Small Stitches, StitchPlay Designs (Carole Lake and Michael Boren) 2015, self-published, distributed by Rainbow Gallery
For many stitchers you can’t have too many stitch dictionaries. But a big problem with many of them is that they are either too big or too unwieldy to work well in your stitching bag. That explains the trend to create stitch dictionaries that are smaller, shorter, and perfect to take with you.
Carole Lake and Michael Boren compare this to the essential books you’d take with you to a desert island, hence the name of their series of smaller stitch dictionaries. The first, published earlier this month, covers small stitches, ones that will fit in areas 1″ or smaller.
The book is divided into stitch families. Within each family, the stitches are grouped by the ‘parent stitch.’ You will find the usual families (Diagonal, Cross, etc.) but you will also find a couple that are less common but very useful (Tent and Oblique).
Each section is clearly marked with a single blue page, making it easy to find each family. These pages act as an introduction to the chapter with helpful information about this type of stitch. If space permits, the back side of the page is taken up with short essays on various needlepoint topics.
The stitches are drawn on each page, almost like a paper version of a doodle canvas. Most of them are diagrammed in two colors with stitch diagrams that are very clear. Stitches are neither numbered or named. The diagrams are large enough so that they are easy to read, but they are not to the same scale as the canvas.
Some aspects of the authors’ approach make it harder, I think, for readers to see, at a glance, what is on a page. Each page is one big grid with all the stitches scattered on it. That means there is not a consistent number of stitches on a page or an immediately understandable visual structure to the information presented. This gives the book a casual air that trivializes the good information presented. Even if names and stitch numbering are not used, creating an overall page design and putting each stitch in a grid of its own means that I can find information more easily.
Not only does it help me to use the book more easily, it also makes it easier for me to tell others about a great stitch. It’s lots easier to say “It’s Diagonal Stitch 25.” than to say “It’s the second from the top left on page 15 in Diagonal Stitches.” I probably won’t remember that long enough to look at the book at home.
I often hear from stitchers that they prefer stitch diagrams that are numbered. While I agree with StitchPlay on this and don’t number my diagrams, some stitchers will be confused by this.
My last concern is with the size of some stitches. If we accept the rule that a stitch must have three repeats in order to fit in a space, that would make a maximum size for one of these stitches to be six threads. Some of the stitches looked larger than that. In using this book I would count both the area to be covered and the stitch to be sure the stitch will fit.
The parent stitch for each page is written along the outside margin. The stitches provide a delightful selection of variations of some of the most popular stitches. Because almost all stitches have two colors of symbols, sometimes it can be hard to tell if they are diagrammed this way for clarity or because they need two threads or colors.
Outside of the Introduction and the first pages of the chapters, there is no text in this book. While this is not a problem for an experienced stitcher it may lead to some confusion for beginners. For stitchers who are wondering how a stitch might look, I would try it on a doodle canvas or small piece to see how it might look.
I like the idea of smaller, lighter stitch dictionaries. Certainly I turn to those books more often than my larger books. I love the way this book focuses on a real problem type of area stitchers will encounter. But I wish it was designed a bit better to make its valuable information clearer.
Future volumes are planned, with the next coming out in 2016. The book is available now in needlepoint shops. It is being distributed by Rainbow Gallery.