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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A Brazilian Embroidery Odyssey


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Sharon Shetley of Threads in Bloom is going to share her Brazilian Embroidery Odyssey with us! Sharon is one of the “pioneers” when it comes to making Brazilian embroidery popular. Hers is a story of pursuing her passion for Brazilian Embroidery at a time when resources and instruction in the technique were scarce. Now, when supplies, books, kits, and instructions can be found with the click of a button, Sharon keeps her fingers in the Brazilian embroidery world by operating her own store dedicated to the technique. I hope you enjoy reading about her journey!

Brazilian Embroidery

In January of 1980, I went into a fabric store; on a bulletin board of upcoming classes was this beautiful needlework, with dimension. Petal stood up, away from the fabric, with fine details to the design, the thread had a wonderful sheen. It was magnificent. I HAD to learn how to do this embroidery. What kind of needle art was this? It was Brazilian Embroidery, and I was addicted to it at that moment!

That was the beginning, and what an adventure I have had and am still having. There were very few colors of threads at the time, no books and no patterns. The instructor drew our design for class onto the fabric for us. I started my own notebook of instructions. After each class I wrote instructions and made drawings, so I wouldn’t forget how to do what I learned that night. Oh – I was certainly addicted! I could not get enough. Since there weren’t designs or patterns to purchase, I started drawing my own and writing the instructions for my own future use. That still wasn’t enough for me. The person who taught me ask me to help her teach so we could have Beginner and Advanced classes, so I started teaching.

Brazilian Embroidery

In 1985, Threads in Bloom began to grow. Even then, I wanted more! So I contacted magazines to offer my designs and articles (at that time there had not been any magazine articles for Brazilian Embroidery ). On Christmas Eve, 1985, I received a call from McCall’s; they wanted use one of my designs. Finally, I was on my way!

Brazilian Embroidery

I have had the pleasure of teaching for many years, including at our local Jr. College, in Washington and in Fargo ND, at an annual Stitcher’s Retreat I have attended for the past five years. I have been able to take part with some of my work on a Friendship Tapestry that is in Iceland, with contributing stitchers from every continent, all joined in friendship. Another piece of my work is shown on a quilt in Kleminsky, Ukraine; and yet another piece has traveled to Russia to show one of types of needlework we do here in the US.

Brazilian Embroidery

Four years ago, I started my online store, Threads in Bloom. Threads in Bloom is a home and online business which occupies my evenings and weekends while I work full time in the medical field.

At this time (2010), I have had over 60 magazine articles published featuring my Brazilian Embroidery work, with another soon to be published. I presently offer complete Brazilian Embroidery kits in my online store, and I am fortunate to receive orders from all over the world.

Brazilian Embroidery, teaching, writing the magazine articles, designing and retailing supplies – all these have given me pleasure beyond words. As all stitchers know, our needle and thread can be our lifeline. It gets us through sorrow and tragedy, giving us pleasure every day.

Brazilian Embroidery

I am pleased to have ‘met’ people from all over the world, becoming distant friends with many of them. One lady sent me a note that she thought of me while visiting a museum of purses in Holland, because of the needlework on the purses. I felt honored to be thought of when someone was on such a special vacation. The friendships have been one of greatest rewards of my journey. And, so I shall go on from here!

Brazilian Embroidery

What is Brazilian Embroidery?

Brazilian embroidery is not limited in the stitches used, or to stitches that are “Brazilian.” The use of an array of stitches borrowed from many needle arts, combined with rayon twisted thread in various sizes, dealing fine growth was popularized in Brazil, and this is why this particular style of embroidery is called “Brazilian” embroidery.

Brazilian Embroidery

Brazilian embroidery is very dimensional and often referred to as Dimensional embroidery.

Although the design can be any subject, the main focus of Brazilian embroidery is flowers and nature. The thread used in Brazilian embroidery is a Z-twisted rayon thread, which is different from standard embroidery floss which has an “S” twist. The rayon thread has a lovely sheen and comes in over 200 solid, shaded and variegated colors.

Brazilian Embroidery

Most Brazilian embroidery is stitched on a poplin-type fabric. You may be familiar with ‘Trigger’ cloth. It has a fairly tight or closed thread. But Brazilian embroidery can be stitched on almost any fabric, from silk to sweat-shirt type fabric, to denim and batiste.

In Brazilian embroidery, we use Milliner needles. The eye of the needle is the same size as the shaft, which helps when pulling the needle through wraps of thread (bullions) or cast-on stitches. A bulging eye would make it very difficult.

Brazilian Embroidery

Brazilian embroidery looks much more difficult than it is. You would already be familiar with many of the stitches used in the technique, like stem, couching, French knots, and buttonhole. Bullion knots that add dimension are merely stitches made by wrapping the rayon thread around the needle. Cast-on stitch is used in knitting; in Brazilian embroidery, we just use a different needle and thread. It is the placement of the bullions and cast-ons that create the flowers and other patterns or shapes.

Brazilian Embroidery

I hope you will visit my on line store, Threads in Bloom, to see my designs and the beautiful color of threads, books, needles and various other necessary stitching toys!

It has been fun reminiscing and sharing my story with you and showing you some of my designs! I look forward to your visit!

Update: 2021 – Threads in Bloom has closed.


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(28) Comments

  1. I’ve been waiting for this blog to appear. Such beautiful work! I love the sheen of the rayon flosses. At my local fabric store they have a rack of EdMar floss. I bought several skeins just because I liked the way it looked. Only I found it doesn’t work so well for cross stitch. That’s when a friend mentioned it has to be prepped and is used for Brazilian embroidery. I’ve been fascinated ever since. I’ve even purchased more skeins of EdMar. Now I just have to learn.

  2. Hi Mary
    Me again. Thank you very much for your quick and thorough answers to my questions. Since I am new at this I have LOTS of questions!! A little about myself – I have a condition called Tardive Akathisia which causes constant and involuntary movement, clenching and releasing, looking like I’m playing the piano when I’m not, etc., in my fingers, toes and feet. It gets very annoying and painful because the muscles that control my feet, lower legs, hands and arms get overused.
    BUT, I have discovered that when I am using my hands doing embroidery the movement in my hands stops. Yay! Unfortunatelly, my feet keep going, but 50% stopping feels wonderful. So I am greatful I have found this activity. Now, for my “next” question — I have recently purchased a pre-stamped, very pretty crewel kit of a field of violets with their leaves and some pretty little pink and violet flowers scattered about. But I absolutely hate the yarn (yes, it is yarn that came with the kit. The texture and colors are totally ugly. What fiber would you recommend a getting-more-skilled-bit-by-bit beginner use to work this pattern? I have a very complete shop within driving distance (Threadneedle Street), so I’m sure I can get whatever you recommend there. I want luscious, rich colors, but not shiny or glossy. (P.S. – when I open my email every day your site is the first one I look at.) Thank you again.

    1. Well, I think you’ll need to look at what they have available at Threadneedle Street. Off the top of my head, I’d suggest you use a 100% natural fiber. Don’t use a blend, unless it is a silk / wool blend. I like the following wools: Renaissance Dying, D’Aubusson by Au Ver a Soie, Heathway wools, and Simply Wool. I think they carry (or can order) D’Aubusson at Threadneedle Street. Appleton is ok, too, if you can’t find the others. Hope that helps….

  3. These are beautiful embroideries. Thank you for this post. I have seen the term Brazilian Embroidery a lot recently and wondered what it was. Now I know.

  4. G’day Mary and Sharon,

    I’ve only seen Brazilian embroidery in photos. Only the odd one has appealed to me. I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint a reason and not for want of wondering. Maybe it would be different if I saw actual items of work in the stitch as it were.

    With the pictures of your embroidery Sharon, there is certainly a higher ratio of likes to indifferent than is usual for me. So you’ve upped Brazilian embroidery in a lovely way for me, on Mary’s blog. Thank you both.

    I particularly like the Bird of Paradise and the teapot/flowers. I’ve looked up your store and the designs like Hidi, Emma and Gathering Wreath are especially appealing to me, amoung others.

    All good. Thanks,
    Cheers, Kath.

  5. Hi Mary and Sharon..great post about brazillian embroidery..I would like to know what is the stitch in the first pink flower..it is most gorgeous among all the other stiches..

  6. hi mary & sharon what a nice projects! i want to know what is the stitch in the first pink flower…
    hiroshima from beautiful island SRI LANKA

  7. Hi Mary,I’m veronika. Just a 18 years old girl. your designes were so beautiful. I would like to stay near to you.

  8. Mary, coincidentally I have become interested in knowing more about Brazilian embroidery and looked up the topic here on N&T. Clicking on Sharon’s Threads In Bloom web link, I found that sadly, she is closing her e-store, but will continue with the blog.

    Just thought you might like to know.

  9. Hello , I live outside Portland Oregon and took a Brazilian embroidering class several years ago. Absolutely fell in love w results but can’t find any classes .. anywhere. Any suggestions? Thanks

  10. Hi, Mary, is Sharon Shetley still active? The Threads in Bloom site isn’t available. Some questions came up about the use of various threads in Brazilian embroidery came up, and I found your article.

  11. Yeah, it’s 2021. This web site no longer exists. Do you have another go-to site for these Rayon threads, etc?

    And is **all** Rayon Z twist?

    1. You might google “EdMar embroidery threads” or something similar. There are several places online where they are available, I believe. Yes, Rayon thread is z-twisted.

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