Book Review: Embroidered Kitchen Garden by Kazuko Aoki

Embroidery artist and avid gardener Kazuko Aoki shares her newest collection of exquisite designs inspired by her very own kitchen garden. This bountiful assortment of embroidery motifs includes everyone’s favorite garden treats. From humble tomatoes and radishes to show-stopping figs and Brussels sprouts, this collection features over 30 edible plant designs. Stitch up a sampler to decorate your kitchen, create a one-of-a-kind farmers market tote, or just pore over the pages forendless inspiration. Each design features artfully illustrative details yet are made with just a handful of simple embroidery stitches. Embroidery enthusiasts will delight in this cornucopia of lush and sweet designs to stitch and savor. Instructions and templates for all designs are included, along with personal embroidery tips and expert advice from the author.


I got a copy of the ebook version of this from Netgalley, and quite honestly, even the ebook version is delicious.  The first half of the book has both images and text about certain food stuffs.

The second half has descriptions of how to stitch the images from the first half.  To be fair, this is the point where I would want the physical book in front of me. Not only to be able to switch easily between the instructions and the image, but the instructions do rely on you having a  certain level of stitching knowledge (this is not for the beginner!).

I will be on the lookout for the physical version of this book, to add to my collection!


Sewing events this year

So, I’ve made a decision. The Festival of Quilts is happening in early August as usual and I’ve decided to not go this year.   I really should be making a dent in the fabric I already have (I keep meaning to take some photos). Plus the fact that for several years I’ve found that several shows are not making best use of the space – the space between stands is very tight, whilst there is a load of dead space on the outside. I end up feeling very panicked, and I get frustrated at the “I’m going to randomly stop at this stall with no warning and no consideration for anyone behind me” attitude of a lot of people at these shows.  I did consider going to one of their social events but once again it’s at the Metropole beside the NEC, a hotel with shocking prices over their drinks – I’ve previously been charged £8 for a glass of average wine!

Charlotte over at EnglishGirlAtHome is having her 5th SewBrum late October and her sign up sheet has just gone up. I’ve decided to go to that instead. I did this last year, and I feel slightly more in control of my buying when I’m in a group.  I am forced to slow down to the pace of the group. We will be in the centre of Birmingham rather than at the NEC, and I found several sellers last year that I would have never even looked at, simply because other people stopped and looked.

It also allows for some semi-undercover stock photos to be taken – always a challenge to find suitable photos online, so always simpler to take your own!  Here are some of the fabrics that I picked up last year



And here are some of the images i took

WIP update on Jeanne Ries Sampler

Just thought i’d give you an update on how my current Cross Stitch Work In Progress (Wip) is coming along. To the left is a close up of the lower right hand panel. As you can see there’s quite a few trailing threads and some of the items are currently only half, rather than full cross stitch.  There is method in my madness, honest!  I’ve done quite a few large pieces over the years, and have been caught out several times by spending hours or days on a section, only to find out that I’m a couple of stitches out either way. It’s meant much time is spent frogging, and having to restitch. Therefore I half-stitch, make sure things line up appropriately and then fill the rest in.


The picture on the right gives an indication not only of the size of the piece (it’s not going to be much longer), but also the section that I’m working on right now.   It will have at least one wash between now and when it gets completed, then ironed and at some point I will also have it framed.  I will then have to consider where I will hang it up in my apartment! (it has been known that I finish and frame a piece of a similar size, only to have someone drop unsubtle hints about how they expect to get it as a birthday present).


this picture is just to show some of the things I use whilst doing a piece. The plastic folder keeps everything together so I don’t keep losing things. It primarily contains the pattern I’m working on, needles, threads and scissors. If I’m travelling then the WIP itself also goes in there. Also included in the picture are needles (some of which are threaded and ready to go, along with a pin cushion. That weird looking metal thing? It’s a light, same as a personal book light, that can be clipped to the frame and allows for up close and targeted additional light to the piece.


WIP: Jeanne Ries Sampler

I’m not reading much at the minute so I thought I’d share what I AM working on at the minute.

This is known as the “Jeanne Ries” sampler (it can be brought from various places, including here).

On the right is an image of one of the chart panels (there are nine in all). For those who dont do cross stitch, or know how to read one of the charts, every dot on a chart represents a single cross stitch  to be stitched. Below (left) is a photo of my version of a part of the same page.

A couple of points about how I stitch items like this:

These items are HUGE (30 x 18 inches). There is a lot of stitching, and it is very easy to get lost, go wrong etc. Sometimes it doesnt matter, but sometimes, missing a stitch can be fatal in having things join up and look good. Therefore I often stitch the outline (i.e. half the stitch), make sure it lines up, and then fill in the rest of the stitching when I’m happy.

These items are HUGE. Therefore there is a lot of “Baggage” when stitching something like this – the 9 sheets of design, the needles, threads etc. It takes up space. If I’m going away for instance, and I know I will have stitching time, but it will be limited, I dont want to take the entire WIP bag with me. If I have done the ground work, I can just bring the piece, needles and enough thread to fill the time. I dont need to bring the design etc, with the potential risk of losing a sheet of the pattern. As you can see in the photo, I have also parked my needles in the wip itself – that way I dont have to bring needle cushion with me either.

On the right is the same area of the stitching mounted up on a frame. This frame is about 8 inches, and allows me to work on a specific area, keep it tight, and therefore allow for the stitches to have the same tension.




This is the back of my work. There are snobs out there who look at the back of sewing, then deride the stitcher if the back doesn’t look as good as the front. Well you know what? That’s unbelievably rude. I do this out of enjoyment; I give because I want to. I do none of this to have someone else come in to criticise me.  Once I have finished, I will go and cut extra threads away and do a general tidy up – I once forgot to do this, and the threads were visible once the item had been framed up – never again!




Friday Salon: Making quilting more inclusive


I read this post over on Whilst She Naps recently hat uses a term at a quilting show (“Husbands’ lounge”) to make a point about making Quilting more Inclusive. Whilst I agree with the overall point of the post, I think the author missed a trick, and should/could have taken this labelling to be a symptom of the issue, rather than the actual source.  Ironically I also find that some of the language used in the comments is a rather strong and devisive rather than inclusive. I’ll let you go and read the post and the comments, and I’ll be here when you get back.

What I see as the issue

Quilting and the “creative arts” do have a perception problem, and is seen by many of all genders as “women’s work”.  Picking on a rest area being called “Husbands’ Lounge” is not going to change this perception. What needs to happen is a change to the value of quilting, knitting, sewing, designing away from being “woman’s work” that has little or no value and change it into something anyone should be able to do.

(As an aside, I saw person x ask person y on facebook how they could commission a knitted piece, cos they didn’t want to pay Etsy prices that were “too high”. Thankfully person y turned round and told x how prices reflected the time and effort knitting the piece, so x could cough up the money….or learn to knit herself).

I think we need to teach our children that there are no gender specific roles that are restricted to “”only boys” or “only girls”. Girls can be scientists, engineers, racing car drivers. Boys can knit, play with Barbie, become cooks (girls can be chefs!). Everyone can be a designer, a creator, a maker, a producer – the delivery method shouldn’t matter.

So what do you think?

I find the comments on the original post to be fascinating, and I think reflect an underlying fear and tension following the US Presidential election. The comments swing between “we need to be more inclusive!”, “there’s not a problem, get over yourself!” “I’m going to unsubscribe, but not before I tell you so you can beg me to stay!” and many shades in between.

As with many roles, it’ll take many a strong role model for people to follow – where are the male creatives leading the way? I believe that many (not all) of the currently visible creatives (such as the fashion designers) do happen to be gay, which – here I agree on the homophobia – men fear to follow as they dread to think they will be (wrongly) labelled as gay, so it will take more than one strong man to lead the way here.  It will also require a mind set change from both men and women that men are allowed to do this – several of the comments on the original article tell of how male visitors are derided by other men and women for taking more than nominal interest in the craft.

I do think that when it was common for there to be at least one person in every family who was knitting, making clothes etc, there was more appreciation for the inherient value of something – knowing where the materials came from, how long it took to make etc. If you can get a jumper for £5 on the high street, why would you pay £60 for someone to make something?


State of Play – My Bookshelves

It’s been a while since I posted pictures of my bookshelves, and I threatened someone with providing an update, so here they

Top 2 shelves of tbookshelf-2he one one on the left holds hardback books, usually those that I will never let go (Terry Pratchetts etc). The bottom two shelves have DVDs hidden by books that I am likely to let go, but have spilt over from the other bookshelf. The middle shelf has books, like the Persephone Greys you can see in the middle, that are not hard backs but will never be leant out.

The middle three shelves on the picture on the right consists of paperback books that I will be letting go, oncbookshelf-1e I’ve got round to reading them! Virtually all of them are already registered on bookcrossing.  These books are double deep, I have no idea how many there are of them, and I’m scared to count. There’s a whole range of genres and probably reflect my taste in books pretty well, if only I got around to detailing them properly!  The last time I organised the shelves was about 2 years ago, when I decided to have them in theme/author rather than in size order. Not sure this has worked out as well as I hoped, as once I read a specific book, I’ve found that perhaps I don’t want to read a book that could be too similar. I may have to reorganise the shelves at some point, but it’s easily a day’s job, so I’ll have to plan things correctly.

The top shelf consists of books relating to crafts (sewing, quilting etc), and the bottom shelf is comics – neither set of books are down to be leant or given out.

Not shown: The overspill of the overspill, where the hardbacks, magazines, craft and comic books are stacked on the coffee table awaiting more space to be freed up. It will happen sooner or later, honest!


Crafty works in progress

Despite the lack of reading, I have been doing other stuff, believe it or not.

Back in the early 1990s, Laura Ashley issued some of their fabrics in precut squares, and I picked up a whole load of these packets, but never got laura-ashley-quilt-topsaround to doing anything with them. 20 something years later and I’m overflowing with fabric, so I decided I had better do something about the situation.   I’ve therefore been doing some paper piecing, and have got to the point of making some headway into a quilt/patchwork top. I have *no* idea what I’m going to do with it, or what happens next after I’ve completed the top – I’ve never got as far as backing and binding, but that’ll happen sooner or later!

Large Cross Stitch SamplerThe large sampler has been sitting out and about for over a year now, and I should get around to finishing it off. A couple of more weeks should do it once I get my act together – of course the nights are now getting darker earlier, so it means that I’ll have to get the clip on light to put on the frame – I once brought a specialty clip on light, only to realise I already had a book light that I never used and that would do just the job!



Having done The Festival Of Quilts a few weeks ago, and despite saying I’d not add to the stash, of course I did. That did prompt a tidy up of the stash – here’s an indication of what the stash looks like (excluding the crates worth of fabric!). I dare not look at the fabrics or the amount of wool that’s hiding around the place – there’s only so much a girl can take in one go!

So there’s plenty to be getting on with – I now just have to do some of it!



It’s August so it must be Christmas

So, it’s mid August and therefore the middle of summer (at least here in the northern hemisphere). That means there are two states of mind that co-exist in the bloggersphere: First, there’s a general apathy going around and it’s not just with the book bloggers. I follow several bloggers in other niches, more than one of whom has voiced a dissatisfaction with blogging in general and their niche in particular. Specifically it is the ones that have been doing blogging for a number of years: there is a loss of impetus, and a loss of interest about what’s on offer/new/the spin they can put on things. It’s certainly something I’ve been feeling, as I believe it’s one of the reasons behind my recent lack of reading and reviewing (as mentioned in my reading update earlier in the week).
The second, perhaps opposing state of mind is: it’s 4.5 months to Christmas. This affects bloggers in different ways, depending on the niche. For crafters, there’s a case for “Christmas in July” which is when they start creating stuff ahead of the holiday period (and for the Yanks, it really means “Thanksgiving in July”). So: cue knitting, stitching, card making, scrapbooking and general craftiness in the summer months in readiness for the winter holiday season. (The item opposite is an example of the crafty things from Sandy’s Crafty Creations). The TV shows on the relevant channels start going haywire with offers for the winter months.    Thankfully the Festival Of Quilts up at the NEC at the beginning of August wasn’t primed for Christmas themes, but it could have been!  I haven’t done any cross stitch for months, and generally don’t make anything to give away. I am currently working on a quilt top, using some old fabric I picked up in the early 1990s (does anyone remember the pink themed Laura Ashley quilt fabric?!).

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Summertime Blog and Reader Challenge – Non Book related hobbies

Summertime Blog and Reader challenge - week 4

It’s week four of Parajunkee’s Summertime Blog & Reader Challenge, where the week is about moving further away from books and blogging about the things we enjoy, other than reading. It’s Post 15 and we are asked to talk about our non-book related hobbies

My other main hobby is crafts, and I currently have a couple on the go.

I’ve had a stash of fabric that’s been following me around for years.  The bulk of it was a set of quilting fabric that I picked up from a company called Laura Ashley, in what must have been the early 1990s.  I think it’s followed me through 2 countries and 3 houses, so a few months ago I bit the bullet and started doing what’s known as “paper piecing”. At the moment there are several large squares of fabric (made up of 16 smaller squares) sitting on my dining room table. Sooner or later I will have to join them together and make something (though right now not sure what, beyond some kind of quilt top).

There is also other piles of fabric stash lying around the place (one of the reasons I decided I had to do something with the stuff I had). Some of this is specific from patchwork/quilting companies, and some have just been from shirts etc that have died a death and are otherwise no use to anyone.  Again, as with many crafters, I am a bit of a hoarder here and simply need to get around to using it.

I’m a sucker for making large pieces in cross-stitch, many of which have been given to family or are currently hanging on my walls.  I have one Work In Progress that I started at least a year ago, am about 2/3rds of the way through and need to finish it, if only to stop it looking at me and guilt tripping me for ignoring it!

Once in a while I get a fad for knitting – something that proved useful when I was sick and couldnt see well enough to read or do sewing. At least I didnt need to see to feel my way round a set of knitting needles!

What about you? What are your non-reading hobbies?

Summertime Blog and Reader Challenge: Marking Special Occasions

Summertime Blog and Reader challenge - week 4

It’s week four of Parajunkee’s Summertime Blog & Reader Challenge, where the week is about moving further away from books and blogging about the things we enjoy, other than reading. It’s Post 14 and we are allowed to post a Random Non-Book Related Post.

I’m seeing a lot of internet traffic (primarily from the US, naturally) about marking significant moments such as 9/11, often by making quilts or using some other crafty skill.

I was just wondering how you marked an occasion, either good or bad? Do you make anything for weddings, christenings, birthdays, major holidays (Christmas, Passover etc), funerals, passings etc?

Do you make a quilt or patchwork from clothes from someone you’ve lost (e.g. a grandparent)? Do you have someone in the forces that you’ve made something for them – either whilst they’re out there, or for when they’ve come back?

I’ve made some things for family: a large sampler for my cousin’s 40th; a cross stitched cushion cover when my first niece was born; a Lavender and Lace sampler when my brother got married; a copy of a photo for my sister’s birthday. My mother has also had several large cross stitch pieces given to her for birthdays etc, when she’s seen it in progress and expressed interest in having it.

And of course, there’s a whole industry around Christmas, which often starts in July!

Have you had anything made for you? Or have you made anything to mark a moment, for yourself or anyone else?