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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Long and Short Stitch Musings…


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A while (a looong while ago – as in almost 9 months ago!), I mentioned the possibility of working through an embroidery project focusing on long and short stitch. My plan was to work through a long and short stitch project, posting tutorials in the form of lessons. If you were with me back then, you can read the original post on my long and short stitch project idea to get the whole gist of it.

I can offer a million and twelve excuses why this particular embroidery project never quite materialized, but it all boils down to the little particulars of life in general, as well as a rather sanguine approach to needlework. I tend to bounce around a bit, and I get caught up in new plans and ideas with a bit too much enthusiasm before old ideas have come to fruition! (Surely you’ve noticed that about me by now!)

Still, the idea for this particular series lingers in my head, simmering a bit and now and then even reaching a low boil. At one point, I even sketched up a design for the project!

The reason I bring this up now, though, is because I’ve received a slew of e-mail over the last couple weeks, asking about long and short stitch. I can’t help wondering if something long-and-short-stitch-ish is going on out there in the needlework world – a new book I haven’t seen, or a new design out, or something? Why the sudden interest, I wonder? Not to disparage the glory of the stitch itself – for anyone interested in surface embroidery, it would be a natural thing to want to get this beautiful stitching technique down.

Long and short stitch on the silk sampler I never finished!

This is a little flower worked in long and short stitch on a silk sampler I have yet to finish. Long and short stitch is one of the few stitching techniques that can really achieve a nice, realistic shading.

Needle painted iris designed by Tanja Berlin and stitched by me

In fact, it was Tanja Berlin’s needlepainting kits that really got me into long and short stitch. I love her needle painting projects!

Thread painting by Trish Burr

Of course, Trish Burr’s various embroidery books that feature long and short stitch enchanted me as soon as they hit the market! Trish has been a very encouraging correspondent, and I really enjoy her work! I’ve written about Trish Burr’s works and books several times here on Needle ‘n Thread, and I’m excited to say that there’s more good stuff coming from her in the form of kits to be released soon. I’ll keep you updated on that.

After working for a couple weeks now on a counted cross stitch sampler, I’m itching to get into some needle painting again. I think the e-mails about long and short stitch have served as a bit of a prod, too.

My plan, then, is to resurrect this long and short stitch project plan. I’ve started taking notes and organizing short lessons, but I wanted to poll the audience to find out what people would really like to see in a series of lessons focusing on long and short stitch? The way I see it is this: I could work from the very basic, for first-timers, through more complex forms, or I could just focus on the difficulties that people experience with the technique. What’s your opinion?

It’s necessary at this point to mention, too, that I’m not Trish Burr or Tanja Berlin – I’m no pro! But I have learned some tricks along the way that can reduce the intimidation that newcomers might feel when facing this technique.

With the summer coming up soon, I am hoping to have more free time to really focus on some instructive projects on Needle ‘n Thread. In the next couple weeks, I’ll be making some extensive lists of things I hope to focus on this summer. (This is the lot of the teacher – always looking forward to summer or the next break, in order to rejuvenate!)

With this in mind, then, I’d love to hear some feedback on the following:

1. What are your thoughts and preferences on this long and short stitch idea?
2. What type of instructive articles about embroidery would you be interested in seeing on Needle ‘n Thread in the upcoming months?

Thanks for your input!


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(39) Comments

  1. I have finally got the gist of the long and short stitch! I enjoy the freeness of it because you can basically put your stitches where you want and shade as it pleases your eye.I will always want more instruction on the stitch because I find its’ creativity factor a plus! Everyone approaches this stitch differently and I would love to see your take on it from beginning to advanced, so go for the whole thing! I specifically would like to know the differences the kind of threads etc. make as you use the long and short stitch. Summer come quickly so I can read and learn more of your wonderful techniques!!!

  2. Hello,
    I love your blog. You’ve really inspired me over the last year or so to do more embroidery especially freestyle embroidery. I’ve dappled in counted thread techniques for several years but I never stick to it – I don’t think I can count!
    Since trying crewel and freestyle embroidery I’m hooked. I can’t seem to put my needle down.

    Long and short stitch is very confusing to me. I’ve been working a vintage Erica Wilson crewel kit and the areas that have long and short stitch are very small. I can’t see show it matters in such small area with such a large thread!
    I would love to work some lessons from your website. Any lessons. I’d prefer to use cotton floss since it’s easier find here. There aren’t any needlework shops within a hundred miles of me.
    Thanks again for the inspiration and information.
    Christine in WI

  3. I love Trish Burr’s birds! They inspire me more than her flowers, which are beautiful regardless, but the birds seem alive. So my preference would be to use an animal or bird as a project. That way you’d have to cover stitch direction in more detail. Of course, flowers are easier for beginners in my opinion!

    I’d love to hear about the tricks you use in doing long and short stitch to create realistic nature. That’s my preference–more about how you approach this technique and the differences different threads bring to the technique.


  4. Hi Mary,

    I’m very much interested in this project!

    My opinion though, would be a bit biased. As I’m a novice here, I would love it if you would go really detailed on the project (like you mentioned in the post from last year). I would definitely stitch along and hopefully grow from counted cross stitch to surface embroidery (Yes, counted cross stitch – thats pretty much all I can embroider right now!).

    I would really appreciate and enjoy stitch alongs, or patterns with stitch suggestions (like your grab and go project – the spring tea towel) which beginners (and i mean REAL beginners) like me would find useful.

    Thank you so much for rekindling the love I had for embroidery! Hope to see loads more of fun stuff in the months to come.


  5. Thanks, all, for your comments and input so far! Keep the ideas coming!!!

    Oh – about birds – you’ll be happy to hear, then, that one of the kits Trish Burr is currently preparing (to sell) is… a bird kit! I’m excited about that, too!


  6. I’d love the entire tutorial…from very basic (where I am right now) to more developed (for someday!).

    I haven’t really found any good tutorials/explainations on the long and short stitch so the more info you can provide would be a huge help!

  7. Carry on just the way you’re doing now Mary,we’re with you.
    Long and short from the basics would be wonderful. I’ve found that however much you progress,practising the basics always helps.

  8. Those birds look so fluffy!

    I love the long and short stitch project idea. There is too much ‘on the needles’ right now to join along but I my attempt would fall in the beginner category. Could you do the same design for both beginner and advanced at the same time, to keep more people interested?

    I like to see posts featuring finished objects, in addition to the lessons.

  9. Hi Mary,

    I learnt this stitch a long time ago in school and would definitely like to refresh my memory. A stitch along is a great idea and please start from the basics.

  10. Regardless of how many people may already have tutorials on this particular subject, I would love for you to do your version because this is where I come to get some learning and you do it so well. As far as this particular stitch, you hit the nail on the head with saying there’s a lot more to it. I’ve started several projects and wanted to use this stitch for its simplicity and found out it’s not so simple. And for all said, some of us just can’t afford to “pay” for lessons on every single stitch. Oh that I had a mother or someone who would have taught me these wonderful things when I was growing up, now I look to the kindness and generosity of those who share.

  11. 1. What are your thoughts and preferences on this long and short stitch idea?

    I think it is a fabulous idea, I have one of Trish’s books, but it is always helpful to see it in action. I am very intimidated and I have 2 kits that I have worked with very little success. So please, please, please help us beginners.

    2. What type of instructive articles about embroidery would you be interested in seeing on Needle ‘n Thread in the upcoming months?

    Mary, I would love the Long and Short stitch, but what I would really want is Goldwork! I am working the EGA CC Luck of the Irish shamrock. I am a bit frustrated. I have checked out your video tutorials, and all your Goldwork posts. They are so very helpful. I think a couple of video’s on this topic would be very helpful.

    I feel weird asking you to work more for us, you don’t even ask for money to maintain your site. You are so very nice to continue this for us. Appreciation is not enough of a gesture. However, THANK YOU!

    I would like to contribute to your giveaways. It is the least I can do to help out. I will be contacting you for a place to send my threads and fabric.

  12. I’d love to learn the long and short stitch – really any fill stitches scare me. I tried my hand with just the satin stitch and on anything bigger than a dime, it bunches the fabric (pulling tension too much?!?). Learning how to know what direction to make a fill stitch go or how long to make it before it doesn’t look good, etc. See – lots of fear there! LOL

    I like the idea of taking a project we can all follow along with – same design for beginner and advanced at the same time.

    As always – I’ll take whatever information I can get from you 😀

  13. Hi Mary,
    I’d like to see the whole project from the beginning, even though I am experienced with long and short. What I’m really excited about is the project preparation you described! For many years I stitched from kits and have been struggling to ‘master’ the whole process of creating my own kit!
    I’d love to follow along with your supply list, selections, etc. especially learning the reasons why one type thread or color/shade range was selected.
    As for future articles – I’d like to learn more about what type of thread to use for what type of project – for example, which projects/techniques/stitches benefit from linen thread? Has anyone used bamboo thread and if so what were the pros and cons?
    Just a few thoughts because whatever you decide to do with the project or write about in the coming months – I’ll enjoy it!

  14. Hello,
    I’ve never left a comment since now (I’d rather read English than write it). But I just wanted to tell you that I love your blog and all the knowledge that you share with us.
    I would enjoy a stitch along, as you mean few months ago, with lessons from basics to more complicated. It would be so great to follow a whole project !

  15. I just started working on my long and short stitch using Trish Burrs book “Long and Short Stitch Embroidery: A Collection of Flowers”. I would LOVE to see how you work this stitch and learn whatever tips you have for us. I am particularly interested in how you keep direction changes subtle and how you choose shades of color. This is the type of embroidery that I am really interested in learning how to do well.

  16. I’d love to see a series on long and short stitch as it has me somewhat stumped. From basics to advanced would be great! I also would love to see you give info as to why certain threads are chosen, how they behave, and tips on overcoming the problems that are encountered with each type of thread. I thoroughly enjoy your blog.
    Claudia in MO

  17. Hi, Mary!
    If you ask I would like you go from the very beggining.
    I have a little Trish Burr kit for long; I’ve begun but… not finished.

    Today I am in troubles with the little circles in satin stitch of your letter F I’m embroidering in one of the linen towels you saw – I can’t make a clean circle in satin stitch!!! I have everything embroidered but the circles. I’ve undone two times and decided try again tomorrow. I was linked to your blog almost all the afternoon looking for any tip.
    I’ll show you the result if you allow me to send a mail.
    And thanks for the treasure you are.Really.

  18. From the questions I’ve been asked, I think ‘from the beginning’ would be a good thing. (Remember when I began? 🙂

    And some of the more complicated techniques as well.

    Everything, in other words!

  19. Oh, I would definitely be interested in seeing long and short stitch explained from the begining upwards. I have tried it before but just know there is a whole heap of stuff I don’t know!

  20. Hi, All! Thanks for your input! I appreciate all the suggestions and different ideas! Thanks!

    BJ – Thanks for your e-mail! I received it, and responded, but an hour later I got a “failed” notice in delivery. For some reason, AOL does not like e-mail from my e-mail address. I don’t know how to go about correcting the problem; my Internet Service Provider says the problem is on the AOL end. AOL says the problem is that Needle ‘n Thread registers as “spam” mail, which I’m not! If anyone out there has suggestions on how to fix my perpetual AOL e-mail problem, I am all ears! (It’s very frustrating!)

    Thanks, BJ, for the kind offer! I’ll be in touch as soon as I can get this silly e-mail situation rectified (I’ve been trying for months and months!)

    Thanks again, everyone!


  21. Mary,
    You are so considerate to poll everyone for just the right tone and setting for your instruction. May I offer an observation? You are a natural teacher, and if you just do it as you see best, it will be perfect! In your 3rd paragraph, you mention the simmering and boiling and what appears to be erratic (on the surface) attention given to various other pursuits. I think it is simply “the creative process” at work, and I am confident that whatever you offer will be a gift and a blessing to all of us. I hope that encourages you. I know you’ve encouraged me. Thank you so much for all you do.

  22. I will add Needle and Thread to my safe sender list. I will attempt to do this now, but I am on meds from surgery. I will see how it goes.

    I apologize for this. Thanks again Mary.

  23. Fthe same reasons than Coeur de Freesia I read your blog but do’nt post on it.
    I like long and short stitches and
    this idea of stitch along from B-A BA to advanced is very pleasant .

  24. I would love to learn long and short but I would need to begin with very basic instruction and progress from there. Please, please, please.
    Alice McClelland

  25. Mary, I’d love to see you return to your original idea of a long and short stitch project with weekly instruction from beginning to end. I know this would be a LOT of work, but it surely seems that there is plenty of interest here.


  26. i too would love to learn the basic
    lessons would love to do some “paintings” of my dog and horses
    am looking forward to the lessons

  27. Mary,
    I am a lurker on your blog. You are very inspiring to me. I would love any help on the long and short stitch as I am a beginner. You have done great so far so I am sure whatever you chose will be wonderful. I am about to embark on my first L & S stitch project, hopefully it will turn out nicely.

  28. Hi Mary
    I’ve been itching to do some thread painting for ages. I have Tanja B’s Iris but am afraid to start it. I don’t want to mess it up. I also love her birds. I also have all of Trish Burr’s books.

    My preference would be to start at the beginning, for the truly ignorant, like me and continue on as far as you will go.

    I’m hoping that with your guidance and the opportunity to learn this with an online group of friends, that I can master this gorgeous technique.

    Thanks so much for this chance to learn L and S. I can hardly wait.

    Shari M

  29. Hello Mary

    I understand because the same thing happens to me! when you say ..”I get caught up in new plans and ideas with a bit too much enthusiasm before old ideas have come to fruition!”,
    With respect to your plan

    I think, because I’m learning a lot in this way,that it would be great to follow a project with a kit, that can be a step by step with this technique. I think it is the best way to learn, because we’ll can to see like you solved your work and do the same and especially :how do you make and apply this technique.

    Whatever you decide,I will follow your project as usual, because your blog is like my book header!

    All the best for you dear Mary

    Maria del valle

  30. Hi, BJ – thanks for doing that! My e-mail address is mary (at) needlenthread -dot- com

    I’m heading out the studio now, but if you do get a chance to do that, drop me another e-mail, and I’ll be in touch as soon as I return to the Real World!



  31. Mary, I’d love to learn the long and short stitch from the very basic beginning onward. I’ve fallen in love with the little birds and eventually want to be good enough at the long and short stitch to tackle them. By the way I love reading your blog.

  32. Hi Mary, I’ve been looking on the web a tutorial of how to make the long and short stitch when I found your blog, its wonderful! I saw your works and inspired me to finish one I have postponed for three years. So, I want to learn this stitch from the very basic, when will you post the first lesson? I’m anxious!

  33. I have tried to use long and short stitching, but along the way get confused and end up with rows, ridges, bands of stitches across the area. Also, I know practice is the cure, but ideas on blending colors. I look at the bird example and see a lot of different colors being used and am amazed at the depth, but am at a loss of how to know what to use, how, to get such an effect.

  34. please do a tutorial on long and short stich soon, i am a long time hand stitcher in other arenas and hand embroidery is brand new to me, my grandmother was excellent at it and i want to know it too, thank you from South Carolina

  35. Hello and MANY thanks for this blog! I only recently discovered it–so happy that I did. I, too, would love a tutorial on the long and short stitch, which I have always found to be deceptively tricky to get right. Your examples above are splendid; please add my voice to those who would love your advice. Thank you from Chicago.

  36. You know, I didn't enjoy the way you spoke about cross stitch in an earlier post! I find this one of the most difficult forms of embroidery – keeping count and not losing my place in the chart is difficult for me. In many ways it is more of a challenge for me than surface embroidery in which I feel I can go with the flow and express my self so much more easily. However, I find the appeal of certain pieces very great – especially those like the project that you have undertaken. I can tell it is not easy for you either – despite your great expertise in other kinds of work. Yes the stitch is simple, but the work that goes into the design and the choice of colour is great indeed and for me is just diferent not better or worse! I have embarked upon it again after about 10 years or so and there is so much very beautiful work being done – which is actually far more beautiful and challenging not to mention time-consuming than the simple outline embroidery (which is frequently dull in design and execution) many people are doing right now. Surface embroidery can be very exciting but not everyone can make it so – just like cross stitch. I mean, wouldn't designing your own chart be a massive challenge for you – it would me. Yet I can do my own designs for surface work easily! Both forms are beautiful, both have their challenges and their experts who leave you awed by what can be achieved. Cross stitch is not the poor relation of embroidery, really it is not. I work at all these counted things – knitting, crochet and now cross stitch because they afford me a extra challenge as someone for whom counting is a big deal as I am very mathmatically challenged. When I suceed – and there can be a lot of frustration along the way then I have met my challenge. My natural home is hand sewing, dress making and embroidery; anything where I have a free reign, but to step outside my comfort zone is good for me I think. For other people the opposite is true, the confines of a grid come naturally and easily and they like the safety of knowing where each stitch will be. It is not a competition! There are greatly skilled people working cross stitch too! I wish I were one of them. I enjoy looking at all forms of embroidery. Incidently many of the old samplers from a couple of hundred years ago were completely done in cross stitch. Cross stitch samplers are not a modern invention. Look at the French versions they are often in one colour too and often very beautiful. Some times it's easy to mock something for it's simplicity – and what could be easier than a cross stitch one after the other? but sometimes it's just a cover for what we don't want to admit – that we find it difficult!

  37. Well, thanks for your input. It seems I've upset you somehow, and if that's the case, I apologize.

    I never said I don't do counted cross stitch – I think if you look around the website enough, you'll find that I have a counted project going right now. You'll also find that I promote certain types of counted work (especially antique samplers) with enthusiasm, and I've even been known to design some counted pieces myself (blackwork, in particular). It doesn't mean that I have to like all counted cross stitch, or even the majority of counted cross stitch. Everyone has his or her own tastes and enjoys different styles of embroidery more than others. For example, I'm not into fat snowmen in primary colors on 14 count aida cloth. I also don't like to spend long stretches of time on counted cross stitch – no matter how much I might like the design – because I find it monotonous. I don't think there's anything wrong with admitting this on my own website, but I am sorry if I offended you somehow.


  38. I have been working in the medium of long stitch for some years now and am getting along quite ‘Tickety Boo’. But starting in quite a new direction I find a few problems to conquer, these I could eventually overcome by trial and error or by ‘Suck it and see’. However for the sake of speed does anyone out in Stitchland know which is the best STRONG adhesive to use with stranded embroidery cotton and fabric that will not discolour. Also I am eager to establish a supplier of VERY STONG magnets ( Small and thin).
    Any help gratefully accepted.
    Thanks a bunch.

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