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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Breath of Spring – a Surface Embroider Sampler of Sorts?


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After finishing the whitework on the linen pouch, and doing whitework monograms on the embroidered guest towels this summer, I decided it was time to dig out something colorful to embroider! Better yet, something colorful that was already set up…

So, I took out “Breath of Spring,” a project from Country Bumpkin’s Inspirations Magazine, issue #56. I mentioned this particular project previously, when I was planning to finish it as a gift.

But, you know, time just got away from me! So I’ve picked it up now, to (hopefully) finish relatively soon (boy, doesn’t that sound non-commital!!??)

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

There are lots of things I like about this project!! For one thing, it’s Colorful. Some of threads, when seen in isolation, might not strike you as Super Colorful, but when taken as a whole project, the colors are pretty varied, and very pretty!

Another thing I like is that the project employs a variety of stitches, so you never really get bored doing the same old stitch over and over again.

Finally, each separate element in the design is small enough to handle in one sitting, more or less. And once I near the completion of one little element, the excitement builds to move on to the next!

Overall, the piece is easy enough – I’d think any moderately advanced beginner could work it, as long as you had a good stitch dictionary (although I think the stitches are covered in the issue of the magazine…) But there are no really “advanced” techniques – the hardest stitch in it is the bullion knot. But this isn’t to say I’m not learning anything as I work the project, because I am! Let me show you some close ups here, and tell you a couple things I’ve learned along the way.

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

This is the left side of the piece – the bell-shaped flowers are supposed to be foxglove. The butterfly is a duplicate of one on the right side of the piece. I like the one on the right side Much Better. Now, you might wonder how that could be, if they are duplicates…

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

This is the one on the left side (seen in the photo above). It’s the second of these twin butterflies that I worked. I followed the directions on this one to the “T” – and I used 4 strands of floss on the bullion body and French knot head. For the most part, the whole design is worked in one strand of cotton. But this butterfly’s bullion body called for 4 strands.

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

On the first one I worked, I didn’t think 4 strands was quite the thing, so I worked the bullion in one strand – and I tapered the end, down to a longer straight stitch. As far as butterflies go, I think this one looks quite a bit more delicate and butterfly-ish. The one above (on the left side of the design) looks chunky and bulky and thick. I may go back and alter that, but I’m not sure if I dislike it that much!

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

The parts of the piece that catch the eye first, I think, are the buttercups. They’re two shades of yellow.

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

They’re worked in a closed buttonhole on the outside of the petal, and then long-and-short-stitch filling, to add the darker shading in the middle.

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

I like the side-view buttercups, too. There’s just something about bright yellow flowers that’s so cheeeeeery.

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

Ok, I love the lady bugs. But I really flubbed this one up! I’m definitely going to take out the French knots and re-work them. I have no excuse – just sloppy stitching at that point. Three of them look all cock-eyed and silly. I’ll take those out and re-work them.

The ladybug bodies are stitched in closely worked fly stitch, which forms a seam down the body between the wings. I like that! Clever thinking on the designers part, methinks. The little head is just a few satin stitches.

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

I’m a little confused about these fellows.

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

And the more I work of them, the more confused I get. I like them…. but on the instructions, they are listed as “white flowers,” and I checked and double-checked my labeling on my threads to see if I made a mistake. They aren’t really what I’d call “white flowers”! I think the colors are pretty. But they sure aren’t white. They remind me of baby shower butter mints.

Breath of Spring: Colorful Surface Embroidery Project

And finally, worked here and there among the flowers are these clusters of forget-me-knots. I jumped in to work a few, so I could see how the blue sets things off. I like them! They’ll have a little French knot in the middle of them when they’re finished.

I’m really enjoying working this piece!

So that’s my colorful project right now. I’ve got it set up on a stretcher bar frame, and I’m using my Needlework System4 floor stand.

When I have time after work, it’s all there, just waiting… a perfect palette of colored embroidery bliss! Ahhhhh……

I have two more projects I’m dying to set up before Labor Day weekend, so that I have projects to work on during the first semester of the school year without having to set aside large chunks of time for design and set-up work. So … here’s hoping! I’ll keep you posted!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!


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(15) Comments

  1. What a beautiful piece. I only wish I could get my french knots to look like the ones you want to rework. I think the second butterfly is more graceful than the first but I wouldn’t change the first.

  2. It’s impossible to pick a single favorite element, but I think those flowers with various soft shades of French knots are going to be really sweet! I feel like I should know the name of those flowers…they’re not Queen Anne’s Lace but sort of like them. Not yarrow. Aah! I don’t know.

    Anywho, I like the piece a lot and I can’t help but feel better at knowing that even you flub a French knot or two now and again, Mary. 🙂

  3. Mary
    This is lovely and the stitching and colours are wonderful. I can imagine stitching time on htis piece has you feeling revitalised. Every so often one needs a good injection of colour.
    I have a few Inspirations mags and must go see if I can find the article.

  4. Mary, I am not quite sure, but I think I have this issue of Country Bumpkin, but I have certainly seen this picture before.

    I think the flowers referred to as ‘white flowers’ maybe Queen Anne’s Lace also known as Cowslip in England.

  5. This is a very pretty project (I have the mag too). I think your version of the butterfly looks MUCH better, and the fly stitch ladybug is very clever – and would be quick to do too.
    I havent used HofE stranded cotton, but i have used their perle cotton which I found good to use (and great colours) – no problems with it. maybe you got a bad batch – Id let Country Bumpkin know – because their kits arent cheap so., non I dont think your being picky at all!.
    ps – i liked you last white on white project, but never got around to commenting, sorry!

  6. Love the color and stitch variation. The single strand bullion for the butterfly is definately the right choice in my opionion. I do not know what the white flowers are, but that soft pastel color is beautiful.

    As always–a wonderful job. I want to be you when I grow up! Think I can make it? I am only 4 (decades!)

    Ruth M

  7. Hi, All! I’m glad you like this piece, and it does seem that the majority opinion favors the butterfly worked with one strand…. I may have to rework that one….


    Funny, Ruth! You can be me when you grow up, if you want…! I think, actually, you might have to grow “down” a little bit, rather than up! But it’s not necessarily always as fun as it looks!! 😉

  8. Well, this project is certainly different from your last! That’s good because that’s what you wanted! You went from two kinds of stich in one color to a bunch of stitches in a bunch of colors. What fun.

    One of my favorite things about hand embroidery is the diversity. You can never get bored!

    Are you enjoying stitching the bugs? I haven’t stitched a bug yet, but I want to try. I think I’ll start with your ladybug. She’s so cute!

  9. Wow, I am so impressed by the French Knots! They all seem perfect ( except those 2 that you pointed out) but you are expert at making beautiful, uniform knots. It is my weak point and I only do so-so at it, myself. Thanks for the pics.

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