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 Embroidered Monogram on Linen Guest Towel


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Here’s a sample I’m working up for my adult embroidery class, which is also looming – it starts a week from Tuesday, and I have two more samples to work up for it. At the same time, I am setting up a Big Project that needs to be finished before the end of July! So things are hopping here!

This is an embroidered guest towel. It’s an oatmeal-colored linen-cotton blend with a drawn thread edge, from All About Blanks. You’ll notice the note on the page there – to pre-wash before embroidering. These do shrink quite a bit, but I still like them, and I like them smaller!

I wanted an oatmeal colored towel to monogram in white for two reasons: I love the look of the white on natural-colored linens (I think it’s pretty!), and I think, when it’s the first time monogramming something, it’s easier to work on a color with white than to work white-on-white. The fabric has been really easy to stitch on, but it’s not crisp like a 100% linen fabric would be. It’s soft, and it does have a bit of a fuzz to it – I like it a lot, and I think one of the reasons is the softness and the fuzz and the ease of stitching on it (or is that three reasons?).

I started by ironing the towel after laundering it and drying it. I folded the towel in half, long ways, to mark the center.

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

Then I unfolded it, but I noticed that the crease would probably cause difficulties placing the monogram!

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

I like the wide drawn thread hemstitching there, don’t you? Anyway, I pressed the crease out lightly – just enough to still see where it was!

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

For the first time ever, I am using iron-on transfers. I don’t think I’ve ever actually used one myself, though I’ve seen lots of people use them and I know lots of people like them. I figured it would be a huge time-saver for me, to have a good selection of iron-on transfers on hand, instead of our having to hand-transfer all the designs, which takes up a whole class period in itself!

So I centered the initial – I’m using a “B” – and followed the pressing directions.

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

And that’s what I got. It’s there, more or less – there’s some kind of streaky thing going on there, but that’s ok. That’s the fastest I’ve ever put a design on a peice of fabric. I was elated!

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

But I found the blank streaks a bit distressing.

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

So I took a fine-tipped Micron art pen and drew in the missing lines. No big deal!

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

I hooped it up. I use Hardwick Manor hoops, made in Germany. They’re an excellent embroidery hoop – very firm, very stable-feeling, and the hardware on them is solid brass and very sturdy, so you can use a screw driver and really tighten the hoop. They hold fabric quite well, and even better if you bind the inside ring, which I didn’t on this hoop!

I hooped right over the drawn thread hemstitching – the towel is sturdy, and I’m not worried about damaging it. I don’t keep my work on the hoop when I’m finished stitching for the day (always take your work off the hoop when you’re finished for the day!), so I am pretty confident that this will be just fine!

It’s nice to work on a hoop for a change. I usually have my work set up on a frame (stretcher bars, generally), which I clamp in my floor stand (I have the greatest floor stand ever!). But now and then, I think it’s really nice to be able to sit on the couch or even at the table visiting, without dragging out my floor stand or a larger frame.

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

So, the fabric ready, it’s time to pick out threads. Ahhh. I love Lacis (Incidentally, they now have free shipping). Here’s my box of coton a broder and white floche. I have several skeins of each size, from 16 up to 40.

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

I originally thought that size 40 would be the way to go. So I began stitching with it, but it really got lost in the towel fabric. I wanted something that would sit up on the fabric!

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

Soooo… I split it in half, and tried size 20 instead, which I found to be just right. I want the monogram to sit up off the fabric, and there are a couple ways you can achieve this with monograming. One is to use a technique called trailing, where you satin stitch over bunched string. Whenever you need to narrow your design, you sink one or more of the strings in your bunch to the back of your fabric. But trailing is a technique you have to get a feel for – you want to sink your threads so that the change in size is gradual and smooth.

Since this is for more or less a beginner’s class, and since the design itself doesn’t really come to a tip anywhere (trailing is great for lettering that comes to a tip), I’m sticking with outlining, padding, and then satin stitching.

For the outline, I’m using backstitch. You can also use split stitch to outline under satin stitch. It doesn’t really matter which one you use, except I kind of think split stitch might create a smoother line. In any case, I used backstitch.

White Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

After backstitching the outline, a worked the padding in long straight stitches, occasionally splitting them to fit a thread in, working down the length of the letter. My satin stitching will be worked on top of this, perpendicular to the padding.

hite Hand Embroidered Monogram on Oatmeal Linen Guest Towel

Wow! All those pictures, just to show you an inch of real work! So there’s the beginning of the “B.”

Quick overview:

Ground fabric: Oatmean colored linen / cotton blend guest towel from All About Blanks.
Thread: DMC Coton a Broder #20, cut in 14″ lengths
Needle size: #8 crewel
Stitch: Padded Satin
Stitching Time to this Point: 30 minutes
Thread: 3 14″ inch lengths

So that’s the beginning of my monogrammed guest towel sample. I’ll show you an update soon!

By the way, any good recommendations for iron-on transfer books? I’ve found a few I really like, but I’d love to hear of others!

This project was written up in four separate articles. If you’d like to view the progress of the project, please follow the links below:

Part I – (That’s this article!)

Part II – Continuing stitching, discussion of stitches, some trouble-shooting

Part III – Taking the Curves with Satin Stitch – discussion of stitch direction and working around curves using the padded satin stitch

Part IV – the finished guest towel!


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(11) Comments

  1. I love those hoops. I know lots of people don’t like using hoops, but I think it’s because they have cheap crummy ones!

    Is the micron marker water soluble? Or does it not matter because the lines are covered up?

  2. Hi, Monkey – I think you’re right about the hoops!

    The micron markers are permanent, very fine-tipped pigment markers. They don’t wash out, but on this type of project, it doesn’t matter, as they are covered. They wash fine – they don’t run or anything (behind the thread) when the piece is laundered. I use them often, and I like them a lot for this type of transfer!

    Glad you like it, Susan!

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Those towels are gorgeous, Mary! God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, we’re supposed to be redoing the downstairs bath this summer. I’m going to treat myself to some of those hand towels when we’re close to being finished!

    It was really difficult to justify putting in an order for myself with Amazon.com on Father’s Day weekend. In fact I really couldn’t justify it, so I’ve decided to just live with the guilt instead.

    I ordered a couple of books -Embroidered Monograms & More (Leisure Arts # 1984) looked like a good start for monogram transfers, so I ordered it. It is temporarily out of stock but there are copies available in the used book section, and for just a few dollars. I’ve had great luck ordering through Amazon’s used book selections. I do let feedback guide my choice in sellers.

    This ebay seller in on my favorites list, though I haven’t ordered anything yet, I sure want to. The merchandise is located in France but they ship worldwide.


    Check out the Alphabets and Monograms! Some are so fancy that they’re a bit over the top for me. But some of the more simple designs are just fabulous! – Jeannine

  4. Hi Mary, thanks again for a creative idea.

    Q. is it necessary to lay down padding stitches under satin stitch??

    Have a great day. 🙂

  5. Hi, Marian –

    No, it’s not. It depends on the look you want – if you want something flat and smooth, practically flush with the fabric, you wouldn’t pad it, and if you still outline it, you would use a very fine thread.

    I wanted the raised look, so I went with padded satin stitch….


  6. I would love to have some monogram letters but am struggling to find them any thoughts on where I could purchase. Great pexplanation and photo's

  7. Hi Mary,

    Where did you get this monograph pattern? I’m looking to monogram something and I really like this font.

    1. Hi, Janine – The fact is, I can’t remember. I’ve had that collection for a while. It might be from one of the Italian Mani di Fata magazines. Anyway, if I can find it in the next few days, I’ll let you know! ~MC

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