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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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Wool Thread + Silk Thread = Good!

 

I’m not talking about wool & silk combined into one embroidery thread, but rather, into one embroidery project. And, more specifically, into one element in one project.

The combination works!

Wool Thread and Silk Thread in Embroidery

Needle weaving is an embroidery technique that’s fairly straightforward. You work vertical “bars” of thread down the element you want woven, and then you horizontally weave the bars, alternating the over-and-under movement with each row. The woven helmet in the photo above is worked in this technique.

(It’s not really a helmet.)

The “warp” threads, or vertical threads, in that woven bit are worked in Trebizond silk, which is a nice, plump, twisted filament silk. Trebizond is a lovely silk thread that takes a bit of knowing to love, but it is truly lovable once you know it.

The story of why I married the Trebizond to the wool goes like this:

I had already selected the brown wool used in the piece (Fine D’Aubusson – it’s possibly the most pleasant wool I’ve ever worked with), but I couldn’t settle on the right color of wool for the warp threads. In a bit of a snit, I opened my “Miscellaneous Thread Drawer.”

I strongly advise against ever opening a drawer that has the word “Miscellaneous” anywhere in its content description.

I spent the next two hours sorting miscellany.

During the Big Sort Out, I came across a spool of Trebizond the color of warm honey.

Well, well, well, said I. Aren’t you just a lovely luscious little length of thread?

I set to work on the helmet, to test my theory that the two threads would like each other. And they did! The silk and the wool threads work well together. The smooth sheen of the silk glints in the light and shows up well against the muted wool. The silk also adds a legitimate look to the weaving – like the smooth, shiny reeds of a basket – while the wool offers a balanced hint of the rustic.

I really like the way the two threads play off each other, and I suspect the future holds some further explorations with the happy couple.

This Doesn’t Work

Would you like to know what doesn’t go well together?

Wool Thread Bullion Knots

Tiny Bullion Knots + Wool + Macro Photography.

They don’t go well together at all. In fact, the equation reads out like this: Tiny Bullion Knots + Wool + Macro Photography = Hairy Mess.

Good thing we don’t have Macro eyes, eh?

So what about you? Do you often combine different fibers in your embroidery projects? If so, what are some of your favorite combinations? Or do you tend to stick with one type of fiber throughout a whole project? Have you ever experimented with combinations and been disappointed in the results? What’s your take on combining fibers in embroidery? Feel free to share your thoughts below!

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(21) Comments

  1. Hi Mary, I have only just started to stitch my own pieces. 1 being the blackwork etui which I sent pictures to you. This only dealt with different thicknesses of black silks. I really want to design more of my own pieces. I have worked with cotton thread mixed with silks, and gold threads mixed with silks, but never wools with silks or cottons. I’ll keep this in mind. I think it is great to mix up any combination to get the look you are going for!

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  2. Mary, my absolute fav’s are silk,silk and silk!!! I do try to
    use different weights to give some texture as well as different
    stitches.

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  3. Several years ago a good friend closed her needlework store, and I was gifted with BOXES of beautiful threads. I have the luxury of a huge stash, but I’ve become a threadaholic and often don’t have just the right bit that I need. I love silk, silk and wool, silk and cotton. And pretty colors.

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  4. Dear Mary –

    Your daily posts are not only filled with useful information from someone who knows embroidery inside and out – but you write so delightfully! Thank you for the time, effort and smiles you bring to us 🙂

    Tomi Jane

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  5. Since I’m primarily a cross stitcher I love to mix up my different threads to make it interesting and give it more texture. Cotton floss is fine but add some shiny rayons or silks, some metallics, some hand dyed threads and you end up with an interesting project. I didn’t mention beads because they’re not fibers. I do love my sparklies.

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  6. It does look like a perfect scraggly, hairy bee:-)
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I have learned so much from the close-up pictures and tutorials. The Medallion project was brilliant on many levels.
    (still craving a Millennium Frame-maybe they will find a US distributor?…)
    susan in dallas

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    1. Hi Susan

      We live in California. My husband bought a stand and frame for me for Mother’s Day. It arrived around the end of June. They are a small outfit, handcrafting these. (Very nice on the phone, too, I might add.) I’d suggest putting in your order for Christmas now, and then wrapping it up to put it under the tree. Their small shop will be swamped, I’m sure.

  7. I almost always work with different threads. In fact, much of my work needs a mixture of threads. I’m working on a small owl picture and am using a little of everything. I think your ‘helmet’ is actually a beehive. Am I right?

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  8. ANYthing goes when it comes to threads (for me). I usually look at color first, then texture, and finally fiber. While your hairy little bee doesn’t look great (WAY up close!!). I have run a strand of silk w/ a strand of crewel wool — just for that “surprise shine” factor buried in a flower bud or something. Even if I am the only one that really notices it.

    When I had a shop, I was surprised to learn that Jewish tradition has some specific rules about fiber combinations. Similar to kosher cooking rules. It was interesting.

    But thank you for the good information and the amusing commentary. It is my one weakness!

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  9. Mary:

    Just love all that you get into. I am just an old dyed in the wool, stick in the mud DMC floss person for until I discovered you there was no one available in my area who did any thing with enbroidery except one who used silk ribbon. Thank you a million times over for all that you provide. I am like a sponge who is getting to the point of using some of your techniques, I hope.
    Love, love, love your site and that makes me love you too.

    Jane GG

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  10. Dear Mary

    Thanks for the blog. I like silk especially Soie d’Alger which you suggested to use on the pomegranate project and I loved it ever since. It looks and feels wonderful and goes well with goldwork. Keep up the good work.

    Regards Anita Simmance

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  11. Hi Mary,

    I for one, like your cute little bee and his little wings. I really like the mixture of wool and silk you created. Looking at your site made me try silk, before I had only used dmc cotton. My latest work has both cotton and silk. Now I think I’m turning into a silk fiend lol! I’m developing a nice little stash of silk and metal threads, yet another thing I saw on your site and fell in love with. You have a great stitching influence on me lol!

    Thank you for all you do for us!

    Your stitching friend,

    Mindi Hammerstone

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  12. I mostly do crazy quilting and freestyle embroidery and for me the most important criterion for a thread is firstly, colour and secondly, thinness or thickness. After that it’s Rafferty’s rules and I use cotton, wool, silk, rayon, synthetics, metallics. One of my best pieces is a small table-sized 3-leaf screen where the leaves are embroidered to represent tree bark. All of the threads came from my box of ‘cream’ threads so you can imagine how important getting the ‘right’ colour was.

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  13. I don’t know how much you pay for your linen, but I have just found a website for pure irish linen that is still weaved in Ireland. It is £38.00 per metre (10feet x 1 metre). They supply it in optic white and oyster. The website is http://www.vintage-mood.co.uk

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  14. Mary I am ding a square right now that I guess you would call a landscape square. So far I have used cotton thread and some rayon thread that iused with wire. I wanted to give the seam on my mountains the effect of snow on a mountain. The Airplane Iam puting in the sky was done in cotton thread (DMC stranded). The animals are stranded cotton done over felt.The trees I usd wool mettallic and cottn twisted together for the trunk and branches. I know this sounds weird and probably is since I am new at embroidery and crazy Quilting.

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