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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Reader’s Embroidery: Icon


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Anne G. sent along some photos of her latest piece, an embroidered icon. The the piece is small, it “packs a lot of punch.” Though the piece has a somewhat modern flair to it, it reflects the icon tradition in religious art. I thought you would enjoy seeing it.

Anne embroidered the piece as a gift. The completed size is 4.5″ x 5.25″, so quite small, but the space is used really well.

Hand Embroidered Icon by Anne Gomes

The design is from a book called A Brush With God, and the original picture is called “Peter’s Mother of God.” The original is by Peter Pearson, who kindly gave Anne permission to use it. The representation is of “Our Lady of Tenderness.”

Hand Embroidered Icon by Anne Gomes

The embroidery is worked entirely in flat silks, on silk upholstery fabric, mounted on high count muslin. The halo, or nimbus, is worked in pairs of #8 Japanese gold – it’s really beautiful!

Hand Embroidered Icon by Anne Gomes

And this is the framed piece. I think the framing is ingenious – it really sets off the embroidered piece well.

Thanks so much for sending the photos, Anne! It’s always a pleasure to see you’re work!


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(12) Comments

  1. This is gorgeous! I love the tenderness icons…
    I have been wanting to embroider Our Lady of Czestochowa, but have never been able to figure out how to go about attacking it. I wonder if there is a pattern somewhere?

  2. The icon is nice. The embroidery looks perfect. How did she manage satin stitching over such wide spaces. Is it padded or is it couched? I’m talking about the red hood at the top.

  3. Thanks for your kind remarks. I asked Mary for permission to reply to the questions. Re Our Lady of Czestochowa, in the tradition of iconography, one should make copies to learn, but you should be faithful to the tradition of the original as you make your copy, using similar colors, etc. So, find a good copy of Czestochowa, photocopy it, make a line tracing, transfer to fabric and embroider her. I asked when I did mine about padding the hands, but icons are 2 dimensional, flat. The only padding is in the diagonal stitch on the trim of the halos and around the veil. The dimension of the veil comes from the shine and color of the silk.
    The flat silk of the veil is a Japanese technique called weft foundation. I used 2 strands of flat silk and pulled it tight, laying with a tekobari. As soon as I could in the process I did the holding with twisted silk karayori, couched down to hold the flat silk. Otherwise it gets the frizzies, like my curly hair. The rule is to go only 1 cm without holding of some kind in flat silk. I cheated a little on the top, as it is almost 3 cm, but since I held down the rest, it seems to be behaving. Since it is framed and not on a garment it should not be a problem. If it were going to be longer, I would have probably done a different technique called short stitch holding to keep it in place and shiny. Thanks again, Anneg

  4. I found another design for Our Lady of Czestochowa, and I like it better. You can email in English to this site in western Ukraine, at the Museum of Embroidered Icons, which actually includes other types of needlework (needlepoint, cross stitch, etc.) & which sells many designs: Click on Madonnas & keep looking. There is also a short YouTube introduction to the museum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8isUAhBtvQ .

    1. Kathryn – Thanks very much for these links! I’ve looked through them – they’re very interesting! Icon embroidery is quite an art, that’s for sure! ~MC

  5. Thanks for writing about satin stitching! It’s a stitch that I’ve never particularly enjoyed so it’s wonderful to see a discussion of other ways to fill larger spaces.

    And, by the way, I love, love, love the black work fish.

  6. Evangelism and Embroidery: Thank you so much for taking the time to share this image. I think this is an exquisite work of art; Truly extraordinary in its detail and brilliance. I would be curious as to the order of how the artist places each of the elements, especially on the face. For example does she needle paint the facial complexion first and then add the facial features. Or is it in reverse order. Mary’s cloak looks like a brush of velvet. Beautiful shading. I feel like I can almost brush my fingers against it to feel its soft edges. And tenderly crafted hands. I can attest that slim fingers are extremely difficult to toggle with a needle. And the technique on the halo is brilliant! Oh so beautiful! It takes our craft to new levels. I wonder if prayer part of the creation process as the work is truly divine.

    I create similar pieces on the back of pant legs – mostly jeans or an occasional tunic. They are a little larger than a 5” x 7” postcard. And although they are not as meticulously crafted, I have found them to be a wonderful evangelism tool. I put them on the back of the clothing, so that one can shift their attention to the image versus the person wearing it. I am often stopped. People will ask me if it is indeed Jesus, or Mary or a specific scene from the Bible. And when I confirm it, they express gratitude vs a compliment. It gives me tremendous joy! I hope that it inspires a prayer in that moment. And even at the grocery store, the image can open up a short conversation… With somebody sharing a bit about their faith journey. I don’t say much. I just listen. But when we part company, my heart feels as radiant as this precious image you have to put before us. Thank you for brightening my day and providing such an inspirational piece of art to push me forward!

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