Christmas truly is the stitcher’s season. A time for crafty people to deck their halls with homemade finery. So, to honour the theme, we scoured the internet for a classy Christmas title everyone could embrace. And we’ve found a gem for you. It’s stylish, it’s timeless, it’s Cross Stitch Christmas by Hélène Le Berre.
If you haven’t heard of Le Berre, it’s because this is her first time in the XStitch spotlight. She specialises in small-scale designs that draw inspiration from nature. She has two other cross stitch titles available in English and numerous others in her native French. Meanwhile her Etsy shop focuses predominantly on embroidery and beadwork kits to embellish items likes bags and purses.
Now when I say a book favours style over substance, it’s typically meant as a criticism. However in the case of Cross-Stitch Christmas, it is the biggest compliment I can bestow. The author is a master of the ‘barely there’ school of art.
Le Berre strips away visual detail so that lines are deliberately hesitant, shading is subtle and features are hinted at. There is so little substance, her images have the translucent quality of a watercolour.
These delicate and sensitive pieces pack an emotional, as well as visual, punch. Try to imagine the silence of freshly fallen snow, or the breath of a startled deer. Because I swear, I can feel these things when I look at her work. How is that even possible? Some weird, sensory jiggery-pokery is going on here.
Le Berre sticks closely to themes of fauna and flora. So, whilst you might find reindeer wandering through the snow, if you’re hankering for a cheeky elf or a jolly Santa then this is not the book for you.
This narrowness of scope is a deliberate design choice. The author is not aiming for variety, rather she has created a unified set of charts that work as a complete Christmas scheme. And her ‘less is more’ approach means these are not big projects to create.
Start now and you’ll have the whole book completed before your turkey hits the oven.
An interesting quirk is the inclusion of festive, cultural titbits on every page. Cookie recipes, carol lyrics and instructions for parlour games sit alongside the charts. It gives the book an intimate, sentimental mood that absolutely warms my cockles. I have no trouble believing that Le Berre has poured her whole heart into this project.
There are a few minor gripes to flag. For instance, the book does include several decorative alphabets that are less successful than her pictorial designs. Her use of leaves and branches to create letters results in forms that lack clarity.
Meanwhile the ‘Making Up’ section needs more photos in general, as Le Berre’s sketches do nothing to aid the reader’s understanding. However, don’t let these small niggles deter you. Overall, there’s far more pros and cons here.
What surprises me is that I shouldn’t like this book at all. When it comes to Christmas, I go loud. I do glittery mermaids and neon tinsel. Le Berre’s sophisticated style is light years from my own ‘vomit a rainbow’ approach.
But clearly I do like this book. I like it very much. It’s comforting like sponge pudding and custard. It’s wholesome. It’s…..well, nice. And the fusion of traditional themes with minimalist style has true inter-generational appeal.
Enjoy it with your bestie, enjoy it with your Nan, but do yourself a favour and don’t wait until Christmas.
Cross Stitch Christmas by Hélène Le Berre is published by Search Press. Pick up your copy today!