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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Going Micro with Needle & Thread


Amazon Books

I love working on the whitework embroidery sampler! Exploring the different drawn thread techniques has been fun, and I’m itching to start on some other techniques, such as satin stitch over trailing. But, as with every long, slow project, a break is a good thing! So I’m going micro…

A while ago I showed you this unbelievable miniature embroidered sampler, remember?

Miniature Embroidery Sampler

I’ve really fallen in love with the little thing – the more I see it, the more I like it. I’m planning on having it framed in a regular frame, with a tiny hole in the mat…

So, here I’ve been, mulling this idea of miniature embroidery over in my head.

I know it isn’t anything new – some people apparently do miniature embroidery for the fun of it, with no distinct purpose. They like it, like I like goldwork. Others create little miniature projects for doll houses. Still others like the notion of petit point on silk gauze (which I’m dying to try – on 72 gauge!). There are plenty of miniature embroidery books on Amazon…. though some are apparently just “small” motifs stitched on regular fabrics. So I know I’m not talking novelty here.

But for my ‘break’ from the whitework sampler, I decided to go micro, and see about this miniature embroidery thing. This has forced me into an area of needlework that is not necessarily my favorite – I don’t particularly care for (sorry!) counted cross stitch! Oh, don’t get me wrong – there are some counted cross stitch items these days that I find really attractive and that I think would be great fun to work. I like the historical samplers, and the Quaker look, and I really like some of the Long Dog samplers – they’re pretty neat. But my stitching preference isn’t counted thread techniques. (I suppose you probably already know this if you’ve been reading my blog for a while!)

Still, I think it’s worth venturing in for a try. First, I’ll try counted. Then I wonder what it would be like to go micro with regular surface embroidery. Teeny tiny – super-duper-tiny – surface embroidery stitches on a wee sampler might be something worth trying.

But, for now, I’m counting. I selected a design that I have from a Sweetheart Tree kit I bought a few years ago when I was on vacation. Then, I picked out some linen. The choice was between two linens: Legacy’s shadow work or Legacy’s alabaster angel. Alabaster angel is 48 threads per inch. Shadow work runs around 56 threads per inch (I counted approximately 7 threads per 1/8 inch). I stuck with the alabaster angel for this first project. The shadow work linen doesn’t have much “body” in the individual tiny threads – it’s a relatively sheer linen with space between the weave. This is nice, but I wanted to make sure the stitches were duly supported. Plus… well, truth is, on the very sheer fabrics, you really have to be concerned with the back as well as the front, and I will admit it – I didn’t want to bother so much about the back! (Tsk, tsk! Shameful, I know!)

With this miniature embroidery stuff, especially on fabric that’s 48 threads per inch, a full cross stitch is too much when working with one strand of regular cotton floss. So the half cross stitch is what I’m using – tent stitch.

I’ve run into a couple little problems:

1. My needle is very small. Tiny needles have a tendancy to sink into the side of my thumb and cause the skin to split. *sigh* And it hurts like the dickens. Perhaps I should consider a “thumble” of sorts.

2. Tent stitch normally works pretty well when translating from a cross stitch desigh, but it doesn’t always work. Because of the one-way direction of the stitches, certain parts of the pattern become a bit disjointed, when they shouldn’t be. In some areas of the design, this is easily resolved with stitching in the opposite direction, though I realize this just “isn’t” done in petit point, from what I understand! In fact, the design has quite a few half cross stitches indicated, as well as the direction in which they should be worked. So it does help to change the direction of the stitching to fit more with the design.

3. The design relies heavily on beads for accents. I don’t think they make beads small enough! The Mill Hill petite glass beads loom over the stitching like giant doughnuts!

4. I made the funniest (most ridiculous) stitching mistake ever. Well, I think it’s funny! Perhaps most people won’t notice it, though, so I’m not going to mention it now. I’ll wait for the photos. Even then, I might leave you to guess!

The design itself is normally over 5″ square, when stitched according to directions on the little kit it came in. With the fabric I’m using, it’s just barely 1.5″ square.

Now, the nice thing at this point would be a photo…. but not yet! Look for it later this week. I’d like to finish the whole piece first.

Other than this, I’m DEFINITELY setting up a little (little, but not this little) goldwork project this week. Christiana sent me some photos of a beautiful little piece of goldwork (Or Nué) that she’s been working on, involving a peacock feather, and I just can’t stand it anymore! I must set up a project! And so I shall. I might even do a feather of sorts, too. Maines des Merveilles has a beautiful issue full of feathers, and I’ve never had a chance to do anything with them. Christiana’s is really beautiful, and as soon as she gives me the okeedokee (she made it as a gift…), I’ll post the pictures.

All that being said, I’m still enjoying the whitework sampler.

Don’t forget to sign up for this month’s embroidery stash give-away if you haven’t already – 12 different types of embroidery threads to try out! I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.

Enjoy the day – hope you have time to get some stitching in!


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(15) Comments

  1. You say you don’t like counted work much but there seems to me to be an area of overlap between whitework and counted work. Some white work is easy to charcterize as white thread on white background but some of the things you are doing on your sampler (hemstitching and the tying of areas of drawn threads) definitely involve counting threads! Maybe drawn thread work is not included by some people as counted work, but it certainly goes horribly wrong if you don’r count right!

  2. Hi, Ruth! Very Good Point!

    I should’ve mentioned that in the post. Most drawn thread is definitely counted, and I do like drawn thread work! I also like blackwork, which is often a counted thread technique, though it doesn’t have to be. I like petit point as well, especially in historical applications. I suppose, specifically, I wouldn’t list “counted cross stitch” as a favorite technique, although, like I said, there are several counted cross stitch styles today that I do like a lot.

    I was a kid in the 80’s, when counted cross stitch became “the thing” and it was my first introduction to needlework, really. When I broke away from counted cross stitch into surface embroidery, I found that I couldn’t be enticed back into the counted cross stitch arena. However, so much has changed since then – different styles, different materials, different threads….

    Thanks for the comment!


  3. I am really anxious to see how this turns out! I hope you can find a thimble, cracked thumbs aren’t a good side effect of stitching.

  4. Actually…

    When I was at ‘Twixt Art and Nature last month with friends, we were enjoying the fact that in a lot of the canvas work that was done in tent stitch they DID go opposite directions if the design needed it.

    We’ve been so heavily trained by modern cross stitch (mostly) values that we think it has *always* been done the same way, but when we study earlier pieces, we learn that’s not necessarily so.

    So, go opposite directions when you need to!

    Can’t help on the beads though.

  5. Just realised that my anonymous post recommending ‘Reflections Of Nature, The Art and Embroidery of Jane E.Hall’ should have been signed (it’s been a long mornng!).

    (in Auckland, New Zealand)

  6. Hi Mary………Can’t wait to see what you mini-stitch. I have a photo I’d love for you to see. It’s from the Houghton Hall miniature exhibit in England, a truly super dollshouse sized coverlet done in Elizabethan style embroidery.

    Looks to me like a major challenge and I plan to try something similar one of these days. Is there a way I can let you see this?


  7. I am very interested in tiny motifs done in surface embroidery. The books I have looked at do seem to favor a counted thread technique, and that is not my interest either. I look forward to your thoughts, ideas, and photos on this subject!

  8. Hi all!

    Thanks for your comments! I’m making progress – so I’ll show you some photos before the week is out, I hope. At least by Sat., surely!

    Ginger, if you want to drop me a line using the “Contact Us” link at the top of the page. Fill that out, and I’ll return an e-mail to you. If you use AOL for your primary e-mail, though, there may be a problem. Normally, they bounce when I try to reply to them. So if you do use AOL and have an alternate e-mail address, please use the alternate… All that being said, I’m DYING to see the photos!! That would be great.

    Thanks heaps, everyone. Stay tuned for updates!


  9. Hi, Ginger! I hope you check the comments again!! I received your e-mail! Thanks! Guess what? I received a “delivery status notification” when I tried to e-mail you… it says the delivery attempt failed. Perhaps if you add my address to your “approved” list, or if you e-mail me directly?

    My address is mary (at) needlenthread (dot) com …

    Sorry for the hassle! What a pain, eh?



  10. Thanks for sending the photo, Ginger! I got it! I tried to reply – I wrote you a long e-mail! – and it bounced again. I’ll talk to my ISP about this (one… more… time!) as it’s driving me nuts!

    I love the coverlet. Do you suppose the silver lace was handmade? The tulle peeping out makes me think it might have been? The stitching is magnificent! Tiny… and surface embroidery! I want to do that! But it comes off as “full sized” in scale. It’s great!

    I want to see the exhibit in NYC, too, but don’t think I ever will. I was contemplating a road trip this summer, either to the east coast or the west coast, but… we’ll see if it develops. I’ve heard the book is nice – Twixt Art and Nature, right? I’ve got it on my wishlist!

    Ok, sorry for the reply here. How… pathetically impersonal!

    Thanks again for the picture, and if I get the aol situation cleared up, you’ll be the first person to hear about it!


    1. I’m dying to try the miniature embroidery world. But I can’t seem to find anywhere that sells silk gauze in the 72 count which is what I want. Could you please help me?

    2. Hi, Carolyn – the only place I was able to find it online in the US is here: http://petitpointers.net/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=10. It looks like they have a sampler pack, too, if you want to try different sizes: http://petitpointers.net/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=2 On their home page, they say you can special order cuts, if you need a different size from the size of cuts that they sell. I’ve not shopped there, but it likes like a well-maintained website.

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