Every now and again, a craft book comes along that really does have us at hello, ticking every single box imaginable and immediately jumping to the front of the queue of our absolute must-have, will-die-if-don’t-have craft book list. The one that’s claiming the top spot right now is Storyland Cross Stitch by whimsical designer Sophie Simpson – who you may have come across before via her embroidery design company What Delilah Did.
We’re big fans of fairytales and folklore here at the Crafty office so you could argue that we were predisposed to like Storyland Cross Stitch before we even opened the cover, but we challenge anyone to find something in this book that they don’t want to make. There are small projects for beginners - we tried our hand at making the button motifs and were quite pleased with how they came out – right through to bigger ones that more seasoned practitioners can sew up in seconds (well, slight exaggeration perhaps!). There are suggestions as to what finished products you can make once you’ve done the cross stitch but what we like is that the patterns can be applied in whatever way you choose – the instructions are so easy to follow that even though we’re quite new to cross stitch, we’re not afraid of giving the bigger patterns a go.
One of the big pluses about the book is that it comes with a square of aida, some lovely black thread and a needle so you can start stitching as soon as you open it – great if you’re new to the craft and haven’t got your supplies organised as yet. We did find that the fabric was a little uneven when we tried to stitch on it but that was the only downside we could see... a great and thoughtful touch that just cements the idea that Sophie really has thought of everything with Storyland Cross Stitch.
Each pattern comes with a charming little story (and a bit of an insight into how Sophie’s mind works!), so reading the book is just as enjoyable as sitting down to work from it - that coupled with the amazing photograpy and beautiful styling pretty much makes it un-put-downable in our eyes.
So that’s what we thought of it, but you can hear other opinions from the blogosphere all this week as the Crafty blog tour continues. To follow along, head to:
And if you’d like get your hands on some of Sophie’s patterns, she’s offering everyone 20% off all PDF patterns in her online shop for the duration of the tour. Just enter the code CRAFTYMAG at the checkout.
We think it goes without saying – Storyland Cross Stitch definitely gets the Crafty seal of approval, but we wanted to find out even more about Sophie and her gorgeous designs so sat down for a little chat with the lady herself.
How did you first get into cross stitch?
I knew I wanted to work for myself and do something creative, it was just a case of finding my niche. I would try literally every craft I came across, inspired by a photograph or a material or a particular product. When I saw some beautiful antique linen with cross stitch monograms I looked up the basics of the technique on the internet and had a go for myself - I was hooked from the first stitch.
What inspired the book?
I was really inspired by the settings of traditional fairytales – not so much the stories themselves, but the wild, ancient, magical lands in which they take place. Rambling forests, tumbledown cottages, ruinous castles… all with a hint of darkness. I always complain that I was born in the wrong century, so when left to my own devices I spend much of my time imagining I live somewhere like that.
Which is your favourite pattern?
It changes all the time! When I was working on the book I had all of the projects pinned to the wall so that I could view them as a whole and every day I would have a new favourite, so I’m not sure I could pick just one. The twig tree and jackalope, Fantabulous Mr Fox and Wise Owl are all pretty up there though. Oh, and the Big Bad Wolf with a little bird in his tummy – I’m quite fond of him too.
What's the best one for a beginner to start with?
The simplest pattern is the little key bookmark or the miniature button patterns – the book is split into three sections ordered by ability though, so any of the projects from the first section are great for beginners.
Which is the hardest one?
Probably the Twig Tree or the crown, mainly because when you stitch more complicated designs in a single colour it can be quite easy to lose your place, though this is also one of the things that keeps it interesting for more advanced stitchers. I always scrawl over my patterns with a red pen as I go along so that I know where I am up to – that’s why we recommend photocopying some of the larger charts to work from so that you can use them again when you’re done.
If you could be any fairytale character who would you be?
I quite like the idea of living in a little cottage in the forest and keeping house for a bunch of dwarves, so I would maybe go with Snow White. I don’t think I would want to go back to the castle once the prince found me though! I much prefer to live a quiet life so I really wouldn’t make a very good princess.
How hard is it to bring a craft book to market?
The thing I found most difficult was that I wildly underestimated how much work was involved, especially after the actual making/writing part is over. Things take so much longer than planned and the deadlines can be insane, especially when they get moved forward. I was still working at my day job while I was writing it and was frequently working through the night to keep up with both, so was falling apart a bit by the time I handed everything in. One of the best things though was that I was given much more creative freedom than I expected – I had very firm ideas of what I wanted to do and was basically left entirely to my own devices, which was wonderful.
Is there anything you'd do differently?
In hindsight I would make some of the projects quite a bit smaller, mainly because it was a very ambitious workload to take on in the time frame. In the future I will also be much stricter about what I am and am not prepared to do when it comes to setting deadlines – I lost quite a lot of hair over this one!
Are you planning any more books?
I have a tonne of ideas on the drawing board at the moment and very much hope to be able to turn some of them into books… that’s as much as I can say at the moment though!
What other projects are you working on right now?
My main focus at the moment is updating my website and working on my new line of supply kits, but it has turned into a bit of an ongoing project with all the other things I have happening at the same time. I have started teaching workshops so have more of those lined up, as well as contributing projects to some other people’s books, working on new patterns for my own shop and expanding my range of printed cushion kits. There are a million other things I want to do too, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.