Creative Embroidery Techniques Using Color Through Gold

by Daphne J. Ashby & Jackie Woolsey
Guild of Master Craftsman Publications
Contents: 160+ pages, 18 Chapters, and Index
Reviewed by Dorothy L. Johnson
Originally Published Spring 1999


This book is written in two parts: Chapters 1-4 outline the threads and fabrics used, a glossary of stitches and the inspiration to create a different look to embroidery. Part two, Chapters 5 through 17 contains various projects employing the authors’ designs. Chapter 18 explores combining silk embroidery with counted canvas work on Congress Cloth.

Ms. Ashby and Ms. Woolsey have experimented with a few stitches, 11 to be exact, adding gold threads in a variety of weights and textures in unusual patterning. Rayon is one of their favorite threads because of the play of light it creates.

The reader may feel that what has been documented are simply tricks of thread choice and stitch placement. However, once read thoroughly and with understanding, a devoted stitcher will find the creativity with color and placement to be quite interesting and emphasizes creativity in an encouraging manner. Ashby and Woolsey are open and sharing about their source of inspiration, how a stitch is varied for a different look or texture, and their criticism of routine stitch dictionaries. For example, with the Rhodes stitch, there is the square, octagonal, triangular, and 1/2 Rhodes. Then by using more than one color in an individual stitch, the stitch appears totally different. Examples are given of how to group several of the Rhodes stitches together into a unified whole. Cushion stitch is also shown is several ways using the placement of colored and gold threads to alter the normal, traditional way this stitch appears. An axiom the authors propose is that placement is almost everything based on what the designer wants to express.

Chapter 4, Golden Grids, an interesting concept inasmuch as the grids are but an outline for decorative stitches to be added in the open grid spaces. The grid examples range from crossed diagonal line of upright stitches, a Florentine diamond, and a Florentine heart. Several colored pieces in the book feature this golden grid effect.

As for projects, greeting cards, a group of holiday ornaments hanging on a tree, decorative practical things like a desk set with five pieces, a tray insert, scissor weight, pillows, pot lids, etc. One of the most beautiful projects is an evening bag worked in black, gray and yellow highlighted with metallic gold crosses.

For the really creative stitcher, Chapter 18 is a turn-on. Ashby and Woolsey give complete instructions on completing a design worked on silk with fine surface stitches. Once complete this becomes the focal point of a larger piece by using canvas stitches to surround the pre-stitched piece so as to incorporate the two methods into one unit. These pieces are exquisite, and oh, so beautifully creative.

Basically the message is, use whatever colors, threads, stitches, background fabric, foreground fabric, beads, metallics… to your heart’s content … and create a unique work of art.