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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Hand Embroidery: Sources of Inspiration


Amazon Books

Where do you find inspiration for hand embroidery? Nature? Other textiles? Cartoon and comic figures? The animal kingdom? I guess the list could go on and on. Today, I purchased a couple books for reasons wholly unrelated to needlework… but…

I just can’t help it. Pouring over them, I started thinking, “This would be GREAT to embroider! And so would this! And this!….”

Aside from embroidery, I dabble in a few other engaging pursuits. One of them (work-related) is graphics and layout for printed publications. Another (fun-related) is calligraphy.

As I was preparing a layout for our school’s annual Christmas card, I thought it would be fun to incorporate some decorative calligraphy elements – which I didn’t actually end up doing – but I did pick up a couple books for inspiration, and – voila! – I now find myself contemplating their uses in the embroidery world.

The first book is a Dover book called Illuminated Initials in Full Color. It’s backed with around 550 colored illuminated initials and borders suitable for the art of calligraphy. But who says it’s limited just to that?? While the initials may bring to mind embroidered monograms, it’s the decoration of them that really captures me. The other book I picked up is the newly published Bible of Illuminated Letters, which is a step-by-step instruction book in calligraphy and illumination (filled with gorgeous examples!)

Within the pages of both books are all kinds of sources for inspiration – nature, geometric patterns, color combinations.

How the designs could actually be used might be a question – but I figure anything you would normally decorate with embroidery could easily serve as a “canvas” for a design inspired from the illuminations in manuscripts.

Can you say redwork? And monogram? Why not? I could see this embroidered in satin stitch, with tiny backstitches surrounding the initial to make the filigree border.

Crewel work, anyone? On a pillow, or in a little frame for a friend’s wall (or your own!)…

How about stumpwork?

I’m pretty sure this is not a “new” idea – in fact, certain styles of illumination and certain styles of embroidery have a lot in common, doubtless because they were produced in the same age. Certain types 17th century illumination and stumpwork or Jacobean work often look a lot alike!

So many ideas – so little time!! But before the year’s out, I plan to get an “illuminated embroidery” project set up (a great Christmas vacation project, perhaps?)

So where do YOU find sources of inspiration?



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(1) Comments

  1. Fiquei muito feliz em encontrar o seu site de bordados. Você é maravilhosa, tantao para bordar como para ensinar. Parabéns!

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