Today, I’m interviewing Linda Wyszynski about her new book, The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework. I’ll also be reviewing the book and giving away my review copy, courtesy of Creative Publishing International.
Linda Wyszynski has been a freelance needlework designer for over 20 years. Her work has appeared in countless books and magazines, including Cross-Stitch and Needlework, Crafts ‘ n Things, and Cross Stitcher. Linda also taught needlepoint, silk ribbon and needlepoint canvas painting earlier in her career. Linda can be found online at her website, Hearthside Creations. Pictures are used with her permission. (Project pictures are the property of the publishers.)
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started with needlework?
Linda: My paternal grandmother began teaching me needlework when I was 8 or 9. We didn’t have any iron on patterns and I wanted to learn to stitch. Grandma would take a piece of fabric, lay it over the bottom of the cast iron frying pan, and place a piece of her finished embroidery work face down on the cloth that covered the frying pan. She would then run a wooden spoon over the back of the needlework. The design would magically appear on the fabric that was next to the black cast iron. In my early twenties, I rediscovered needlework, and realized how much I loved to stitch.
UC: What originally inspired you to begin designing?
Linda: In the ‘80s, I fell in love with needlepoint, and wanted to stitch a painted canvas. As I was still a novice in needlepoint, I felt the pre-painted canvas cost was too high to justify purchasing one. Since I had taught Tole (decorative painting) and reverse painting, I decided to give canvas painting a try. To my surprise, it turned out great, and I took the painted canvas to a local shop to pick out threads. The owner liked my canvas painting and asked me to do custom canvas painting for her customers. I began Hearthside Creations LLC, and the next thing I knew, I was designing plastic canvas and needlepoint designs for magazines.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Linda: Design ideas come from all around me: nature, floral gardening books, home décor magazines, catalogs, antique embroidery work, shopping, even watching TV or movies. I have always loved magazines and subscribe to many different types. Sitting and leafing through them, I’ll see a painting or floral fabric or rug – there is always something to give me an idea. One thing I do not do is look at craft magazines to see what others are doing. I don’t even visit websites or blogs often. Our mind is always storing things and it would be way to easy to create a design like someone else without even realizing it! Observing the copyrights of other designers’ work is very important to me – just as I would like for others to observe my copyrights.
UC: Your latest book, the The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework, was just released. How did you approach the challenge of writing such a comprehensive guide covering several needlecrafts, and what was the overall writing and development process for the book?
Linda: Actually, this is my first authored book. I have been published in twenty multi-authored needlework books and in magazines for many years. For this book, lists were made of things I would like to see in a technique book, along with list of the stitches for each chapter. The gathering of the “types of information” we wanted to discuss or show in the book took several weeks. Once the lists were complete, and a schedule was in place, the rest was much easier to accomplish.
This book needed to have an edge the other published technique books did not have. It needed to show the stitcher through the photographs how the piece looked completely stitched, how it looked as you stitched each step, and, most of all, to have clear, easy to follow graphs. Dennis, my husband, who has created my graphs for years, worked hand in hand with me. He took the step-by-step photographs and created the graphics for each stitch. Having him to discuss the vision of the book and to help accomplish that was the greatest!
We wanted to show through photographs a close up of each strand of each type of thread, each tool, type of scissors etc., so when the stitcher is learning this craft, they are not in the dark about what to use and how to use the information given. Being a self-taught needle artist, this was important to me. The techniques chosen for this book are all related. Many of the same stitches are used for each technique. It was a hard decision to show the same stitch for several techniques. In the end I did do that so the stitcher would understand that once the rhythm of the stitch was learned it could be used in many forms of needlework. When using silk ribbon or embroidery floss or yarn or beads, a simple stem stitch will take on a very different look.
UC: You are obviously multi-craftual, but what is your favorite “go to” craft when working on projects for yourself?
Linda: I rarely have time to do something for myself, but I do enjoy hand quilting. I have only completed a small lap quilt. Currently, I’m working on creating quilted placemats from die cut pieces. It may be years before they are completed. I don’t worry about how long it takes to complete projects because it’s relaxing and fun to quilt by hand! My favorite color is black, so these will be black, white and red.
UC: What are your favorite needlework books in your own library (besides your own, of course)?
Linda: I love antiques and old books, so I lean toward books from the early 1900s forward. I have so many books, it’s really hard to define favorites! If you asked next week, my list could easily be different.
Some of the books are:
- Samplers and Stitches: A Handbook of the Embroiderer’s Art by Mrs. Archibald Christie,
- Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches,
- Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Color for Needlepoint & Knitting by Kaffe Fassett,
- The Embroiderer’s Story: Needlework from the Renaissance to the Present Day by Thomasina Beck, and
- The Myth & Magic of Embroidery by Helen M. Stevens.
The one book I have used most in my library of over 800 books is A Pageant of Pattern for Needlepoint Canvas by Sherlee Lantz with diagrams by Maggie Lane. I love to just look at the graphics and envision what the stitch looks like when worked. This book is out of print. It was given away in grocery stores when you bought a certain item back in 1973. It took me years to find a copy – costing me $75, which was inexpensive at the time. It was selling for around $200. Now there are copies turning up in used book stores for far less. It was well worth the cost!
UC: Do you have any favorite craft or design blogs or websites to share?
Linda: There are so many wonderful bogs and websites it hard to decide which to share. I check out these designs once in a while.
UC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Linda: Needlework is a love I’m sure I’ll have the rest of my life. Times in my life I have missed not having a needle in my hand. I usually have work with me even on vacation. The highlight of my career was being asked by Creative Publishing to write a book on something I love, that was the greatest. Having control over the development of the book was very exciting. Most of all, being able to share my love of needlework with my husband. He has a logical mind and understands how to work the stitches without ever picking up a needle. Let me tell you that has come in handy with some of the more difficult stitchs since I tend to transpose numbers!
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Linda!
The Book Review
About once a year, I decide that I’m going to take up embroidery again. This is usually triggered by seeing a super cute image on someone’s blog, or the discovery of a masterpiece in the closet by my grandmother or MC’s mother. Then, I try embroidering for a few hours and realize that I don’t have the patience (or the eyesight) for needlework. It was in this vein that I requested a review copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework from Creative Publishing International.
The book is organized into seven main sections:
- ABCs of needlework,
- Creative embroidery,
- Silk ribbon embroidery,
- Bead embroidery,
- Cross-stitch (called “Cross-stitch basic” in the table of contents), and
There is also a resource section and a detailed stitch index in the back.
What I like about this book:
- The ABCs of needlework section is extremely thorough. Not only is there a picture of each different tool, but there is a clear explanation of the major equipment. (Finally, I can understand why I might select a milliners needle!)
- There are wonderful tips peppered throughout the book. (My personal favorite is this reminder: “For safety’s sake, always rescue the (lost) needle.” My family is notorious for losing needles, so Linda’s recommendation to keep a magnet on hand is much appreciated.)
- Each technique section includes detailed information about appropriate fabrics and threads to use.
- In addition to the detailed illustrations you would expect from a needlework book (indicating the numbered steps of each stitch), there are many pictures of the finished stitches. While there aren’t complete step-by-step photos, there are usually 2-4 progress photos of each stitch showing how the needle is inserted into the fabric. Most people I know seem to have an easier time learning techniques from photos than illustrations, so this combination will likely be helpful to new needleworkers.
- The book is well organized.
What I didn’t like (or what’s missing):
- I didn’t see projects that I was interested in making. I think the book could have benefited from involving multiple designers creating the projects so that there would be a diverse range of styles. (Two other CPI books, The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet and The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting by Margaret Hubert, include a range of designers for the projects.)
- While Linda’s introduction is very informal and welcoming, later in the book there are times when the language seems overly formal and a bit clumsy.
Overall, I found the book to be an excellent resource which clearly explains the differences between the different types of needlework, identifies the appropriate tools for different tasks, describes different techniques for image transfer, and presents a detailed stitch guide with both illustrations and photos. The projects are fairly classic/standard, and don’t display a range of styles. I think this book would be quite helpful for a needlework newbie who is looking for a resource and technique book to grow with. While at certain points, the text is not as graceful as I would like it to be, the pictures and the illustrations do most of the talking anyway. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
I’m giving away my review copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework, courtesy of Creative Publishing International. Due to postage costs, this giveaway is only open to readers with a U.S. mailing address.
- Leave a comment on this post, telling me about your experience with or interest in needlework, by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, January 13, 2012. Be sure to include your email address (which won’t be displayed) so I can contact you if you win. (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, your comment will not appear immediately.)
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