Jo Ippolito Christensen, Touchstone Books, New York, 2015
ISBN 1-4767-5408-6, $60
Before we get into a review of the contents, which are amazing, let’s talk about the book itself. Yes it is over 500 pages, but the second edition was 428. Yes it is a hardbound book. You might be thinking that this would make it harder to use than a paperback — I did too. But actually it opens more completely, has a more flexible spine, and sits open perfectly flat. To get my paperback second edition to do this I had to have the spine cut off and a comb-binding added. This book is bound far better than most books these days and should hold up for years of regular use.
Finally yes if you do buy the book, you will get a download for a free app that runs on iOS or Android. The app includes features the “Stitches,” “Color,” and “Ideas” sections from the book.
If you look on Amazon at least it appears there are hardcover, paperback, and Kindle versions of the book currently available. This is not true. The only edition out currently is the hardcover, the other links point to the second edition.
I thought there would never be a needlepoint book to take the place of my beloved first edition of The Needlepoint Book, but the third edition is, hands down, the best & most comprehensive needlepoint book I have ever seen. From start to finish it’s amazing. It is well-written and full of the kind of practical advice you would get from a stitching friend.
No matter how long you’ve been stitching or how excellent a stitcher you might be, you’ll find plenty to love in this book.
The Needlepoint Book has always been more than just a bunch of stitches, with so much information about how to do needlepoint, but now it has changed into something really special. Jo has seen how we stitch now, i.e. painted canvases, and given us the most comprehensive guide in print on how to pick them, as well as how to approach and plan our stitching of them. Those are difficult concepts to convey, even more so to systematize into an approach that makes as much sense for a beginner as it does for an old hand.
The first section covers the basics of needlepoint: materials, tools, and uses. For many items there are tables and lists that summarize information clearly. These summaries appear for many things in the book. They not only present the information clearly but they create a valuable general reference to needlepoint; something our art mostly lacks.
The second chapter in the first section covers basic procedures.In it you’ll learn good habits for preparing your canvas, handling threads, and stitching. More advanced topics such as setting up the direction of your work properly and compensating stitches are not neglected here. Nor is the often ignored plastic canvas, you’ll find good information for using this useful ground.
The wonderful section on stitching your canvas is the second section of the book. Jo reorganized the book’s chapters since the second edition and added four new chapters to create this new section. It takes you step by step through this process, beginning with a chapter on choosing a design. In seven chapters, you’ll cover each aspect of the canvas from color to embellishments. While it’s great to have this information laid out for you, it’s far better to see the concepts in action. Throughout this section of the book Jo refers to the color plates of stitched needlepoint so you can see how these ideas and principles work out in real life on, mostly commercially painted canvases.
Even so after reading the section I kept thinking that it was too much to keep in my head. And here’s another place where Jo’s analytical genius helps — she’s added an eighth chapter to the section, “Putting It All Together,” that has questions for each of the other chapters to help you work through the process for a canvas.
After a short section on blocking and finishing that’s full of useful advice, we get to the nearly 300-page stitch dictionary. Although there is only one additional chapter, on ribbon stitches, and only 60+ new stitches, the stitch dictionary feels greatly expanded. In some cases there is more explanation, but I think mostly it’s in the layout. The diagrams in the third edition do not have borders around them while those in the second edition did. I don’t know why, they are the same diagrams (I checked), but it makes them easier to read and understand.
While the charts of stitch characteristics still appear at the beginning of each chapter, the stitches are listed in alphabetical order in the third edition, but were listed in order of appearance in the second. In both cases you will need to consult the stitch index to find where a stitch actually appears. New stitches are integrated nicely into the existing stitches so they appear with related stitches instead of at the end of each chapter.
The chapter on ribbon stitches is new to this edition. Many of the stitches that appear are stitches you’ve already seen in other parts of the book, maybe even with the same stitch diagram. But stitches look different when you use ribbon. In this chapter the pictures of stitched samples really bring this home and will make it easy for you to find the right ribbon stitch.
A big emphasis in the second edition was the small stitch maps for every color plate that were in the back of the book. In the third edition, far fewer get this treatment. Because the emphasis in the second section of the book is on teaching you how to pick the stitches, threads, and so on, this makes good sense. It gives you enough of an idea to start you thinking about how you’d apply this process.
Quite simply I’m blown away by this book. If my arms would reach across the country, I’d give Jo a big hug. Since they don’t I will just do this:
Buy this book!
Even if have to save up or not buy that canvas you had your eye on, you won’t regret it one bit.
The book’s official publication date is tomorrow, April 28. Until then you might be able to take advantage of pre-publication prices at some shops.