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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TIF Challenge – Needlepoint Sampler in Progress


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I’ve been dabbling with canvas stitches lately, and not achieving the best results in the world! For the TIF Challenge posed by Sharon, I thought I’d challenge myself to dabble in areas of needlework and embroidery into which I don’t normally venture. Hence, the idea of a needlepoint sampler this month.

Needlepoint (or canvas stitching) is not necessarily my “thing.” As Margaret, a faithful reader, put it, “I like to stitch on a curve!” And I do, too. Still, I wanted to explore outside my normal embroidery range, and so I thought I’d try playing around with canvas stitches.

Without much of a plan beyond just a “sampler” of stitches blocked out in one-inch squares, I set about stitching. I gathered together whatever threads looked remotely similar to the palette presented by Sharon for January. They range from wools, to wool and silk blends, to silk, to cotton. Watercolors by Caron, Waterlilies by Caron, Soie Gobelin, Soie Perlee, Trebizond, DMC stranded cotton, DMC perle, rayon ribbon floss – I just pooled a bunch of threads out of my stash and started.

The fabric is soft congress cloth, 24 ct. I framed it up in a 6 x 9 frame, and drew a row of four one-inch blocks to start with.

And this is all I’ve accomplished so far:

Needlepoint Sampler in the works

Now, all you Expert Eyes and Expert Needlepoint Needlers out there will undoubtedly see what I see here: bad tension, wrong thread choice, and a lack of attention to detail… (not to mention the deplorable lack of a scheme or plan!!)

Needlepoint Sampler in the works

The green square on the right was the first square I worked. I used Silk & Ivory (50% silk, 50% Merino wool) – a whole 3-ply strand. Needless to say, it’s a tight fit in 24 ct congress cloth! The stitch is a basketweave tent stitch, and I varied the length of the stitch in certain places, going over two threads as opposed to just one. I completely messed up the lower corner of the thicker ridge in the middle. The wonderful warping of this square is not normally what one desires in a needlework project, either! It looks, to say the least, dreadful.

But I did learn a lot stitching it. The first obvious lesson was to pick a thread that fits the canvas. The second was to go easy on pulling the thread through. I liked the hard look as the stitches developed, until I realized I was pulling the whole thing into a warped mess. The next thing I learned is to pay attention!! I had it in my narrow mind that this stuff is “brainless” stitching. I was just stitching along, paying attention to every other thing around me – and then – voila! I found out that you DO have to plan ahead, especially when it comes to compensating stitches. The lower right hand corner of the square taught me that lesson!

Needlepoint Sampler in the works

This is my favorite square so far. It’s an upright cross stitch. The top is worked in DMC perle #12, which fits really well on this canvas for this stitch. The middle is 2 strands of DMC cotton, and the bottom alternates the two. I like the firmness of the finished stitches. The thread was better to work with: there was no fraying for two reasons – the type of thread, and the fact that it fit in the holes!

Needlepoint Sampler in the works

I hate this square. There’s nothing about it I like. I don’t even want to talk about it! The top half is herringbone as a filling, alternating medium and light greens (Silk & Ivory again), and golly. That was just dumb. I must not have learned the first lesson very well, actually. The thread was too thick for this – for the canvas, for the stitch – it was just all wrong. I finally gave up and went to Hungarian filling, which is kind of an alternating cross pattern. It looks lousy, too! Oh, and let’s not mention the compensating stitches that are missing On Every Side! I’m laughing….

Needlepoint Sampler in the works

Now, this little square is not very impressive right now, but I like the thread! This is Caron Watercolors – a 3-ply overdyed cotton, which I stripped and used just one ply. It’s nice to stitch with, and I like it. The results here don’t look so marvelous. It’s no particular “stitch,” to my knowledge. I just wanted to work rows, leaving one little place open, which I’m going to go back and fill with something else. The stitches are just straight up-and-down stitches, alternating between over two and over one.

And that is my latest dabbling. Oh, for heaven’s sake. It’s bad. But I’m not finished!! NO – I’m determined to keep playing (and probably making it worse!)

The reason I decided to take up the TIF challenge was simple: I wanted to have a kind of structure for forcing myself to play with different techniques or supplies that I don’t normally play with. To fiddle around alone is not so fun, but to join in with other people (who are actually producing NICE stuff) and to have the loose constraints of the Take it Further challenge makes it a little more fun to dabble about.

Next month, despite my sorry attempt here, I’m going to venture into … a Crazy Quilt square. Wow. New for me, anyway.

My plan with each little challenge episode was to produce something that I could finish somehow, rather than just scraps to store in a notebook. This piece, though… it yearns for the inconspicuous sleeve in an inconspicuous notebook. But who knows – I may save it yet.

Unless you have any ideas of what I could do with this “thing”?!


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(6) Comments

  1. Hi Mary, Please don’t feel bad about your venture into needlepoint! At least you’re trying to venture out of your comfort zone. I come from a counted-thread background (including canvas work), and am very glad I ventured into goldwork and stumpwork this past year. And as for what to do with it, it really doesn’t matter. It’s all “just string” (see the name of my blog!). Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    If nothing else, your difficulties with canvas make those of us who struggle with surface work (and admire yours) feel better! 🙂

  2. Hi, Jeanne – thank you for your encouraging remarks! I really am laughing at the whole thing, and having fun – I don’t want people to think I’m discouraged over it!! I like it when I produce something that makes me a little more alert and challenged. I’m not finished – I’ll develop it a bit to see if I can spruce it up and improve it!

    Thanks again!! MC

  3. Hi Mary – This is still better than my needlpoint sampler Ive been blogging about (I used tapestry wool on canvas)- I think the nice colours and interesting threads help. As I said to someone who was worried their work wasnt good enough to show – it is easy to get intimidated by all the lovely work being produced, someone (ME) has to show the duds we produce! This year is a learning year for me – I am not aiming to produce much, just learn new things – particularly in embroidery – so it is good to see others having the same struggles and issues I am having – i could relate to most of what you said. Well done!!.

  4. Hmmm, sounds like you’ve got a dose of the Low Spirits Needlework Doldrums.

    Take one needle, one simply gorgeous thread and keep going, they’ll go away of their own accord.

    In the mean time, know anyone who needs a new bookmark? Looks like you have one nearly made 🙂


  5. Dear Mary I like your sampler of points. I always learn from you and do not sad by this because you, Mary is very creative. I know your blog and have seen real wonders. Again I like your sampler.
    I also participated in TIF and also my work still do not finished.
    A kiss

  6. It’s helpful for beginners and intermediate needle pointers to see needlepoint done, with some mistakes: the wrong thread, lack of compensating stitches, etc. These mistakes can help us learn. Thank you for posting your attempts at needlepoint.

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