Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Japanese Paper Embroidery. By Atsumi, Chiba, and Kamio. Review.

Japanese Paper Embroidery
By Atsumi, Minako Chiba & Mari Kamio
Search Press 2015
Paperback £12.99 UK/ $19.99 US
ISBN 978 178221 248 5

Star rating: ****

As a follow-on to the colouring-books-for-grown-ups trend, can sewing cards be far behind?  They’re here – in the guise of this delightful new book, Japanese Paper Embroidery! The three authors are design professionals from Japan, where both papercraft and embroidery have long traditions. Endearingly, the book begins with a haiku about paper embroidery, to set the tone of creative enthusiasm and appreciation. 

The book contains 20 projects, appealing and imaginative designs that are not labour-intensive – the concept being to add a touch of handmade charm to everyday items. In addition to the expected cards, many of the projects are 3-D (beyond the dimesionality of the stitching itself). There are ideas for packaging food gifts, an entire paper embroidery party set (love the animal cup holders), and even a clock face. You will find stitched booklet spines – made of elegant, yet simple stitch patterns. There’s an entire embroidered alphabet for monogramming purposes – cue the typography trend. (In case you were wondering, although this book was first published in Japan, all of the embroidered text is in English). Another fantastic idea is to revive 1950s-style embroidered postcards (you know – kitsch holiday cards with Spanish dancers, etc.)... adding stitched highlights to photos or printed designs. 
Back cover - channelling the typography trend.
The book contains Q & A interviews with the authors, finding out what drew them to embroidery on paper, and discussing fine points of the creative process.

The instructional parts of the book are well done with photographic step-by-steps. You are taught how to transfer designs, then pierce the stitching holes. There is a section entitled “All About Embroidery Thread”, which  shows how to choose, use, and store it. There is also a spread illustrating the “Basic Stitches for Paper Embroidery” and suggestions on how to combine stitches to build designs – such as the very fashionable mandala-style design on the book’s front cover. 

Back-of-book is a template section (not all full-size). The templates are helpfully annotated with how many strands of thread to use for the design lines, and with making-up tips.

Although the actual process of transferring a design and then piercing stitching holes is fiddly, the paper embroidery is used sparingly so that the amount of work per design is reasonable. The concept of adding stitchery as a dimensional embellishment to papercraft projects is a  winner.

For papercrafters this book offers a pleasant introduction to a new way to add to your decorative skillset.