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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Mom’s Needlework Adventures


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My Mom was cleaning out some stuff the other day and came across a few little needlework-related items that she handed over to me, which led me to thinking about different needlework projects Mom has done over the years.

Many folks are lucky enough to learn their needlework skills from their moms, grandmothers, aunts, etc. In my case, I’d say I learned the proclivity towards any kind of crafty-artsy stuff from Mom, but not necessarily specific needlework skills. My Mom, who turns 75 this weekend, was rather the artistic type when she was younger. She took up painting at some point in her eary married years, and even enjoyed showing her work at an art gallery at one point and selling it. She also taught art in a private school in the San Francisco Bay Area for a bit. She was dabbler in lots of things – sewing, painting, needlework, crochet, etc., and most of her kids have ended up being dabblers in one (or many) creative way or another. We dabble. We flit about. What can I say?

Pinkie and Blue Boy in needlepoint

These are the pieces that instigated this post. They’re needlepoint versions of Pinkie and Blue Boy, famous paintings by Thomas Lawrence and Thomas Gainsborough, respectively. They’re not finished. In fact, I think Mom picked out the background stitching and never finished them.

Pinkie and Blue Boy in needlepoint

I like them – they may be salvagable, though I don’t know what I would salvage them into, except framed pieces.

Pinkie and Blue Boy in needlepoint

They’re worked in two sizes of stitches on Penelope canvas – the detailed faces are smaller stitches, and most of the rest of the figures are worked in larger stitches.

Pinkie and Blue Boy in needlepoint

I always thought Blue Boy looked a bit jaunty.

Pinkie and Blue Boy in needlepoint

I like his little shifty eyes. He’s definitely checking out Pinkie…

Pinkie and Blue Boy Statues

My Mom has always had a penchant for Things Pinkie-and-Blue-Boy. These statues were with us in every house we lived in – and we lived in Many Houses, all over the country!

Studying the Pinkie and Blue Boy canvases led me to another work of my Mom’s from her early married days:

The Lord's Prayer Stamped Cross Stitch, 1959

I never knew a time when this wasn’t on a wall of our homes growing up. It was made from a stamped cross stitch kit Mom bought two years after she was married (so that would have been in 1959, making the piece exactly 50 years old).

The Lord's Prayer Stamped Cross Stitch, 1959

Let’s see if I can get it right: the stamped fabric cost her 59 cents, and the thread for it cost 30 cents. An 89-cent project – 50 years old – not bad!

The Lord's Prayer Stamped Cross Stitch, 1959

She paid $20 to have it framed four years later.

The year Mom got married, she made this baby quilt:

Vintage Embroidered Baby Quilt: Peter Rabbit and Company

This was another kit – stamped embroidery, featuring Peter Rabbit and Company.

Vintage Embroidered Baby Quilt: Peter Rabbit and Company

The piece features several stitches – mostly cross stitch, but also a good smattering of satin stitch, stem stitch and daisy stitch.

Vintage Embroidered Baby Quilt: Peter Rabbit and Company

It’s funny to look at this now, when these types of vintage embroidery patterns have become pretty popular once again.

Vintage Embroidered Baby Quilt: Peter Rabbit and Company

There are a couple stains on the Peter Rabbit section. One of these days, I’ll try to remove them!

Vintage Embroidered Baby Quilt: Peter Rabbit and Company

Nice little watering can… The quilt top was pre-printed with the pattern when Mom bought the kit. She did the embroidery, then put the blanket together…. almost 52 years ago! She was expecting my oldest sister at that point.

Vintage Embroidered Baby Quilt: Peter Rabbit and Company

I like the little bird…

Vintage Embroidered Baby Quilt: Peter Rabbit and Company

…but the pink eyes are a bit freaky!

Vintage Embroidered Baby Quilt: Peter Rabbit and Company

The cottontails are little cotton pom-poms that have held up really well for this many years and several babies’ usage!

Later on in life, Mom took up counted cross stitch, and vestiges of her efforts can still be seen around her house.

Three Counted Cross Stitch Birds

Mom has always liked birds.

St. Francis Prayer in Counted Cross Stitch

This was one of my grandmother’s favorite prayers (my Mom’s mom), and subsequently one of Mom’s. Mom said she almost kicked herself when she finished the piece and realized she had not cut her fabric large enough for the type of framing she wanted. Still, this has been a nice piece in her house for the past 25 years or so.

Like Pinkie and Blue Boy, the St. Francis Prayer is a recurring theme in her house:

St. Francis Prayer Plaque

My grandmother gave my Mom and Dad this plaque (which is only about 4″ x 6″) as a gift many, many years ago – another thing I remember always being on a wall in our homes across the country.

Mom’s present needlework pursuits involve crochet only, and she makes some pretty nice doilies, tablecloths, and filet crocheted lace for church use.

Crocheted Doilie

Mom didn’t make this, but it was in among her needlework things – a souvenir from a one of her trips to Hong Kong many ye
ars ago:

Oriental Baby Carrier

She says it’s a baby carrier. Her escapades on this trip to Hong Kong were pretty funny. It was her first time abroad, and she had no idea how money exchanging actually worked. When she exchanged money for the first time, she couldn’t believe how much they gave her back! So she had fun shopping with it!

Oriental Baby Carrier

The embroidery is machine embroidery; I think it’s kind of neat! This has seen several appearances on kids in school plays, costumes, and so forth. I don’t think she ever actually used it as a baby carrier!

Mom’s needlework adventures also included afghan-making, quilting, sewing children’s clothes, making things for the house, and so forth. She’s always been a project woman! And it’s always heaps of fun, going through her old pattern books and needlework items!

Happy 75th, Mom!


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(23) Comments

  1. So many treasures!
    Have a wonderful weekend with your Family and enjoy your Mother’s birthday!
    Give your Mother a BIG HUG from Portugal!

  2. These are great! I have some things from my mom & grandmother, too.
    Happy Birthday to your mom, AnneG in NC

  3. Thankyou Mary for sharing this with us – Happy birthday to your mother and many happy returns. i really love all her needlework especially the Peter Rabbit blanket – my children’s favourite stories 40 odd years ago – it is so beauitifully depicted in the blanket – a real heirloom – such memories.

  4. your mom’s carrier is a mei tai and I use one myself on a daily basis although not nearly as lovely as hers. I have pictures of it in use on my blog (strawberry day)

    I love to read your blog as I slowly embark on emroidery. I’m a dabbler myself.

  5. I agree with Chilly Hollow–I think with the right trims, the canvasses would look great on pillows. Your mom made some wonderful treasures! The quilt is especially wonderful, mostly for its sweet unaffected style. Wish Mom a very happy birthday!

  6. The smaller stitching seems very appropriate for the shadowy areas. Very clever and distinctive looking. Your Mom is a great Needlepointer.

  7. Thank you for sharing your post of your mother’s things! As a little girl I always had two paintings of Pinkie and Blue Boy in my bedroom. Recently at an auction I came across two plates with them. No one knew what they were so I got them both for 7 dollars in mint condition. I found two more smaller ones on brass plates at a yard sale for a dollar.
    I would love to see what you end up doing with your two pieces. If you come up with a pattern for them for regular embroidery, please post I would love to make that a new project! Beautiful work!

  8. Mary, it is easy to see where you got your love of all things associated with needle and thread. I know that the treasures from your mother are priceless to you!

  9. Hear, Hear, Cheers to your Mom. Happy Birthday and hopfully many more. I hope she is healing fine after her injury earlier this year.

  10. Mary,
    First: Happy Birthday to your MOM!
    Her works are real treasures and it’s times like these that you should be thankful that they were saved (and it such good condition!).
    Now we can all see that needlework talent must be in your family’s genes and you have taken it a giant step further. Thanks for sharing, Linda

  11. I would like to wish your mother a Very Happy Birthday. Kudos to you for preserving her needlework so well. She has passed on her love for needlework to you.

  12. A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to your MOM!
    Treasure each and every moment with her…I know you are! What treasures she has done. I have some of my mother’s work. She taught me many things when I was going up, which I in turn taught my daughters and now I hope to teach my grandchildren!
    Annie in Michigan

  13. What a sweet tour through your mother’s needle-life!

    Those needlepoint figures you started with…of course my CQ mind would say to carefully cut them out and applique them onto a crazy quilt block….

  14. Shraddha G from Pune, India says,
    Let me wish your mother heartiest belated birthday wishes and also thank her for giving us, her daughter Mary, who very thoughtfully has shared her treasures with all my friends all over the world.

  15. Miss J

    Thats a Mai Tai! They are great baby carriers. I didnt know that the “real” ones were so ornate. Try a search for them in some modern baby stores and they will be plain, sometimes ugly and always expensive!

    BTW – Just had baby #4 here -Gabriel, born on Baby #3 (whitney) first birthday – hows that for Catholic? =)

    Love to you and the family down there in OZ

  16. Hi Mary,

    Spending a cold winter morning having fun browsing at many of your past sites over the years. Came across this and sighed….such lovely sewing your dear mom did and such treasures for you. Thanks for sharing this little bit of your family with us. Best wishes in 2014. We all love and appreciate YOU!

  17. I know this is really old, but maybe somebody can tell me if the Lord’s prayer shown is incomplete or if this is the whole of the US version. The version I learnt in school has at least one more line. (Strange what you remember, but we had to sing it.)

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