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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Silk Work Embroidery Sampler Under Way


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For our summer project, our embroidery guild is learning to work with silk. We’ll be using different types of stitches in our silk work sampler, many of which will be some sort of “shading” technique. If you want to see the pattern we’ll be working with, I posted the silk work sampler pattern some time back.

During each embroidery guild meeting so far this summer, we’ve gone one step at a time in setting up the sampler, and we will all be working one step at a time in stitching it, so that everyone has time to get the different techniques down.

We haven’t started stitching yet! We aren’t taking any “short cuts” – we each framed up our pieces, then we traced our designs, pricked them, pounced them, and finally, using a fine paintbrush and watercolor paints, we painted in the design.

So here’s my pattern, transferred to the fabric and ready to go:

The sampler itself is about 7.5 x 10 inches. We’re using Legacy linen (Alba Maxima), and we purchased 18″ x 18″ squares, to mount up on 16 x 16 frames. We’re using stretcher bars, with the fabric tacked all the way around. The linen was pre-shrunk and ironed before mounting. I like using the larger frame for this kind of project (a 14 x 14 or even a 10 x 12 would have sufficed), but it’s good to have the extra space to practice a bit on the side lines if necessary.

Here are the threads we’ll be using:

The top row of tubes is flat silk from the Japanese Embroidery Center. We’re working with 5 shades of green, 3 shades of red or of coral, 3 shades of blue, and gold. We’ll also be using a little bit of reddish-brown, for different stems. The silk in skeins is Soie d’Alger.

I picked out the colors from the thread sample binder of the Soie d’Alger. Then I matched my colors of Soie d’Alger to the thread palette of flat silk from the Japanese Embroidery Center. I was so happy to find a practically perfect match for all colors! Of course, the colors will still look slightly different, because the light will play on the flat and twisted silk differently. The stitches used will also change the look of the threads a bit, because of the way the light plays off different stitches.

We’re starting with the middle flower at the top, which will be worked in long and short stitch in the twisted silk. The center of the flower will be a lattice work filling, in the gold and either red or blue, depending on the color of the flower. The side flowers will each be worked in different stitches, but they will be worked in flat silk.

I’ll keep you posted as we progress – right now, I’m going to work up a sample section for Monday’s class!

I’ll be posting updates and explaining the stitches we’re using as we go. If you want to stitch along from a distance, feel free!


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(10) Comments

  1. I spend hours on your site, it’s a feast for the eyes! Good luck with the sampler, I can’t wait to watch the progress!


  2. Mary, I’m excited to see your progress on this project. I think it will be stunning.
    This will sounds like a strange question. But I’ll ask anyway. As you share your progress, would you share a photo that shows the fabric on the stretcher bars, please? I’ve not used stretcher bars and I’ve never seen them in use. I’m not 100% sure how to use them. From what I understand, the concept sounds nice. I’ve only ever used a hoop. Oh to have an embroidery guild or store near me. 🙂


  3. Hi, Ginger –

    Yep, I’ll take some photos of the piece on the stretcher bars. In the meantime, check out this post. It shows a project set up on stretcher bars.

    Basically, you put the bars together, then, working on one side of the fabric, you tack from the middle to the edge. Then you do the opposite side the same way, pulling your fabric to get good tension. Then you do the third side, again pulling the fabric and tacking from the middle out, then the fourth side (which is opposite the third), making sure you’re pulling your fabric taught. You don’t want to warp the fabric, but you do want it drum tight.

    Stretcher bars are most convenient when you have a floor stand to clamp them into. You can also sit with your work on the edge of a table, resting on your stomach. They’re not as easy to hold in your hand as a hoop is, unless it’s a small project.

    Try them – you’ll probably like them!

  4. Hi Mary, Thank you for explaining stretcher bars and sharing the older post. That makes it clearer to me. Where would one purchase stretcher bars?


  5. Wow…the pattern is beautiful and I can’t wait to see the progress. I would love to start this but I have so many unfinished quilting projects.
    You’re doing a wonderful job…keep it up!

  6. Aw shucks. Thanks…. but there are flaws. As I stitch, they seem to accumulate, actually!!

    But it’s fun!

    I’m having second thoughts about the flat silk. It’s driving me nuts.

    More updates later!

  7. Hello mary, I just love this piece and would very much love to stitch along with you as well, to keep myself posted is it just a matter of keeping up with this posting?

    1. Hi, Marion – Thanks for your comment! I’m afraid the silk work sampler is a thing of the past – this article was written in 2007. I didn’t finish writing up progress on this piece on the website because it took so long, and I was just getting my “blogging feet” wet. But you are more than welcome to adapt the project to your needs, using whatever information is here! ~MC

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