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.

Blurring the distinctions: An interview with LUKE, quilt artist

I recently discovered the work of LUKE Haynes through this post in Katharine Watson‘s blog, The Printing Press.  I contacted LUKE after reading Katharine’s post and checking out his website, and he graciously agreed to an interview.

For those of you who aren’t already familiar with LUKE’s work, he is an architect turned quilter.  LUKE’s background includes strong preparation in art and design which he uses to make quilts to “discuss utility in aesthetics.”  Like all quilters (that I know at least), he loves fabric.  He works with a lot of upcycled and repurposed materials and his website references the Quilters of Gee’s Bend as an influence.  Currently, LUKE is living in Washington State, but he was once a resident of my dear City and even attended the illustrious Cooper Union for graduate school.  His work has mostly been displayed in fine arts settings and textile museums, but he has also exhibited at quilting venues.  In addition to his website, LUKE can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Etsy, and Flickr.  (All the pictures I’ve posted here have been used with permission and are available for viewing on LUKE’s Flickr photostream.)

Self Portrait #2, Tradition

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to quilt?

LUKE: I faked it.  I started my first quilt in Arts school during a break from classes and went from there.  I took a sewing elective in middle school and learned a bit about sewing then, so I had a working knowledge around a machine.  I have also been knitting and crocheting for a lot of years, which adds to craft dexterity. (UC comment: LUKE’s sewing class sounds as useful as my middle school typing class.  I’m not sure I would have made it through college without it, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing a blog now!)

American Nostalgia #3, Abraham Lincoln

UC: You describe your recent work as being an investigation of nostalgia and function.  Tell me more about this and why you are working as a quilt artist.

LUKE: Quilts have implicit nostalgia in them.  I have found that more and more as I work with fabric and get responses from viewers, all art has within it a certain nostalgia for the artist.  They imbue the work with some idea or question which is then evocative for them in the future.  I want that to extend to the people who see my work.  I want to call memories and tactile experiences into mind as people experience my works and exhibitions.

The function is actually a means to that end.  An object with implicit function can call to mind its use.  You know intuitively and subconsciously what a blanket feels like and its importance in your everyday.  Clothes and fabric are the same.  So when those items are used as the media for an exhibition, you as the viewer have an existing response to the materiality.  This is the same way for me as the maker, which breaks down the gap between artist and viewer.

Gifts #17, Micala

UC: Do you quilt as a hobby as well, or do you have other creative pursuits in your down time?

LUKE: I quilt for myself and friends and family, though I wouldn’t describe it as a hobby as any project I make is a furthering of my own work and knowledge of the media.  (I haven’t had down time in a lot of years, though I would say that there are other projects that I create that are tangential to quilts, like rugs and clothes and installations.)

(UC comment: In retrospect, the intent of my question wasn’t that clear, but LUKE’s answer seems to get to the point.  Those of us who work at a craft are always creating and learn through everything we make.)

Man Stuff #1, Hammer

UC: What are your favorite quilting/sewing tools?

LUKE: I enjoy a lot of the process, but I would have to say that my favorite tools are the ones that have changed my method and helped me make better and faster work: the roller cutter and the long arm sewing machine.  Those two tools have streamlined my process and added years to my life I would have used with scissors or a domestic machine doing the tasks (that) those make easy and quick.  (UC comment: I have long dreamed of owning a long arm quilting machine, but alas I live in a New York City sized apartment.)

Bed Clothes #1, Log cabin reverse (made with upcycled clothes seamed outside)

UC: Where do you find your creative inspiration?

LUKE: From other designers I appreciate, or in my own experiences as a person or a practitioner of the creative process.

Causes #1, Bra (for Simplicity Creative’s breast cancer awareness campaign)

UC: What are your favorite techniques to use?

LUKE: I don’t have a favorite.  I have ones that I use to get a result I want at any given time.  I use any and all to execute to the best of my ability the project I am working on.

Flightless Birds #3, Penguin

UC: Do you have any favorite craft or art blogs or websites to share?

LUKE: I am a designer.  I draw most of my inspiration from the design community, so the ones I turn to are today and tomorrow and Design Fetish (All Things Design.  All Things Fetish.).

Self Portrait #6, Stitched

Thanks for stopping by for the interview, LUKE!  If you haven’t already, please check out LUKE’s website, his Etsy shop, his Flickr photostream, his Facebook page, or on Twitter to see more of his work and learn more about his inspirations and methods.

Credentials, or do I really need that certification? (Part 2: Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher)

Now you’ve asked yourself some basic questions and you’ve decided you want to teach needlecrafts.  You may be wondering if you should get some sort of certification.

Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher, Part 2: Credentials, or do I really need that certification? on Underground CrafterUpdate: This series is a great introduction to teaching, but since I originally wrote it in 2011, it has become outdated. If you’re looking for a more robust (and updated) approach to teaching, check out my book, Make Money Teaching Crochet: Launch Your Business, Increase Your Side Income, Reach More Students.

FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT!  I am a Craft Yarn Council (CYC) certified crochet and knitting instructor (level I) and certified crochet teacher (level II).

There are several reasons you might get a teaching certification.

  • Some employers require certification. This is particularly true of national chain stores (e.g., Michaels, Joanns).
  • Some organizations prefer certification. While your local yarn shop, continuing education program, or regional needlearts conference probably don’t require you to be certified, having a credential may give you a boost over another interested teacher.  This could be particularly true if you don’t have other credentials in needlecrafts.  If you have other experience or education, the credential may not be as valuable.
  • You aren’t confident about your teaching abilities. Teaching certification programs focus on how to teach the craft.  If you don’t know how to explain things, or why something should be done a certain way, the certification program can help you prepare to teach.
  • Some certification programs provide exposure opportunities for their graduates. For example, the Embroiderer’s Guild of America includes the list of Graduate Certified Teachers on its website with contact information.  If you don’t have your own website or storefront, this extra publicity can help you find students.
  • You need a head start on developing your teaching resources. Many certification programs include materials in their training which you can adapt for use with your students.  Others include tips on publicizing your classes.
  • It just sounds cool. When I tell students about what I had to do to complete my certification, it often puts them at ease and makes them feel more comfortable about taking a class with me.

There are also reasons why you might not get certification.

  • It costs money. These programs are not cheap.  Most teacher certification programs cost at least $100 for a correspondence program.  Attending an on-site program can be very costly if you need to travel to the location.
  • It takes time. On-site programs generally have a minimum number of hours to participate.  Correspondence programs often have many tasks you must complete to show your mastery of the craft.  Many certification programs require you to teach a certain number of hours before granting certification.
  • It isn’t necessary because of your existing experience or education in needlecrafts. ‘Nuff said.
  • There isn’t much competition in your local area, so the certification provides no advantage. I live in New York City, and everyone and their mother wants to teach knitting and crocheting.  But perhaps where you live, you are the only game in town :).

If you do decide to seek certification, what are your options in the needlecrafts?  Here is a list I’ve compiled.  This is based only on a preliminary Google search.  I am not affiliated with any of these programs (other than being a CYC graduate and student as already mentioned).  This is not an endorsement of any of these programs, so don’t be mad at me if you don’t like them :).


Embroidery and Needlepoint:


Patchwork and Quilting:

Rug Hooking:


Another alternative to teaching certification is to become a master (insert needlecraft here).  While these programs do not specifically prepare you to teach, they provide advanced technical training and an assessment of your skills.  This can also be helpful from a “look, I have a cool credential” point of view as well as by providing you with additional skill development.

Some examples:

A less expensive and time consuming option is to buy a book on teaching or a teaching resource package from an existing organization.  This won’t provide the same level of preparation, but can be a great option if you are short on time and are confident in your teaching skills.  Here are some examples:

This list is by no means exhaustive.  I’d be interested in hearing from other teachers about their experiences related to certification.