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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Hand Embroidery: Lettering and Text 12: Coral Stitch and Adding an S


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Coral stitch is one of my favorite embroidery stitches, when I’m in the mood for it. When I’m not in the mood for it, it quickly slides to the bottom of the list! You can do a lot with the coral stitch – you can create nubby lines and curves, or you can even fill spaces by working lines and alternating the placement of the knots that the stitch produces. In this little example on my lettering sampler, I’m stitching some small letters – the word “dogs” – with coral stitch to create nubby letters.

If you’re just joining in here, you may wish to go through the other tutorials in this series on hand embroidered lettering. At this point in the series, the basics of stitching letters have already been covered, and you can find them in the earlier tutorials.

If you want to know how to work the coral stitch – or any other stitch used in this series, as a matter of fact – you can visit my video library of hand embroidery stitches. That’s where you’ll find instructions on individual stitches.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

On this lettering sampler, I’m stitching the word “dogs” in the lower left corner of the sampler. The red circle in the photo above indicates where this word is on the sampler, though you’ll probably notice that there’s no S on the end of the word! When I originally wrote out the text for this series, I wrote it incorrectly – it should read “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Since I left the S out, I’m trying to work in a few of them after “dog” here and there.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

I’m going to use a reddish-orange cotton floche for this word, and you can see in the photo above (circled in black) that I’ve penciled in an S.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

I ran into two difficulties with coral stitch on this word:

1. I’ve got my project set up in a bound hoop, with the fabric stretched taut in the hoop. This is not the easiest way to stitch coral stitches – it’s much easier to work coral stitch in hand, without a hoop, because you can manipulate the fabric. Since I’m working in a hoop, I resorted to the “stab” method of stitching. That is, I’m stabbing into the fabric and taking my needle and working thread all the way to the back of the fabric and then again to the front of the fabric, with every step of the stitch. Normally, with coral stitch, it’s easier to “scoop” your needle back and front again (the “sewing method” of hand embroidery), without actually taking your hand to the back of your fabric to pull the needle through. Still, stabbing works, and that’s how I worked the stitch on these letters.

2. The letters are small and relatively curvy. They are no more than half an inch high, which makes the curves in them just a bit tight. And this goes back to point #1 – if I were working in hand rather than in a hoop, it would be easier to maneuver around these curves. The stab method of stitching made it possible to get around the curves.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

When “stabbing” instead of “sewing,” you have to make sure you’re bringing your needle up into the loop of thread, in order to make the knot. Sometimes, I end up with very exaggerated loops!

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

At the beginning of the top of the D, my stitches are a bit too crowded, so I started spacing them out a bit as I worked down the D.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

Coral stitch looks better when the knots are evenly spaced. Still, on such little letters, the overall outcome of the uneven stitches wasn’t that disturbing. They ended up looking ok overall.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

When you work around the O in the coral stitch, try to space your knots so that your last knot lands in the right spot, so that the beginning and ending point are not noticeable.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

The D and the O. DO.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

And then the G. DOG.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

And finally, the straggling S, which was the most difficult letter to stitch because of the tight curves on an S only half an inch high. I admit it got a little sloppy there!

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text: Coral Stitch

But, overall, it worked out ok. Here’s the sampler so far.

As you can see, I’m starting to stitch the extra words now. Most of the extras will be stitched in many of the same stitches we’ve already covered in this series of tutorials, but now we can have some fun testing new threads and seeing how the stitches and letters work out, depending on the threads we use. The sampler’s turning out to be fairly colorful, and at this point, I’ve really enjoyed the stitching.

But there’s a word coming up, stitched in a thread that was new to me, that I really (REALLY) didn’t like, so it’ll be fun showing you that word. Wow. It was about the most unpleasant stitching experience I’ve had, and the reason, I have no doubt, goes back to the materials used.

And that brings me around to a subject I want to write about in some upcoming posts: the whole question of the materials we choose to embroider with. Is this a subject you would be interested in hearing my take on? Or do you get quite enough of that from me already? What think you?

Despite the busy time of year, don’t forget to relax a bit this weekend and get some stitching in! It’ll keep you sane!

Enjoy the weekend!


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(12) Comments

  1. Can never get enough information on the materials used in stitching. For example, which type of threads work best with what types of materials and projects, more on sources (online especially).

    My challenge as an American living in France has been to find good online sources for Appleton wool, crewel needles, linen and other materials, + accessories.

    I have found a very useful resource with a French to English translation of embroidery stitches at: http://annuairebroderie.canalblog.com/tag/dictionnaire
    (Coeur de Freesia's blog) – very helpful.

  2. Hi, Sharon!

    Thanks for your comment! I've got your e-mail regarding sources in France in the queue, awaiting for some response from some friends overseas who might be able to track down suitable (more local) online resources for you. We'll see if anything materializes! I will certainly send you any information I receive.

    Thanks as well for the translation dictionary of stitches – a wonderful resource!

    Along the same lines, Meri in Portugal has recent posted a Picture Dictionary of stitches in translation on her website here:
    Multi-Language Stitch Glossary
    Meri's glossary includes pictures of common embroidery stitches, with the names in five different languages – a very helpful resource, especially for those of us who like needlework books in other languages!

    I'll be in touch!


  3. Hi Mary!And Sharon!

    I'm smiling and you know why!
    Sharon comment here telling about Elena and you refer to OUR Multi-Language Stitch Glossary. Actually this is a nice name!:)

    Answering your question of course I, me, myself am very interested in hearing your take on(!?) (opinion, decision, choice?!)

    The coral knots are perfect – as you know I can't do coral knots very well with hoop…

  4. Coral stitch done in coral color! Neat! You've got a flair for those knot-type stitches that keep many of us glued to your projects.
    If you're going to give info on compatible materials, I speak for all when I say that it is a very helpful undertaking. Needle artists could be helped with that info. Suggestion, Mary: Write it in book form when you are all done; maybe a downloadable ebook so we could buy copies to keep on hand. I'm sure needle shops would stock it, so it would be beneficial to us as a group.

  5. Are you kidding? I could never get too much information about ALL aspects of embroidery! Your blog is the absolute best I have ever read; your liberal use of beautiful and clear photos/descriptions of work in progress and the creative process in general have helped me avoid similar "mistakes" and have saved me time I would otherwise have spent going through the same process. Kudos.

  6. I agree with Denise. You are the absolutely the best resource for all things needleword related, and I love the personal aspect as you share your likes and dislikes. I would love to learn more about the materials we use and what you have learned about them.

  7. Mary, Thank you so much for checking on possible sources for me in France with your stitching network. So appreciate it.

    Just checked Meri's glossary of stitches you mentioned. This is impressive – so much work. Particularly like the fact that there are illustrations of each stitch, and have already placed a link to the glossary on my computer.

    Ditto Denise's comments. I was so delighted to find your blog as a resource, and I read it daily. Found Yvette's Stanton's "Left-handed Stitch Dictionary" through you, too – a godsend.

  8. Dear Mary…..the "coral stitch". Now THAT is beautiful and so unique. It's surely true that the skies the limit when it comes to creative stitchery. And leave it to you my MentorMary to find these bits of jewels…and pass them along. Thanks again for the info on the Australian "Inspirations"….I agree it's a bit pricey but well worth it. I'm putting it into my January budget…..thanks again and have a wonderful and blessed Christmas…Judy in Pittsburgh

  9. Thanks, all, for your comments! I've got some ideas about writing about supplies, so hopefully over the Christmas break, I'll be able to dive into the subject a bit…

    Glad you like the nubby coral stitches, Judy! And THANK YOU for the Christmas card! I got it yesterday – it made my day!

    Hi, Laura! (I think you got truncated?)


  10. Hi Mary,

    Tell us all about what works well with what – you've become my guru. Never have enough of all your precious advice. I love your blog and look forward to reading it every morning.

    Thanks for your generous sharing of your extensive experience.

    Have a lovely Xmas.

  11. Hi, Maryvonne –

    Thanks for your kind comment! I'm putting together some ideas for some "serious" materials posts – we'll see what materializes. Oh, dear. Was that a pun?

    Thanks again!


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