It Takes a Village: The Making of Mystical Stitches

Mystical Stitches is one of those books that reminds me why I work in publishing, and at Storey in particular: To be a lifelong learner.

It truly takes a village to bring a book to life. From the acquiring editor to the author, designers, photographers, copy editors, and proofreaders, there are many (many!) hands that come together.

I saw in my mind how I wanted Mystical Stitches to look from the very moment Liz Bevilacqua, the acquiring editor, presented the book proposal. And I am so grateful that Christi Johnson, the author, joined me in that vision.

I wanted the treasury of symbols pages to have a textural, cohesive, in-real-life, look.

Embroidery © Christi Johnson

Christi sketched all of the symbol designs on paper and provided draft text to accompany them. I laid out the Treasury of Symbols pages using that preliminary text and art.

Christi transferred my layouts to cloth and stitched the designs in place. Mars Vilaubi, our photographer, blocked the embroidered cloth spreads onto corkboard and photographed them, and lastly, I imposed the final type.

There are so many other happy outcomes as well. For the location photography, we hired Brad Ogbonna, a highly accomplished artist and wonderful person. (He took the photo of Barack Obama that was the basis for Kehinde Wiley’s official presidential portrait!)

Photo © Brad Ogbonna

For the illustrations, we hired Nina Chakrabarti of My Wonderful World of Fashion fame. And, Storey’s talented illustration editor, Ilona Sherratt, made hundreds of illustrations for the stitch key. And hundreds more for the stitch patterns.

Illustration © Nina Chakrabarti

Christi exceeded expectations at every turn. The cover was also embroidered all as one piece—her idea. When I asked her to stitch borders for the Stitch Methods section openers, she broke out with these astonishing, labor-intensive compositions that were perfect. She took great care with absolutely everything and was gracious and energetic every single minute.

Mystical Stitches is one of those books that reminds me why I work in publishing, and at Storey in particular: To be a lifelong learner. Never having embroidered before, I’ve made a couple of Amulet Adornment Necklaces with different designs and I stitched the Ouroboros of Transformation project onto a wool blanket from my great grandparents to hide a rust stain. And if the design’s “flame of transformation swiftly engulfs the ways of the past, burning them off in order to bring about a new potential,” well, that would be good too.

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Alethea Morrison

About the

Alethea Morrison is the author of Homegrown Honey Bees. She lived in San Francisco with her husband, photographer Mars Vilaubi, before stepping into the wild yonder of rural Massachusetts together to raise their son, keep bees and chickens, brew beer, sew clothes, grow heirloom beans, and otherwise slow down to smell the flowers of a handmade life. Their experience raising chickens was chronicled in Chick Days. Morrison works as the Creative Director at Storey Publishing and serves as president of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association.

Photographer Mars Vilaubi chronicled the adventures of his three backyard hens from their first days out of the egg through their first days laying eggs in Chick Days. He lives in western Massachusetts.

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