterns and projects will love this book.
I highly recommend this book for all levels of stitchers, with a caveat for beginners - the stitches and processes in this book are not simple, but if you approach your work slowly and meditatively, you will be rewarded for your time.
To see more of the inside of this glorious book - visit Karen's blog for some lovely images:
I also highly recommend a visit to Karen's blog - I spent hours happily scrolling through her gorgeous posts: http://www.karenbarbe.com/blog/. You can also find Karen on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/karenbarbe/