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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The Tortoise & the Strawberry


Amazon Books

Once upon a time, there was a hungry tortoise. Roaming the woods and fields, he came to a stony path. In the middle of the stony path, there rested a great strawberry – the greatest strawberry the hungry tortoise had ever seen!

Needle Painting: Tortoise and Strawberry

So, he opened his mouth Veeeeerrrrrry Wide….

… and he ate it!

This little needlepainting project is by Elza Bester DeJager of South Africa. It is such a whimsical and unexpected little piece, that I was immediately charmed by it and had to share it with you!

Needle Painting: Tortoise and Strawberry

Elza explained that she found the photo on Facebook – one of those ever-circulating funny photos. Right away, she knew she wanted to embroider it. See – you can find inspiration anywhere!

Elza printed the photo on pre-treated fabric sheets from C. Jenkins, and then she embroidered over the parts of the picture that she wanted to highlight – the tortoise, the strawberry, and the stony path.

Needle Painting: Tortoise and Strawberry

Using stem stitch, straight stitch, seed stitch, and long and short stitch and working with stranded cotton and #40 Madeira sewing machine thread, she brought the picture to life in a whole new way!

I love, love, love the little underarm wrinkles in the photo above! They are the Essence of Turtle!

Needle Painting: Tortoise and Strawberry

The toes on the tortoise’s back leg are perfect turtle toes, too.

Needle Painting: Tortoise and Strawberry

And the strawberry? It’s gorgeous! You can’t blame the tortoise for wanting to sink right in, can you?

This is a perfect example of finding inspiration for embroidery all around us. And the picture is so fun – light and humorous and cleverly stitched. It just made me smile – and I hope it put a smile on your face, too!

Thanks, Elza!


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(40) Comments

  1. Goodness Mary, where’s it’s mother?
    This is so precious. The story, the concept and not least, the embroidery.
    The anticipation stitched all over it’s face and body language is making my mouth water, let alone the delish strawberry itself!
    Thank you Elza and Mary.
    Cheers, Kath.

  2. Dear Mary, what a lovely little tale you have woven around my little Tortoise. Thank you so much. I hope it will bring a smile to your fans as well. It was such a fun little project.
    Love Elza, Cape Town 🙂 xx

  3. A story like this, except a mouse instead of a turtle found the strawberry, was read to my grandchildren!
    A lovely example of what can be done with just a picture that catches ones eye!

  4. I thought you were going to tell us about how to tackle a huge stitching project, just one little bite at a time. 🙂 Love picture. Wish I knew how you all decide which stitches to use and where. Such talent.

  5. Very cute! (and beautifully done!) Watching the anticipation of the tortoise for biting of a bit of the strawberry makes me hungry for strawberries too.

    I hope that nothing happened while he (or she, who says it couldn’t have been a she..?) was plunging for the strawberry, cause tortoise are slow after all… But since Mary said he ate it I’m hoping he did.

    What I also find nicely done is the stone path, just enough and in the right place to put more perspective in it.

  6. That is adorable and made my day-wow-what a great embroidery piece. Thanks for the wonderful story. And now I want a strawberry!

  7. Oh my – I just love this little guy. I just love the tale and when I first saw the picture, I thought it was a picture of a real tortoise but it is amazing and something only in my dreams I would love to tackle. Our daughter has always been a turtle/tortoise lover, so maybe.

    Wonderful – starting my day with a smile!!!!!

    Thank you

  8. I really thought the top pic was a photo of 2 nic-nak type figurines! Well done, congratulations Eliza!!!! Her needle and thread are what Trompe L’Oeil is to a wall!

  9. Good grief, I thought it was a photograph in the first picture! What wonderful embroidery skill. Thank you Mary and Elza.
    Jana-New Mexico

  10. Wow, Mary! What a great example of finding inspiration all around us, and also a great lesson in creativity and resourcefulness. Elza, I love when people put new tools and technology to work in new and creative ways. And I love your sense of humor!

  11. What a darling piece of embroidery! It just goes to show that we can find inspirations in the oddest places. The piece looks so lifelike I had to look at it twice to realize it was embroidered. Thanks Elza and Mary for sharing this with us!

  12. I saw that the strawberry was needlework in the first picture, but not the tortoise. This is wonderful Elza, and thanks for sharing it with us, Mary.

    I’ve seen embroidery done with painted fabric, but it never crossed my mind to print a photo onto fabric and stitch on that.

  13. Cute! Elza, you must have had sore cheeks from smiling the entire time you were stitching this adorable piece. Fantastic job with every detail making the whole a delight! Thanks for sharing, Mary.

  14. Aloha Mary,
    Not even a month old and this new year has been a real treat. Elza’s use of color and stitch direction make this a fantastic picture. Absolutely love the tortoise but the shading and stitch direction on the strawberry make it one of the best I have ever seen. Thank you for sharing this picture.

  15. Hello Mary,

    Very cute story… I love that tortoise hes so cute… Beautiful detailed work as well… thank you for sharing

    Jennifer G.

  16. I just love this piece!!! It is beautiful and inspiring. Just looking at it makes me feel happy.

    A masterpiece Elza!

  17. Too cute! and the background and the shadow under the tortoise makes him look like a 3-D (possibly stuffed?) sculpture – love it!

  18. Dear Mary and fellow embroiderers, Thank you all for your wonderful comments. It makes me feel humble,but at the same time there is nothing more gratifying than the recognition of ones peers. Sandy, I did not use any stuffing for the tortoise as well as the strawberry, It is just the use of shading which gives the illusion that it might have been stuffed. Love to you all, Elza xx

  19. Torture and turtle are not interchangeable terms. Sorry, this comment is just me being a reptile nerd. A tortoise only lives on land. A terrapin goes in water and on land. All terrapins, with one exception, live in freshwater. A turtle lives only in water. All true turtles live in the ocean, with one exception. Terrapins are often mislabeled as turtles by many people. Sorry that this comment did not give much feedback on the actual work, but I feel that this mistake should be corrected.

    1. First of all, I meant tortoise, not torture. Second, I just wanted to say that this is an amazing piece! When I saw this picture, I actually thought it was real! I just wanted to say I’m sorry if I came off as a bit of a troll, that was not my intention. Amazing work!

    2. Hi Isabella. This is definitely a tortoise, but thanks for the explanation, many people mix up the different names of these cute reptiles. Thank you too for your kind words it is much appreciated. xxx

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