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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Initials for Embroidery


Amazon Books

Embroidering initials or monograms is a great way to personalize any item – whether it’s a pre-made handkerchief, a kitchen towel, or even clothing. Handbags come to mind as well – and, for some reason, so does “Laverne and Shirley.” (I date myself.)

My mom has a kitchen towel that was given to her as a wedding gift 49 years ago. It’s a typical towel with one special point to it – her initials, embroidered by a friend. In our house, that thing has had some serious years of usage, but it’s held up.

Initials and monograms are funny things – they seem to go in and out of style, but are never really out of style.

I was browsing through Elizabeth Kurella’s book, Whitework Embroidered Lace Handkerchiefs, yesterday, and found it amusing that monograms often served the very practical purpose of marking fine linens for the laundry service.

As she put it, “they made sure the laundry got back to the right home.” Most of us don’t send out our household laundry these days (I wish!), but that’s no good reason to put aside the art of monogramming, initialing, or embroidering the whole darned name right across the piece. What a great way to mark a piece in a special, even intimate, way.

At my last adult class, my students brought in their projects that they’ll be working on until we can get started up again. They were pretty enthusiastic to be putting their newly-found skill of basic stitches into practice on their own.

One of the ladies is working on two pillow cases – she has two daughters (in second and third grade), and she’s making them each a matching pillow case for Christmas presents.

I suggested putting initials on them to make them each distinct, so she hunted about for a book, and came up with a fabulous find – at Wal-mart of all places – with beautiful iron-on initials. Wary of “using up the book,” I suggested she trace the initials and transfer them lightly with pencil or transfer paper. We met the other day, and she showed me her progress.

She’s halfway through with the first case, and it’s lovely! Those girls are going to have a hand-made treasure from their mom, to cherish for the rest of their lives. But it’s the initials that are going to carry the most meaning as the linens travel through time.

There are heaps of resources out there for inspiration for embroidered initials.

You can pick up different artists’ resource books at sellers like Barnes and Noble – I’ve never been in there yet that I haven’t seen one on initials.

Or if you’re into using different fonts on your computer or in print, then you already know that there are lots of sources online for good looking fonts that can easily be traced as monograms to stitch.



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(3) Comments

  1. Hi Mary – I’ve been wanting to work on some stamped to embroider dish towels, bread cloths, place mats etc. for my kitchen. But I’m unsure about how one finishes the backs of these sort of items. It’s not like quilt blocks, or some such, that will end with the back of your work being covered. I quess the only thing for it is to be as neat as possible on the back, knowing it will remain visible? Thank you, J. Mosley

  2. You’re right! The back remains visible, so you want to work your embroidery as neatly as possible, with that in mind. Don’t carry threads, and make sure they’re all run under neatly!

  3. Mary, I love this towel…I just saw it and will try to do it.
    I am so impressed and happy with all your work especially for instructions! Thank you so much for the time and effort you put in to everything you do!
    Also, I love your hair, it looks like mine!

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