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 Linen Pouch: Earwig


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This is a dumb joke, but here it is, nonetheless: “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Earwig.” “Earwig, who?” “Earwigo again…” (Sorry.) This is the re-beginning of an embroidery project that I began when I set up my slate frame. I subsequently messed it up, and had to start over – remember the photo from my embroidery mistakes and needlework frustrations? It’s underway once more – so, here we go again…

I’m making a linens pouch. This is an ecclesiastical piece of embroidery – the pouch itself will hold small altar linens. I wouldn’t normally make a linens pouch out of linen, but that’s what was requested, so I wanted to conform the project to the tastes of the receiver of the gift! I posted photos of a similar embroidered pouch for linens before – you can take a look at that to get an idea of what the finished piece will look like, construction-wise.

On this one, I have a cross, swords, and crown design on the front. When I initially drew the design on the initial fabric (set up on the slate frame), I used a pencil and was not pleased with the fact that the thread seemed to picking up some grey from the pencil. Rather than stitch the whole thing and risk the grey not coming out, I started over!

So this is the front so far:

Hand Embroidered Pouch in whitework on linen for small Mass linens

Notice that the design (you can barely see it) is in blue now. I used dressmaker’s carbon to transfer it. Here and there, I did have to barely touch up a line with the lightest touch of a pencil. I haven’t gotten very far on it, have I?

Hand Embroidered Pouch in whitework on linen for small Mass linens

This is the cross a little closer. Oh, golly. While I would prefer doing this piece in colored silks and real gold threads, I felt obliged, again, to try to match the recipient’s tastes. So I’m working in coton a broder. Since the linen is a good, solid medium-weight linen (Alba Maxima by Legacy), I’m using a heavier sized thread. This is #16 coton a broder.

But despite the fact that I’d might like to be working with other materials, I will admit that I do LOVE working with the coton a broder on the Alba Maxima linen. And – I LOVE Palestrina Stitch. This is a great stitch, and I think it looks really pretty in this thread on white. The stitch is fun to work – once you have the steps down, it moves at a nice rhythm. I really do love it. (Did I mention I like Palestrina Stitch?)

I want to fill the middle of the cross, I think. Since it’s the central focus of the design, I’d like to have it a little heavier than the rest of the piece. I could achieve focus on it two ways – by making all other elements filled, and leaving this “voided,” which would make it stand out. But instead, I’d rather fill the cross, so the “heavier” looking part is also the central focus.

The problem is, I don’t know what stitch to fill it with. Normallly, I suppose you’d do the filling first (if it’s something beyond seed stitch, anyway), but I wanted to get it outlined to see if I’d like it filled or empty.

Any brilliant ideas for a filling? Of course, satin stitch would be beautiful – it is a gorgeous stitch, when worked right – but the wider parts of the cross are just bordering on “too” wide for the satin stitch. I don’t want loose threads. I also don’t want to pad it, as I don’t want a padded look to the piece.

Nope. Still no clue as to what to fill it with. I keep thinking something brilliant will pop into my mind, but … nothing yet!

Hand Embroidered Pouch in whitework on linen for small Mass linens

That’s a bit closer on the Palestrina stitch there – and you can see where I did some touching up with pencil. Rrgh.

Hand Embroidered Pouch in whitework on linen for small Mass linens

And a little closer on the Palestrina stitch there. Gosh, I love that linen. Gosh, I love that stitch! Yet…

… despite loving the linen and loving the stitch, I will admit that overall, I’m not that pleased with the project itself. I spent 2 hours yesterday stitching on it (beyond what you see here), and almost as long removing all the stitches I had just put in. The piece simply isn’t coming together as I want it to.

Hand Embroidered Pouch in whitework on linen for small Mass linens

Here’s a little teaching moment for you – this is the back. See the long strings carrying over to the sides? I started with “away waste knots.” That is, I started with a knot in the end of my thread, and took my needle and thread down into the fabric far away from where I was going to start stitching. Then, when I had finished the length of the thread, I snipped the knot off, re-threaded the needle, and ran the long tail underneath the stitches to secure the beginning of the thread. This is an easy way to start a line of stitching when there aren’t any other stitches close by to secure your thread under.

Hand Embroidered Pouch in whitework on linen for small Mass linens

Oh, yeah. I do love the Palestrina stitch!

Any ideas on filling it?


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(13) Comments

  1. It will be a real treat to watch your progress on this, Mary.

    I wouldn’t presume to suggest what filling stitch you might use. I can only say that I fell in love with seed stitching the first time I saw it, which was here on Needle’n Thread; the white on white leaf that you show on the Seed Stitch tutorial page.

  2. Mary, the Palestrina stitch looks lovely, it has a rope like effect. In filling the cross, I would suggest trying Detached buttonhole stitch or even Bokhara couching. These two stitches would be unique and will give a nice texture to the cross. Great Job!

  3. I see you’re using a round hoop this time! I like the idea of seed stitch, see how that works. And you could try a different weight of cotton thread too.

  4. I love the cross in the Palestrina stitch. If you did a satin stitch fill could you hold it in place with a fine diamond patterned couching without displacing the satin stitches below?


  5. Hey, Mary, The Palestrina looks beautiful. I enjoy doing it, too. For the filling what about a sort of heavy laid lattice with the first up and down, then the next 2 at 30 degrees and 120 degrees from the first. You could use say 4 strands or even perle and space each line about 2 mm. Just a thought. Anneg
    BTW if you do that you need to tie down at the joints to keep the lattice in place, but it really goes in quickly and looks very neat.

  6. Hi Mary, the white on white is looking lovely. There are some good suggestions here already. I really like the look of the palestrina stitch and think it stands well on it’s own, so I would maybe do satin stitch but only a diamond shape inside the top, left and right arm of the cross and an elongated cross in the long arm, leaving a gap between the outline and the satin stitched shapes. What ever you decide, I know it will look fab.


  7. Hi Mary,
    I’m new to embroidery in fact I’ve only done the stem stitch and french knots. My suggestion is to use white seed beads or tiny pearls along with another stitch to fill it in.
    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Hi, all – thanks for your comments!

    I decided to fill it in with tiny seed stitches, so it matches the other linen piece I’m making to go with it.

    I wish I had thought about Carol-Anne’s suggestion for the satin stitch, leaving space between the satin stitched areas and the palestrina stitch edge. That is a splendid idea!

    I tried a lattice kind of filling, but it didn’t look quite right, since the cross isn’t perfectly square.

    I also tried a kind of bargello stitch filling, but it was too thick.

    So I stuck with seed stitching, very tiny, and it looks ok. I’ll post photos of it as soon as I finish the embroidery.

    I’m thinking of washing the crown out and not doing it. It’s too big, I think, for the rest of the pattern, and when I transferred it, one side is slightly “off” – besides, being crunched for time, I think I need to Keep it Simple! So I probably will forego the crown and the lettering on the underside of the cover.

    I’ll keep you posted!


  9. Hi Mary, I realise that I am a little late with my suggestion, but lazy trails of small backstitch or running stitch would look quite delicate inside the Palestrina stitch edging. Or maybe a smaller floral designs done in small satin stitch to give an impression of an embossed pattern.

    Butthe design is lovely.

  10. Mary, j’adore cette jolie croix, et tous les ornements brodés, merci de nous montrer tout celà
    bises Pat

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