The Hand-Stitched Home – Book Review

The Hand-Stitched Home - Cover

I promised you a lovely book to coo over and The Hand-Stitched Home by Caroline Zoob ticks all the boxes.

I’ve had very little time to exercise my sewing muscles lately and had rather forgotten how much I enjoy it so leafing through Caroline Arber’s beautiful photographs discovering the projects within was a real pleasure.

Do you hand sew?  Is it something you love or do out of necessity?  Sometimes it’s so easy just to get the sewing machine out and wizz around a few seams, or as I did over half term to piece together a spectacular tear on some nearly new tracksuit bottoms which had come off worse in a tree climbing related incident!

I had a very mixed introduction to the craft of stitching.  Being left handed my school experience was almost entirely negative.  Whole lessons miserably stitching a ‘blind’ hem with a length of thread grubby and grey from countless pulling out.  And, being made to wear a thimble on my right hand because that was where they were worn!  (I was nearly an adult before I found out what they were actually for!)  However, during the school holidays I stayed with my left-handed grandmother, Bam-mum (who never used a thimble)  and she introduced me to a love of stitching which has never gone away despite school’s best efforts.

Caroline Zoob’s book is all for pleasure, little hand-stitched treasures giving a new lease of life to vintage fabrics which then become part of the fabric of the home.  From tiny projects such as this Heart Key Fob…

Heart Key Fob - The Hand-Stitched Home…delicately stitched shelf edging…

Shelf edging - The Hand-Stitched Home..and pretty egg-cosy made from felted wool blanket fabric…

egg-cosy - The Hand-Stitched Home larger pieces such as cushions, curtains and table runners there are plenty of ideas which you can use to inspire you to use and recycle pretty fabrics, trimmings, buttons and precious scraps of fabric.

Be aware that the instructions for some of the more complicated pieces do presume a fairly sound knowledge of basic sewing skills. However, this is book about hand stitching and embroidery and there is a lot of help and inspiration  for even a novice at decorative stitching.  And of course the joy of a book like this is that it is positive encouragement to go off and brush up on or learn new skills!

Vintage scraps - The Hand-Stitched Home

And what was my inspiration?  Well, it was daisies.  I’m planning to feature daisies in the next blog post for reasons which will be explained, but this was the image in the book which inspired me…

Daisy tree - The Hand-Stitched Home

It’s so pretty and simple.  I had a frame which I bought months ago in a closing down sale, and a remnant of linen so I spent a happy evening with my box of embroidery threads and this was the result…

Daisy tree 2 - Then Hand-Made Home

So, I’m sure you would love to get your hands on a copy of this book.  And you can because the lovely people at the Aurum Publishing Group have a copy to send to one lucky person.  It could be you!  I’d love to hear your sewing story, what got you stitching?   Was it love at first stitch, or a gradual blossoming?  Simply share your story in the comments, and next weekend you could be the winner!

This week I’m linking up again with Handmade Monday over on Handmade Harbour so follow the links there to discover lots more creative people and ideas.

I’m off to the studio now to get ready for the last day of Open Studios.  If you are in the area we’d love to see you, but if not I’ll be back here soon…x


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35 thoughts on “The Hand-Stitched Home – Book Review

  1. Muddling Along

    School sewing classes were enough to put my off sewing for a long time but having children and wanting to make things for them and our house have rekindled my interest – I’m still very much a beginner but learning to love (and to remember old forgotten skills) my sewing machine and hand sewing

    And being able to make do and mend is a very useful skill with two very active children!

  2. Janet Friel

    I remember when I first learned to love embroidery – I was about 7 and in the local fabric shop when I saw the stand of coloured threads. That was it – I wanted them all! My first project was a tray cloth and matching napkins. It was very messy and full of knots but insisted that we use them on a regular basis! I still have a childish love of my collection of threads and would love some inspiration to use them more often!

  3. Ali (Patchwork Fairy)

    What a lovely book, the illustrations make you want to try to do something like that. I too had a miserable introduction to sewing at school, too awful to want to remember! It was one of Mum’s friends who introduced me to embroidery by giving me all her threads in cardboard ‘book style’ holders. Every colour in every shade was included and I had fun for years with them. I used to love just looking at them, never mind usung them! Sadly I have no idea where they went as at some point they vanished during a house move. In fact they are probably in someone’s loft somewhere, a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered again!

  4. Judy

    I too remember the painstaking hours of unpicking we had to go through in needlework at school. We had a teacher who was a stickler for the hemming stitches to be invisible on the handkerchief we had embroidered. Lesson after lesson I unpicked and restitched before she was happy with the results. However I remain grateful for being taught these skills. Family. life and work became the priority, but now I am able to step back pick up where I left off and begin to show my grandchildren,the skills we were fortunate enough to be taught enabling us to create something beautiful.

  5. Helen

    My school sewing experience wasn’t too bad tbh – but we used a machine. I do remember sitting with my gran while i tried to learn to hand sew, but she gave up! I am not the neatest which is probably why machine sewing is easier for me. But i do wish i had the skills to hand sew! You never know, one day! I wish i had carried on sewing as a young teen, but i found other things got in the way, and i am now just getting back into it!

  6. Nikki Pierce

    What a beautiful book and your stitching is lovely.

    Like so many others I was put off sewing at school – I just didn’t get it and hated the classes, but then I saw a cushion pattern I liked and suddenly got inspired. it was a cross-stitch sampler style and I did the cross stitch and my mum made it into a cushion for me. I then didn’t do anything more for years but a couple of years ago, I saw a redwork chicken pattern and stitched up some squares and then got so excited that I got a sewing machine and made it up into a cushion. And now I love sewing. I’m good at hand embroidery, less good at sewing machine/making big things but really want to get some practice in this summer to change that. I would love to win the book.

  7. Teje

    Hi Penny! Thank you for sharing that lovely book! I have sewn all my life but just lately I have realized how enjoyable hand sewing can be. I love to quilt by hand and now I’m making a little quilt pieced by hand. It’s relaxing and we take our work with us everywhere. x Teje

  8. Debbie de Spon

    It was Binker that got me started… stiff cream coloured fabric with big holes. We had embroidery silks in cottage garden colours of pink, blue and lilac and needles with big holes.
    Fumbly fingers learned to thread the needle by pressing the silk back on itself and it slipped through the eye. We learned to damp our fingers and roll the thread to create a knot. Big cross stitches, herringbone, and the ultimate French Knot soon became possible. I made a small needle case for my mother with little felt ‘pages’ and still use it today. Its filled with the same needles she used. That’s the beauty of hand sewing. You stitch in a piece of yourself as you work. 🙂 Thanks for making me think of it Penny.

  9. Penny Peberdy

    My first sewing that I remember was hem-stitching a traycloth at school when I was 7. Unfortunately I don’t have it now, or I would have loved to embroider some little flowers in one corner.

  10. Penny

    Hello Penny
    I do hope your Studio open weekend is going well, how I would love to pop in for a look and a chat!
    I love your daisy embroidered fabric, you are so talented. As you may have noticed my embroidery skills are very basic, self taught ones. I get excited if I manage to do a French knot!
    I learnt to sew from my mum and we did at school but I didn’t like the fact that my PE teacher used to teach us to sew, she was pretty useless and thank goodness for my Mum being there to rescue me. We also had to embroider a very basic apron we had sewed and I still have it as a momento of those days. In my last year of school doing Home Economics as a subject I had to sew a penci skirt and jacket which took me the whole year just about!!! It was a hideous cerise pink that I would rather forget about :o)
    This book looks intruiging, maybe a little advanced for the likes of me but I’m willing to give things a go xxx Thanks for the offer and hugs to you and Higgy who is no doubt wagging his tail to excess this weekend x Penny

  11. Annie @ knitsofacto

    I remember hand stitching a peg bag while still at infant school, and that was it, I’ve been stitching ever since. My needles were being usurped by my knitting needles, so lately I’ve been remedying that, and I’m so loving the gentle rhythms of pulling thread through fabric again 🙂

    Thank you for the chance to enter this lovely giveaway Penny 🙂

  12. Sarah N

    I used to do a little bit of cross stitch when I was younger, but was never particularly grabbed by it and stopped doing it, probably due to a lack of patience! For a long time the only hand sewing I did was mending when I had to, so I thought that I just didn’t like hand sewing, when really it was just mending that I found so boring! Recently I saw a stitch along on the Echinops and Aster blog for a cushion involving paper piecing, applique and embroidery, as well as some machine sewing. I decided to try it and absolutely loved it! I have since done more paper piecing, applique and hand quilting and really want to do some more embroidery. I’m even considering giving cross stitch another go! I’m so pleased I tried it, I’m genuinely surprised at how much I enjoy it! 🙂

  13. vera palmer

    My right handed aunt taught left handed me how to hand sew and embroider by sitting facing me. It worked and I have sewn since I was 7.

  14. knitnrun4sanity

    I so wanted to come and see you but it was just not possible this year.*sigh*. As for sewing I am not really sure how or when I learnt. I did a lot of cross stitch when I was younger. I do remember doing it in school and enjoyed it too (sorry). I don’t use a thimble however as mine is in my ‘phonics’ box for school!

  15. Natalie Jones

    I was taught to knit and sew by my Mum and my Nan long before school tried to put me off with stuffy projects. Still, I gained a GCSE in textiles but the lessons learned at home are the ones that have stuck with me. Although I have always done some sewing in the form of embroidery or cross stitch (often in secret throughout my 20’s as I felt quite embarrassed about my hobby at the time) I have only recently discovered a love for “general” and decorative sewing. This is the second excellent review I’ve read of this book, so if I’m not lucky enough to win a copy, I think I’ll have to buy it!

  16. Trish

    I can’t remember my first time at sewing something. I guess it must have been in school but I must be one of the few because I don’t remember feeling put off by it at all. I think my inspiration came from my Mum, I remember her making clothes when I was little, matching dresses for me and my sister, tops for her. There have been gaps in my life where it’s all been too busy to fit it in (sadly) but hand stuff is excellent for the evening when I don’t want to be shut away with my sewing machine. I can be sociable and sit with everyone else doing hand stitching and its definitely something I need to work on!!

  17. mrsbrownmakes

    This book looks lovely, full of inspiration. I love sewing by hand, it’s much more portable. I was taught mainly at home, a bit at school but nothing of note. It’s what one learns from family that inspires – a teddy that I always knew was hand made for me, watching my mum hand stitch a patchwork quilt and teaching me to do the same and being fascinated by my Nan’s embroidery threads, all colour coded on punched cards. Although I crochet much more than I sew, it’s still the work apparent in each stitch that I love.

  18. Free Spirit Designs

    needlework classes at school were not my favourite either… i broke 9 sewing machine needles in one tern wrestling with a towelling dressing gown :/ I loved doing cross stitches of horses in my own time though – its amazing how much more you enjoy something once the pressure is off!

    i’ve been doing some simple embroidery this week and loved every minute of it, it would be great to learn some more advanced techniques.

    your embroidered daisy tree is sooooo pretty, what a gift you have for creating beautiful things! x

  19. Chiara

    At a very young age, my first attempt at sewing was making clothes for a little teddy bear – out of tissues! Disastrous and weepingly frustrating. Moving onto cloth was such a relief!

  20. knutty knitter

    I stitched first as a 3 year old thanks to my grandma but the first real thing I made was a cross stitch pot holder when I was 5. I can’t remember ever not having hand stitching around but I was badly put off making clothing by the school. They also gave me a fear of sewing machines so I only used those infrequently until recently when I learned free motion stuff. No more straight lines required 🙂 Fibre art is my life now even if I can’t earn much of a living at it.

    viv in nz

  21. gail

    It’s funny, but part of my love of sewing started at school (as well as having a crafty mum and grandmother)… I remember very happy times in an old classroom where there must have been a sewing club. I think it was run by the ‘dinner ladies’, and they must have been doing it for the love of sewing. There were enough adults to go round all the children (maybe up to 10 people in all), and everyone was content. I made a sampler on widely spaced binka, which I still have. What I remember most was that feeling of happiness, and of the informal chatting that happens when a group of women and girls are occupied together… It could have been from any time from a long way back.

    Quite understand how you feel about school though. These days I have a truly excellent sewing teacher, who has been a professional seamstress all her working life, and she HATED sewing at school.

    Book looks lovely! Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂


  22. Lucy Blossom

    My first introduction to sewing was when I was in Infants School – we made a felt doll with embroidery around the edge and face – and I’ve still got it somewhere (or my mum does). She also used to sew and taught me my basic embroidery skills – very rusty now though

  23. Gill

    I first started stitching at primary school when I saw a teacher stitching at break time and I asked her to show me how! I haven’t stopped since, so I have a lot to thank Mrs Ellis for!

  24. Ali

    Your tree is absolutely gorgeous. I enjoyed sewing classes at school, so much so that I did many of my friends projects while the teacher was distracted elsewhere. Thanks for the book review, it looks very inspiring.
    Ali x

  25. pip

    I’m not great at sewing so some inspiration (thinking small adornments around the home 🙂 would be lovely. My sewing story: In third year in school we were given the choice between art, latin and home economics; a bit mean for creative types! I plumbed for home e and had to sew the most alarming pair of trousers ever known.. never quite recovered.

  26. Cazzie

    What a lovely book – it is going on my wish list.

    It was my Mum and Nan that got me sewing – I used to use my Mum’s old singer sewing machine and used to make clothes for my sindy dolls :0)

  27. Pat

    It’s a lovely book you shared with us. Unfortunately, I am very poor at embroidery although I can sew. I hope you are having a great start to a new week 🙂

  28. Mrs. Micawber

    My sister taught me to sew and embroider … can’t quite remember when, but at a very early age. Then when I was old enough to learn to use a machine, she taught me again. For most of my life I disliked hand sewing, but in my 40s came to appreciate it for its soothing qualities, and the fact that some things are just better when done by hand.

    This is a very timely post – after weeks and months of crochet, I have been thinking of some small sewing projects to fill in the gaps. What a very lovely book, and I would love to have a chance to win. 🙂

    Your daisy tree is beautiful!

  29. Christmas Pie Crafts

    It looks a really great book and I am sure will be well used by the lucky winner. I don’t seem to do much sewing these days, but have made numerous things such as my wedding dress and my bridesmaids dresses – mind you that was a long, long time ago. Good luck everyone. Hope you have a good week.

  30. CatkinJane

    What a lovely post, it looks a fabulous book.
    I was so lucky to not only have a mum who sewed everything from clothes to things for the house but two grandmother’s who had more time to spend (as granny’s often do).
    Mum’s mum had been a tailoress from the age of 14 so she was great for the clothes – for dollies and teds to start with! And dad’s mum was the one who had the beautifully embroidered tablecloths and was a knitter and crocheter who introduced me to some of the more decorative stitches

  31. jane armstead

    I can remember having to make a skirt by hand in the last year of junior school. I had to join the sides together and hem the top and bottom and insert elastic through the top. It must have taken all year to sew that skirt and I don’t think I ever wore it! It was a great relief to move up to the secondary school and get to use sewing machines.
    Hope you have a real cracking open day in your studio.

  32. Christine Laennec

    Penny, thanks for the chance to win a copy of this lovely book. I really enjoy your blog! I think the thing that got me embroidering was a bound 1861 Godey’s Lady’s Book that my parents had. I loved the etchings of the “costumes” and the amazing patterns for knitting, crochet, tatting and embroidery (amongst other kinds of needlework). As a teenager I made myself a velvet bag, embellished by an embroidered motif from the Godey’s Lady’s Book, to hold my embroidery and hoop in. I still use that bag!

  33. Liz

    I love to sew but don’t get much time to do it. Currently working on a summer dress and need to finish it before it gets any warmer. It was my step- grandmother, Paula who introduced me to sewing and lots of other crafts when I was young. She left me some money in her will and I bought a sewing machine using it always reminds me of her.

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