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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I Don’t Stitch with This!


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Recently, I caught myself embroidering with two things I never stitch with, and it set me thinking.

Orange Trebizond Silk

I never (well – never say never!) use bright orange as an isolated color when stitching.

When I set out to stitch a little plaited braid sample last week, I opened my drawer of miscellaneous silks, where a few spools of Trebizond silk reside among a smattering of other uncategorized threads.

In the drawer was a spool of Trebizond that I’ve passed over a hundred times. It is orange. It is bright, deep orange. It is Orange to the extent that you could not really call it anything BUT orange. It is the Essence of Orangeness. (Do you get the idea it’s Really, Really Orange?)

And normally, I wouldn’t reach for that degree of orange to work an isolated sample.

Orange Trebizond Silk

But I did.

And about halfway through the sample, I found myself saying, “I don’t stitch with this!” That day, I did stitch with it.

And I liked it.

Metallic Braid

Metallic braid is a thread I never stitch with. Generally, this is on principle. I’ve had too many b-a-d experiences with metallic threads when trying to use them for regular surface embroidery stitches. But I had a couple spools of Au Ver a Soie’s #16 metallic braid floating about, neglected, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it. While working up the sample, I found myself thinking, “I don’t stitch with this!”

But I did.

And I liked it.

In fact, this metallic thread is absolutely fantastic for plaited braid stitch!

The moral of the story is this: Sometimes, it’s good to venture where you wouldn’t normally go with your stitching. This applies not only to colors and thread types, but even stitches and techniques. A good way to really round out a stitchy education is to actually try things that we wouldn’t normally do. This is how you’ll know if you’ll really like something, and to be able to say why you like it or don’t like it. Being able to reasonably qualify the “why” or “why not” helps up make better choices (and not just in stitching, but in pretty much everything).

Hmmmmm…. maybe I should change the whole color scheme on Needle ‘n Thread to orange….

You can find all these samples and instructions to stitch them in my Stitch Play Printable for Plaited Braid Stitch.


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(41) Comments

  1. That orange is very pretty, and I really like the added texture in the braid sample.

    Having said that, orange is a color I most likely wouldn’t pick up unless it’s a fall-themed project, or something like a poppy flower. Then again Tangerine Tango was supposed to be color of the year….

  2. I wasn’t so much looking at the color but rather that beautiful stitch! I am not seeing one of your how-to videos of the plaited braid stitch. Can you show us how to do it please?

  3. A few years ago I bought some EdMar floss; it was so pretty! Then I tried to stitch with it. Tangles and naughty words all around. I swore I’d never use it again. Then a friend shared her little secret with me about Ed Mar (lightly steam it to relax it). I discovered it wasn’t the fault of the thread – it was me! (sigh) The moral of the story is that we have to keep trying and learning because all those wonderful threads are out there waiting for us. Thanks for sharing your adventure in threads too.

    1. Hi, Irene – Actually, in many, many cases, I believe the problem lies with the thread more than with the stitcher. Some day, I will bear this out in an experimental article, with photos. It’s been brewing in the back of my mind for a while! MC

  4. Hehe, I can’t really say that there is a color that I haven’t used. I have a habit of picking designs (to give as gifts especially)that can accomodate any (or all) color. If I do not know specifically what thier favorite color is, I make sure to include all of them. For example, when my brother married I knew that his bride loved bright bright colors so I embroidered her a bowl of fruit, and one of the fruits was, well, an orange, also an apple, pear, grapes and green leaves in a blue and white bowl. I also embroidered for my uncle (a minister) a praying hands design with lillies and doves with the rising sun in the background. I used plenty of orange on that one as well. Welcome to the users of orange club!

  5. I so understand what you are saying. For many, many years I was the kind of person who only used fine crewel wools, cotton, and silk thread. If I did goldwork I used 2% gold and I seldom put my needle in anything that was not a good quality linen. Yes, I “was” an embroidery snob.

    Then about 5 years ago a dear friend, who knows nothing about embroidery, gave me 150 skeins of DMC and Anchor rayon as a gift. I smiled, thanked her, and thought what will I ever do with this stuff.

    Since then I have grown so much in my embroidery thinking. I now use fine metallic carry along threads, rayons and have even use guilt wires in “some” of my embroidery pieces.

    There is a learning curve to understand how to handle these threads but, the results can be very nice if well done. While they will never replace my love of wool, cotton and silk -nothing can replace linen, I am no longer afraid to use newer kinds of threads to get the look I want.

    1. Oooooh! Neat! I like the wall treatment! I don’t know that I’d ever have the guts to do that (and I certainly don’t have a house big enough for it!) but I think it’s amazing!

    2. Orange is not a colour I use anywhere – in embroidery, in crazy quilting, in any other form of textile art, in clothing, in interior design, not even in toothbrushes.

      And speaking of interior design, it has been noted in several books etc that orange is not a good colour for kitchens or dining rooms as it has a tendency to induce nausea. Good if you’re dieting or you don’t want to feed your guests …

  6. Do all these plaited braid stitch samplings mean that a p.b.s. video is on the way? Please? Pretty please with a hand stitched stump work cherry on top in trellis stitch peeking out from beneath lovely wired true to life 17th century odd sized leaves! Please say that plaited braid stitch video is on the way!!!
    I am on pins and needles waiting for the p.b.s. video because your samplings are so darn perfect and I really want to see just how you did it! I am still struggling to figure out what is tensioned where and how the loops really go…

  7. Mary, you sound like my daughter in law. She does not like orange! With a vengeance, hehehe. Did you know that very shade or orange in the color the Dutch use as a “national” color because our royal family is the house of Orange?
    The stitching in both samples looks fabulous to me.

  8. I have been an embroidery snob too. My problem was counted cross stitch. Everyone’s looked the same, no creativity, and on and on. I would never do anything like that. That was before I discovered Hardanger. While they are not the same beast they are both counted thread embroidery. When I am doing some I am following the same chart other’s are following too. I’ve found out that that is alright. Mary your orange is just gorgeous. It would probably still be lying with my thresds if it were here. Now I want to go find something that I can embroider some orange in.

  9. Hi Mary,
    The orange is so beautiful, I am a sucker for orange.
    I have a problem with light grey blue. I had a maternity dress 39years ago and ever since it make me nausea.
    The stitch is so beautiful.

    Alet in Libya

    1. Alet, I like your turn of words there ‘sucker for orange’. As kids we used to roll an orange under the palm of our hand (really, I think it was our feet but hand sounds better!) until it was all squishy, cut a small slit in it and suck the juice out. I guess we were suckers of oranges!
      That orange is kinda very orange isn’t it Mary! It’s such a nice clean orange though. Not muddy at all. It makes me think of Spanish dancers.
      Cheers, Kath

  10. Funny, I love to work with golds, oranges and peaches, but I don’t seem to have a lot of bright orange or metallics either. I will say that I too like the look of the bright colors and maybe it is time to get out of my fall palate or move away from the spring pastels to some more bright hot pinks and oranges.

    I need to practice working with the metallic threads. It seems the only time I work with them is to fix something, but some lovely Christmas ornaments may be in order.

    1. It is funny, I was thinking about the orange thing and realized that people from Illinois use orange alot because it is University of Illinois blue and orange and the Chicago Bears team colors. I wonder if people from Syracuse have a different feeling about orange than those of us who have follow teams from colors of cardinal and gold, or red, white and blue or even purple.

      Mary, are you a Jayhawk or Wildcat fan?

    2. I’m a fence sitter! The area I live in leans towards the Wildcats, since I’m closer to Manhattan than to Lawrence, but I prefer KU for cultural events and the like.

    3. Go Illini! I went to an orange and blue high school as well. Although I never thought orange was my favorite color, that’s a beautiful orange thread.

  11. On the Crazy Quilting for Newbies Yahoo group I belong to, one of our members loves, no make that LOVES orange. She has a name for it that we’ve all adopted: HONKING ORANGE. We usually write it in caps like that. I find it goes well with HOOTING PURPLE, especially for Halloween work.

  12. Me too Mary! Orange was a color I have avoided for years, but it has gradually grown on me. I have learned to embrace almost any color, and I even wear orange now sometimes!

  13. Oh I love orange. I have a project embroidering nasturtium flowers just because I wanted orange flowers.
    The braid in Ver à Soie metallic looks gorgeous, Mary. Oh I want some of that thread and did I miss something, what brand is the Trebizond? Have you ever tried embroidering with this pure silk cord made especially for buttonholes? I think it’s tightly wound and super resistant to erosion.

  14. Well said! Stitching is an adventure! Its very inspiring how creative you are with your stitching. Thank you for reminding us to try new things :o)

  15. I agree Mary. Sometimes you can be surprised when you step outside your comfort zone. Left wondering after a recent tutorial on insertion stitches, I put aside my strips of antique hemmed 32 count linen and grabbed an unused hessian (yes hessian!!) bag. Definitely even weave and with straw still caught between the weave! Added some overdyed heavy threads and balls of knitting yarn and I’m having great fun. The stitching’s still counted and precise and I’m using those “someday” threads. But I wonder what the teacher’s going to think when she sees what I’ve done!!

  16. Amen – I couldn’t agree more to the testing the untested and trying the untried. It is the only way we ever get anywhere. And the best part is that even if the testing and trying just confirms that we really don’t like something, somehow that lesson learned suddenly and out of the blue somehow comes in handy further down the track. Thanks Mary for this post. It is way too easy to become complacent and stick with same old, same old and then how are we ever going to improve and evolve our work.
    I love orange – BUT please don’t turn your blog orange

  17. Excitedly checking the website to see if the video for the plaited braid stitch is uploaded yet. I’m really looking forward to trying this out. Your website is fantastic and I am in awe of the goldwork projects.

  18. Dear Mary Corbet,
    First, discovering and using your website is the best–! I’ve practiced stitched (not well) some of your stitches, bought the Japanese Handneedles (#7, #13) to work silk gimp BEFORE finding there’s a hitch–“gimp” doesn’t exist yet to the general public (!).

    I’m working on a project that is proving even more daunting from first glance: it is an ensign or “ephod” (like those mentioned in Psalm 20:5[6], Song 6:4,10). We custom-ordered an 8″x8″ Hebrew calligraphy of Exodus 15:26b (“…for I am the LORD that healeth thee”), from a Jerusalem calligrapher (Avraham Boroshevsky) on calfskin. What we got is black lettering on cream-color very stiff material, which feels like plastic with slight nub on front.

    I laid out, on tailor’s grid paper, a 20″ high) by 28″ (long) pattern and affixed various patterns (like your pomegranate design) and others (grapevines, fig clusters, pair doves on almond branch with flowers), all from online patterns.

    Want to use these colors from the Bible: deep royal purples and blues (for a plaited border around the lettering, grapes, figs); crimson reds and red-oranges (pomegranates), pale gray (doves) deep rich browns (grapevines, almond branch), pale yellows and creams (almonnd flowers, pistils), and vibrant greens (leaves).

    Tried Appleton’s crewel wool (doesn’t have the “wow” factor expected), used perle #5/#8, doesn’t provide the texture. Then saw the SILK world of gimp, soie, etc.!

    QUESTION: What kinds of threads on what kind of background fabric can I use (REALLY want to use linen, as in the Bible)? Saw linen twill and thought it may be strong enough to stand up to the “cardboard” feel of the ephod (lettering), but bought a yard and uncertain it’ll stand up to the calfskin. Do I really NEED to back my project? Can I really “cut it up into sections”, embroider, then piece it back together again?

    Final use of this will be mounted, scroll-like or on stretcher bars…another dilemma.

    ANY suggestions are truly welcome, Mary. P.S. (“adding insult to injury”): I haven’t stitched much in many years, took up quilting past 15 years, and worked a hand appliqued (Anne Sutton) Baltimore Bunnies which is pretty crude-looking. In short, “HELP~!” Thank you, Respectfully,
    Patricia Tomita

    1. Hi, Patricia – I’m responding to this on the website, but you should get it in your e-mail, too – if you get it in your e-mail, feel free to reply to that e-mail, and it will come back to my email inbox, where we can continue the conversation!

      I’m a little confused. Are you planning on taking the larger piece of linen and mounting the ephod on it, with the embroidery on the linen, around the ephod? So that the ephod is mounted in the middle of your embroidery?

      You are correct about wool not having the same vibrancy, if you are looking for rich and deep colors. Silk is the best option, especially for something that sounds as if you intend it to be heirloom quality embroidery.

      For linen, look into Alba Maxima (if you want a white background). It is a sturdy linen with a high enough thread count – it is great for surface embroidery where you need a good, sturdy linen.

      Backing the fabric with muslin or a finer linen (if you’re using a linen ground, a high count muslin suffices for backing) is always a good idea, if you are planning to do goldwork, because the extra fabric adds strength and stability. However, Alba Maxima is strong enough that it can take goldwork pretty well on its own, as long as you aren’t heavily encrusting it with serious amounts of metal threads. If you’re just doing silk embroidery (and maybe outlining a little gold here and there), then there’s no need at all to back it.

      As for working all the elements separate and then pulling the pieces together into a complete panel of some sort – I suppose it can be done, but… I’m having a hard time envisioning exactly what you are intending, and the look that you want. If you are trying to create one coherent look of a piece of embroidery that looks like one piece of embroidery and not small pieces all attached into a larger panel, then I wouldn’t do it that way. That being said, with the right kinds of designs, yes, you can embroidery the bulk of their body on linen, and then applique them onto another ground fabric, and outline the applique with a fine gold cord or thread, or a colored cord or thread – whatever fits with the design – to hide the edges of the applique.

      Anyway, drop me a line, and tell me exactly what you envision your final piece to look like, how the ephod fits into it, and whatnot, and I’ll see if I can help you out more specifically.


    2. Although I don’t do it very often either, I will just remind you that when you stitch into the calfskin it will leave permanent holes that will not be hidden if you have to move or tear out what you put in. Whether you place the ephod on linen or you place embroidery on the ephod this will still be a concern. Good luck with this, it sound like it will be a challenge, but beautiful piece.

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