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When one of my friends announced she was getting married, I knew I wanted to do something special and handmade for her present. When I saw Sophie Long’s ‘Roses Heart’ embroidery kit, I knew I’d found the perfect project.
I first tried ribbon embroidery at one of Sophie Long’s day classes (working on a larger ribbon heart design) and immediately fell in love with the technique. It looks incredibly effective and grows very quickly, ideal for making gifts to a short deadline. Another bonus of ribbon embroidery is you don’t need to obsess over every stitch; if you accidentally fold or twist the ribbon when making flowers, it just adds some variety to their texture and structure rather than looking like a mistake.
The kit comes with four different colours of 4 mm silk ribbon, cream DMC stranded cotton, calico with the design already traced on it, a chenille needle, postcard picture of the finished design and instructions with some stitch diagrams.
The Roses Heart design is relatively small, with a finished size of about 10 x 10 cm. I managed to finish the kit in a few evenings, even with a disastrous start when it came to placing the roses. If you don’t want something that is going to be a work in progress for long, this is the kit for you.
There are only three stitches in the kit, woven wheels, French knots and ribbon stitch. For those of you who live in fear of French knots, you will be glad to know they are much easier when you do them with ribbon. The instructions do contain guides on how to do all of these stitches but, while they are all quite easy stitches to do, I found the instructions for ribbon stitch a little confusing. More diagrams would definitely have been helpful. I will be posting some tutorials soon on how to do all of these.
There are a few nice touches that make this kit very straightforward to stitch. Although the design is quite small, the calico is big enough to fit into an 8” ring frame so you can just frame up and get stitching. As the chenille needle included has quite a big eye to make threading the ribbons easy, it is quite easy to damage the thin calico, but with a bit of poking and rearranging the threads you can mostly cover these.
The instructions do give you estimates of how many of each flower/leaf etc. there should be heart (e.g. 40 French knots) but one thing I would have found very helpful is a size guide for how big to make the roses. The first time when I put in the foundation stitches for the roses I didn’t quite get the sizing right so hard to start again.
I would have liked a bit extra for the ribbon for the flowers and French Knots and would have been happy to have paid a pound or two more for the kit just to be on the safe side. I do have a habit of making my roses a bit too dense and I wanted to vary the length and number of wraps for my French knots but I did have to use a bit of spare ribbon in both of these colours. There is enough there to complete the design but just be really careful about any mistakes as ribbon embroidery is difficult to unpick without damaging the thread and there isn’t a whole lot to spare.
This kit really is a delight to stitch though. I believe when you’re making gifts, you don’t want a project that is going to inspire swearing and frustration. Maybe it’s a little superstitious of me but I don’t want to give away a project I’ve hated every step of the way. There are a few places where I feel I could have done a better job on the stitching, but I did enjoy the whole process a lot and a well-organised kit definitely helped.
Sophie Long did her Apprentice with the Royal School of Needlework and now teaches for both them and some other organisations. If you get a chance to try one of her classes, she is an excellent teacher and her designs always have a nice contemporary twist to them too. Her ‘Ribbon Embroidery Heart’ kit is currently one of my works in progress and is a little more complex than this small kit but has also been immense fun to stitch. If you’re new to embroidery, Sophie has written a great book called Mastering the Art of Embroidery and I’m eagerly awaiting her new book on ribbon embroidery, due to be published January 2017.
Absolutely, if you like the design, it’s a really fun, straightforward kit to make that looks incredibly effective. The ribbon is very nice quality and everything you need is included and all your ribbons are pre-sorted to minimise organising time and maximise stitching time.
If you buy a bit of extra ribbon in case of mistakes, this is a perfect kit for beginners. It’s not too intimidating to do, the instructions are relatively easy to follow and the stitches are very forgiving of any mistakes. More experienced stitchers will also enjoy crafting the perfect roses and it’s an easy design to personalise.