Book review: Meet Me At Mike’s Crafty Journal by Pip Lincolne

This post contains affiliate links.

If you’re looking for the right journal for yourself or another crafty journaler in your life, you may want to check out Meet Me At Mike’s Crafty Journal by Pip Lincolne.  I recently received a review copy from the Independent Publishers Group.

Pip Lincolne is an Australian crafter, blogger, writer, and former shopkeeper at Meet Me at Mike’s.  This is just the type of fun journal you would expect from another crafter.  The journal opens with a welcoming note from Pip, and then jumps right into the first project: beginner instructions for a granny square.  The instructions are written very conversationally, and you have the feeling that you’re sitting next to Pip on a couch while she’s talking you through your first granny.  (The instructions use Australian/UK terminology.)   The book also includes instructions for three other projects: a felt brooch by Anna Laura Blandford, an amigurumi panda crochet pattern by Jess McCaughey (Teddy Bear’s Wednesday), and a recipe for pink lamingtons.  The projects are geared towards a beginner, because while the journal is set up for a crafter, it doesn’t assume you have knowledge of any particular craft.  In the back of the book, there are cute illustrated instructions for basic embroidery, crochet, and knitting stitches.

The book also includes about 150 pages of journal paper, organized into sections with lined paper, pattern making paper, graph paper, and grid paper.

The pages have cute edgings which appear hand drawn, as well as occasional photographs of crafty supplies like buttons, or suggestions like “make greeting cards!”

This would definitely be a fun book to use for keeping track of your creative ideas or for a “regular” journal as well.

The journal ends with a list of crafty website and other “ace places to visit” on the web for creative inspiration and tutorials.  In the back, there is a pocket called Bits and Bobs which includes a poster-sized foldout printed on sturdy paper.  One side is basically a poster of the various illustrations and photographs included in the journal.  The other side, called the Organise My Life Chart, includes sections for important things to do, things to make, books to read, movies to see, places to go, and recipes to try.

Overall, this is a really fun journal for any crafter who likes to have a book for writing down notes, ideas, and sketches.  The range of paper types and the elastic closure make it especially helpful.  The hard cover binding makes it durable enough to survive journeys to your craft group or guild meetings, and, for those of you who need a big visual “to do” list, the Organise My Life Chart would be a big help.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Interview with Linda Wyszynski, book review, and giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

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.

The Interview

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.)

Linda Wyszynski

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.

Beaded Guest Towels

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.

Beaded Lampshade

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.

Grandma’s Doily Pillow. I like the stark contrast between the white doilies and the black pillow.

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.

Maple Leaf Coasters

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.

Redwork Pillow

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:

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.

Yo Yo Pillow Pizazz

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 stitches 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,
  • Crewel,
  • Silk ribbon embroidery,
  • Bead embroidery,
  • Cross-stitch (called “Cross-stitch basic” in the table of contents), and
  • Needlepoint.

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.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

The Giveaway

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.

Book review and giveaway: Firefly’s Step-By-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft

This post contains affiliate links.

I’m pleased to review Firefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft today.  I’ll also be hosting a giveaway of the review copy I received from Firefly Booksso read on for details!

Book review

As the name implies, Firefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft is a comprehensive needlecraft guide with tons of “over the shoulder” close-up pictures.  The book explores knitting, crochet, embroidery, patchwork and quilting, and sewing.  Each chapter highlights one of the crafts by identifying tools and equipment, explaining the basics with step-by-step photos and text, and then exploring additional techniques.  As soon as I picked up the book, I fell in love – or, I should say, I fell in love again.  You see, most of the content is reproduced almost entirely from one of my favorite books, the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Needlecrafts.

There are some notable differences between the two books.  Good Housekeeping includes chapters on rugmaking and needlepoint, which are absent from Firefly.  Firefly includes a sewing chapter, which is absent from Good Housekeeping. The layout of the Firefly guide is improved – it starts with preview pictures of all projects, rather than sprinkling the project pictures throughout each chapter as Good Housekeeping does.  At the end of the book, there is a 60 page pattern section which includes pictures of each project.  The projects have also been updated to reflect more modern styles.  (However, I did recognize a few of the projects too, from other books, so I would guess they are largely archived patterns and not new for this book.)

Firefly is also about 80 pages longer than Good Housekeeping.  Several chapters include additional information.

  • There are instructions for making hand dyed yarn in the crochet chapter.
  • The embroidery chapter includes alphabets in several styles and a detailed section on machines (including equipment, machine stitches, designing for machines, border motifs, machine embroidered fabrics, and freestyle machine embroidery).  The section on cleaning your embroidery has been edited out.
  • The additions to the Patchwork and Quilting chapter introduce lace and insertion applique, making quilting patterns, contour quilting, corded quilting, and trapunto.

It is important to note that this book is aimed at a U.K. audience, so all of the terminology is British.  This is most prominent in the crochet section, where there are substantial differences in terminology.

Overall, I give Firefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft 5 out of 5 stars.  The pictures are clear, the instructions are well edited, and the projects cover a range of skills.  If you are looking for a comprehensive needlecrafts guide, this one is very strong — unless, of course, you already own the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Needlecrafts 🙂.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.


I’m giving away my review copy of Firefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft, courtesy of Firefly Books.  Because the book is over 300 pages long, and therefore ridiculously heavy, this contest is only open to those with a mailing address in the U.S.

Freebie: Care instructions and parody gift tags

As I work my way through my holiday crafting gift list, I thought I would share some freebies with those of you in the same predicament: printable care instructions and priceless parody gift tags.

This post contains affiliate links.

Care instructions gift tags
Priceless parody gift tags

Here’s my technique for using gift tags.

  • My downloads are formatted for pre-scored inkjet business cards (Avery 8371 or Staples 610381), but you can also print on card stock and then cut afterwards.  (To cut the card stock yourself, print on an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet in portrait.  After printing, trim 1/2″ off the top and bottom margins and 3/4″ off the right and left margins.  Each tag measures 2″ x 3-1/2″.)  I print both labels the on the same sheet (care instructions on one side and priceless parody on the other).
  • Personalize the tags.
A sample personalized care tag.
A sample personalized parody tag. (I used the U.S. federal minimum wage, though of course I wish that artisan labor was valued higher!)


  • After printing and dividing the tags, I use a 1/8” hole punch to create a small hole in an upper corner.
  • With a yarn needle, I thread a small amount of yarn (very cute if it is a scrap from your project!) through the hole and into my handmade gift.

These are formatted so that you can print 10 of each tag on a page.  Enjoy!

Underground Crafter Parody Tags

Underground Crafter Care Labels


Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Handmade Gifts to Buy

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) signifies the official start of the holiday shopping season.  In the spirit of keeping the holidays a little more handmade and small business and a little less mass produced and corporate, I’m sharing several holiday gift guides today.

Handmade gifts to buy

If you’re more pressed for time than money this holiday season, you may want to buy a handmade gift.

CRAFT magazine has a series of Holiday Gift Guides for 2011 which include Gifts Under $20 and pet gifts.

Etsy is an online craft marketplace with many great holiday gifts.  If you are looking for sales, you can browse listings with Black Friday Etsy or Cyber Monday Etsy tags… but then you’d be wading through over 70,000 items.  You can try a curated approach by checking out treasuries posted by Etsy members with Black FridayCyber MondayWinter Gifts, Gifts for Her, or Gifts for Him tags.  Or, you can read the daily Etsy crochet treasuries by Kathryn at Crochet Concupiscence.  My local Etsy team, The {NewNew}, has even put together a series of holiday gift guides (for teachers, for teens, and for her).

Still overwhelmed?  Here’s my short list of holiday Etsy picks.

Perez Gillton Flounder Amigurumi from Cheezombie. (Image used with permission.)
Vintage Dad (any year) t-shirt from BRANDED. (Image used with permission.)
  • Unique and marvelous (more expensive) woodcrafts gifts for someone special can be found at rusticworker.
  • Bottlehood has great glassware and jewelry made from upcycled bottles.  They also offer gift certificates.  A variety of “eco-fabulous nifty gifties” for kids and adults are available from Ivy Lane Designs.
Recycled Dr. Pepper Juice Glasses from Bottlehood. (Image used with permission.)

Artfire is another online craft marketplace for handmade gifts, and you can view their Black Friday sales here.

Perhaps you prefer an in-person shopping experience.  CRAFT magazine’s list of events and the Sunshine Artist website are great resources for finding holiday craft fairs.  (My besties and I plan to wait until the last possible moment and then shop the Lyceum Holiday Market and Brooklyn Craft Central’s Holiday Market the Saturday before Christmas.)

Enjoy the second gift guide, and feel free to share your favorite handmade gifts to buy in the comments!