Sunday, February 5, 2023

Weekend Review: Mystical Stitches


Mystical Stitches / Christi Johnson
North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, c2021.
197 p.

This is a book that feels fully authentic to the author's personality and practice. If you've followed Johnson online at all in the last few years, you'll know her distinctive approach to embroidery. It incorporates spirituality and 70s aesthetics into a free-form and representational style, where every stitch has meaning. 

The book lays out her approach to embroidery clearly. She starts by summarizing her own story and how embroidery books from the 70s got her started in this field (and one of those OG authors writes the intro to this book as well). She explains her use of symbolism and a full chapter goes over the various signs and symbols she uses and suggests that you can incorporate into your own work, depending on what you'd like to say. There are 7 chapters in the book; the first is the intro, and there are two other chapters in the book that also talk about intention and ritual, more of the making meaning parts of this school of embroidery. The other four chapters are straightforwardly technical - materials, stitch guide, collection of symbols and motifs, and instructions for each one. 

It doesn't have an overwhelming amount of detail in it despite all that. It's more of a reference book, and as such has clear stitch diagrams and motifs, and many colourful photos of a large number of the motifs as they appear on clothing and accessories mostly. And there is guidance on how to stitch on clothing successfully. She's not big on decorative hoop embroidery in the way that many modern embroidery books are -- it's more about the practical use of embroidery as embellishment in your daily life. The style is a lot of full coverage, chunky stitching; if you like this style you will find much to inspire you here. 

I thought it was well put together and quite different from many other contemporary books. Give it a flip through if you also have this one in your local library!

You can find this author at her website Mixed Color. And if you're interested in learning more about this author and her embroidery and textile practice, you can also listen to her episode of  Love To Sew. 

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