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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Blackwork Fish Fin-ished.


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This Blackwork Fish embroidery project has dragged on long enough, hasn’t it? In my imagination, the project had become a big googly-eyed monster, and every time I sat down to do some stitching, it stared at me with a Certain Look that I generally ignored. But last night was different. Last night, I said, “That’s it! Like it or lump it, I’m finishing you now, and your little bubbles besides!”

And so I did. It’s not the best finish in the world, but by gum, it’s finished.

First, this is where we left off on the Blackwork Fish:

Blackwork Fish Embroidery Project

Before I could do any stitching, then, I had to remove the stitches that were already there, which everyone seemed to agree were too heavy for a bubble-path.

Blackwork Fish Embroidery Project

So, I flipped over the frame and snipped out the stitches.

*Sigh* I wish I hadn’t included the bubbles. I would like the fish better without them.

Blackwork Fish Embroidery Project

But since I used a permanent pen to draw them on, I was pretty much obliged to cover up the pen marks, including the parts of the bubbles that I messed up on when drawing the design!

Blackwork Fish Embroidery Project

Using one of the finer weights of the black silk threads I used for the whole project, I started stitching. To cover the lines, I used backstitch. I broke it up here and there, where there were no pen marks on the fabric, to try to lighten it up a bit.

Then, on to the bubbles, which I just randomly filled with whatever occurred to me while I was stitching.

The bubbles are a bit wonky and crooked…

Blackwork Fish Embroidery Project

… but they are filled, and the fish is finally finished.

Blackwork Fish Embroidery Project

I’m pretty sure the swimmy beast will end up on the outside pocket of a tote bag.

I don’t know about you, but for me, I am the queen of procrastination when I run into a snag like I did on this project. And then the project lingers for a while… But doesn’t it seem silly to leave something for so long that’s so nearly done? That’s how I felt yesterday evening when I took this up. Why did I leave it so long? Just get ‘er done! And golly, I feel better now!

Any finishes in your future?


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(34) Comments

  1. It looks fabulous – what a great ‘save’ on the bubbles too!

    Oh Mary … SO many finishes in my future … but they’re all on hold until I finish my City and Guilds embroidery course. Then I can stop making samples and actually make ‘stuff’! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Dear Mary , On you behalf I am so glad that you finished Mr Black Fish. He turned out so beautiful and I still feel he needs to be framed ๐Ÿ™‚ Why do i feel this way? Easy , if I remember correctly you still have a photo on your Facebook page of that just as handsome seahorse! and what a great couple they would make!! So if you have a little free time between all your teaching, think about it.Don’t think I have forgotten about the Lilac Breasted Roller either ;))))
    I know the feeling when you nearly finished a project, and you put it down for a while, Sometimes you have to force yourself to finished it. It once took me 15 years to finish a tapestry once, but eventually I did. What a relief!!! I think most of us have a little something that needs to be finished!!
    Enjoy the rest of your week! Love Elza . Cape Town xxx

  3. Bonjour Mary,
    Your bubbles are quite nice,they seem to float,I like it.When I opened your e-mail and saw the fish it made my day. Now, I have to try one all on my own.
    Good Day to you Mary and Thank you.

  4. I like very very much this fish. And the solution you’ve found for the bubbles is perfect.
    You are going to have a beautiful bag ๐Ÿ™‚

    I want to avoid your question… there are so many… do you remember Schwalm work? and so many others – it’s better not speaking about ๐Ÿ™

  5. What a handsome dude! I certainly know what you are talking about when procrastination sets in. I have some things I probably never will finish. Nothing on the horizon, though. The projects I have now all seem so huge.

  6. G’day there Mary,

    Those bubbles are actually bubbly. I’m glad you drew them in in the first place. For all his doodling, he’d be a bit static without his life bubbles. What a good job you did on them. Give youself a pat on the back.

    I have lots of finishing to do. Including finishing ‘finding’ my studio! I have a beaut space but…anyway, soon be time for new year resolutions so is always hope especially if I get the studio sort of under control before then.

    Cheers, Kath

  7. Finishing the bubbles & their path with such a delicate touch makes them feel so airy and the fish more solid. I do worry that he might not be able to withstand the wear & tear of a totebag.

    For some reason…maybe the random mix of stitches…this fellow just screams “Peter Max” to me. I thought it would pass as he progressed, but it hasn’t. Groovy!

  8. Mary,
    I LOVE this fish. Is there a book on blackwork because this is something I would like to try. It appealed to me the first time I saw it. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    I understand what you are saying about the bubbles not being exactly round, but I don’t know how you could have changed them. They look great and add character to the piece. I don’t think any needle work is PERFECT. Great job.

  9. I love the different fills on the bubbles…from a distance it has the effect of making the bubbles look 3D some recede a bit in the horizon while some look closer. I think the bubbles give the fish depth and movement so it doesn’t look so static or flat.

  10. Great solution for those bubbles. I thought they looked pretty good before, but they really seem to float now. And I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one with the “hit a snag. . . and stitch no more” issue.

  11. Hi, Mary, and congratulations on the fish-finish! If you don’t like the bubbles and you want to put this on a tote, why not consider applique? It would actually be pretty easy since the fish doesn’t have that many intricacies on his outline.

  12. Well after weeks of reading about your lovely work I have finally decided to take the bull by the horns and start a practise project.
    I had to use what materials I had to hand and they weren’t good. Some perle no5 thread and some white felt.
    I just about managed to transfer my chosen design…one of your letter motifs…the letter A with the flowers. Again I had to scrape around for equipment and landed up using a water soluable fine nibbed felt tip and some baking patchment:-(
    I’m halfway through and real enjoying it and learning a whole bundle of lessons as I go.
    Hopefully it will be my first blog post on Linen Twill when it is finished.
    I need to invest in the right materials now for my next project.
    My first proper progect:-)

  13. I like the bubbles. I think they give the fish a whimsical side and finish it off rather nicely!

    I worked on a Baltimore Album hand appliqued quilt (which I need to complete the rest of – oops)prior to my surgery in 2009. We used all sorts of embellishment, including permanent ink as the finished ’embellishment’. Could you have left the fine lined bubbles in permanent ink and gotten away with it in your embroidered fish? If not, why not? Would someone slap you on the wrist? Or would you be called an innovator? Are there any rights or wrongs in any form of art work?

  14. I just found your website and wanted to let you know how much I like your fish … so much so, that I read back through the entire progress. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

  15. I think the bubbles are great – they look like they’re floating up and away.

    As far as UFO’s go, I have one small cross stitch design and a quilt I started 32 years ago for my 5-year-old son. My goal is to finish it this year so I can give it to my grandson!

  16. UFO’s – Mum’s crewel embroidery from her b’day LAST year, I started it July 2009 for an Aug 2009 b’day and its still waiting to be done.
    The knitting sampler that I started 4? years ago.
    The final french knot embriodery taht I got for my 22nd birthday 10 years ago
    The bobbin lace spider pattern which was supposed to be finished in time for the show – not gonna happen.
    2 bead dragonflies
    hmmmm – I think I better sit on my urge to try quilting until I finish these – which will be AFTER 30th of November when the thesis is IN!

  17. Oh, he’s cute! I like the bubbles; they are, as Kath says, bubbly.
    Now, if I knew where you could find a black-and-white pond or seashell print for your tote . . .
    I have several RenFaire costume pieces to finish before I can go back to embroidery, but my next project is either blackwork or chikankari.

  18. Oh the fish is wonderful, Mary! I think waiting to finish it was a good thing, because it gave you time to think of just the right way to improve the bubbles. They’re so delicate and perfect now.

  19. Mary, I just love this fish! If it were available as a pattern I would buy it in a heartbeat, even though I haven’t embroidered in years (and then only as a beginner)!

    I honestly didn’t mind the bubbles as they were started before but now that I see how you modified them I like them even more – I think the bubbles really add to the overall design so I’m glad you included them.

    I too tend to procrastinate when a project runs into a snag.

    1. Thanks, Denise! It’d be fun to make the fish – or other similar images – into kits! Maybe some day? Glad you like the bubbles! They were a bit of a pain at first, but I’m pretty happy with the way they came out. Oh, snags always lead to procrastination for me. The funny thing is, if I just took the time to work through the snag, I’d be finished with what I set out to do a whole lot sooner! ~MC

  20. Dear Mary, I honestly like the idea of a fish kit. You are so talented, you must seriously think of taking such a step!! Even if it is only the design printed on cotton with the necessary instructions. I will be there the whole time to encourage you and be first in line to order. Time? Like the saying goes, when you need something to be done, ask a busy person;) Lots of love Elza from Cape Town xx

    1. Thanks, Elza! I’m slowly making a “to do” list with all these kinds of ideas on it. I can usually tackle the behind-the-scenes projects that are large-ish over a school break. It’s beginning to look like my Christmas break will be Very Busy this year, as I have a couple other things materializing for the website, too. Well, we’ll see where it all leads! Best, Mary

  21. Have to let you know that this is a WONDERFUL piece!! I stumbled on to this site thro’ Google’s wisdom, have been a lurker ever since, and fell upon the maginifcent Fish! have been trying to deconstruct it ever since (as you have in your other projects – Goldwork and suchlike) to get tips on a project of my own – different in many ways (not a zentangle which I now love, not monochrome, which I also now love :), not a free-form doodle of any kind which seems like such a gold mine of possibilities!) but still something that can tap into the vein of ideas you have so carefully assembled on to this tote-cover (if that is what eventually became of Fish.)

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