Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Voyages Textiles – a book review

I was asked to review this book for the newsletter of the Castlemaine Embroiderers Guild, so I thought that I would post it here too because it is published in France, it is not likely to be well known…..for those who love books or needlework.

Voyages Textiles – A Journey in Textiles by Anne-Marie Bertrand.
Published by quiLtmania, France.  2009.

This beautifully presented book depicts the creative path of the author from early jewellery and doll making in the 1970’s to becoming a talented textile artist, exhibiting and teaching in France and Europe to the present day.  Her early textile works were understated naïve landscapes depicting the countryside, villages and houses of France, stitched by hand using simple, clean designs, subtle colours, some recycled fabrics and all brought to life with embroidered elements and embellishment.

Her work is detailed, ordered, precise in construction and results in serene, calm and peaceful images.  Travels to such places as Tunisia, India and Africa have also influenced her and this is clearly seen in changes in subject matter and the colour palette used in some pieces.  There are many examples of her continued development as an artist throughout the book, such as changes in techniques, the use of painted backgrounds, working in a series, a move towards abstraction in her images, and the benefits and challenges of competitions. The book also includes detailed instructions for a small landscape picture, with a full list of supplies required, recommendations for textile paints, and information about her techniques and the order of work.

Anne-Marie Bertrand had no formal textile training, which she considers as a positive thing, because it made her find her own solutions to problems in her work.  She also comments that her work and research helped her with personal worries associated with having a child with special needs.  I’m sure we can all relate to the pleasure and relaxation stitching can bring in times of stress.

This is a book which would be a welcome addition to any stitcher’s library as it involves both embroidery and patchwork, is simple to follow and provides inspiration to take one’s own ideas further.  It is generously illustrated with photos of the authors work and small line drawings, plus includes some gentle words of wisdom.  It also gives one a chance to practice one’s French!


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I should be tidying my house, making up beds and cooking in preparation for an influx of visitors tomorrow.

Instead I have been looking at this most wonderful book, which came this morning in my mail.  How I love opening my Post Office box,  and seeing the little slip that tells me there is something to collect that was too big to fit inside.

I have a large collection of books relating to various interests, these days mostly to do with needlework, and from a first quick glance, I reckon this is the best I have purchased in recent times.

Jan Messant is an English embroiderer, teacher, writer, historian and artist who has written many books over the years on embroidery, design, knitting and needlepoint – this one is just marvellous.  A large book, over 11×12 inches wide, it is full of beautiful colours, sumptuous stitching and art which is her interpretation of how things might have been made in ancient times.

I can only suggest you have a look at it in person….you might have difficulty leaving it in the shop.  Mine came, as usual from the Book Depository – a really reasonable price, and free postage.

Now I really should go and do some chores……..

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I received my copy of the new Down Under Textiles today – which, by the way, I quite like.

It contains articles about many different techniques, but it was fairly basic information and there was nothing one would not know if you had been a regular reader of Quilting Arts.  None the less, it is good to have an Australian magazine addressing textiles other than quilting or traditional embroidery, and this is the first issue.

Imagine my surprise when flicking over the pages to see my name!  There is an article about ATC’s showing some from a collection of Erica Spinks, and there is one of mine that I swapped with her a couple of years ago.

I spent this morning learning the first stitch for the year in TAST2 – Diamond Stitch.  It took me a while to get my mind round it, and I do not have a photo of what I did yet……perhaps tomorrow…….

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Some people spend their money on clothes, and strive to be fashionistas, some buy CD’s and enjoy their music, some indulge in fine dining or theatre……..for me,  country living allows one to be a bit feral,  so my spare pennies usually go on books and supplies related to my passion for textiles and stitch.  These books arrived today, and promise hours of investigation,  inspiration and entertainment.  The first two are newly published in the UK by d4daisy Books and those who ordered prior to their release were eligible for a giveaway by the authors – I was lucky enough to receive a post card made by Linda Monk, aka Purple Missus , using the gesso and ink techniques featured in her book.   Maggie Grey’s book is absolutely full of glorious photos of her work, and easy ways of creating surfaces using layers with an emphasis on re-using and recycling.  One piece features text – comments left on her own blog, and I was delighted to be able to identify mine amongst the many others.


This next book was bought on a whim……..it looked interesting, and it certainly is.  The author creates mostly small scale art quilts using different white or pale coloured fabrics of different weights, and then dyes them when they are completed.  There is a comprehensive chapter on dyeing techniques and colour mixing, using procion dyes, and a gallery of photos of completed works by herself and other textile artists.  She also explores the possibilities of manipulating fabrics by distortion and shrinkage, resulting in wonderful textured pieces that may be further embellished if desired.   The book basically outlines the author’s innovative works, and encourages the reader to try them, but to continue to explore and experiment.


There was a very heavy frost last night, with temperatures well below zero, so the garden looked like something from a Disney fairytale when I ventured out this morning.  Some close-ups to show you.






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The theme for this month’s page swap is Inspiration, and as usual, I have thought long and hard about how I would interpret this nebulous concept into textiles. What inspires one is an individual thing, – it may be fleeting, sudden, blinding or change the way one lives. There are many sources which may spark ideas, music and images may inspire, there are those who are considered to be inspirational people, and of course, nature is all around and is inspirational in itself.

It would be wonderful if inspiration occurred like a blinding light, but for me it is much more likely to the result of a hard slog, trial and error. When working on a particular theme, I tend first to look at definitions of the term, and then seek quotations that may help to understand it more, as do images, illustrations or written text. Next I might jot down ideas, colours and sketches, and work these further until a more definite picture emerges. Having done all that, the original idea may then be rejected, and I might do something totally different, but it is the earlier research that ultimately generates the final result.

As the American composer Aaron Copeland said, “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start anything. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” My piece is homage to one of my favourite sources of inspiration – books. I have a large collection which reflects my various interests including needlework and gardens, and while I often look for ideas in books, I rarely follow patterns or designs, preferring to use them as a reference to techniques, colours and materials, and as a jumping off point for doing my own thing. The page for Jan in New Zealand is worked on painted silk noil, the books are embroidered in stem and back stitch, additional colour added with Shiva paint sticks, and the background covered with seed stitches, also in hand dyed silk threads.  I hope she likes it.


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Additions to the Library

My library of sewing related books continues to grow with some gifts from a friend, and some self indulgence.

Nothing to do with sewing, but I’m sure you will recognise this saying:-

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety or Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

It comes from this beautifully illustrated 1979 edition, a gift from an old friend.


The next two were also gifts – the first one is full of designs to be worked in simple stitches, cross stitch charts and photographs of the finished projects worked on linens in either red, white or blue threads.  Or one could use them for whatever you chose.  A very useful resource.


This one clearly explains and illustrates the three basic ways of changing the surface of paper and fabric, by printing, stamping or stencil, with information about inks, paints, surfaces and projects to follow or use as a guide for your own individual works.


I was lucky enough to see some of India Flint’s work at the Geelong Fibre Forum last year, and am most interested in her techniques of using plant material to dye textiles.  As the cover blurb says, her method explores the endlessly variable world of plant colour – a form of botanical alchemy.


This is a book I saw many moons ago, and loved for the quilts made in subtle colours, many all white, with quilting and simple designs inspired by the East, and executed with stunning workmanship.  The author is Japanese and the quilts have a certain serenity not found in the usual quilt books.


The next is a total contrast, bursting with colour and written by English needlewoman Julia Capara who encourages the reader to explore colour, materials and stitch in a very creative way.  Sadly, this clever woman died in October last year shortly before the book was released.


I have a couple more, but will save them for another day….

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