Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Sketching an Embroidery Project


I’ve been sketching up my next embroidery project. My sketching skills aren’t exactly fantastic, to say the least, but I’m hoping they are decent enough to translate into a hand embroidery pattern that can be used for a variety of embroidery techniques. You see, I have a plan…

At first, my plan involved sketching a Very Simple Embroidery Pattern. When I’m starting from scratch, and especially for the project I have in mind, simple is always better. I’m not sure what happened. I’ve ended up with a monster, something I know will not stitch up quickly, regardless of the technique.

Sketch up for Hand Embroidery Pattern

This is it, and it’s too much, and it’s not quite right, either.

I did want something that would fit within a 6″ square, but it didn’t have to be round, and I’m not sure how it became round. I’m not sold on that Swishy Circle Something that’s evolving on the lower right of the circle. In fact, I’m not sold on any of it.

My plan is to set up several (the numbers aren’t clear yet) projects with the same design on them, and to stitch each project in a different technique, to show comparisons between various approaches to hand embroidery. Because there are so many approaches to hand embroidery! I think it would be helpful and even interesting to see how a design is reinterpreted depending on the approach the embroiderer takes with it. Needless to say, I wouldn’t employ every embroidery technique under the sun. Instead, I wanted to concentrate on about four techniques.

And so, I need an original design. Something…. something…..oooooh…. Something just right. I’ve squizzed through innumerable design books, magazines, a bunch of vintage and antique flyers and catalogs, many of the tried-and-true oldies but goodies (Dillmont, etc.) … but the Muse just never bit.

What I really want is something more akin to the simplicity of the crewel smalls I worked recently from Tristan Brooks Designs – this one, which is a very simplified something (I’m not sure it’s exactly a flower), and this one, which is a simplified pomegranate design.

I’ve tried to make myself pin down what I have in mind. A stylized flower? Yes, kind of – but nothing too “cutesy.” Formal or casual embroidery? Something that could be interpreted either way, and would change, depending on the techniques and materials used. Detailed or Very Plain? Starting plain, but with the option of details.

The pathetic thing is that this has been flopping around in my head for well over a month – since before Christmas, actually. And yet, all it does is flop.

I started flipping through my sketch books. I don’t sketch often, and that’s part of my problem. Doodling? Sure. Sketching? Not much. And you can’t get good at something if you don’t practice. I tell myself that all the time!

Sketch up for Hand Embroidery Pattern

Speaking of doodling, I’ve always wanted to take this type of thing and translate the idea into a free-style embroidery design. I think it’d be fun to stitch up something similar – in black and white, or in color.

And so my mind wanders on to other things, and my sketching falls short of my plans, and my next project remains distantly foggy in my head.

That’s the same head, by the way, where a nagging voice keeps saying something about a rooster.


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(16) Comments

  1. Since taking your long-and-short "class", I, too, hae been wanting to try a design. I have a needlebook in mind, in a sorta-crewel-look mixed with some Deerfield embroidery. the design which I still am not satisfied with is pinned to my bulletin board and has been staring at me for about a month. *sigh* At least I can take heart that even the "pros" get stuck! Good luck with your sketching (and I, for one, like your design – but I see it in beautiful silks…)

  2. I'm in the process of setting up the four beginner projects in
    Royal School of Needlework Embroidery Techniques by Sally Saunders with the same goal of trying four techniques on a similar design. Have you done those?

  3. Hi, All!

    Thanks for your comments! Silks? Oh, so do I. Heh heh. It's kind of a spin-off from my silk-on-silk project I posted eons ago.

    The French website is a very nice resource – I have it in my favorites as well. The sources she uses for her designs are pretty much all the same paper / print sources I have, from the 1800's into the 1900's – La Broderie Lyonnaise, etc. They're wonderful old pamphlets / catalogs / magazines. Some day Im actually going to make it through all of them and scan the designs and clean them up!

    Yes, I've seen the RSN project by Sally Saunders. But I forgot about it – I'll dig the book out and take another look!

    Thanks again!


  4. Mary I love this design and can see you working your beautiful stitches on this. It would make a gorgeous round size that could be a design plate for a needle case that is the same size as a dvd or cd.

    Your work is second to none. Look at the different styles in the butterfly you did some time back, it was gorgeous and would do that one again as well.

  5. Hi Mary,

    Looking at your sketch reminds me of a really wonderful book that I found several years ago called "Botanique et Ornement dessins" from the Musee Des Arts Decoratifs. It contains 30+ lovely watercolor sketches by Pierre-Victor Galland. They are architectural sketches of leaves and flowers, very art-nouveau-ish. The style of drawings captures the sculptural quality of the woodwork you'd find on the Trouvais blog.

    Your sketch has a bit of this quality, and since this very small book is so precisely focused on the botanical, it reminds me of the direction you are going in your sketching.

    I tried to find images of the colored plates in the book to give you a better idea, but unfortunately, I only find posters that look nothing like the delicately lovely sketches in the book I'm holding. Abe books has this copy for about 25 USD, but I wouldn't buy a book sight unseen, so I can't imagine others doing so either… Wish I could show you…

  6. Mary, how very eerie. I've been following a conversation on a forum where this type of 'doodle drawing' has been prominent. It was given the name 'zentangle'. All of these years I've been 'scribbling' according to my family, I called it 'doodling' as you have done, and low and behold, there's a word for it. Just thought I'd say I think your 'zentangle' would look great in freestyle, creative embroidery. Oh, BTW, I love your first flower/come circle drawing. Oh how I wish I was half as good!! Whatever you decide, I'm anxious to see it evolve. Best of luck.

  7. I love your sketch and can 'see' it worked in crewel, for sure. Goldwork too. This sounds like an ambitious project and I can't wait to see what you come up with (once the…nag, nag….rooster is done of course!).

  8. That last sketch reminds me so much Japonese designs and just love black and white.
    And can't wait for your next project! It sounds great! (as usual)

  9. G'day there Mary,

    Your sketch is inspirational to say the least. It may not be what you want for this exercise but it a wonderful piece.
    I like the 'Swishy C S', it's like waves that are born of the the flower petals but no matter how wild the storm, the flower rises above it. That reminds me of butterflies in strong wind. They still seem to be able to fly about ok, even across the wind.
    For myself I think I'd leave the tip off the flower in that position as it seems to crowd the space there. Maybe I'd try something smaller.
    Also, I like that square corner protruding from the circle. I reckon they could successfully be incorporated into the design.
    Just my 'thinks'.

    Also the doodles give me doodle bumps (related to goose bumps of a delicious nature!). It is WOW!

    Bye for now, Kath.

    ps: Rooster? Seems I should know that word!
    Sorry, good luck with it anyway.

  10. Mary,
    I'm generally only a 'lurker' on your blog and read your posts most days – wonderful inspiration, thank you.
    Dover publications have book of designs that I think you (not me!)could very easily translate into sort of crewel work – or indeed many other other types of stitching. Decorative Flower and leaf designs by Richard Hofmann.

  11. HI, All –

    Thanks very much for your comments! Megan, you're RIGHT – it's just kind of a take off of the previous silk stole design…. heh heh. I realized that after I drew it. "I think I've seen this somewhere before…."

    Kath, I added a neck band to the tip, but pretty much left the height alone – I'll post the design today, so you'll see what I mean. It still needs tweaking, I'm sure.

    Yvi – thanks for the tip on that book! I love the Dover design books! They're great for inspiration – and they're generally very affordable, which is great. I'll look this one up! Thank you!

    Pat, your doodle design in really nice! It looks fun. That's kind of what I had in mind – something… like that! One of these days? We'll see!

    Magpie, by the way, yes, I can see it in goldwork, too. I may be creweled out for a while. I'm not sure yet – once I finish the rooster, I'll let you know!

    Elspeth – you and I are in the same boat. I posted a similar doodle on my Flickr account, and someone asked if I would add it to the zentangle group. I had no idea what they were talking about. Who would have ever thought to give a name to a doodle?

    Meri – if I get around the next project, it should be fun. Wish me luck and time!

    Sheila – I looked up the book. It does look like it would be really good. I've put it on my list and will keep an eye out for it through other places, too. Thanks for that!

    Linda – Thanks! I was thinking something along the lines of a box top, even. I seem to be stuck on boxes lately…..

    Thanks again, all! It's always great to get feedback!


  12. I love the black and white doodle, that sort of thing is intriguing. I wouldn't mind doing that sort of project if someone were to put it onto the fabric for me 😉 I dislike transferring designs for some reason or another. I have one right now that I need to find a way to get onto an iron on transfer, without me having to trace it 😀

  13. I’m a compulsive doodler and have tried to embroider some of the doodles. I find it easier to simply doodle straight onto fabric with needle and thread and end up who knows where! Love your work.

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