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

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2024 (76) 2023 (125) 2022 (136) 2021 (130) 2020 (132) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (352) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Stitch Play: Play!


Amazon Books

Lately, I’ve been playing a lot – probably too much. There’s some serious work going on in my stitching world, too, but what’s been occupying me most pleasurably is the whole notion of Play.

Play with Embroidery Stitches

See, hand embroidery stitches are amazing toys. They are just plain fun to play with!

Hand Embroidery Stitches

If you’ve not experienced the pleasure of figuring out a stitch and making it work and making it look right and trying it with different threads and in different combinations and different variations, and doing all of this in a completely random manner, with no specific design to follow – then I think you’re missing one of the greatest pleasures afforded by the stitch.

Hand Embroidery Stitches

All of this playing, of course, is closely akin to “practice.” When you were seven years old and didn’t want to sit at the piano for a half an hour a day, “practice” was a Bad Word. Now that you’re an adult, do you sometimes feel as if “play” has become a bad word? Well, then! Just swap it for “practice”!

Hand Embroidery Stitches

This type of stitching is definitely playing, but at the same time, it serves the purpose of practice. It revives your repertoire. It engages the imagination. It gets the juices flowing. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your embroidery.

Hand Embroidery Stitches

And if nothing else, it helps reduce that stash of old threads, to make room for new ones!

Hand Embroidery Stitches

So that’s one excuse for the play I’m engaged in these days.

Hand Embroidery Stitches

There’s another excuse for all this play, though. Besides working up some articles for the Stitch Play series, I’ve been updating the How-To Videos here on Needle ‘n Thread (finally). These stitch samples work great for illustration.

Hand Embroidery Stitches

This week, I’ve replaced a few videos in the collection, with many more to come in the next few weeks, until all the old videos (which were made when video on the internet was just beginning to boom) are updated. In addition to the updated videos, I’m adding quite a few new stitches to the collection, along with a couple other useful surprises. This week, I replaced the following videos: Palestrina stitch, running stitch, colonial knot, and buttonhole stitch. I’ve got five more replacements to roll out over the next couple days, plus some new stitches that I’ll be adding to the collection over the next week. The new videos are HD, and will play on your iPads, iPhones, and similar devices. I probably won’t announce every update here on the website, so if you want to keep informed on the new video updates, you can subscribe to my channel on YouTube if you like.

Hand Embroidery Stitches

Embroidery is FUN. May we never lose sight of this fact!

Have some fun this weekend with your needle & thread!

Looking for inspiration & information on hand embroidery?

There are all kinds of reasons to sign up for the Needle ‘n Thread daily newsletter! Check them out and sign up today!


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(16) Comments

  1. I recently got inspired by a book on antique samplers to create an heirloom sampler for my family. I am using a nice piece of evenweave linen and randomly placing stitches and designs all over as the urge strikes me. I’ve been wanting to play with drawn thread embroidery and so one of my first designs on the piece/sampler was a little square I found in the book. I agree – “May we never lose sight that embroidery IS fun!”

  2. Yes – I agree; when we are most occupied by serious urgent work, we think of play! Today I am living vicariously thru you -!

  3. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for posting new videos. I have been enjoying you collection. I just started a small Bayeux tapestry kit I required. I never heard about it till you mentioned it now I am obsessed! The kit comes with vague instructions. I am still a novice stitcher so what looks so easy really takes some thought. Like stitch direction, distance of stitches, and where to stop and pick up again. I was shocked to find there is very little on line on how to work it. I did find a PDF on how, but would be nice to see it done. Do you think you have a moment to quick demonstration on how to fill in a area and how to decide on what direction stitches should take? Would be awesome, Thank you.

  4. i agree wholeheartedly! After the medallion you need to just have fun a while! phew, that was a lot of good, hard work!

  5. I’ve already told you how I feel about what your stitch play has given me so I wil just say a rousing……

  6. Dear Mary

    Love,love your stitch play, love the stitches and the colours you’ve used in the stitch play. I can’t wait, so excited to view and practice the new stitches on How to section, look forward in anticipation!

    Regards Anita Simmance

  7. So, this seems dumb. But I’ve only worked from kits before! What do you do to plan a sampler? Just pick stiches, draw them on a piece of linen, and go? It seems really daunting to me! There are so many options, I might take weeks to design a stitch sampler that practices these designs… 🙁 advice?

  8. Hi Mary, thank you for updating the videos. I like the notion of ‘play’, I use that term often, that way if something doesn’t turn out as I would like, I don’t get teased about it failing.

    Marian (NZ)

  9. After the discipline required for the medallion (both in the actual stitching and schedule) I’d say you deserve a lot of play time!

  10. Mary –

    One of my best days ever was coming here and learning about the concept of a doodle cloth. I love mine and am starting my second doodle cloth, much of which will be dedicated to trying to learn the stitches in Elizabethan Stitches.

    This kind of stitch play is not only fun, it is inspiring! I get the best ideas when I do this.

  11. Just wanted to say how this article inspired me work out a stitch for myself when I couldn’t find one that was quite what I wanted to fill in a dragons scales.
    I’ve called it Dragon Scale running stitch because I don’t know its real name. I’ve put a link to how I did it on craftster.
    Maybe someone can tell me what it’s really called.
    Thanks again for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks. If I’d seen Cloud Filling first I’d probably have used that as it would make excellent scales. There really is a stitch for everything. Perhaps my running stitch was easier to do as I was working on taffeta and not evenweave.

More Comments