Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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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The Blackwork Fish Is Coming Along Swimmingly!


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You’d think that, with all the “time off” from blogging, I would have finished the Blackwork Fish by now! Alas, it is not the case! Still, the embroidery on this fishy fellow has come along fairly well. I’ve finished the body, the tail, and a bit of fin.

What I liked best about this project up to the point of starting the tail was the diversity of stitches. Embroidering the body of the fish was fun, regardless of stitching solely in black for a relatively long time.

Blackwork Embroidery Fish in Progress

I found myself getting pretty excited as I approached the last few inches of filling down by the tail, but what I failed to realize is that the embroidery was going to become rather dull after finishing the inside of the body. But more on that, later!

Blackwork Embroidery Fish in Progress

Down the middle of the fish in the area approaching the tail (called the caudal peduncle), I wanted a rather bold lateral line to mimic the natural lateral line on most fish, but more than that, to break up the body of the embroidered fish. To make the line more noticeable, I probably should’ve left more open white space. I found myself having to think backwards on this project if I wanted something to really stand out. Instead of making prominent areas darker, I found they stood out better if I made them lighter.

All in all, though, the lateral line worked out ok – I wasn’t about to start picking things out at this point!

Blackwork Embroidery Fish in Progress

Part of my goal on this project was to use many different stitches, but I didn’t really achieve that. I was happy to be able to sneak in herringbone stitch at the very end of the tail.

Blackwork Embroidery Fish in Progress

Then, time to fill in with some more swirlies worked in backstitch with one of the finer threads….

Blackwork Embroidery Fish in Progress

… and finally, the body of the fish is full! Now, that was FUN! I think I may very well undertake more projects like this one in the future.

Blackwork Embroidery Fish in Progress

Next up was outlining. Using one of the thicker threads in the original blackwork silk thread pack, (but not the thickest, which outlines the body of the fish), I outlined the tail and started on some of the fins. At this point, I was still deliberating on what to do with the fin areas.

Blackwork Embroidery Fish in Progress

And this is pretty much what I’ve decided on – for ALL the fins. Simple lines in a finer thread, to create a contrast with the rest of the more complex body of the fish.

Admittedly, I thought I would be finished by now. I find the backstitching a rather sleepy, slow endeavor. I miss the wilder, weirder filling on the body of the fishy beast. But – ah, well! – once finished, it’ll be worth it!

Still wondering how I’ll put the thing to use…. I’ve narrowed it down to wall decor, a pillow, or the outside pocket of a tote. What’s your vote?

You can see the development of this whole project here: Follow the Blackwork Fish


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(25) Comments

  1. first of all congrates for new nedlenthread.am regular reader of it,though i hv never commented.i just luv the fishy as its going.luv u mary.

  2. Wow! This is looking fantastic! I really like your choice for the fins, I think it works well and does not distract from gorgeous designs on the body. I’d sort of like to see it on the wall, myself, but I’m sure it will look great however you decide to display it.

  3. Hi Mary,

    I am not receiving your emails anymore….if I had not gone on to Twitter I would not have known your site was up and running.

    Please add me again to your newsletter.

    Thank you, Jane

  4. Mary,
    The fishie looks great – I love all the swirly lines evoking water. I’m on a tote bag kick right now so that’s what I vote for. Maybe on black and yellow fabric.

  5. Hi Mary,
    Your new site looks great. I am so happy your back. I would like to ask a question about thread. I searched the site but did not find an answer. Why does my floss twist so much? I don’t know how to avoid this. It does not look smooth when I see my finished embroidery step. Its bugging me. I have waxed it. Untwisted it before starting but it just twists. Is that the way it is supposed to be. Nora

  6. dear Mary, Once more congratulations with this beautiful user friendly website, especially for someone like me who still stumble my way through the internet but I am getting there! 🙂 It is really magnificent. The team that did the web design know what they were doing. And as far as Mr Fish goes, I still think he is too good for anything but being framed and put behind glass.
    Well to a long and happy relationship between you and me and all your devoted followers!!! xxx

  7. Great Job, Mary! This looks awesome. This is the best website I’ve ever seen. So well organized, very easy to find everything.

    I wish you continued success with this website and CONGRATULATIONS :))

    1. Hi, all! Thanks for your kind comments! Gosh, it’s good to be back!

      Now I just hope my content can measure up to the design of the site! :-/

      Once school is out, I’ll definitely have more time to develop the content a bit more and add some planned improvements. I’m even planning to replace the videos with clearer versions – same stuff, just easier to see clearly! But that will be a huge summer project. At the same time, I have a whole list of stitches to add to the how to videos.

      Nora – concerning the thread, what type are you using? In this fish project, I’m using 8 different sizes of silk. The three smallest sizes are a flat silk and these threads don’t twist as much. The rest of the sizes are all twisted silks, very much like buttonhole twist, and they do twist more than usual! The easiest solution is to drop your needle and thread towards the floor every now and then and let the thread unwind itself. Another solution, but it takes getting used to, is watching how you insert and remove the needle from the fabric. If you practice always keeping the eye in the same direction and not turning your needle, you’ll find that the thread doesn’t twist up as much. But – oh! this is difficult! I’ve tried to get the hang of the non-turning needle for years, and unless I really concentrate, it doesn’t happen! So I’m a needle and thread dropper. Occasionally, I’ll take my needle off the thread and just pull the thread gently through my fingers from the fabric to the tip of the thread several times, until the extra twist is all gone. Then I’ll thread up and start again. With very cranky threads, I do this quite often. With less cranky threads, I only have to do it now and then.

      Thanks again for all your kind comments! I’m So Glad everyone likes the site so far!


  8. Mary, Congrats! The site looks great! I have missed your daily newsletter, so I am very happy that you are back. Now to go browsing.

  9. Hooray – the new site is up and looking good! And I can even access it from work still (so far).

    The fish is looking very good. I get the twisting also, and depending on my mood, either I stitch until it’s twisting and let the needle hang and untwist, or if I’m being picky about even stitches, I will roll the needle between my fingers a couple of times every few stitches. I’m usually concentrating on making the stitch look nice rather than watching if I’m turning the needle.

  10. Hi Mary,
    The fish looks great! I would vote for a pocket on a tote but I don’t know how you ever decide what to do with everything you embroider! I’ve only been at it about a year and already have so many embroidered pieces that are just piled up in a drawer waiting to be made into SOMETHING! But I don’t know what! Pillows – I have enough! Framed and on the wall – I also have enough stuff on the walls! Any ideas about what to DO with everything we embroider for the pure joy of stitching would be appreciated!
    After a day of squizzing around your site I like it even more!

  11. Hi Mary!
    The new site is great! I checked out a few of the features and they seem to be working well. I really like the fish, it is too cool, and with all the work and different kinds of stitches, I think it should get framed. Hang it in the Dining Room or Kitchen.

  12. Your new site looks great! It’s very easy to find your way now. Your fish is just marvellous. It’s a lovely project to start blogging on your new site.

  13. Hi Mary,
    This really is the “new and improved” version of the old Needle’n’Thread! The ease of navigation due to the new organization of topics is excellent, and the search (site only) mechanism is very efficient. I very much like the new “Embroidery Styles” topic, too. What can I say? I like everything about the new site.

  14. Thank Heavens you are up and running – I was going into withdrawal! The fish is looking great, and I love the way the video tutorials now have thumbnails for a “table of contents”. Being a visual person, i could remeber what I wanted a stitch to look like, but not what it was called. Thanks for all your work!

  15. I found your site a few months back when I picked up embroidering a crazy quilt. I absolutely love your website and I am loving the new one even more. I’m inspired everytime I visit!

  16. Lovely to be able to say again ‘G’day Mary’,
    Have only a minute so will browse later.
    The fish hasn’t gone ‘off’ in the waiting. It’s as fresh and delightful as ever. Beaut.
    Cheers for now, Kath.

  17. Hii Mary,
    From the beginning of this project I’d been wondering how it’s going to luk. He has come out beyond my imaginatiions.. beautiful.. no.. no.. HANDSOME..I ‘ll never give my vote to use it for a pillow.. My vote is for the tote bag with which u can show him off to everyone..

  18. Wow, this is fantastic! Your site is such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your passion. 🙂 (Oh and, I vote for wall decor, as well.)

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