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

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Embroidery Projects: Lessons from the Past


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During the whole Restoration Process of my data from the old computer to the new, I’ve had a good bit of fun discovering misplaced photos of past embroidery projects that, over time, have slipped my mind.

It’s not that I don’t remember the projects; it’s just that, when I come across the photos of them, there’s a kind of new delight in seeing them again, because I haven’t thought about them in so long. And in looking at them again, some valuable lessons come to mind.

This is one of the reasons that I normally encourage new stitchers to take photos of their embroidery projects, regardless of your age, your skill level, or the type of project it is. Whether you have a blog or not, even if you think you’ll never have any interest in seeing photos of the projects you’ve worked, you’d be surprised what they can teach you, or what new ideas they will generate, when you look back at them after some time has passed.

Here are some Pictures from the Past and a little chat about some of the lessons I’ve recalled, or ideas that have occurred to me, since coming across them.

Embroidered Grasshopper

This little embroidered grasshopper is perched on a cluster of flowers featured on the project titled Breath of Spring, from Inspirations Magazine issue 56.

This photo reminds me of how much fun I had working this particular project. What attracted me to it – besides all the critters crawling and fluttering hither and thither all over it – was the enormous amount of variety on the piece. So many different stitches! So many different elements to embroider! There was never a boring moment when working this project!

This project – mixed a little with ideas generated while working this mini Cluny tapestry design – prompted the development of an embroidery project that’s been brewing for several years. And seeing the Breath of Spring project again has encouraged me to ferret out that previous idea and develop it further.

Golden Pomegranate

The Golden Pomegranate – designed by Margaret Cobleigh (also, incidentally, featured in an issue of Inspirations Magazine – #61 – though I stitched it before it was published there) – was an absolute favorite among any goldwork and silk projects I’d ever worked. It confirmed my love of goldwork.

Golden Pomegranate

Unlike advanced embroidery projects that can require super concentrated effort (and in that regard, somewhat diminish the pleasure of the stitching), working on this project was thoroughly enjoyable.

I remember thinking that all embroidery projects should be this satisfying. And when concocting my own projects since then, I always remind myself that there must be a sense of real enjoyment and satisfaction in each project, or it isn’t really worth doing.

Embroidery on Paper

Every time I see this Schwalm-like Chicken embroidered on paper, I chuckle!

It’s not meant to be a Work of Art. It was just something I did for fun, to see if I could actually do it and produce a passable result. Using chain stitch, a lattice filling, straight stitches, and backstitch, I worked this little chick on red card stock. The bird is a design from Christine Bishop’s book, Schwalm Embroidery.

You know what? It’s ok to do something unconventional with an embroidery design or idea. The chicken was meant to be Schwalm whitework – worked in white thread on white fabric, with stitches typical of Schwalm embroidery. But it’s ok that it ended up on red card stock.

Hand embroidered towel - Citrus Flourish

This particular piece – just a simple flour sack towel embroidered with simple stitches – ended up being pretty special. It inspired some of the design elements that were used to create the look of my website. You can find hints of it in the header. So you never know where a seemingly-mundane embroidery project will lead!

Thank You!

So that was a little trip down Memory Lane.

This summer, Needle ‘n Thread celebrated its 7th birthday. Lots of things have changed on the site over the seven years… lots of projects developed and finished (and some not finished!).

I’ve learned heaps of stuff and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and most especially because of you! You are the ones who make Needle ‘n Thread worthwhile and make embroidery really fun!

It’s such a pleasure to be able to share this love of needlework with such a fine group of stitchy folks! So, thank you, thank you for all your interaction, support, encouragement, advice, questions, discussions, comments…. thank you for hanging out with me on Needle ‘n Thread!


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(21) Comments

  1. I have only discovered your website recently but continue to be impressed with the work. The Golden Pomegranate is stunning. Looks like the gold threads are couched? Your work is a daily inspiration.

  2. Dear Mary

    Yes I agree I always take photos of my projects and regularly look back at them to get ideas for future projects. I really like your project photos especially the Golden pomegranate I was going to embroider this at some stage but decided on your stylized pomegranate instead which I completed last year.

    I want to really thank you for your enthusiasm, time, advice, your generous sharing on all subjects related to embroidery without which I would have given up on needlework a long time ago. Your advice/tips instructions, techniques threads, beads, ribbons, where to buy good needle resources, your advice on all different types and how to use fabrics, needlework accessories, etc, etc, etc the list goes on, has helped me and inspired me to try and use different techniques in all needlework related subjects. So a big thank you to you for sharing you knowledge with us I always feel inspired.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. Thanks for taking us with you! I enjoyed seeing these projects again. I probably peruse your archives more than you do because I’m not at your skill level – but, I aspire to be there someday. After the twins are born and things settle down again I’ll pick up my needle. For now though I love re-reading the older posts and gleaning nuggets from them.

  4. Many, many thanks to YOU Mary for all the help you gave us over the years.
    It is such a pleasure to read your posts everyday. I have saved many in a special file so that I can go back and enjoy your instructions on special projects.
    Sure hope you stay with us many more years.

  5. Count me as another one of your devoted fans! You have brought us together, those of us who love embroidery, at a time when it seemed the art itself was diminishing. Personally, I have had a hard time finding others before I found Needle n’Thread. Your projects and lively writing have been such an inspiration.

  6. Dear Mary, I like to visit and read your blog everyday…… like a child drawn to a candy store! ( i know you normally don’t blog on weekends but i take my chance anyway!)Its an enriching and rewarding 10 mins! So please do keep writing!

  7. Back in college I was far from home, lonely and with lots of time on my hands so I decided to try embroidery. I never got past the rudimentary beginner skills and hadn’t picked up a needle and thread since. I came across your videos on You Tube, then followed to Pinterest and now your blog. I subscribed to all of your feeds and I am learning so much. I have been going through your You Tube videos and working each stitch until I feel like I am doing a passable job. I love your projects, your enthusiasm and your willingness to teach. Thank you so much for introducing me to real hand stitching! Oh, I am almost 60 and feel like it is never too late to learn!

  8. G’day Mary, Did I hear 7 years?! You have been my late night/morning coffee for such a long time that when I open my laptop lid first thing of an a.m. and go straight in to check you out, it orders my coffee. Can’t let Garfield outdo me ; )
    I don’t know now when I came in but was my first blog reader/ participator experience and it opened up an amazing and unprecedented experience for me. Many Blogs have come and gone since then but your’s is the only one I haven’t felt that I could do without or didn’t need.
    Occasionally the posts back up on me but I eventually catch up with them all. Life’s been a bit topsy turvy of late but I aways have a ‘peek and a promise’
    to read it all later with each one,
    If I had to say a favourite project it’d be almost impossible, but the one I remember the most clearly and with great affection, since I came in is the black and white Zed-tangly fish. I absolutely just couldn’t wait for each post on it. I must take a wander back and refresh my memory on past projects. The ones shown here are enough to egg me on, with or without the coffee!
    Thank you Mary for your every effort. I’ve never been out of Australia but you started me on many trips that are out of this world with the tickets just requiring ‘Needle ‘n Thread’!
    Cheers, Kath

  9. Only seven years?! There’s so much valuable advice and information on here that it seems like you must have been blogging for much longer than that! I hope you keep it going for another seven and many more.

  10. I agree with the rest. I miss to read your website on weekend and I enjoy stitch fun. I have learned with you.

  11. Thank you for keeping up this website. You have not only led me to some wonderful products, but also broadened my needlework interests. It’s a great pleasure to read your blogs!

  12. Congratulations on reaching seven years, may you have many more! Thank you so much for all that you do! Reading about your projects’ progresses is always a pleasure, and your advice and resources (especially your videos!) are invaluable to newer embroiderers like me 🙂

    I agree about taking the importance of taking photos too – I never did that for myself before I started blogging and regret it; being able to take trips down memory lane like you just did is fun, inspirational and sometimes instructive (in the “what was I thinking?!” sense LOL)!

    P.S. I think it’s so neat that your header and site design were inspired by your lovely towel!

  13. you thanking us? wow…it is so reversed in my mind! I thank you every day! You are such a wealth of knowledge and inspiration ….you rock my world most of the time…I am beyong thrilled my sis turned me on to your site…I am stuck right now with hand pain, but I never miss a day of your emails…ever! you make my head spin woman! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. I have been reading your website for many years, I have learned a lot, stitch fun series is one of my favorite day, but I miss to read your web on weekends. So thank you for teaching and share your knowledge with us.

  15. Thank you Mary for your encouragement and enthusiasm and your teaching skills. And what happened to the Breath of Spring project? Was it ever made up into a tote bag?

  16. Congratulations on 7 years! You are absolutely right about taking pictures of all of your work. I would love to see the pillows full of embroidery stitches I made in junior high as gifts for my grandmother and be able to share pictures of my original quilts with my beginning students, but when I made them, a portfolio of my work was the last things I thought I would ever want or need. I couldn’t afford to buy presents, so I made everything out of necessity, never realizing that they were one of a kind treasures. I have made many quilts, placemats, wall hangings and other misc. projects that I now wish I had the pictures of. Not only do they show a progression of one’s ability, and allow us to see how much better we get with time, but also become a starting point for a website or portfolio when our life takes an unexpected turn. In a fit of needing to clean out my closet I threw out my first tailored suit jackets, thinking I would never need them again, then a couple of years later wished I had them as teaching tools, even if I couldn’t wear them any longer. When people ask me how many quilts I’ve made or how many things I have stitched I have no record of the projects from my elementary and middle school years, except the 4-H ribbons from the county fair shows. Fortunately, I still have a couple of the projects that I created in the early 1970’s. I’m still in love with Holly Hobbie after all these years.

  17. thank YOU! I would not be anywhere close to my current (yet still meager) skill level. Your videos are a lifesaver to people like me who just can’t compute a written stitch instruction. Thank you!!!!

  18. Hi Mary,

    It is me that should be thanking you. Your site is inspiring and educational.

    I can guarantee that if I google any question I have to do with embroidery, your site is always there, and may I add, always best.

    Thank you so much for all the effort you put in to heping us.

  19. I haven’t embroidered since I was in my teens (I’m 50something now). I saw a pattern that I wanted so badly and decided to get it. I knew that I had to brush up on my skills (relearn) again and went surfing (internet). I found you and what a blessing you are! The old adage “Like riding a bike” is true! It all came back to me. Thank you for people like you that loves to share their knowledge and gift.

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