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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Free Hand Embroidery Pattern: A Circular Thing


I need to come up with a better way of naming embroidery designs. I mean, really. “Circular Thing” doesn’t say much.

Anyway, this is a motif taken from an old ecclesiastical embroidery book, but obviously, the design itself is adaptable to anything. You can turn it, arrange it, make it into a connect vine-type pattern…. and on and on. Or you can just work it as is. It reminds me of something that would be suitably adapted to crewel embroidery, but any thread and any fabric would work, pretty much.

Free Hand Embroidery Pattern

To give a little background, this is the type of little “filler design” that might be worked in ecclesiastical embroidery on vestments, on the embroidered orphreys, or decorative panels that generally form the representation of a cross on the back (and front) of a chasuble, or that form a decorative band on copes and dalmatics. Little designs like this filled in areas on the embroidered bands, between larger motifs. The designs are not necessarily religious – they are often stylized (and sometimes very symmetrical) flowers, or simply geometric designs and the like. Sometimes, they serve as “connectors” to the next part of the main design – they might be intertwined with vines, or locked together by little embroidered cuffs or tubes.

I thought it was kind of an interesting design. The funny thing is, it isn’t perfectly symmetrical. This doesn’t bother me, but it might bother you. So if you’re thinking of stitching it, and you think you’ll be annoyed by the slightly “off set” look of it, you might try squaring it up a bit before transferring the design. There’s nothing worse than realizing, after you transfer, that you wish you had made adjustments first! You can also turn the design and see if you like a better situation of it.

Here’s a PDF version, for printing:

Hand Embroidery Design of a Circular Something-or-Other

Now, your job, since I’ve given you a free pattern, is to clear your mind, close your eyes, open them quickly, look at the pattern, and then…. tell me what kind of brilliant title for the design popped into your head when you saw it! Surely someone can come up with something a little more creative than mine. But really, every time I tried, every time I looked at it, all I thought was, “It’s a… mmmm…. it’s sort of a …. a ….. It’s a…. circular thing.” I’m obviously not too poetic!

Leave a comment with your brilliant title suggestion, and I’ll love ya forever if you can help me out!

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(97) Comments

  1. Mary: I see your design as very restful, spititual and beautiful. It relaxes me but for whatever reason I thought immediately of Eden or Walking through Eden. I was also raised in England-been a citizn however for 20 years so my other thought is “Kew Gardens” a lovely area in London which I am sure you have visited.
    Hope this helps – it is just alovely piece. As I am basically a counted canvas person – maybe you could share also how we could successfully try it in several techniques. Thank you – your newsletter is outstanding.

  2. Eden or Walking Through Eden.
    Kew Gardens
    Could this be also a counted technique – not just surface type stitches. thank you

    1. Leafy whirligig in a circle – that’s so “me,” Lisa! I had to laugh! Only I think I still would’ve added “thing”! Yes, good thing designs aren’t judged on titles!

      Thanks again for all the suggestions! It’s fun to see what others come up with, or what they see in a design, isn’t it? Funny that I never really saw the “wings” until everyone else started mentioning it. I think I was thinking more in terms of acanthus leaves. I like the idea of enumerating the outside “wings” around the whole piece. I might play with that.

      Some specifics:

      Daphne, For it to be counted or for working on a grid, two things come to mind: either converting it to a regular chart, or perhaps painting a canvas and then needlepointing it. Either could be done, I suppose. I’m not sure if I can do it, but I’ll try to drop it into a chart program and see what it produces.

      Marysia – Rolf Harris! I love his songs! That made me laugh!

      Belinda – goldwork…..!

      Hannah – well, I could see lattice work for the criss-cross areas on the leaves, satin stitch for the berries (I’m working up a tutorial on satin stitched dots, as a matter of fact), long and short stitch shading on the leaves and ring (or maybe on the ring, something like basket stitch, though the texture may not work if the leaves are coming off it in long and short stitch), and probably layers of either stem stitch or buttonhole stitch or something like that for the striped bulges. Or, if you wanted to keep it simple, you could go with outlining (with stem stitch or chain stitch, for example) and a little bit of lattice work. It would look a lot “lighter” the latter way, and a lot “heavier” if all filled in. So it depends on what you’re looking for.

      Thanks for the smiles!


  3. How about “leaf swirl”? and I might like to add four more leaves on the outside just for more movement…I can imagine them in some sort of varigated thread..Very nice design Mary. Thanks so much for your great work…Needlenthread is addictive!

  4. crown of butterflies (or flowers)
    I love your website and tutorials. I referred friends and we all love it. You make great tutorials-very easy to understand. The whole website is fantastic!
    Thanks so much,

    1. See, you all are very good at this!! 🙂 Thanks heaps for your ideas – so far, I like ’em all!

      Speaking of Kew Gardens, I haven’t visited there, Dee, but … someday I want to! I have an CD with a piece of piano music on it that I was listening to when I read about Kew Gardens, and now, whenever I hear that song, I think of Kew Gardens. So it’s high on my list of “things to see” whenever I make it to the UK!

  5. Thanks for another nice design- it definitely has a bit of that positive/negative space feel to it. I’m afraid the name that popped into my head may not be any more poetic than yours- leafy whirligig in a circle. Oh well, luckily designs aren’t judged by titles.

  6. Hi there Mary,

    As Rolf Harris would say ” can you see it yet”

    Immediately (now don’t laugh ladies) it came to me from the design………..I can see the shapes that looks like angels with wings

    So as you mention a reference to ecclesiastical embroidery…………”angels wings” is what comes to me!

  7. Actually I don’t have a name suggestion – yet – but I giggled over your “Circle Thing” as it immediately made me remember the sewing notion “Purple Thang” – and its selling!! 🙂

    I like the lines of this and will definitely download it so I can size it for use. Thank you for the gift! Take care. 🙂

  8. Hi Mary When I ask my hubby he immediately said “Blossoming Berries” or “Blooming Berries”.
    Hopw you find something but thank you anyway for the pattern. I am definitely going to make use of it in a goldwork project.

  9. I love your newsletter and website, Mary. Thanks for all the work you put into them.

    How about Entwined Flora for the circular design?


  10. I did what you said with the closed eyes and the word “Bereitas” came up. Have no idea what that suggest other then their are several round circles that look like berries.

    This was fun. Lorraine

  11. When I look at this design it makes me think of lighthearted music, gaiety, just innocent fun. Like a Maypole dance. Not at all the more serious uses you have noted above. I like everyone’s suggestions, and I’m not that creative with names either, but to me it is a Whimsical Wreathe.

  12. Love your “Circle Thingy” Mary, and can’t wait to stitch it cream on cream in outline chain and lattice. Or maybe crewel in wool on linen as a footstool.

  13. “Around The Vining Berries” would be what I would call it. Mary, I am so enjoying your video tutorials. I am new to Crazy Quilting and your videos have helped me with my seam treatments and embellishments. It is nice to sit with my needle in hand and follow the video as I stitch along. I will replay it several times as I stitch along.
    Thanks again,

  14. It looks like a wreath to me. In fact the first thing I thought of was that it would look good hanging on a door (if it was larger). So perhaps it could be called “Berry Wreath” or “Jacobean Wreath”?

    1. Flying Snails. I think that’s it. Flying Snails! It has a ring to it, you have to admit!!

      Wing awound the Wosies. Ring around the Rosies. You know, if you say that, and substitute only one W, the other Ws fall into place naturally. At least they do for me.

      I love the word “quadrille” – it’s so elegant.

      The Vining Berries sounds good, too – like wine, almost.

      And the wing thing is back again. Maybe I should call it “Wing Thing.”

      See – everyone has such good ideas! I’ve decided I’m no longer going to name a design until after I post it. I’ll leave the naming to you all!!


  15. Mary I saw a medallion oo mandala embroidery pattern. If all segments of the circle are the same I would think it would be called a mandala embroidery chart, but, if as you say, there is some variance I would call it a medallion, as it would be gorgeous in the centre of a cross.

    I too, would make sure all segments matched before stitching and can see your beautiful handwork in this little gem.

  16. Winged Circle was the first thing that came to mind. So I don’t think its rubbish Wendy but I thought we could do better so I came up with

    Winged Wreath – though sounds a bit funereal.

    Floral Flight

    But I quite like Whimsical Wreathe from Lynne

    It will be fun to stitch whatever it is called.

    “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

    Just came to me.

    I always feel a bit behind because by the time the email comes through here in Australia lots of people have already had a say
    but I’m not behind because its actually Friday here


  17. the first thing to my mind was
    rowan wreath with cocoons

    the leaves have been nibbled in the center
    and the butterflys are about to emerge.

    the “berrys” are similar to old designs i have seen named Mountain Ash which is another name for the Rowan tree.

  18. I like Valerie’s name Quadrille.
    I had to look up what it meant. Dances within Dances.

    Mary I love your site! I have spent days here looking though everything.

  19. When I saw the design I thought of the colours. Thank you once again you answered my prayers as to what I was going to send to friends in Israel for thy’re new home. The design will look wonderful on a coushion.
    R. Kinnane-christie. Australia.

  20. I just love your page. Every morning it is the first email I click on. You are an inspiration to embroder. Thank you, keep up the good work

  21. Usually I like things that are centered, symetrical, etc. — but glad to say that I very much like your design. It’s not only pretty but interesting.

    Jacobean Circle — is what it reminds me of.

    Gentle as you go,

  22. After reading the other Comments, I see that others also thought the design to look ‘Jacobean’!!

    Must be something to that, eh.

  23. First thing I thought of was Acanthus Dreaming. I saw one Elmsley Rose also saw an Acanthus. This would look great stitched on the diagonal instead of level. I think it would be symetric then. Can’t wait to try it.

  24. Many thanks Terrie – you’re right it looks so different when turned on the diagonal. That’s what I call thinking outside the square and that’s how I’m going to stitch it.

  25. Hi Mary, Just wanted to put my 2 cents worth in!! Could you add one or three more flowers and it take on a more round look, or would you have to add even numbers. Hmmm. I bet that would be gorgeous as a wreath done up for Christmas on a table runner or placemats. I think “Circle Thingy” is a great name.

  26. Allo Mary, Your Email is a gift every day. Thanks for all. You are an inspiration and a motivation for our club of embroiderers.
    I have a question: On one of your always interesting posts, you use the silk “Au ver à soie” (2 color of gold)to embroidery a pall. May I know which number?
    Sorry for my English I hope that you understand. I am French from Québec. Thank you and best wishes. Louise

    1. Hi, Leonie – Sorry! I took yesterday “off” only because I was swamped and couldn’t catch up. And so I’m in the midst of writing today’s post (Friday, the 19th) right now!! Talk about falling behind!!


  27. Since part of my heritage is Pennsylvania Dutch I see this circular thing as a multitude of colors each one complimenting the other. Greens, blues, reds and yellow, along with a soft brown. I’m a sucker for color!

  28. I think its great you put all this work into providing something free for people to enjoy. About the circular “things”…I am not very creative or poetic myself, but all your circular things could be called medallions, that word sort of summarises the shape of it without being too abstract!

  29. In all the historical studies on architecture and textile arts I’ve come across I’ve seen this round shape referred to as a “medallion”.
    It’s better to stick to a descriptive name, at least the reader knows a little what to expect and those looking for a band or a square won’t waste their time.
    If you create a new design you’re free to call it anything you like.

  30. No idea if I’m too late, but how about “Honeysuckle Circle”?
    They definitely look like honeysuckle blossoms to me! Thank you for the pretty patterns!

  31. Love your site Mary! Your pattern reminds me of trailing morning glory and brings to mind romantic old stone ruins. “Tudor Vines”…?

  32. This is clearly a round to-it. I am always saying I will stitch something when I get a round to it – this is it!

  33. Hi Mary

    I just came across your blog. I have just started this love affair with crewel. I found your circular thing and loved the names that folk came up with made me feel very insufficient!!!! But rest assured I thing circular thing says it all really I am for leaving it to your own imagination. Thanks

  34. I just came across this page of your web site, so I do not know if you have already found a good name for “circular thingey”. I would like to suggest they be called “orbs”. It is an older word but it always denoted a circle shape. Sometimes they had a cross or jewel on the top, or were slightly squat and not a perfect circle. The center of orbs were filled or not. Anyway, orb would not be hard to learn to use, i.e. an orb design. I hope this is of some help.

  35. I am a gardener. The floral design looks like a snapdragon to me. Sort of a lip at the bottom, can you see that? So I would call it a Snapdragon Roundel. The word “roundel” indicating the general round shape of the design. What do you think?

  36. I like ’round things’. They seem so complete to me. How about Forever or Eternity as the design goes on and on and on.

  37. I sat looking at the diagram and immediately thought of a winged messenger, then Icarus and his failed flight came to mind as he went up and then fell to earth, a bit like a circle really so I thought _=
    The flight of Icarus,
    possibly as a title.

  38. How about Mayflower circlet or Hawthorne Diadem?
    It reminds me of the Hawthorne with its berries, associated with the Holy Glastonbury thorne etc…

  39. Love your embroidery designs! Even the strange names are great…they add a little humor! : )
    About what to name that circular thingy…How about Circular Vines?

  40. I see that you have not named your “circle thingy” yet. It says “Flying Cirque-re-foil” to me. I love it and am going to incorporate it into some of my felt and embroidery designs. I am designing felted slippers with embroidered embelishments. They are great for kicking around the house in. What girl doesn’t love pretty shoes? Even house shoes.☺☺☺☺

  41. Hi, Mary,

    Just found your site and love this pattern. Here’s my suggestion for a name: Floral Rondelle.

    For me, the pattern evokes the Middle Ages and those illuminated alphabets that monks used when copying texts such as sermons or the Bible for wealthy clients.

    Best regards and Happy New Year.

  42. The circle thingy will work perfectly for a quick dressing up of flour sack towels that I keep on hand as gifts. Thnx!

  43. Hi there, I wonder if there are photo’s which show a completed image or step by step instructions, I like the circular thing and would like to try it.

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