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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Marbleized Fabric & Embroidery: Do they Mix?


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I am a firm believer that All Things Fabric are enhanced when embellished with hand embroidery.

Er… I was a firm believer. My conviction on the topic is a bit shaky right now!

Marbleized Fabric & Embroidery

The other day, while in a fancy-schmancy little embellishment shop that any Fiber Fanatic would love (Florilegium, in Parkville, MO), my eyes, which were already gobsmacked with visual stimulation, rested upon a display of vibrant fabrics. But they were not just any fabrics.

They were marbleized fabrics.

Marbleized Fabric & Embroidery

Seeing them took me back to college days, when I used to judge a book by its endpapers. I loved – and still do – old books with marbleized endpapers. I didn’t necessarily care what was in the book – but those marbleized endpapers mesmerized me. Since then, I think I’ve grown a little more mature about the way I judge a book. I actually make it beyond the endpapers now.

Marbleized Fabric & Embroidery

The idea of marbleized fabric was thrilling! Here is all that I love in endpapers, without feeling guilty for not reading the book! And on top of that, I told myself, I could justify a purchase by considering a plan for embellishing the fabric with bits of embroidery. So – being the shameful impulse shopper that I am – I bought some samples of marbleized fabric.

Marbleized Fabric & Embroidery

Really, can you blame me?

But the fact is, the more I look at the fabric, the more I hesitate to consider embellishing it further. Does it really need embellishment? Wouldn’t embellishment ruin it?

Marbleized Fabric & Embroidery

Do marbleized fabric and embroidery mix?

That, I don’t know. I do believe my excuse for purchasing marbleized fabric….

Marbleized Fabric & Embroidery

… and marbleized ribbon….

Marbleized Fabric & Embroidery

… and more marbleized fabric… isn’t holding water right now.

Considering the work that goes into the marbleization process – and considering the fact that only one piece of fabric is done at a time, and the fact that no two pieces of fabric are alike – the marbleization process is really amazing. It is quite an art on its own. And it’s beautiful when it’s done well.

But I think I’m going to have to change my justification for buying the stuff. Maybe I should just say, “I bought this amazing marbleized fabric so I could post pictures of it on my website.” And maybe I should leave it at that.

What do you think? Do they mix? Would you attempt embroidery on this type of fabric?


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(35) Comments

  1. Hi Mary, What gorgeous samples – I’d love to get my hands on some, and I would definitely want to embellish it, although I do take your points about it being an artwork on its own. Having spent the weekend on a screen-printing course I’ve been having the same doubts about my prints – but that’s what I made them for, to embroider on, so I am determined that I will … at some point.

    There are several ways I can see of embellishing the marble prints, and I’m sure many ways I haven’t even thought of yet! I would definitely be inclined to follow the lines of the marbling, as opposed to putting some completely different over the top, because the colours are so strong. You could use the same colours too, and just fill a small part with various hand stitches exactly following the lines of the marbling, and matching the colours; or you could use contrasting colours on a small part. If you did say a bag front or a pocket like this, you could leave much of the fabric unadorned and just have the central part embellished, so that you’re still showing the original marbled artwork, as well as your own. It would also make a fantastic frame, unadorned, with a small central picture done on a toning fabric. Perhaps you could even do marble swirls in embroidery on an unpatterned fabric and surround it with this lovely stuff.

    Right – I’ll stop throwing ideas at you now and get back to work. It’s much more fun reading your blog and thinking about marble fabric than it is working though! Thanks for providing enjoyable breaks in the working day!

  2. Hi Mary, I too love marbelized fabric and took a class last year from Elin Noble – it’s a lot of fun but you are right – very time consuming and a piece at a time – you would have loved the underwear that Elin marbelized; the children attending a nursery school in another part of the same community center were amazed too when they saw them drying on top of a bush!!! There are great possibilities for hand stitching the pink/red piece – how about a quilt sandwich using Hobbs cotton and a piece of muslin and stitch following a few of the curves? The added texture would provide it with depth I think.

  3. Hi Mary,
    I love these beautiful fabrics and probably would have succumbed to buying some myself. But, I wouldn’t embellish the fabric itself with embroidery. However, the fabric might be used to enhance embroidered pieces, for example as a border surrounding an embroidered piece, or the inside lid (or entire inside of) an embroidered box, etc.

  4. Hi Mary –

    Wonderful fabric and ribbons – no wonder you had to buy several pieces. And I personally don’t think you need any more justification for the purchase other than the need to discuss the possibilities of using the fabric on your blog LOL

    I don’t think I’d actually stitch onto the fabric – but I certainly would consider using it as a lining for a wonderful piece of stitching, using thread colours that complemented the marbilised fabric. You would certainly then get a double WOW factor – beautiful stitching on the outside, amazing lining on the inside.

  5. I haven’t thought of those lovely marbleized end papers in years! So lovely …

    The marbleized fabric is glorious, but I think I wouldn’t try embellishing the fabric itself – seems a bit much. How about using marbleized fabric as a border on a pillow, or at the hem of a stole or runner? Or, to pick up from the entry above, mixed into a quilt?

    Just a couple ideas.

  6. Hi Mary, Speaking of being gobsmacked…A friend of mine just showed me some pillows she made for her sitting room. They had all kinds of fabrics used and she traced her kid’s and other family member’s hand prints and then embroidered around that and embroidered their names. Now the fabric wasn’t quite as vibrant as what you’re showing, but the simplicity of the outlines of the hand prints (and she went around her neighborhood and found beautiful shaped leaves and traced them)fit right in. It looked good. It might have even inspired me to try some of it here.

  7. Wow, Mary, Really pretty. I can see a jewely/metallic stumpwork maybe dragonfly on something. Like the idea of following the lines of the design, or, you could used it like Or nue and completely cover with a heavily embroidered scene. Lots of possibilities. Have fun. AnneG in NC

  8. Hi, Mary,

    I love marbelized fabric! I wouldn’t embellish it. I’d use it for inspiration to design a bargello needlepoint myself. I’ve been trying to come up with designs for a small footstool and a dressing table bench, and this may just be the thing for the footstool. Now I just need to find some of that fabric here in Northern Virginia.

  9. Hmm, I’m clearly in a minority in wanting to risk ruining this beautiful fabric by stitching on it. Bravery or stupidity on my part, I wonder? 🙂

  10. G’day Mary,

    What beaut stuff. I would embroider it, most deffinitely. In my mind’s eye I can see it with a subtle addition of texture.

    Just, perhaps, small design elements done in French Knots, keeping it to the same colour you’re covering. Or not completely covering might be best in some cases. Perhaps other shapes / swirls just outlined in slit stitch, stem stitch.

    For me I would use a minimum of stitch types, say, just two and be sparing with the amount of coverage, if using it for larger projects like bags or skirts/pinafores, for granddaughter! For the likes of needlebooks, and, hairbands (for granddaughter!) it may need to be covered a bit more for balance.

    They would look lovely framed too with the subtle texture reinforcing the beauty of the piece as well as giving a touch of homely love. Different sizes would look stunning together on a wall. Like a longer more narrow piece, a square one and whatever is needed for balance. Choose a plain main colour then to pick up in cushions. Could use a piece in the the centre of a cushion front if it didn’t seem over done. Or copy the shapes of the wall set up on the cushion, again on a plain background.

    Some pieces are probably suitable for touches of gold thread for Christmas ornaments. Simple drawstring bags would be nice too with the suble textured French Knot type of thing, to pop a Christmas gift in. Two gifts in one.

    Anyway,I think you get the drift that I’d like to see some embroidery on the marbleized fabric!

    Go for it Mary. Cheers, Kath

  11. What would you put on the marbelized fabric that wouldn’t get lost in the pattern? Any dense embroidery that covered some of the fabric would cover the point of the fabric.

    Having said that I couldn’t think what to ’embellish’ the fabric with, I think the fabrics themselves are beautiful. A tote bag perhaps?


  12. “shameful impulse shopper” – NOT! You acquired materials for experimentation and assesment. And we all know that an experiment on a sample of one, isn’t very scientific. Ummmm yeah – that’s it!

    I think I’d use it as an accent for an embroidered piece as others have suggested. Or if I were going to do anything with the fabric, I’d consider beading in the same colors, and following the patterns. Not the whole thing, just a bit, or just do one or two colors. Or…looking at the bits visible, what about as background for an embroidered applique, with the marbled fabric being water, sky, grass, etc.

    To me, this fabric needs either a very restrained treatment, or go whole hog with gold/silver work to stand up to such a busy (in a good way) fabric.

  13. When I see these fabrics, I think quilting. They’d be lovely pieced with coordinating solids. In a crasy quilt with stitching only along the seams. I like the beading idea Gail offered. Scenic quilting with the marbeling becoming the sea or a tree trunk. You could use them to edge, frame, or back a piece of embroidery. Cover card shapes or large buttons and frame. Stitch using them as a “ground fabric”? I’ve never come up with something that makes sense to me to do on such lovely fabric.

  14. This fabric would be beautiful in a crazy quilted piece. I wouldn’t embroider directly onto the marblized fabric, but on the solid patches adjoining it. A monochromatic arrangement with all white embroidery would be particularly effective.

  15. I’m of two minds. First I agree with Sharon, above. A nice mitered border surrounding a stitched piece.

    But then my inner magpie takes hold. I can see a small evening clutch out of one of these, liberally stitched with gold and pearls. Or with some of the swirls picked out in a matching or contrasting color, in a raised or otherwise textured stitch. A highly embellished book cover would also work, again over the top ornate, with the self reference to mottled end paper used in publishing being a secondary source of amusement.

  16. I second (third?) Marjorie and Janet. Crazy quilt pieces with embellished seams. Maybe some glittery beads. You definitely want some sparkle. When it comes to sparkly things, the “getting lost” factor can be a plus – the winking, now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t effect.

  17. Mary, I don’t think one needs a reason to collect this beautiful fabric. My goodness, it’s so beautiful it could be collected as artwork. It’s an inspiration unto itself!

    As for use, I think it’d be a great addition to a crazy quilt. That way the embellishment could be on the seams and showcase the fabric.

    Another use I can think of is as an inner border to a framed piece of embroidery work.

    If I were to attempt to add embellishment to this fabric, I might try to enhance the existing pattern with silver or gold thread maybe, but just enough to call attention to the fabric itself.

    This is the kind of fabric that when you buy it, you find it hard to cut into.

    Lin Taylor

  18. I’m not convinced on embroidering it, but I WOULD totally quilt the marbelized fabric. The colours etc would be lovely for any type of quilt and even if not embroidering it you can at the very least hand stitch the quilt if you so choose.

  19. What wonderful fabric- I can see why you bought it. I don’t think you need an excuse for the purchase, it’s obviously giving you good memories and inspiration. At first, I thought you should use it as a border (as mentioned above by several others), but I’m now afraid you’ll lose the wonderful movement of the design. So, I’d say use it in a way that keeps the fabric intact as some others have mentioned. Or, perhaps as a framed collage with the marblized fabric intact and your interpretations in embroidery (on linen) creating a collage? Or a pillow, with the fabric on one side, and your corresponding embroidery on the other? Wow, good fabric can really get the juices flowing….Good luck!

  20. Mary, it looks like you have a lot of ideas for ways to use your fabric. Those are the most gorgeous marbled fabrics I have ever see! I would most definately add some sort of embellishment to them. Threads, beading, quilting, try them all. I do agree that the treatment would need to be restrained so that the beauty of the fabric was able to come through. Have fun playing around, hope to see the results at some point in the future. Sandi

  21. Mary- I used to be a professional marbler, and yes, have embellished marbelized fabric. One thing to do – pick out a near-to-shade metallic and outline stitch it along one of the colors, emphasizing that line. Do something stark and bold and monochromatic, nothing fussy – like a monogram – and center it on the marbelized fabric. Voila, instant background! Or use it pieced in crazy quilts or art quilts. Think of using the blue as an ocean wave – or the red for a sunset… go ahead and embellish!

  22. I found some at JoAnnes last spring. I’m still reluctant to do anything but look at it. However the others here have come up with some great suggestions. thanks for asking the question.

  23. OMG, those are gorgeous. First thing that came to my mind was a lovely art doll & yes! to beads. I have some lovely vintage German flowers that would look wonderful with that. I’ve got to get my hands on some of that fabric.

  24. I would have a really hard time doing any embroidery on gorgeous fabrics like these because I would simply be too busy fondling them! I think they would make beautiful pages in a fabric book though.

    1. Hi, all! Thanks for your input on the Big Question: To Embellish, or Not To Embellish. Between e-mail responses and comments, it looks as if the views are more or less split right down the middle!

      Well, never fear. I think I have a found a solution. And when I get to it, I will Most Assuredly show you! 🙂 It’s an idea that’s brewing, anyway!


  25. The first thing I thought of when I saw the blue was water or waterfall. The first thing I thought of when I saw the red was a sunset. I would use them to embroideery on or use them for applique. You could embroidery surface stitches to make them resemble these things. They are beautiful themslves also.

  26. Mary – I truly gasped out-loud when I saw these fabrics!

    I understand the hesitation to cover the beautiful marbleizing, as
    it can stand alone as ART and doesn’t need any other response to give it credibility.
    However . . This artistic strength could lend itself to an expression of metaphorical essence . . . musing along . . . For Instance, the Red representing the thrilling wild-ride of first love!
    Then . . the lower Blue spoke to me of a pristine underwater world – undulating swirls of light, shadow and suggestive shapes of native flora and fauna – now you see it now you don’t! Begging for metallics, crystal beads and subtle
    silk over-dyes. Perhaps some open needle-weaving and curvilinear stitching to further emphasize movement?
    Always, of course, understanding that the marbleized art
    fabric is the “star” – the Metamorphic Essence.

    Musing out loud,
    Dayan – October 18, 2010 8:46 pm

  27. When you mentioned endplates I thought using 1 colour thread and stitching a book title page with perhaps a simple illustration.

  28. Hi Mary! Now you will have to make a quilt! Use the fabrics as sashing framing empty blocks to embroider! I don’t think I will be the only one to suggest this.
    Veronica Garnier
    Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

  29. Hello Mary,
    If I were to chose I never go for embroidery on such a gorgeous fabric..some of them looks like bargello work..whatever embroidery I do On such a beautiful designs will not at all appealing instead spoil the beauty..If embroidery is a must I will add some beads/stones..

  30. Hi Mary

    Your marbleized fabrics took me back to a gorgeous end paper in a book but have no idea what the book was called. I would definitely have a go at embroidering at least one. It would be so much fun. I would use the lines of the fabric as the starting point and you could create a whole new piece of art – adding beads could be great. Once you got started I think the ideas would just keep coming. The person who made them has made them on fabric and fabric is meant to be used.

    Veronica suggested a quilt but how about making the marble fabrics the features and sashing them with black.

    Lynette also from QLD Australia

  31. Beautiful fabrics like these need to further reason to purchase them. Just looking at them inspires one to create, whether or not one uses the inspirational fabric or not. I’d be tempted to embroider the leading of a stained glass window, allowing the fabric to become the beautiful glass of the panes. I also love the other ideas, and am looking forward to seeing what you will do with this gorgeous stuff!

  32. Depends on HOW you are going to be using it. If you are using the entire piece of fabric as a whole, then no. Embroidery on that would be way too “busy” If you are going to use a little bit of this in a bigger piece of work, then embroidery WITH it would be ok. It’s like putting floral wallpaper on all your living room walls and putting pictures and nick nack up all over it. Those fabrics are gorgeous!

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